Please use a html5 video capable browser to watch videos.
This video has an invalid file format.
Sorry, but you can't access this content!
Please enter your date of birth to view this video

By clicking 'enter', you agree to GameSpot's
Terms of Use and Privacy Policy

Feature Article

Star Wars Episode 9: How The Emperor Might Return In Rise Of Skywalker

Let the hate flow through you.

On this beautiful May 4--otherwise known as Star Wars Day (May the Fourth be with you? Get it?)--we're letting the hate flow through us. Just kidding--we're thankful for all we know about Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker, even if that's precious little, including small hints about one of the movie's new characters. What do you want most from Episode 9? The movie hits theaters December 19, but in the meantime, let us know in the comments below.

Star Wars Celebration finally gave us our first look at Star Wars: Episode IX in the form of a panel and the movie's first teaser trailer. The tease for the new movie, dubbed The Rise of Skywalker, also included a bit of info that suggests a massive new development in the final movie of the Skywalker Saga: the return of Emperor Palpatine, the vicious Sith Lord who engineered the fall of the Republic and nearly killed Luke Skywalker.

If you didn't catch Palpatine's return, it's likely because it was a bit subtle. The trailer, which features voice-over from Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), ends with a spooky laugh. You'd be forgiven for not realizing the creepy cackle belongs to Ian McDiarmid, who plays Palpatine, but Disney confirmed fans' suspicions by bringing McDiarmid out on stage after revealing the trailer. (You can check out our trailer analysis for a breakdown of other key moments.)

Palpatine has been Star Wars' major villain for quite a while. We saw how the Sith Lord known as Darth Sidious pulled the strings of the galaxy in the prequel trilogy to turn the Old Republic into the Galactic Empire, and how he turned Anakin Skywalker from a Jedi into the galaxy far, far away's most feared villain, Darth Vader. Sidious was famously killed by Vader in Return of the Jedi, in order to save his son Luke Skywalker's life. So how can Palpatine be back?

Tap To Unmute
Star Wars Episode 9: The Rise Of Skywalker Teaser Trailer

Want us to remember this setting for all your devices?

Sign up or Sign in now!

Please use a html5 video capable browser to watch videos.
This video has an invalid file format.
Sorry, but you can't access this content!
Please enter your date of birth to view this video

By clicking 'enter', you agree to GameSpot's
Terms of Use and Privacy Policy

We know from that Palpatine had a bunch of contingency plans in place in the event of his death, like what we saw in Star Wars: Battlefront II's story. In Star Wars lore of the past, Palpatine's plan was to use hidden clones in case he was killed. Though it's no longer canon, the old Star Wars Expanded Universe included a lot about Palpatine's return after his death. In those stories, Palpatine had created a secret cloning facility where copies of himself were being grown, which he could use in the event of his death. In his search for immortality, he'd learned about a Force technique that allowed him to transfer what was essentially his spirit into other bodies--effectively allowing him to keep moving from clone to clone forever.

In the Expanded Universe, the trouble was that Palpatine's clones were never very good. They were only viable for a short time; at first, the bodies only lasted about a year, and he had to continually transfer himself. That still allowed Palpatine to spend years in hiding, marshalling his forces for an attempt to restore the Empire after his defeat. He even briefly turned Luke Skywalker to the Dark Side to serve as his apprentice.

Palpatine was ultimately defeated by Luke and Leia, as well as some sabotage from his inner circle. Leia saved Luke from the Dark Side and they managed to destroy most of Palpatine's clones, while what remained had been sabotaged by Palpatine's own royal guards, causing the last clone to deteriorate much more quickly than the others. When Palpatine tried to transfer into the body of Leia and Han's son Anakin, another Jedi Palpatine had struck down, Brand, managed to drag Palpatine into the Force, leaving him a disembodied spirit forever.

Obviously, lots of the big portions of that story are no longer possible because of changes since Disney acquired Star Wars, but we've seen the Disney Star Wars canon borrow ideas from the Expanded Universe before; Grand Admiral Thrawn, for instance, was the villain of a trilogy of Expanded Universe books, and has been brought into the new canon with a 2017 novel and Star Wars Rebels. Palpatine making some clones for himself tracks with what we've seen of him in the past, too--we know his mentor, Darth Plagueis, was searching for immortality, and it would make sense that Palpatine would continue the search for those same Sith secrets.

The return of Palpatine doesn't have to be precipitated by ideas from the Expanded Universe, though. It's possible The Rise of Skywalker could expand on an idea first floated in Star Wars: Rebels. In that series, Palpatine attempted to enter the World Between Worlds, a nexus that connected all of space and time together. He was thwarted by Jedi Padawan Ezra Bridger in that show, but the setup for Palpatine to pull some Sithy time travel shenanigans is there.

