2. Why was Palpatine’s body so beat-up?
In The Rise of Skywalker, we see Emperor Palpatine in a body barely there and barely alive. His fingers are broken stumps, his eyes milky, hanging from a life support array like some sort of zombie marionette. Why was his physical body in such poor shape?
The answer to this question will help us to answer many more as well. Is this Palpatine’s original body, technologically kept alive for decades after it was torn apart over Endor? If it is, then we have to question why he hasn’t used technology to help him recover more fully.
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Another Sith to fall down a long shaft, Darth Maul, gained a mechanical lower half. Darth Vader, the very person to throw Palpatine down that shaft in the second Death Star, was savagely burned on Mustafar. All four of his limbs were mechanical and he was kept alive by an intricate breathing system that gave him his distinctive voice.
Palpatine knew intimately how technology helped Vader; why did he not make use of it to repair or replace his broken body? Why not any skin grafts, or robotic digits? Was hanging from a small crane the best option? Has he never heard of bacta?
The other arm of possibilities seems to fit better, even if the movie itself gives no exposition towards this end. What if this was a clone body? In the Dark Empire comic series now in Legends, Palpatine is perpetually in a decrepit host body because the Dark Side wounds and distorts his host body.
Could this be the fate for Palpatine? Clone bodies breaking down? It would explain why Palpatine was in such bad shape; every subsequent body broke down on him, and so he needed to find another option. It would even provide a potential answer to the question of why Palpatine was still disfigured when he absorbed the life force from Rey and Ben; Palpatine’s very anatomy could have been altered by the Force lightning reflected back on him, affecting even his cloned versions.
That theory is a bit out there, but this is an entire area we don’t understand. The filmmakers seem to have tossed a few different elements into the mix without parsing out the details, but if there is a cohesive idea behind them we can try to figure it out.