In a film franchise filled with memorable villains like Darth Vader, Jabba the Hutt, and Boba Fett, Emperor Palpatine stands as one of the most iconic. His calculated malice, unbridled lust for power, and penchant for evil monologues make him a classic villain on par with Satan from Paradise Lost or Iago from Othello, though it's really the magnetism of character actor Ian McDiarmid that makes him so ghoulishly compelling. Palpatine even manages to provide dramatic heft to some of the franchise's weaker entries.
That said, if one truly mulls over the franchise, it's hard not to notice some major flaws in it's writing, and a large number of them relate to Palpatine. For the most part, these flaws are either exclusive to, or derived from, the much-maligned prequel trilogy, so lovers of the beloved original trilogy can rest assured that the classic Star Wars films won't be targeted here (much). Furthermore, just because there are some logical problems with Palpatine's portrayal doesn't change the fact that he is a fascinating character. While some of these plot holes are addressed in the media's other works of the Star Wars canon or the Expanded Universe (also known as Star Wars Legends), this list is going to focus exclusively on the live-action Star Wars films, as those are the aspects of the long-running saga that people are generally the most familiar with and where Palpatine left his biggest impact. With that in mind, we are counting down 20 Things Wrong With Palpatine That We All Choose to Ignore.
20 His Weird Transformation
In one of the most tense scenes in Revenge of the Sith, Anakin Skywalker has a choice: he can save the life of his evil father figure, Palpatine, or save the life of Jedi Master Mace Windu. During this fight, Anakin ultimately decides to save Palpatine, but not before Palpatine's face is deformed with Force lightning. Why was his face deformed, though? In Return of the Jedi, Luke Skywalker is attacked with Force lightning, but that did not deform him in any way. Furthermore, why did George Lucas feel the need to explain why Palpatine's face was so haggard in the original trilogy? People just assumed that he was really old, perhaps hundreds of years old, like Yoda.
19 Why Did Everyone Believe Him
According to Star Wars, the Jedi stood as the guardians of peace and justice for over a thousand generations. Because he is a Dark Lord of the Sith, Palpatine ordered his Stormtroopers to terminate every Jedi they could. As Palpatine is Chancellor of the Republic, that's a very risky move, as people could see that as an extreme abuse of power. Palpatine manages to spin this massacre into something positive by telling the Senate that the Jedi are evil and plotting to take over the Republic. They fall for this hook, line, and sinker. Why weren't they concerned that Palpatine took no one to trial and had children who were training to be Jedi eliminated? Why did everyone go from loving Jedi to hating them in a matter of seconds based on an unproven claim?
18 Why Put Anakin On Tatooine?
The Star Wars saga heavily implies that Palpatine manipulated the Force to impregnate Shmi Skywalker with her son Anakin. For the first several years of his life, Anakin lived with his mother on the desert planet, lightyears away from the Jedi and their temple. Palpatine's grand scene in the prequels is to have Anakin get trained as a Jedi before turning to the Dark Side. This plan rested on two major variables: Anakin being brought to a different planet and Anakin turning evil. Since those variables were so major, why not just cut out the middlemen? Palpatine could have abducted Anakin and secretly trained him as a Sith from birth. He certainly had no difficulty keeping secrets.
17 His Relationship With the Neimoidians
In The Phantom Menace, Palpatine enlists a group of alien businessmen called the Neimodians to aid in his incredibly complicated scheme. Why did the Nimoidians bother to help him? In order to remain a phantom menance, Palpatine hid his identity from the Neimodians, meaning that he can't really promise the Neimoidians anything, as that would reveal his true identity. So the Neimoidians lose numerous ships and robots while gaining nothing. How did they become such powerful businessmen if they are this gullible? The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result which is exactly what happens when the Nimoidians decide to aid Palpatine for the entirety of the Clone Wars with nothing to show for it. Head Neimoidian Nute Gunray helps out Palpatine for so long and all he gets is decapitated.
16 Why Couldn't He See That Darth Vader Was Turning On Him?
Two of the signature abilities of both Jedi and Sith Lords are prophecy and the ability to sense the emotions of others. Despite being the most powerful Sith Lord in the entire Star Wars saga, Palpatine had neither the supernatural intuition nor the prophetic powers to realize that his closet ally, Darth Vader, was considering turning on him. In Revenge of the Sith, he was able to manipulate the minds of powerful Jedi like Yoda and Mace Windu, but he couldn't read Anakin Skywalker. He could use his mind powers to manipulate numerous people to become a Senator, and then a Chancellor, and then an Emperor, yet the seemingly easy task of reading Vader was somehow too difficult for him.
