Who is that laughing at the end of the Star Wars 9 trailer? Be prepared for a shock because a character thought dead by the time of the Star Wars sequel trilogy was just positioned as the big villain of The Rise Of Skywalker.
After incredible speculation, an official trailer for Star Wars 9 has been released - and it's changed the game. While going into the Star Wars Celebration event for Episode IX a lot of the hype was about discovering the title, the first teaser footage for the film, due in December, was about something else entirely. After seeing Rey, Finn, Poe, Kylo Ren, Lando and a host of other characters back on a new, spectacular adventure, there was an incredibly evil laugh... but who exactly was that supposed to be? Snoke? Kylo? A new character? Actually, none of the above.
If it was familiar, there's a reason: that laugh at the end of the Star Wars 9 trailer belongs to The Emperor aka Palpatine aka Darth Sidious, the big villain of the Star Wars prequel and original trilogy - and, now, the sequels as well! This was confirmed when actor Ian McDiarmid appeared on the Star Wars Celebration stage, taking in the cheers at his evil return.
This will be surprising to most Star Wars fans. The Emperor was, after all, killed by Darth Vader at the end of Return of the Jedi and has been entirely absent throughout the sequel trilogy thus far. There had been rumors he'd be back in Star Wars 9, but few gave them much attention.
The Expanded Universe may provide a clue. In the Legends continuity, Palpatine lived long after his death as a dark spirit that possessed a string of youthful clones. This was part of the Dark Empire comic arc that also saw Luke corrupted by the dark side. It would definitely fit with Star Wars canon - Snoke could even be explained as a warped clone gone wrong.
But focusing on what's explicitly in the new Star Wars canon, the answer may lie in midichlorians. The infamous Tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise told of a Sith Lord - later revealed to be Palpatine's master - who learned how to keep others from dying and create life. The Emperor claimed the ability to save one's own life as out of Plagueis' reach, but could he have figured it out and survived the events on the second Death Star to return 30 years later? We'll find out when Star Wars 9 releases in December.