With the release of the first teaser trailer for Episode IX: Rise of Skywalker at Star Wars Celebration in Chicago, fans are buzzing with theories about the situations, events, and characters featured in the two minute segment. Without a doubt the most talked about aspect was the inclusion of Emperor Palpatine, his sinister cackle heard ominously over the title screen.
Emperor Palpatine was killed in Return of the Jedi, betrayed by his apprentice Darth Vader, putting an end to decades of the twisted machinations that led to the creation of the first Galactic Empire. The return of the ultimate evil in the Star Wars films would not only tie them all together, but reveal that the master puppeteer was actually successful in his greatest scheme of all - cheating death.
10 HE'LL BE A FORCE GHOST
The Sith quest for immortality has long been documented, both in the Star Wars films and in the novels that explore the further adventures of characters in its galaxy. And just as we have seen Qui Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Yoda turn into Force ghosts, we may yet get to see Palpatine return as one.
To become a Force ghost, it is said a Jedi must be focused on the Force prior to death so that their essence becomes one with it when they leave the corporeal realm. The Sith are said to lack this ability, but Palpatine learned a lot about experimenting with immortality from his Master, Darth Plagueis, so it’s possible he found a way.
9 HE'LL HAVE BEEN BEHIND EVERY MAJOR EVENT
During the tumultuous days of the Sith Wars, Darth Bane, witnessing what this was doing to diminish their power, implemented the Rule of Two. There could only ever exist a Sith Master and Apprentice, and they would endeavor, in secrecy, work to destroy the Jedi Order from within.
Palpatine was instrumental in beginning the Trade Embargo that led to the formation of the Separatist Movement, which led to the need for the Republic to create a Clone Army, which the Jedi were ultimately betrayed by. He was also able to turn the most powerful Jedi to the Dark Side with his manipulations, creating a new apprentice Darth Vader, who fulfilled Palpatine's plan to wipe out the Jedi completely.
8 HE'LL ONLY BE A PART OF REY'S VISIONS
There have been many references to Jedi and Sith having the ability to see into the future. Both Jedi Masters Mace Windu, Yoda, and Sifo-Dyas had this ability, as did Palpatine. The first time we see something like that displayed in the films came when Rey touched the saber of Anakin Skywalker in The Force Awakens, showing her both moments from the past as well as glimpses into the future.
It’s very possible that while Palpatine will appear in Episode IX, it will only be as part of one of Rey’s Force visions. She may see the Emperor’s rise to power as a means of understanding the gravity of letting history repeat itself with the First Order.
7 HE'LL LEAD KYLO REN ON AN IMPORTANT QUEST
About a year ago, there was a leaked scene floating around which depicted Kylo Ren coming in contact with Palpatine on a remote jungle planet, an artifact in his hand emitting a lifelike hologram of Palpatine telling him where to go and what to do.
This scene was speculated to be from Episode IX, in which Kylo Ren will endeavor to travel to places rich with the Dark Side of the Force. Kylo Ren could be the true Sith Apprentice Palpatine was waiting for, so consumed by the dark side that he would kill his own father, unlike Luke.
6 HE WAS SNOKE ALL ALONG
When Supreme Leader Snoke was first introduced, he was a figure cloaked in mystery. He wasn't a Sith, but a powerful Dark Side user who had mastered their abilities and sought to take on an apprentice of his own. He was able to turn Ben Solo (possibly from the womb) against his mentor, Jedi Master Luke Skywalker, and recreate him as Kylo Ren.
Snoke got no more transparent after his first appearance in The Force Awakens, and was killed in The Last Jedi before his true identity could be revealed. Some fans have speculated he was Palpatine, in the body of a host that carried his essence, attributing his grotesquely scarred appearance to the energy levels it took to possess him.
5 VADER NEVER KILLED HIM IN ROTJ
One of the more curious fan theories posits that Vader threw a body double down the reactor shaft, not the Emperor himself. While that's hard to believe, given the sequence of events both before and after, there’s some precedence for the tactic.
In the prequels, Queen Amidala often used a body double to protect herself from assassination attempts, and even as a Senator she couldn't be too careful. While it's unlikely Palpatine had a body double ready to use at a moment’s notice, Palpatine's cunning cannot be understated. He would have done everything he could to preserve himself and by extension, the Empire.
4 HE WAS MANIPULATING KYLO REN ALL ALONG
As has been referenced often in the new trilogy, Kylo Ren is obsessed with Darth Vader, his biological grandfather and one of the most powerful Sith warriors in the galaxy. His very dress and mannerisms evoke Vader, save for his aggressive emotional outbursts.
What isn't touched on, is if this isn't a choice that was ever Ren’s to make. If Palpatine were able to somehow reach out to Ren, even from beyond the grave, he may have been guiding his every move, molding and shaping him into the perfect apprentice as he attempted to with Vader, his son Luke, and no the son of Leia.
3 HE'LL GIVE REY THE ULTIMATE TEST
In the prequels, in the guise of Darth Sidious, Palpatine tested every one of his apprentices. In the original trilogy, he tested Darth Vader’s loyalty which, up until Return of the Jedi was thought to be unquestionable. He tested Luke Skywalker, having seen a future where he became the greatest disciple of the Dark Side, in the hopes that he would take his father’s place as an enforcer of the Emperor’s will.
If he returns in Episode IX, it may be in the capacity of testing Rey. Though her commitment to the Light Side seems unshakable, especially considering she turned down Kylo Ren’s offer to rule the galaxy at his side, she hasn’t faced anyone with Palpatine’s power.
2 HE'LL APPEAR AS A CLONE
It’s in a Sith’s very nature to want to stay alive, to continue to accumulate more power with the Dark Side of the Force, and to prevent that power from being taken from them. The ultimate power for them, in many ways, is being able to influence life. This means that achieving immortality is pretty high on that list, something ancient Sith Alchemists like Darth Plagueis the Wise sought for himself.
He taught his apprentice, Sheev Palpatine that power, but it’s unclear whether Palpatine successfully mastered it. As a backup plan, in the Dark Empire novel by Timothy Zahn, Palpatine had cloned himself to cheat death, something they may make canon.
1 HE'LL TIE TOGETHER ALL NINE EPISODES
The machinations Palpatine put in place to successfully create the circumstances needed to spawn the first Galactic Empire could only have been accomplished by a master tactician. After orchestrating the need for the Republic to go to war, and creating an Empire from its ashes, he could exterminate the Jedi Order in the most ruthless way; via one of their own, Anakin Skywalker, now made into Darth Vader by Palpatine’s twisted lies.
His appearance in the final film of George Lucas’s nine-episode vision would imply that his ability to masterfully manipulate was achievable even beyond the corporeal realm, something that would be a narrative coup de gras and a shocking revelation for the characters in the universe.