WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER!
Back when The Force Awakens opened in 2015, starting a new chapter in the Star Wars saga, it left a lot of fans excited… but also confused. This galaxy far, far away looked a whole lot different to how fans had expected and the how’s and why’s of it were very murky as writer/director JJ Abrams left huge chunks of storytelling out of the film. Eventually, though, a number of those narrative gaps got filled in with the official novelization of the movie as well as subsequent Star Wars novel/comic book releases. The same happened for The Last Jedi as well. And it would appear that we once again have to rely on ancillary materials to do the same for the last Star Wars movie as well.
One of The Rise of Skywalker’s biggest WTF moments is the inclusion of Emperor Palpatine, who had last been seen being tossed down a shaft in the Death Star which then promptly exploded into nuclear dust. So how is it that the old Sith Lord was back from the dead? Abrams was very light on answers, frustratingly not even including Palpatine’s big comeback in the movie itself (using it in Fortnite instead?!), prompting lots of fan theories. One was that Palpatine had indeed died during the Battle of Endor, but that the new Palpatine we’re seeing was a clone. It would definitely make sense given Palpatine’s experience with the technology (he was behind the plan to have the Republic’s clone army created on Kamino) and in an early scene when Kylo Ren first goes to the Sith world of Exegol, we even see chambers and tubes filled with what appears to be clones of Snoke.
And this weekend past, that theory was confirmed when Lucasfilm sold early copies of Rae Carson’s novelization of The Rise of Skywalker at C2E2 in Chicago, ahead of the novel’s official 17 March release. In one passage (as spotted by Screenrant), we get the same Kylo Ren scene on Exegol but with some key additional details.
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 there you have it, official confirmation that Palpatine was a clone in The Rise of Skywalker. His putrefying clone body would also explain why the Emperor wanted to absorb Rey and Kylo’s life energies… or was it that he wanted to put his life energy in Rey’s body? Or did he want Kylo to kill Rey and then make Kylo his successor? Or was it… You know what? I’m not even going to bother. Abrams’ script for The Rise of Skywalker, for all the great moments it has, is also a sloppy, shoehorned mess in other places and to try and wrap your brain around all of it is futile.
Never mind being strong in the Force, the new High Republic era of Star Wars storytelling will hopefully be strong in the coherency and won’t need additional materials to explain plot holes.
Last Updated: March 2, 2020