The Emperor died in Return of the Jedi, or did he? One new Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker leak that may or may not be true has an exciting explanation for how and why Emperor Palpatine returns to the saga after dying 30 years ago aboard the second Death Star. And it has direct ties to a rumor about Matt Smith’s role in the movie.
Huge spoilers potentially follow for The Rise of Skywalker.
Earlier this week, the Star Wars Theory YouTube channel discussed a new leak for Rise of Skywalker that came from The Cosmic Wonder, whose source supposedly works for a company that does surveys for blockbusters. (The same source provided Avengers: Endgame details that turned out to be true, lending slight credibility.) Then, this new leak hit Reddit Wednesday.
The crux of it is this: Emperor Palpatine comes back when he possesses a Knight of Ren. We’ve previously discussed similar rumors that only make this seem that much more likely — unless this “leaker” is just regurgitating old rumors.
“When the Force spirit of Emperor Palpatine soon re-emerges from the shadows, where he has been pulling strings all along, he inhabits the willing body of a young Dark Acolyte of Kylo Ren’s,” the leak reads. “[Kylo Ren and Rey] will find themselves forced to team up together in an effort to eliminate the growing influence of the Emperor once and for all.”
The final battle then happens on the jungle moon of Yavin, the location of the original A New Hope Rebel base, and where the ruins of the first Death Star remain, the leak concludes.
All of this might sound ridiculous, but it fits with what we know of Force ghosts in the Star Wars canon and some visual hints we’ve seen in comics and video games.
After he died, Palpatine sent numerous droids out across the galaxy to give his final orders for what he called “Operation: Cinder,” a method of destabilizing the Empire and the Republic after his death so that no person would ever have the amount of power he did. These red-cloaked, humanoid figures resembled the Red Guard but used a projection of Palpatine’s face on their own heads. Possessing a Knight of Ren is a different thing entirely, but the visual of Palpatine existing after death by forcing his identity onto another being is Star Wars canon.
But can Force ghosts really possess people? Yes and no.
In Star Wars: The Clone Wars, we learn that only Light side Force-wielders can manifest a Force ghost after death. In Star Wars Rebels and some comics, a select few Sith Lords can bind their consciousness to objects. Being one of the most powerful Dark side users ever, Palpatine probably had/has Force powers that we haven’t even thought of. Just look at how an out-of-practice, elderly Luke Skywalker was able to manifest a projection of himself across the galaxy, shocking everyone.
However, in Star Wars Rebels, the Nightsisters of Dathomir can use “magick” related to the Dark side to possess people. In the non-canon Legends novels, the ancient Sith Lord Exar Kun possesses some of Luke’s students.
Palpatine subsisting in non-corporeal form, just like Voldemort in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone waiting to possess somebody, could work, especially after Force ghost Yoda was shown in The Last Jedi calling down Force lightning. Finally bringing the Knights of Ren into the fold delivers the perfect vessel for Palpatine. All of this would culminate in Palpatine facing off against Kylo Ren and Rey when they unite to fight their mutual enemy.
In life, Palpatine wielded two red-blade lightsabers, a spectacle that would make him perfectly suited to fighting two people at once.
The first teaser trailer showed a glimpse of Rey looking at Death Star wreckage in the ocean. One Episode IX photo shows Kylo Ren and Rey dueling on top of what looks like that same wreckage, but given how many times Disney faked us all out with edited scenes and photos from Avengers: Endgame, maybe they’re actually fighting together against Palpatine in that scene?
This theory gains a bit more credence when we consider all the mystery behind Matt Smith’s rumored role in Rise of Skywalker.
Variety reported Smith’s casting in August 2018, but by March 2019, Lucasfilm claimed he wasn’t in the movie. Reports indicating that Smith was in the movie persisted, claiming he would play a Dark side Force-wielder not in the Knights of Ren who becomes willingly possessed by Palpatine. Inverse also has an independent anonymous source who claims Kylo Ren will face the Emperor in some capacity during Episode IX, so it seems like someone is getting possessed here.
Is it Matt Smith’s character? Is that character a post-Sith Dark side Force-wielder? Or are they just a Knight of Ren? Either way, we won’t know how close to the truth this theory is until much closer to The Rise of Skywalker’s release.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker will be out in theaters December 20, 2019.