If you left Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker wondering who in the wide world of sports would have had sex with Palpatine, we now have your answer: nobody! Indeed, the latest in a string of reveals from the novelization of the third and final film in this new Star Wars trilogy sheds additional light on Rey’s (Daisy Ridley) parentage, specifically how her father is related to Palpatine.
The novelization by author Rae Carlson confirms that the Palpatine that appears in Rise of Skywalker is indeed a clone of the real Palpatine, who did in fact die at the end of Return of the Jedi. Through Dark Side magic or something or other, he was brought back by his loyal followers—but not without some trial and error.
Indeed, elsewhere in the novelization (via SR), it describes one attempt to clone Palpatine as “a useless, powerless failure” who was a “not-quite-identical clone.” That clone still lived, however, and eventually became… Rey’s father.
Yep! So it’s more accurate to say that Palpatine is Rey’s half-dad rather than her grandpa. How all of this works, exactly, is unclear, as is whether it was intended to be a part of the film version of Rise of Skywalker. We know that J.J. Abrams worked pretty extensively on the edit, removing portions of Palpatine’s backstory, so it’s possible this reveal was intended to occur within the context of the movie and then was removed for creative reasons. In which case, we can’t really say that this is actually true canon for the movie—yes it’s in the novelization, but Abrams removed it from the film for a reason. But this is a peek inside the creative process of coming up with that reveal in the first place, and a potential path from which Abrams backed away.
Abrams and co-writer Chris Terrio set about finding a “middle ground” between Abrams’ original thoughts of who Rey’s parents were and Rian Johnson’s take on that reveal in The Last Jedi. Abrams clearly set her up to be from some significant lineage, but Johnson decided within the context of The Last Jedi it would be better if her parents were nobodies. This decision ruffled some feathers but worked for me: Rey’s story is far more powerful knowing she came from nothing and built herself into a hero, rather than the old “destiny” arc.
So for Rise of Skywalker, Abrams’ parents are technically nobodies when they die—they’re not living on some throne somewhere. But her dad was Palpatine’s son/clone and was living in hiding from his father/clone bro, so in the end Rey’s blood was “important.”
I’m still hankering for a tell-all book that reveals a warts-and-all version of how Abrams crafted both The Force Awakens and Rise of Skywalker. But until then, all we have are these nuggets of info from the novelization to hint towards the different story possibilities that Abrams and Co. considered for this concluding chapter in the Skywalker Saga.