Emperor Palpatine’s Mysterious Return in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

The most shocking revelation in the trailer for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker came at the very end. While we were in the midst of digesting the title (!!) and the shots of Rey flipping backward over Kylo Ren’s customized TIE-Fighter, the trailer ended with a very familiar laugh—that of Emperor Palpatine. The long-dead–or so we thought—Palpatine was last seen, chronologically speaking, getting thrown down a shaft to his by Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi. Yet there was his unmistakable cackle serving as the coda to the new trailer, while Rey and her fellow resistance fighters gazed upon the ruins of what appeared to be the second Death Star. What?

It turns out Emperor Palpatine’s return has been something that’s been cooking for a long time. At the Star Wars Celebration last week in Chicago, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy explained as much. While lots of folks assumed that J.J. Abrams himself had cooked up the idea to resurface—literally—the supposedly dead Palpatine, Kennedy explained it was always a part of the plan.

“This has been in the blueprint for a long time, yeah. We had not landed on exactly how we might do that, but yes, it was always [to be in Episode IX],” Kennedy told Yahoo! Entertainment’s Kevin Polowy. You can watch the exchange here:

Palpatine’s resurgence throws all sorts of things into question. First, to Kennedy’s point, how did they figure out his survival? Not only was he tossed down a shaft by Vader, the Death Star itself exploded. Has Palpatine been pulling the strings all along? Was Supreme Leader Snoke answering to him in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi? What has he been doing since his protege Vader turned on him? And again—how did he survive?

These are just some of the questions The Rise of Skywalker will need to answer, not least of which is who the title refers to. We won’t find out until December 20, 2019, when the film premieres. Until then, may the force of furious speculation be with you.

Featured image: Finn (John Boyega), Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and Rey (Daisy Ridley) in STAR WARS: EPISODE IX. Courtesy Lucasfilm/Walt Disney Studios


Bryan Abrams

Bryan Abrams is the Editor-in-chief of The Credits. He's run the site since its launch in 2012. He lives in New York.