'Rise of Skywalker' Theory Says Palpatine Was Influencing Kylo All Along

Hearing Emperor Palpatine’s laughter at the end of the Rise of Skywalker trailer surprised most Star Wars fans in April, but a new fan theory, if true, would unearth the shocking revelation that Palpatine has been influencing events in the current trilogy of films all along.

Warning: Speculative spoilers for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker ahead.*

What if, after death, Palpatine possessed the mask of Darth Vader and has used that connection to manipulate Kylo Ren for years?

Similar versions of this theory have been circulating since Palpatine was first teased for Rise of Skywalker, but discussions resurfaced on the r/starwarsspeculation subreddit on Monday in a post examining the more probable Palpatine theories.

“There was a supposed leak which claims the Knights of Ren have found Vader’s suit, and it’s all assembled for Kylo at the start of the film,” redditor u/metalion4 writes. “Perhaps he does a Sith ritual to extract a spirit from the suit (thinking it’s Vader) but it turns out to be the spirit of Palpatine.”

While unconventional, the theory has a canonical precedent from the Star Wars comics in the form of an ancient Sith Lord called Momin, whose essence was preserved in a helmet. He resurrected himself by possessing people via the mask, and eventually regained bodily form. Technically, Dark side Force-wielders can’t become Force ghosts, so this is their only alternative. (Watch the “Complete Story of Momin” here.)

Long ago, Momin created a superweapon and tried to use it on the planet Mustafar. (This is where Obi-Wan Kenobi maimed Anakin Skywalker and where Anakin later built his castle as Darth Vader.) Instead, he was vaporized with his essence preserved in his helmet. When Momin returned sometime between the prequel and original trilogies, he worked with Vader to build a Force-powered fortress on Mustafar, which Vader hoped would allow him to peer into the veil to see Padmé once more.

Instead, Momin used the fortress’s power to resurrect himself fully and attacked Vader, who won the deadly duel. We see Darth Vader at this fortress during Rogue One, but its nature is never even hinted at there.

Despite being removed from the Skywalker saga films, this story still counts as canon, so these ideas could be incorporated into The Rise of Skywalker. Sith Lords can preserve their essence after death in objects, so after dying in the second Death Star, Palpatine might have latched his spirit onto Darth Vader’s helmet or another piece of his armor.

If that did happen, then the scene where Kylo Ren talks to Vader’s mask in The Force Awakens gets a radical twist.

“Forgive me,” Kylo Ren says. “I feel it again, the pull to the Light. Supreme Leader senses it. Show me again the power of the Darkness, and I will let nothing stand in our way. Show me … grandfather, and I will finish what you started.”

In the original context, it seems like Kylo Ren is just a Darth Vader fanboy talking to the Sith Lord like a fan might “talk” to their music idol via a band poster on the wall. Does that mean he wants to destroy the Jedi and bring glory to the First Order, the spiritual successor to the Empire? Or just embrace his inner Darkness?

We know the helmet doesn’t actually contain the essence of Darth Vader because after Anakin was redeemed in Return of the Jedi, his Force ghost appears on the forest moon of Endor. So Kylo Ren is either talking to himself or maybe he’s talking to Palpatine, who could even speak back to Kylo while pretending to be Darth Vader.

According to the Star Wars: The Last Jedi: Visual Dictionary, Vader’s helmet remains aboard the Finalizer, Kylo Ren’s Star Destroyer from The Force Awakens. After Snoke reprimands him early in The Last Jedi, Kylo Ren refuses to encounter the mask until he’s worthy of its legacy.

If Palpatine does live inside Vader’s mask, then it would make sense that it would influence Kylo Ren to betray Snoke, fulfilling Vader’s true legacy by becoming yet another one of Palpatine’s puppets.

A similar theory arose last week from a supposed plot leak for The Rise of Skywalker, which claimed that the Knights of Ren return from a long journey spent hunting for the rest of Darth Vader’s armor. After some kind of ritual, Palpatine returns and fully inhabits a willing Knight of Ren. (Maybe Matt Smith’s character?) These ideas also connect with other Dark side powers that the Nightsisters of Dathomir in Star Wars: The Clone Wars use to possess people.

All of this stacks up to mean that Palpatine could be inhabiting Darth Vader’s mask or armor in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. If that’s true, it could have repercussions for Episode IX and make us rethink everything from VII and VIII, too. But we’ll have to wait to find out if this theory is right or if the Emperor will return in some other unexpected way.


Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker will be released December 20, 2019.