The Rise of Skywalker: 3 questions about Palpatine’s return

Photo: Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999).. © Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.
Photo: Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999).. © Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved. /
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Emperor Palpatine; Star Wars
Photo: Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi /

1. Can Palpatine return again, or is he truly dead?

At the end of Return of the Jedi, our heroes celebrated the death of Emperor Palpatine and the beginning-of-the-end for the Galactic Empire. At the end of The Rise of Skywalker our heroes celebrated the death of Palpatine and the end-before-the-beginning of the Final Order. What’s to say this won’t be repeated again?

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This is another question difficult to answer without the knowledge of how exactly Palpatine returned the first time. If he is using clones, then it certainly seems like he could come back again using the same process — that is, unless whatever technology or bodies necessary were captured or destroyed by the Resistance when they won the battle of Exegol.

If Palpatine has sustained the same body for all of these years, then he is almost surely gone for good. When Rey rebounded his Force Lightning attack back on him, his body was not simply damaged or disfigured. He blew apart in pieces, his body completely disintegrated.

We don’t have the answer to whether the Sith have the ability to return as a “Force ghost” as Luke Skywalker or Obi-Wan Kenobi have. We have seen no evidence of such in the movies, and while Legends content did show Sith ghosts, the current canon has been careful not to touch this area directly. Barring something unexpected, then, Palpatine cannot return in any form.

That’s a relief both to the forces of good in the galaxy, and to fans ready for something new. There is a certain balance to Palpatine being the puppeteer behind it all for the sequel trilogy as he was for the first two; in a sense this could be just as rightly called the “Palpatine Saga” as Skywalker. Yet it’s also a let down, as not even Snoke or Kylo Ren can be judged entirely on their own merits as villains.

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Emperor Sheev Palpatine is a dark and menacing figure, one who slipped from memory and nightmare to once again threaten the galaxy in The Rise of Skywalker. The film did not explain his return to us in the film, but we can draw up theories that help us to understand. Thankfully, his reign of terror appears to be finally over.