Emperor Palpatine is returning for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker - here's everything we know about his presence in the movie. Co-written and directed by J.J. Abrams, Star Wars 9 is going to end the Skywalker Saga. Plot specifics about the film have been kept under wraps, but the very first trailer for The Rise of Skywalker confirmed Ian McDiarmid's return as Palpatine.
The threequel will pick up a year after the events of Rian Johnson's Star Wars: The Last Jedi from 2017, and will continue Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega) and Poe's (Oscar Isaac) journey to rebuild the Resistance and fight off the First Order led by the now Supreme Leader Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Legacy characters like General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) will play integral roles in The Rise of Skywalker's narrative.
But with the movie supposedly being the culmination of everything that has transpired in all nine mainline Star Wars movies, Abrams is also bringing back Darth Sidious, although in typical fashion there's plenty of mystery surrounding it. Here's everything we know about the his upcoming return to the Star Wars forefront.
Palpatine Somehow Returns In Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
It was during this year's Star Wars Celebration in Chicago where it was revealed that Ian McDiarmid will reprise his role as the Emperor in The Rise of Skywalker. After the panel for the film where director J.J. Abrams brought out all the returning cast members, as well as new key players such as Naomi Ackie's Janna, they debuted fans' first look at the movie which ended with tease at Palpatine's involvement in the upcoming narrative.
Confirmed in an unconventional way, fans were shocked to hear the villain's familiar laugh towards the end of the promotional clip just after Luke's voiceover talking about no one being really gone, before McDiarmid himself appeared on stage. However, while Palpatine's return is confirmed, how it happens is unclear. He was ostensbily killed off in Return of the Jedi, but the use of him in the marketing so far suggests he's alive (at least in a fashion), which means he found some way of cheating death, which will likely be revealed in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
Palpatine's Voice Has Featured In Star Wars 9's Trailers
With just a little bit more than a month before Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker makes its way to theaters, marketing is already in full swing. Aside from tie-in merchandise, three trailers have been rolled out - and all of them feature the Emperor one way or another. As previously mentioned, fans' first look at the threequel ended with the chilling sound of Palpatine's evil laugh. While the character didn't have any dialog, it was a simple and effective way to announce his return in the movie. Things are a bit different, however, in succeeding promotional clips where we actually hear him speak.
In The Rise of Skywalker's special D23 Expo special look the Emperor declares: "your journey nears its end," while in the third and final Star Wars 9 trailer, he says: "long have I waited and now, your coming together is your undoing." The first instance is designed to make us think he's talking to Rey, while the second is seemingly directed at Rey and Kylo Ren, although much of these trailers feel like misdirection. Nevertheless, the meaning is clear, as it sets up a confrontation between Rey (perhaps with help from Kylo) and Emperor Palpatine to play out in Star Wars 9, with that looking very likely to be the climactic battle the movie builds to.
Star Wars Is Hiding Palpatine's Appearance In The Rise Of Skywalker
Palpatine's presence has been looming over all three trailers for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, but other than his cackle and ominous dialog, we still haven't seen him in his full physical form. The latest sneak peek for Abrams' movie did tease the appearance of the Emperor, however. In one of the most ominous looking sequences in the clip, Rey is seen facing up against a mysterious figure. While we don't see who she's looking at, the unmistakable hood of Sidious can be seen but the angle of the shot effectively hides the villain's face. However, it looks as though he might have some mechanical assistance for moving about. Meanwhile, although the villain is featured in a poster for the film, his image was lifted from a Facebook post for one of Hot Toys' Palpatine figures, and doesn't necessarily confirm his physical appearance in Star Wars 9.
Like with the hows of Palpatine's return, this is likely something being saved as a big reveal in the movie itself. It might be that he does have a new mechanical body, that he is even more disfigured now than ever before, or that he has the voice of McDiarmid, but no longer looks like him (one theory is that Matt Smith is playing Palpatine). Like the Jedi's ability to come back from the dead via Force Ghosts, Sith has the ability called Essence Transfer wherein they attach their souls to another living being's body or any physical object through sheer force. Whichever is the case, it's clear that The Rise of Skywalker is holding off revealing Palpatine's physical state as it will more likely be an indication of how he's able to return.
Palpatine's Star Destroyer Fleet Is In Star Wars 9
In conjunction to Palpatine's return is the debut of his secret Star Destroyer fleet supposedly hidden in the Unknown Regions. In a contrasting shot of countless ships lead by the Millennium Falcon for the Resistance, the latest The Rise of Skywalker trailer also gave us our first clear look at the Emperor's squadron of old-school Imperial Star Destroyers (they were previously teased in the D23 special look). These ships, however, has gotten a major upgrade compared to their predecessors as they are seemingly equipped with Death Star canons making them much deadlier.
At this point, it's unclear how the Emperor was able to keep his massive fleet tightly under wraps considering the sheer volume of ships involved. A previous shot in the film's third trailer showed an Imperial Star Destroyer breaking out of ice, hinting that these ships have been hidden underneath the surface. Meanwhile, there have been rumors that finding and taking control of these ships is Kylo Ren's goal. Apparently, the new Supreme Leader is looking for the Wayfinder device to "unlock Palpatine's legacy."
Palpatine Is The Skywalker Saga's Main Villain
Many were convinced that the Sequel Trilogy's big bad was Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) who supposedly lured Ben Solo to the Dark side as per Leia. Countless theories attempted to nail his mysterious origins and end-goal, which is why his surprising death in The Last Jedi felt so anti-climactic. From there, fans understandably assumed that Kylo Ren will be the films' big bad as he's conveniently positioned to be the organic successor to Snoke's title. Things have drastically changed since then, however, with the impending return of the Emperor. Based on what's officially revealed thus far regarding The Rise of Skywalker's narrative, it's heavily implied that Sheev continues to manipulate events to his benefit even after his apparent defeat in Return of the Jedi.
In hindsight, the reveal that Palpatine may still be the pulling the strings makes sense considering that Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is tipped to wrap up the space opera's episodic offerings. Bringing him back reinforces the idea that he's the Skywalker Saga's overall antagonist, linking all the way back to Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace and even before that, with the creation of Anakin Skywalker. Now, it's come down to Rey (and maybe even Kylo Ren) to permanently end his evil ways. How they're going to do that remains to be seen, but if there's anything that we've learned from his confirmed return from the dead, the Emperor is a master tactician, meaning he's long planned things to pan out this way. Given this, it's safe to say that that it won't be a walk in the park to finally take him down.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019