And while that laugh is Palpatine's, that doesn't mean Palpatine will return in a form we all expect. It's possible what we're hearing is some recording or artifact that contains Palpatine's will, his memories, or his personality. We saw a powerful Sith holocron, an artifact that contains information, in Rebels, and that one included something called "The Presence," which seemed like an artificial intelligence. And back during The Clone Wars, there was another Sith holocron that actually held the ghost of the Sith Lord Darth Bane, which means Palpatine could take a similar approach, even without clones. Battlefront II also saw the Emperor ordering his soldiers to destroy a bunch of Sith artifacts before the Rebels got hold of them, which might have related to Palpatine's plans to survive beyond his demise.

We won't know exactly what method Palpatine uses to come back into the galaxy, but one thing's for sure--Rey and Kylo Ren probably won't be able to use a Jedi mind trick to cut him in half.

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email


Phil Hornshaw

GameSpot editor in Los Angeles, and the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel and The Space Hero’s Guide to Glory. Hoped the latter would help me get Han Solo hair, but so far, unsuccessful.
Back To Top
16 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
GameSpot has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to toxic conduct in comments. Any abusive, racist, sexist, threatening, bullying, vulgar, and otherwise objectionable behavior will result in moderation and/or account termination. Please keep your discussion civil.

Avatar image for dragonslayer33

The whole thought of it just sounds so stupid. Disney doing what it does best, screwing with real canon. If bringing Palpatine back from the old EU was their idea,considering he's actually dead why not just keep the EU canon. Besides it's way better than these Disney maggot directors can think up. Especially of Luke's powers.

Avatar image for Hoffymann07

Star Wars fanboy hypocrisy kills me. The EU books had Luke becoming an apprentice of the Emperor, but the same people that think that is okay in the story would say his mistake with Ben Solo was out of character.

The EU had crazy stuff in it, but that's okay. Rian Johnson expands on the canon with less crazy ideas and somehow ruins the series.

Avatar image for doa2169

IF you fanboys weren't too busy jerking off during the trailer you would have heard Luke say "no one's every really gone" PLUS in "legends" the spot were Palpatine died becomes a wound in the force AND even in Clone Wars, which is canon, there are Sith force ghosts.

SO Palpatine is a force ghost, taunting Rey.

Avatar image for Mamba219

Some pretty lousy fanfiction.

Avatar image for zeppelin712

Not sure why you wouldn't say the the name of the books your talking about. It's Dark Empire by dark horse comics, and even if it's not canon (because Disney decided it isn't) it's still a pretty great read with pretty great art. Any fans should check it out.

Avatar image for bouchart

They can bring him back with the power of bad writing.

Avatar image for el_swanno


The power of nostalgia compels you! The power of nostalgia compels you!

Avatar image for James_xeno

The return of Palpatine? He is definitely one of the better true evil villains in movie history.. Also he's basically a non animated Sosuke Aizen of sorts. lol (Nearly as smart and just as circuitous, but not quite as OP)

Avatar image for HardStomp

I always thought it'd be cool if Snoke turned out to be possessing innocent creatures to protect himself. The Snoke we knew would turn out to be just a tortured innocent and the real Snoke would have a surprise identity. I'd hoped it would be Poe Dameron, but the Emperor works.

Avatar image for loveblanket

We could also go with the fact that his master learned how to cheat death as he relayed to Anakin in the prequels. He could have mastered that as well and he never says how his master Plageuis did it.

Avatar image for Smosh150

If they have taken some inspiration from the EU, then I will be happy. I've been critical about this trilogy, but bringing back Palpatine will change my opinion quite a bit. I want to have faith in JJ to make the final episode of this trilogy something, but it is hard as the main entries haven't really made an impact on me other than seven providing a good platform (I found Solo and Rouge One to be rather good, though I still like the EU Solo origin better).

Though from the trailer the Tie Interceptor vs Rey kinda bothers me though, that just seems dumb as all get out (If not the most dumb thing in the series). But there are a lot of dumb parts in Star Wars as a whole, so I don't want that to influence me too much.

Avatar image for proxima1025

The laughing at the end sounded more like Mark Hamill doing his Joker voice.

Avatar image for loveblanket

@proxima1025 No, it was confirmed to be the emperor. The actor that plays the emperor came out on stage after the trailer.:

Avatar image for Decoy77

@proxima1025: That's exactly what I thought too.