“The dead speak!” Starts the opening round of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. “The Dead” is Emperor Palpatine, who started broadcasting across the galaxy, and confuses anyone who was reasonably certain that he did not survive his fall in “The Return of the Jedi”. How did he get back to life? J.J. Abram’s second sequel has few answers, so years of Star Wars storytelling can do the hard work (if you know where to find it).
(Ed. Note: This post contains key spoilers for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.)
The Rise of Skywalker, a trilogy corkscrew, sets many new rules for Palpatin’s powers. This follows the tradition of Star Wars script writing: in addition to introducing the character into the flesh of the return of the Jedi, George Lucas’s Force Lighting concept gave rise to the idea that someone could turn to the dark side by doing someone in one act of Anger kills or fear. The prequel trilogy hid their secret Sith Lord (aka The Phantom Menace) until the Sith’s revenge and teased the idea that Sheev Anakin created Skywalker from mid-chlorians. In the Skywalker saga, big palpatine revelations are pressed into the final installments.
Palpatine is a mess when he appears in Rise of Skywalker. Until the end of the film, he gets stuck on a big machine, his eyes have no pupils and his hands are torn. When Kylo Ren and the audience stumble over him, he is sitting next to a tank full of snokes. He says he “made” Snoke, and based on the lab setup, the idea is that we should probably take it literally. Although it is ironic to quote the lyrics to a song called “Once in a Lifetime” to talk about Palpatine who lived several lives: “How did we get here?” Not.
To have a granddaughter, Palpatine needs a son
The big twist at Rise of Skywalker is that Rey is the granddaughter of Palpatine and she is connected by blood through her father’s line. When did Palpatine have a son? There is no canonical answer, but there is a rumor from Legends, the pre-Disney Expanded Universe material that was decanoned in advance of “The Force Awakens” and could deliver a few breadcrumbs. They are about a character that was first introduced in Attack of the Clones: Palpatin’s assistant Sly Moore.
Mas Amedda, Emperor Palpatine and Sly Moore speak in front of the Galactic SenateImage: Lucasfilm Ltd.
The idea that Sly Moore knew Palpatine was Darth Sidious while serving him canon remains in the era of the continuation of the trilogy. She sits to his left whenever Palpatine speaks to the Senate and looks like she’s going to have a great time in the space opera in Palpatin’s box before she is released so Palpatine can speak to Anakin. Sly Moore is said to have been extremely loyal and may have had the power to cloud people’s thoughts, suggesting that she may have been sensitive to power.
In the canon of legends, a man appears on Kessel’s spice mines claiming to be the son of Emperor Palpatine, who was born when Sly Moore had inseminated one of Palpatin’s DNA samples. Its defining characteristic? Three eyes. And his name is … Triclops. The theory is a bit lengthy, but the idea that Sly Moore fathered Palpatine’s son before the Emperor completely desecrated the Senate in A New Hope cannot be disproved, and there aren’t many female characters spending time with Palpatine ,
Did the emperor keep his genome? As Dominic Monaghan’s character in Rise of Skywalker says, there has been a lot of dark science in Sith circles over the years, so the answer is … probably. Gross.
The emperor survived the return of the Jedi – but then what?
There is reason to believe that Palpatine defeated death before it was thrown into the Death Star II shaft in return for the Jedi. Star Wars’ expanded universe novels, comics, and cartoons suggest that Palpatine dealt with “Sith magic,” although he never focused on just one deadly scheme at a time. Star Wars: Rebels showed us that during the imperial era, Palpatine looked into the magical “world between the worlds” that allowed a user to look through space and time. The whim of magic opens doors to pretty much every possibility in the Star Wars universe. For example: Palpatine really dies on Death Star II and then comes back to life.
Picture: Lucasfilm Ltd.
When Darth Vader throws the Jedi Palpatine onto the Death Star shaft at the end of the return, an explosion of blue energy indicates that something broke down there. And by that year it seemed to be the last wheeze of the Sith order. In Rise of Skywalker, Palpatine says he “died”, a clear indication of his crash in episode 6, which ended with Death Star II exploding into pieces that fell on Endor’s various moons. It was safe to assume that his body was destroyed in the process.
How Palpatine lands in a body on Exogol that looks like Palpatine is a mystery that the film itself does not solve. The contextual clues and an explicit reference to Monaghan’s character lead back to an unlikely place: cloning, the harbinger of this trilogy that everyone loved.
The history of the emperor with cloning
In the early 90s, the comic series Dark Empire (Legends) without canon, Palpatine revived after the events of the Jedi return thanks to the dozens of clones that he was able to calmly breed throughout his reign. Whenever a Palpatine body dies, the Sith Lord uses a Dark Side Force trick to jump into a new body. In this case, the clone is overwritten by the emperor. In the sequel to the Dark Empire II series, Palpatine threatens to kidnap Leia’s child, and does so successfully with some Jedi. The good guys finally defeat the emperor when one of his possessed souls drags Palpatin’s essence into hell power before the body can jump in an act of soul sacrifice. (Star Wars of the 90s!) There are signs that some of these ideas have been canonized again, at least the idea of overwriting a soul with another, more powerful one.
