Here’s Why Emperor Palpatine Is Returning For ‘Star Wars: Episode 9’

By now you’ve seen the trailer for Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker, and you know that after 40 years, the story is coming to an end. When the first teaser dropped this past spring, you could hear the voice of Luke Skywalker narrating the scenes as if he’s watching over Rey from the afterlife.

But his last line, “We’ll always be with you. No one’s ever really gone,” was both encouraging and ominous. What immediately follows is the sinister cackle of Emperor Palpatine lurking in the background. For months, fans have been throwing out theories and looking for clues in the trailer and promotional artwork for the film. Old faces will return, but what is the deal with Palpatine?

Ian McDiarmid as Emperor Palpatine in 'Star Wars'
Ian McDiarmid as Emperor Palpatine in ‘Star Wars’ | Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

Like the Terminator, Emperor Palpatine will be back

While fans have been speculating about the villain’s role in this last installment of the saga, JJ Abrams finally spoke on his reasons for weaving Palpatine back into the final chapter. Basically, you have to look at things from where they started back in 1977.

Abrams spoke to Empire about the upcoming film, and when it comes to the dark emperor’s place in the story, here’s what he had to say:

“Some people feel like we shouldn’t revisit the idea of Palpatine, and I completely understand that. But if you’re looking at the nine films as one story, I don’t know many books where the last few chapters have nothing to do with those that have come before. If you look at the first eight films, all the set-ups of what we’re in IX are there in plain view.”

That means fans would need to recall memories from all the earlier movies to understand why Palpatine’s reemergence makes sense. When you think about the war, the bloodlines, and the deaths throughout the entire series, you can piece it together.

How Palpatine can come back

Ages ago, we thought we saw the emperor die at the hands of Darth Vader, but since the core of the Star Wars story is mastery of the Force, it’s possible that he conquered death. Remember, ol’ Palpatine learned the secrets of the Dark Side from Darth Plagueis, and he could’ve been plotting his return this whole time. The Siths are some resilient buggers, aren’t they?

Another prediction plays into the obvious. Palpatine will either appear as a ghost or be accessed through some forgotten recording. As CinemaBlend points out, certain Sith have been able to stay tied to the physical world after death by transferring their consciousness to an object.

Between Star Wars’ penchant for spirits and Palpatine always having a Plan B, these are all viable options.

One fan theory says the emperor has been hiding in plain sight

A major theory floating around right now has to do with Snoke. It’s been posited that Snoke/Darth Plagueis is the one who’s been “guiding” Kylo Ren this entire time. With Snoke in the picture, it’s also been floated that Palpatine is part of the Knights of Ren, per Inverse.

Because of the way their armor is designed, no one would know who is hiding beneath those masks, and Snoke’s abilities to heal and resurrect are legendary. Could he be the one who placed the emperor in a knight’s armor, or is Palpatine plotting his own takeover from that side of the fence without anyone knowing? Whatever the case, the old buzzard is coming back.

Your countdown to Christmas won’t ever be the same if you’re a Star Wars fan. The end of the epic hits theaters on Dec. 20.