Palpatine was a Clone According to The Rise of Skywalker Novelization
From the moment you heard that unmistakable cackle at the end of the first Rise of Skywalker trailer, you had the same question everyone else did; how in the heck is Emperor Palpatine back? The Alpha Sith was dispatched in Return of the Jedi by Darth Vader. We all saw it. Vader’s betrayal was a major reversal, proving Luke Skywalker right (the former Annakin Skywalker did have some good left him in) and was a major reason the Rebels were able to defeat the Empire. Then Rise of Skywalker happened, revealing Palpatine hadn’t died. How did he survive being tossed down a shaft in the Death Star II, and how would that not maul the entire grand narrative of Star Wars?
Well, you’ve read the title to this piece, so you know how Palpatine returned; he didn’t. It was his clone! What’s more, there were hints about his clone status in the film itself, and now, thanks to the film’s novelization by Rae Carson, advance copies of which were made available at the C2E2 convention in Chicago this past weekend, we have our definitive answer. We all know cloning is a fairly huge deal in Star Wars mythology. There was even an entire movie dedicated to the attack of said clones! But Screenrant broke the story this weekend (on Leap Day, no less, which is sort of the clone of days!) via an excerpt from Carson’s book, which explains that yes, the Palpatine we saw in Rise of Skywalker was a clone:
“All the vials were empty of liquid save one, which was nearly depleted. Kylo peered closer. He’d seen this apparatus before, too, when he’d studied the Clone Wars as a boy. The liquid flowing into the living nightmare before him was fighting a losing battle to sustain the Emperor’s putrid flesh.
“What could you give me?” Kylo asked. Emperor Palpatine lived, after a fashion, and Kylo could feel in his very bones that this clone body sheltered the Emperor’s actual spirit. It was an imperfect vessel, though, unable to contain his immense power. It couldn’t last much longer.”
So Palpatine’s body hadn’t survived Darth Vader’s betrayal, but his essence did (somehow). If you recall the film, we do see vials when Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) reaches Exegol and the resurrected Palpatine. Screenrant also helpfully explains how Palpatine’s failing cloned body is one of the driving reasons he wants to suck the life force out of Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Ren; his body is barely holding on and he needs a new host.
So there you have it, the cackling, cadaverous Sith Menace was a clone. Same as he ever was.
Featured image: Daisy Ridley is Rey in STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER. Courtesy Lucasfilm/Walt Disney Studios