The idea that Palpatine would keep a secret amount of clones to jump in tracks with what we know about the character in the new canon, even if we haven’t found any Palpatine shells in the expanded universe yet. Re-emphasis – we just got to know that the guy somehow has a legitimate son.
One problem that Palpatine encounters when jumping into multiple bodies in the Dark Realm is that using the Dark Side of the Force at the required levels causes its age and decay. This was used to explain the appearance of the emperor in the original trilogy long before we found out that he was scarring himself when Mace Windu reflected his flash of power back to him. This could still mean that the dark side is physically worn on a person, but it’s just not something we saw in the canon.
The Snoke clones the secret
As can be seen from the setting of the Snoke Clone tanks at the beginning of the film, Palpatine was appointed former Supreme Leader of the First Order. But was Palpatine snoke all the time? Some new In-Canon references and some publications on Snoke back in The Last Jedi suggest that this is the case.
In a recent episode of Marvel’s Darth Vader comics, readers are told the story of Darth Momin, a Sith who managed to keep his vitality in a mask. If someone put this mask on, the spirit of Darth Momin would own that entity. Momin’s plan was to use Mustafar’s strong connection to the Dark Side and Vader’s desire to revive Padme to build a portal that would allow you to bring people back from death. Eventually Momin manages to resuscitate, and Vader crushes his head and mask and ends the experiment very quickly.
The canon-recognized comic depicts the resurrection of a strong Sith using an obsessed object on Mustafar, a bite that takes us back to the last Jedi. When we see Snoke in the flesh for the first time, he wears a golden robe in a room full of red and a ring with a black stone.
Picture: Lucasfilm Ltd.
According to The Last Jedi Visual Dictionary, the black stone from Snoke’s ring comes from Mustafar (we have no canonical records from Snoke) and the markings are ancient Dwartii glyphs. The description is a very damned reference to the Emperor’s hand in Snoke’s existence. The four wise men of Dwartii, ancient philosophers, whose teachings were malleable enough to form the basis for the Galactic Republic and adopted by the Sith, appear as statues in the trilogy in Palpatine’s chamber and in the elevator to Exogol as giant statues. Palpatine is even shown how he brings one of his Dwartii statutes in the cartoons to his Sith temple. If there was an object that Palpatine used to throw his consciousness into a doll’s body, history suggests that it was the snoke ring.
So why not do another snoke in The Last Jedi after his death? The ring on the ship that receives holdo maneuvers! He needs a new object to restart the process.
In the recently released Marvel comic book Age of Resistance: Supreme Leader Snoke, we see how Snoke trains a younger Kylo Ren. “If I had your uncle by your side,” he says to the boy formerly known as Ben Solo, “I would have ruled this galaxy a long time ago.” The uncle we’re talking about is Luke Skywalker and knows that Snoke was one. A clone that didn’t exist in the age of the Empire almost certainly means that this is an indication of Luke’s temptation to Death Star II. If Luke had killed Vader in anger, Snoke / Palpatine would have ruled the galaxy long ago. Like 30 years ago.
Maybe it’s natural, maybe they’re mid-chlorians
For the climate war on Exogol, the emperor tries to get Rey to angrily knock him down so that his consciousness passes to her and she rules the final order as Empress Palpatine. He does this in his decrepit form before Ben Solo shows up and gives Palpatine a delicious Force Dyad from which he can vampire. Knowing how Palpatine wants absolute power is a fair assumption that if Rey had knocked him out, he would have taken her body and overwritten the consciousness of his blood relatives.
The term “life force” is thrown around in relation to the new force healing power (as opposed to the non-canonical term “essence”), which implies that light users can use the power to transfer their lives to another. As a shadow force, Palpatine sucks life out of and into his hands, which looks more like a non-canonical “transfer essence” force that Palpatine used to transfer between clones in the dark realm. This pure dyad energy enables him to grow his fingers again and regain his yellow irises for the last fight.
Image: Dark Horse Comics
The crucial moment reveals another way in which Palpatine could have defeated death: he could have been the supreme master of the Midi-Chlorians. In the Darth Plage tragedy, Palpatine implies that the dark side can create life. Marvel’s Vader comics also imply that Palpatine created Anakin. Has Palpatine reshaped a body from little genetic material with enough dark side power? Or nothing? That would explain why the white-eyed version of him had to stay connected to machines on the secret Sith planet, and even then he was pretty helpless if Kylo Ren decided to kill him right at the beginning of the film.
This could be the reason why a clone body would never be enough if you really wanted to be immortal: you would have to have a natural body to consume it, and if it had ritually killed you in a Sith manner, that would be great. When in doubt, just suck the life force out of someone.
The strangest choice Rise of Skywalker makes among a variety of strange choices is to start with the inevitability that Palpatine is alive and assume that our answers would result from the accumulation of more powers. It’s a strange way of writing a franchise story, provided that future expanded universe material will fill the gaps of your great bad guy, but that’s exactly what Palpatine has always been in the third Star Wars film of a trilogy: an evil surprise full of mystery and makes.
How Palpatine became immortal is currently at the level of scientific theory, the result of connecting the lore points from past and present Star Wars stories. Where we get clear answers may be in the expanded universe.
“Son of Palpatine” Disney Plus series, someone?