If you saw Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and were perplexed as to how, exactly, Palpatine came back from the dead, you’re not alone. You’re also not dumb: Rise of Skwywalker is a hella convoluted movie that barely makes sense, so why would it attempt to explain the circumstances behind its antagonist’s rise to power?
The theory at the time was that yes, Emperor Palpatine did die at the end of Return of the Jedi, but before his confrontation with Luke and Darth Vader, he prepared a contingency: a clone. Oh yes, in case you forgot, clones are a pretty big deal in Star Wars mythos, and that’s presumably what the opening scenes of Rise of Skywalker were trying to telegraph—all those vials and goo that Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) walks past when confronting Palpatine are hints that the Emperor’s new body is a clone. That scene also suggests Snoke was a clone as well because why the hell not.
Anyway, official confirmation regarding Palpatine’s return has finally arrived courtesy of the novelization of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. The book by Rae Carson doesn’t go on sale until March 17th, but Lucasfilm Publishing sold advanced copies at the C2E2 convention in Chicago this weekend, and excerpts are already making the rounds on the internet.
The excerpt of note here (via ScreenRant) concerns Kylo Ren’s arrival on Exegol, and also reveals that Palpatine’s current clone body isn’t doing so hot:
“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.”
Which I suppose is why Palpatine’s ultimate plan in Rise of Skywalker is to suck the lifeforces out of both Rey and Kylo and live forever. Or something like that. I know I technically saw this movie (twice!), but honestly I can barely recall anything beyond my beloved son, Babu Frik.
So yeah, there you have it. Palpatine in Rise of Skywalker is a clone, but one whose body is rejecting the spirit within. Cool.