Star Wars: Episode IX: 5 Theories for how Emperor Palpatine returns in The Rise of Skywalker


Emperor Palpatine is back! At least, that’s what was implied in the new trailer. How is this possible when we saw Palpatine fall to his death in Return of the Jedi and how could Palpatine influence events up Star Wars: Episode IX?

Star Wars Celebration wasted no time in starting the weekend in Chicago off with a bang.

Disney finally released the long-awaited name and trailer for the ninth and final installment of the Skywalker saga: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. The name alone evokes so many questions. However, the only thing bigger than the name and trailer, was the biggest bombshell of all: Emperor Palpatine’s return.

Toward the end of the trailer, Luke Skywalker narrates that “no one’s ever really gone,” which is followed by an ominous cackle that is impossible not to recognize. After the premiere of the trailer, actor Ian McDiarmid appeared on-stage, adding further confirmation of Palpatine’s appearance in Episode IX.

If you haven’t seen it already, here is the trailer for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker:

Given Palpatine was thrown to his death in Episode XI: Return of the Jedi by a redeemed Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader, how exactly will Emperor Palpatine return all these years later?

1. Palpatine Has the Power to Create Life

Star Wars comic book Darth Vader, Issue No. 25, confirmed that Palpatine, technically, was the father of Anakin Skywalker.

In short, Palpatine manipulated the midichlorians inside the womb of Anakin’s mother, Shmi, to create Anakin. Thus, Palpatine was so powerful with the Dark Side that he not only had the power to create life itself, but to create the Chosen One.

Palpatine was able to create Anakin because he learned the power to create life from his former master, Darth Plagueis the Wise, which leads to my next point.

2. Palpatine Has the Power to Cheat Death

In Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Palpatine asks his “son” Anakin Skywalker whether he has heard about the tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise, to which Anakin says no.

Palpatine tells Anakin about a Dark Lord of the Sith who was so powerful and knowledgeable of the Dark Side of the Force that he could create life and prevent the ones he cared about from dying. According to Palpatine, Plagueis eventually died at the hands of his apprentice, whom Plagueis had taught everything he knew.

The idea that Anakin could acquire the power to save lives in order to protect his wife, Padme Amidala, from dying appealed to him so much that Anakin succumbed to the dark side and became Darth Vader.

However, what Palpatine did not tell Anakin was that he was actually Plagueis’ apprentice. As the Sith Rule of Two demands, when Palpatine found an apprentice in a young Darth Maul, and after Plagueis had taught him everything he knew, Palpatine murdered Plagueis and took his place as the Sith master.

Thus, the rationale behind Palpatine’s acquired-ability to defy death has been in place since Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.

3. Palpatine’s Appearances Post-Return of the Jedi

In Star Wars Canon, as far as we currently know, Palpatine never returned to life.

Palpatine’s only Canon appearance  post-Return of the Jedi is in the story mode of EA’s video game, Star Wars: Battlefront II. There, Palpatine leaves behind instructions for his Contingency to the Empire’s top brass in the event of his death through pre-recorded messages in sentinel droids. Among those plans was Operation: Cinder, which called for the destruction of certain systems loyal to the Empire to in order to inspire fear against the Empire’s enemies and allies alike.

In Star Wars Legends, Palpatine survived post-Return of the Jedi by creating multiple clones of himself to transfer his spirit into in case he ever died.

Perhaps JJ Abrams might have taken a page out of Legends lore in order to bring Palpatine to life in Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker?

4. As a Ghost

In our simplest theory, perhaps the most likely method for his return is as a Force ghost – a method which allowed for Yoda’s return in The Last Jedi. 

5. Is Palpatine Snoke?

I’ve previously written about how I believe Snoke is alive and will return in Episode IX. I still firmly believe he is alive and Luke’s statement that “no one’s ever really gone” further supports it.

But could Palpatine himself have been Snoke all along, guiding Kylo Ren toward the dark side? That would certainly explain a lot of things.

dark. Next. Episode IX: The 5 most important scenes from the trailer

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker premieres worldwide on December 20.

What do you think about Emperor Palpatine’s return? Leave your thoughts in the comments!