Palpatine is confirmed to return in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker - but he can't possibly be a Force Ghost. The first trailer for Star Wars: Episode IX ended with the evil laugh of Emperor Palpatine, confirming that the greatest Sith Lord of all time has returned to plague the galaxy. It's a satisfying way of ending the sequel trilogy, creating a continuous narrative that runs through the prequels, the original trilogy, and now the sequels; they are all the story of the battle between the light side and Palpatine himself.
Naturally, this shocking revelation is causing Star Wars fans to revisit all the tie-in novels and comics, looking for any hints as to how Palpatine has returned and what his true goal is. They're finding a surprising number of clues, supporting Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy's insistence that this had been the plan all along; the most explicit reference is in the "Aftermath" trilogy of novels, where one of Palpatine's old aides insisted that his Master would rise from the dead.
But just how has Palpatine survived? One common theory doing the rounds is that the Emperor could be a Force Ghost. After all, so the argument goes, in the trailer for The Rise of Skywalker Luke says nobody is ever really gone, suggesting there's a parallel between his own continued presence and the Emperor's return. Here's why that theory can be discounted.
- This Page: All The People Who've Become Force Ghosts
- Page 2: How Light Side & Dark Side Force Users Can Survive Death
The Rules Of Force Ghosts (And Who Became One In Star Wars Canon)
The idea of Force Ghosts runs all the way back to 1977, when Darth Vader confronted Obi-Wan Kenobi on the Death Star. "If you strike me down," Kenobi famously warned, "I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine." Proving the point, Kenobi's body vanished at the moment of his death, and from that moment on his spirit served as a guide to Luke. He had become one with the Force, a spirit that retained its sense of consciousness after death. Viewers could be pardoned for initially assuming that this happened to any Jedi, and yet logically even at this stage it was clear that couldn't be the case; Vader had killed countless Jedi, but was visibly taken aback at what happened to Kenobi at the moment he struck the killing blow.
The prequels have revealed that Qui-Gon Jinn was the first Jedi in a long time to retain the knowledge of how to live on after death. An unusual Jedi, Qui-Gon was humble enough to assume other Force traditions could teach him important lessons, and he learned the trick from a Shaman of the Whills. As confirmed in The Clone Wars, he was killed before he could complete his training, and initially could only communicate with the living world as a disembodied voice. Qui-Gon was able to continue his training after death, and - according to the recently-published anthology book From A Certain Point of View - he eventually learned how to manifest as a Force Ghost. Only a handful of beings have learned this secret: Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda, Anakin Skywalker, and Luke Skywalker. The body dissolves at the point of death if the Jedi has completed their training, explaining why neither Qui-Gon's nor Anakin Skywalker's faded away.
From A Certain Point of View contains a short story called "Master and Apprentice," by Claudia Gray, that is actually told from the perspective of the Force Ghost Qui-Gon. It revealed that Force Ghosts transcend time and space, and can see past, present, and future all woven together as one. Meanwhile, Star Wars: The Last Jedi has confirmed just how powerful a Force Ghost can be; decades after his death, Master Yoda had learned to manipulate the physical world when he destroyed the ancient library of Ahch-To.