15 His Presence At The Battle of Endor
The Star Wars films frame Palpatine as a quintessential evil genius as he was able to manipulate politicians, Jedi, fellow Sith, and everyone involved with an interplanetary war to his advantage. In Return of the Jedi, he must have been having an off day. In that film, he decided to arrive on the Death Star shortly before a rebel attack on it that he knows is going to happen. This risk has no benefit. Palpatine isn't directing the counterattack, so his only reason to be there is because he wants to watch the Rebel Alliance get destroyed and to taunt Luke Skywalker with the Rebel fleet's destruction. If he were a little more pragmatic, he might have had someone record the battle for him.
14 Why Couldn't He Become A Force Ghost?
After passing on, Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda, and Anakin Skywalker all become Force ghosts. Palpatine, despite being just as powerful or more powerful than those four men, does not. Why? Can only light side users become ghosts? Did Palpatine forget to transform into a ghost after his death for some reason? Did he realize that he failed in his quest to control the galaxy and decide that he should just throw in the towel? Until one of the numerous planned Star Wars films or television series decides to address this issue, all fans can do is speculate. At the very least, this loose plot thread provides Palpatine fans with a new hope that he could someday return to the Star Wars film franchise.
13 His Overt Evil
When Palpatine was a Senator and a Chancellor, he prudently decided that broadcasting his role as a Dark Lord of the Sith would only hurt his chances at recruiting people to his political causes. Once he becomes Emperor, however, he stops being sneaky and wears his Sith robes to work while funding doomsday weapons called Death Stars. One could argue that, given his new power, Palpatine no longer needs to mask his malevolence, but being openly evil like Palpatine could lead to people rebelling against him and forming some sort of alliance. Even the most despicable rulers in history usually cared about making their regimes appear righteous to their countrymen, but Palpatine is too proud of his Sith credentials not to wear those robes.
12 Why Can He Pull Some People's Force Senses But Not Others?
As previously stated, Palpatine was able to diminish the Force ability of the Jedi council at some point during Revenge of the Sith. This raises the question— why didn't he diminish Yoda's abilities later in the same film when he fought him? Why didn't he do the same to Obi-Wan Kenobi when he was trying to get him eliminated earlier in the same film? His power to "cloud" people's minds using the Dark Side is never discussed much, which raises questions. What are this power's limits? Why doesn't he use it more often? Why does no one else in the franchise have a comparable power? Questions like this are why the Expanded Universe was created in the first place.
11 Why Did He Only Create One Child?
Numerous Star Wars fans despise midi-chlorians because they feel that they replace the supernatural majesty of the Force with boring pseudoscience. A less widely-held opinion about midi-chlorians is that they make Palpatine look a touch shortsighted. If Palpatine was able to manipulate those microscopic lifeforms to create an extremely powerful Force user that he could take on as an apprentice, why not do that multiple times as a back-up plan? After all, Anakin could have never made it past childhood as he was born into servitude on an extremely dangerous planet. Or perhaps Anakin could have resisted Palpatine's temptations and not turned to the Dark Side, meaning that Palpatine's plan and years of hard work wouldn't pay off as he intended.
10 Why Not Encourage Darth Vader To Have More Children?
When Palpatine begins to suspect that Luke is Anakin Skywalker's son, he becomes very interested in turning him to the Dark Side. If Palpatine likes the idea of having a second Skywalker become a Sith Lord so much, why didn't he encourage Vader to have more children during the two decades between Revenge of the Sith and The Empire Strikes Back? If Darth Vader's horrible injuries prevent him from having children, why not just clone Vader? Palpatine has all the money he could want and advanced cloning technology, so why not duplicate Anakin a few times? If Palpatine were a kind, thoughtful man one might think that he doesn't want Vader to feel less special by cloning him, but Palpatine couldn't be more evil if he tried.
9 Why Is He Unconcerned With Leia
Palpatine learns that Princess Leia is the daughter of Anakin Skywalker in Return of the Jedi, but never views her as a potential Sith Lord like Luke. Perhaps that's because he doesn't think much of women. That explanation might make sense, as Palpatine never teaches any women the ways of the Sith across the entirety of six films. Then again, Palpatine doesn't have a problem with women holding elected office, as evidenced by the fact that he allows Leia to be a Senator. Maybe Palpatine, in a bizarre otherworldly way, has absolutely no issue with women governing but hates the idea of a woman holding a Lightsaber. It's an odd theory, but Star Wars takes place in a world where it's not unusual for giant slugs to run crime syndicates.
8 Why Didn't He Try To Hide His Face
Everyone cares about appearances. Whether or not we care about appearances to a healthy degree is another matter. Following his battle with Mace Windu in Revenge of the Sith, Palpatine becomes horribly disfigured to the point where he looks monstrous. This fact never causes Palpatine to worry that people might now be more likely to view him as the actual monster he is. He never tries to use the Force, or cosmetic surgery, or makeup to try to look more normal. Perhaps he relishes how intimidating his new visage makes him. The Emperor could also be extraordinarily confident in his looks. The most likely reason that Palpatine embraces his grotesque face is that George Lucas wanted his franchise's ultimate villain to be scary.
7 A Short Chain Of Command
Following the demise of Palpatine and Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi, the Galactic Empire ceases to exist. Eventually, an organization clearly modeled after the Empire called the First Order comes to power, but the Empire itself is never revived. Part of the reason why the Empire was destroyed is that it apparently had an incredibly short chain of command. The Rule of Two means there can only be two Sith Lords, but that doesn't mean that someone can't occupy a position of power directly below Vader. Again, Palpatine was not the best at planning ahead, except when the plot needed him to be really good at planning ahead. At least he managed to stay in charge longer than Snoke.
6 Why Did He Make General Grievous The Center Of The Wars
In a scene in Revenge of the Sith, Palpatine tells a Jedi master that the Clone Wars will end once General Grievous is put six feet under. We learn in another scene that Grievous takes orders from Palpatine. If Grievous were eliminated earlier than Palpatine needed him to be, then Palpatine would lose the emergency powers that were bestowed upon him due to the wars. That would certainly be an obstacle for Palpatine to overcome, so why would he center the war on one general? Decentralizing the war would make it much harder for him to lose his emergency powers. Maybe Palpatine really likes a good challenge, and was making his path to victory much more difficult than it needed to be.
5 His Trust of Vader
In Episode III, Palpatine tells Anakin about Darth Plagueis the Wise, a legendary Sith Lord he'd never heard of who was struck down by his own apprentice. A number of Star Wars fans have hypothesized that the apprentice in the story may very well have been Palpatine himself. With that in mind, Palpatine may have wanted to take some precautions when he took on Darth Vader as an apprentice, or at least walked on egg shells around him. Instead, everyone's favorite cloaked dictator was so convinced that Vader would never turn on him, that he boasted to Luke that Vader would forever be his servant, rhetoric that probably helped Vader to decide to betray him. It's honestly sad to see a character who was once a master manipulator lose his touch with age.
4 Why Would He Reveal So Much About Himself To The Neimoidians?
When Palpatine anonymously communicates with the Neimoidians, he does so via hologram. While the Neimoidians don't know his name and his face is partially obscured by a hood, the Neimoidians still know the sound of their creepy compatriot's voice. Why would he reveal the sound of his voice? The Neimoidians could have easily realized that the mysterious hologram was Palpatine and used this information to blackmail him. Luckily for Palpatine, no one in the prequel trilogy realizes who he is in time to stop him, so yet another one of his shoddy, poorly thought-out plans works flawlessly. The late great Roger Ebert decried a plot trope called the Idiot Plot, a plot which requires everyone in a film to be behave like idiots for it to make any sense, and The Phantom Menace has a primo Idiot Plot.
3 His Trust of Count Dooku
The Phantom Menance establishes the Rule of Two, which says that there can only ever be two Sith Lords: a master and an apprentice. At the beginning of Revenge of the Sith, Palpatine, the Sith Master, already has an apprentice, Count Dooku, but wants Anakin Skywalker to become his apprentice. His solution is to order Anakin to behead Dooku while Dooku is in the room. When Anakin was about to decapitate Dooku, Dooku could have spilled the beans on Palpatine's role as a Sith Lord who has been manipulating the Republic for years, but for some reason, he didn't. Why would Palpatine expect Dooku not to reveal his secret? Was Dooku, an evil ex-Jedi who cut Anakin Skywalker's arm off and helped to instigate the Clone Wars, just a really forgiving guy who didn't care that his old friend Palpatine ordered his death?
2 Vader's Ominous Suit
Darth Vader was horrifically mutilated after falling into lava, and Palpatine played a major role in the creation of the suit which keeps him alive. Why did Palpatine want Vader's suit to look so ominous? Having Darth Vader look like a nightmarish robot with mosquito eyes certainly isn't going to help the Galactic Empire's PR. In fact, it's probably going to make people trust Vader less that they otherwise would. Anakin Skywalker and his son both have robotic hands that look no different than regular hands, so why not give Vader a realistic robotic face? Leaders like Vader often want and need to be feared by their followers to a certain degree, but they needn't look completely grotesque to inspire that fear. It's possible that Palpatine felt that Vader might remain on the Dark Side if he felt too ugly to live a normal life.
1 His Dismissal of Obi-Wan
After the horrors of Order 66, all of the Jedi were hunted down except for Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi. Palpatine had his Stormtroopers briefly search for Yoda, but he never seems to have cared about Obi-Wan despite the fact that he knew he was still alive. On one level, his dismissal of Obi-Wan makes sense; the Imperial troops managed to exterminate most of the Jedi, so Palpatine may not have been to concerned with what Obi-Wan could accomplish on his own. On another level, Palpatine should be smart enough to know that one Jedi master could potentially train numerous Jedi and help to undo what the Empire had accomplished. After all, Palpatine managed to take control of the Republic and restore the Sith to their former glory all on his own.