“Darkness rises, and light to meet it,” Supreme Leader Snoke says in The Last Jedi (and in the above trailer). He’s describing how Kylo Ren’s rise to power triggered Rey’s awakening in The Force Awakens, but was he also teasing the return of Emperor Palpatine? Since the very beginning of Star Wars, the idea of balance has always been prominent within the Force, but if Snoke’s philosophy is correct, then it might be Luke Skywalker’s fault that everyone’s favorite Sith Lord returns in The Rise of Skywalker.
Especially in light of this Rey-Kylo Ren connection, one Star Wars fan on Reddit developed an interesting theory about how Luke’s influence on the Force before and during The Last Jedi could be what ultimately causes the second coming of Palpatine in The Rise of Skywalker. For all we know, maybe that’s why it’s called “The Rise of Skywalker”. The rise of Luke Skywalker’s Light powers at the end of Episode VIII triggered an increase in Dark side power of equal measure, leading to a mirrored “rise of Palpatine,” so to speak.
“As stated elsewhere balance of the Force is not the balance of users, but the balance of power,” redditor u/chacha74 writes. “So one average Sith equals one average Jedi, but one Palpatine equals many standard Jedi … or one Luke.”
This theory assumes that it was the increase in overall Light side Force users, the net power, that led to an imbalance and therefore a surge in Dark side power. The natural state of the Force is one of balance, but as various wielders come into their power, the Force itself continuously influences people and events to readjust the universe. It’s even possible that Luke figured this out, and that’s why he cut himself off from the force prior to The Last Jedi.
“So [Luke] shuts himself away from the Force to keep corresponding Darkness out of the world,” u/chacha74 writes. “By coming back to the Force at the end of The Last Jedi, he awakens that Darkness (Palpatine) and we see the result in Episode IX.”
Could it be Luke’s fault that Palpatine rises once again to power?
Snoke’s influence may have been what lured Ben Solo to the Dark side of the Force, but it’s Luke’s betrayal that catalyzed his full transformation into Kylo Ren. Is it also possible that Luke Skywalker’s rise to power in the decades between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens is what triggered an increase in Dark side energies, namely Snoke? If all this is indeed how the Force works, then Luke shutting himself off from the Force and then embracing it once again during The Last Jedi to execute one of the most powerful displays of the Force ever — projecting an image of himself across the galaxy to fight Kylo Ren — created yet another gross imbalance.
Force balance as a vague, general idea has been around for as long as Star Wars has, but if it actually behaves in a more mathematical way, then it could explain a number of things. When Kylo Ren killed Snoke, he not only acquired the title of Supreme Leader, but he also may have absorbed his power, in a sense, due to the vast power vacuum in the Force. Likewise, the same must have happened upon Luke’s death with Rey’s power levels increasing dramatically at the end of Last Jedi when she uses the Force to move those boulders trapping Leia and the Resistance.
If this theory is true, then when Rey and Kylo clash in The Rise of Skywalker, it may be unlike anything we’ve seen before in the history of Star Wars.
If we analyze the canonical Rule of Two that dominated the philosophy of the Sith for many years, a similar effect seems to happen. A millennium before the Clone Wars, there were many Sith, but they were almost entirely wiped out by the Jedi Order. So the Sith Lord Darth Bane instituted the Rule of Two, a requirement that a Sith master would be bonded to an apprentice with the ultimate aim of the apprentice killing the master. This became the only way for anyone to become a true Sith Lord.
What if it’s more than just a hierarchy? What if, by limiting the number of Sith in existence, there was more Dark side power to go around? And when an apprentice killed their master, maybe they literally absorbed their power?
The redditor who came up with this particular theory adds a questionable line about how Kylo Ren will be redeemed and destroy Palpatine, which then requires that Rey turn to the Dark side (hence the Dark Rey we saw in the D23 footage). But what’s the point of that? If Kylo Ren and Rey team up to destroy Palpatine, then together, they could feasibly achieve true balance in the Force.
The duality of all this becomes that much more interesting if Rey does indeed turn out to be a Palpatine clone or his graddaughter. The dramatic parallels of a Force imbalance created by a Light side Skywalker and a Dark side Palpatine being corrected by a Dark side Skywalker and a Light side Palpatine feels like a much richer narrative parallel than Kylo and Rey swapping sides at the last minute.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker will be released December 20, 2019.
Relive the D23 special look at The Rise of Skywalker: