How Can Emperor Palpatine Can Be Back In Star Wars 9? We Have Some Ideas
How can Emperor Palpatine have returned for Star Wars 9? The possibilities of how this might have been accomplished are nearly as mind-boggling as the revelation that the chief villain of the first six Star Wars films has returned for the final installment, The Rise Of Skywalker.
Fans were thrilled by the release of the first trailer for Star Wars 9 and the announcement of its official title - The Rise of Skywalker - at Star Wars Celebration 2019. Excitement gave way to confusion, and perhaps a small degree of terror, as the trailer approached its conclusion and Luke Skywalker said "No one is ever really gone," just before a familiar evil laugh was heard before the title was revealed. The implication was clear - Emperor Palpatine is back.
This begs the question: just how precisely has Darth Sidious survived? The lore of the first eight Star Wars films suggests several possibilities. There are even more options available when one considers the whole of the stories making up what is now known as Star Wars Legends.
- This Page: Palpatine Return Ideas From Star Wars Canon
- Page 2: Palpatine Return Ideas From The Expanded Universe
Is Palpatine A Force Ghost Is Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker?
The most obvious answer is that Palpatine may have mastered the arts necessary to become a Force Ghost. A mainstay of the series since the very first Star Wars film, this power was later said to have been discovered by Qui-Gon Jinn in Revenge of the Sith. It was Qui-Gon who taught both Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi how to become Force Ghosts, rather than becoming one with the Force, as was typical for a Jedi upon their death.
Appearing as they did in life but surrounded by a milky blue light, Force Ghosts primarily use their new forms to offer counsel and comfort from beyond the grave. They were capable of manifesting anywhere in the galaxy, although would generally only appear directly to people with whom they shared a deep connection. Force Ghosts are largely incapable of interacting with the physical world but do maintain a limited ability to use the Force, such as when Yoda summoned a lightning bolt in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. While generally considered a feat that only Force users in touch with the Light Side of the Force could accomplish, Anakin Skywalker was able to become a Force Ghost in Return of the Jedi shortly after his redemption and death.
The Sith had a similar ability, known as Essence Transfer, which allowed them to take over another living being's body through sheer force of will or attach their souls to a physical object. Many Sith were able to survive for thousands of years in this manner, filling a wearable object like a necklace or ring with their essence and then waiting for some hapless fool to put it on and become their new host. While Sith and other Dark Jedi were apparently limited in how their ghostly forms could travel because of this bond, some were able to manipulate the physical environment around them, like poltergeists. It is entirely possible that Palpatine's dark spirit has been surviving in this fashion for decades.
Force Immortality As Taught By Darth Plagueis
Another possibility is that Palpatine managed to replicate the legendary feats of his master, the Sith Lord Darth Plagueis and developed a form of Force-based immortality. In Revenge of the Sith, Palpatine told a young Anakin Skywalker that Darth Plagueis had gained such fine control of the Force that he could create life and prevent death from touching those he cared about. It was this discussion that pushed Anakin onto the path to the dark side, his fear of his young wife dying leading him to start studying the ways of the Sith so that he could save her from the danger he foresaw coming.
There is a chance that Palpatine, who was even more paranoid and fearful of death than his master, may have found a way to use Darth Plagueis' teachings to defy death itself using the Force, albeit in a manner that required he take some time to heal from his apparent defeat in Return of the Jedi. This would make sense as it has been repeatedly shown throughout the Star Wars saga that it is much harder for Dark Jedi and Sith to use their connection to the Force for the purposes of healing. Logically, it is hard to maintain a connection to one's hate and fear once you have relieved yourself of pain and suffering.
Page 2 of 2: Palpatine Return Ideas From The Expanded Universe
A Clone Emperor Just Like The Expanded Universe
A third possibility is that the Emperor we hear laughing in the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker trailer is not the original Emperor Palpatine, but a clone. This one has strong precedent in the Expanded Universe. The Dark Empire storyline saw a new Empire form six years after the Battle of Endor, with a cunning new leader striking back against the New Republic. This leader was ultimately revealed to be a reborn Palpatine, whose spirit had taken possession of a series of specially cloned bodies, artificially aged to the prime of life.
This new Emperor proved to be an even greater threat than the original, despite a flaw in the process that insured his resurrection. In the original Star Wars Expanded Universe, clones tended to have an odd effect on the Force, being considered to be unnatural copies of the same person, and tended to breakdown over time. This, coupled with the fact that Palpatine was so strong in the Force, caused his clone bodies to degenerate even faster than was usual, with the process slowly speeding up the longer he continued to defy death.
Since that time, the idea of clones being spiritual and physical copies of the same person has been retconned by The Clone Wars animated series. Despite this, there is a possibility that someone could have created a clone of Emperor Palpatine, either possessed by the spirit of the original or transformed into a twisted version by another force.
What If Palpatine Never Really Died In Return Of The Jedi?
The first rule of genre fiction is that unless you see a corpse, you can't be sure a character is truly dead (and even then it isn't a sure thing). Despite producing an impressive Force Lightning explosion after being thrown off of the throne room platform in Return of the Jedi, we never actually see Palpatine's body after his apparent death. Given that, there's a good chance that he might have expended the electrical charge he was holding while he was fighting Darth Vader and somehow survived the fall. From there, it would be a simple matter for him to make his way to a ship and escape before the second Death Star was blown up.
Another avenue of exploration lies in how we now know Force users can briefly survive in the vacuum of space. We saw this when Leia was able to protect herself and fly to the airlock of another spaceship after her own vessel was destroyed in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Could Emperor Palpatine have attempted something similar, making his escape from the Death Star to a remote ship unnoticed or maybe even reentered Endor's atmosphere safely?
The only problem with this theory, other than it lacking the credibility of simplicity, is that there is no obvious reason why Emperor Palpatine would wait so long before revealing himself to be alive. Perhaps the story of Star Wars 9 might provide an explanation for this. As it stands, however, this may be one of the few occasions where a character being magically resurrected is more plausible than their simply faking their death.