If you haven’t watched any of the trailers for Star Wars The Rise of Skywalker or read any of the press tours or anything really, you might want to stay away from this column. You have been warned. There are no legit spoilers just theories based on what we’ve seen through trailers and press. I know nothing and you should know by now that I don’t want to know anything until the film is released. Read with caution…
Unless you’ve been staying away from the internet, haven’t watched or read anything from the press tour, or have successfully navigated your life to remain trailer free, then you know that Emperor Palpatine will be making his return to the Star Wars universe this week in the Rise of Skywalker. Of course, this has raised the completely logical question… how? Last we saw, my man he was getting chucked down a reactor shaft in the second Death Star having been “killed” by his apprentice Darth Vader. It’s a tremendous moment as Vader chooses his son over the dark side/Emperor and finally lives up to the prophecy whispered by Qui Gon Jinn so many years before. Balance to the Force is restored and Darth Vader gets to die as Anakin Skywalker looking on his son with his own eyes. Removing the newly inserted “nooooooo”, thanks George, this has always been one of my favorite moments in Star Wars. In fact, I have a Funko pop on my work desk celebrating it. Vader wrapped in Force Lightning as he is about to make the biggest choice in his life.
Needless to say, the Emperor’s return has raised an eyebrow or two. How can this guy be alive? Does his apparent non-death negate Vader’s actions? Was the Force ever balanced? Seriously, how did this guy live? I’m not entirely sure how many stories tall the Death Star is but you would have to believe that there is very little chance that someone is going to make that fall and get up limping. It’s more of a “splat” type deal. Not to mention that shortly after the fall the whole thing goes BOOM! So how is this guy still cackling in Episode IX?
Well, I’ve got a couple of theories. Knowing what we know about Palpatine and his love for clones there’s a legit chance that he made a ton of clone shells of himself and when he died he sort of Force ghosted himself into one of the waiting bodies. It fits within the ideas presented in Star Wars thus far. I’m willing to put money down that the concept of cloning comes up again in The Rise of Skywalker (*cough* Rey *cough*) and I think this a possibility makes way for the return of Palpatine. But, perhaps there’s another answer. Something that was introduced to the Star Wars Universe during the animated Rebels.
Of course, I’m talking about… time travel.
(insert collective groans here)
Before you start rolling your eyes hear me out. In the tremendous Rebels episode, “A World Between Worlds”, Ezra enters Jedi Temple that exists in this nexus of time in an attempt to save a fallen friend. During his travels through this temple, all of the Star Wars Universe seems to flow around him as quotes from Princess Leia, Obi Wan, Kylo Ren, and Yoda echo around him. Through his travels, he’s able to look into different moments within life and by doing so is able to save fan-favorite Ashoka before she is killed in her battle with Darth Vader. It’s an awesome moment that kicks open a door of possibilities for this universe. Ultimately, Ezra and Ashoka have to escape because the Emperor, who is aware of this nexus in time (!!!), senses them and attempts to kill them. This is one of my favorite things in all of Star Wars and packs more emotion then you’re ready for or would expect from an animated program. It also gives a possible clue on how the Emperor could exist in The Rise of Skywalker.
With this knowledge is it possible that the Emperor might have planned for the events of Return of the Jedi? Here is a guy who has been leaps and bounds ahead of everyone at all times. Jedi? No clue. Senate? Give me all the power. Jar Jar? Make the recommendation for the most important vote in galactic senate history? Okieday! Create Anakin Skywalker by manipulating the midicholrians and impregnating his mother? Yes, this happened. Is it really out of the realm of possibility to believe that Palpatine could’ve seen Vader’s betrayal and planned accordingly?
Of course, this begs the question of how. The front runner of the person most likely to pull the Emperor out of time is clearly Kylo Ren. If Palpatine has been calling the shots this entire time then Kylo is the only answer here. Perhaps a visit as an evil Force Ghost nudging Kylo in the right direction. Using Ben’s blind misunderstanding of who Darth Vader is, the Emperor could use that to fill Kylo’s head with delusions of grandeur. What better way to get the impressionable Kylo Ren to join your forces then promising him that he will replace his idol, Darth Vader. Finally following in his footsteps. That would surely prompt Ben Solo to mess with the timeline and bring about this final confrontation with Palpatine.
If this turns out to be the case there’s going to be a lot of exposition needed in order to explain what is happening. The casual fan most likely hasn’t watched Star Wars Rebels which could add to a great deal of confusion but in this instance, time travel might be the easiest explanation as to why the Emperor lives. Plus, if he’s pulled out of time it doesn’t negate Vader’s redeeming actions as the timeline was manipulated opposed to Palpatine just falling allllll the way down, brushing himself off, getting on a ship, and flying to someplace in the galaxy where he would be hanging out for thirty years. Sure, Palpatine is a patient man but do you really think he would idly stand by while the Empire collapses? His life work?! No way. Pulling him out of time would explain for his lack of action. Unless we’ve got a Voldemort situation here where he needs a body and a wizard tournament to come back to full power.
No matter what The Rise of Skywalker has some explaining to do whether it be time travel, clones, or some sort of evolution of the Force Ghost. Emperor Palpatine has returned and it’s setting up for the ultimate final battle to the Skywalker Saga. Wouldn’t it be awesome to see the film connect to the wider universe much like Solo did with Darth Maul? What do you think Geeklings? What are your theories? Sound off in the comments below or throw me a line over on Twitter @iamgeek32. Only a few short days left to discuss. Don’t miss out.