The 10 best ‘Rise of Skywalker’ Palpatine leaks, ranked by likelihood

Is Palpatine a clone? Is his ghost living inside of a compass? Here are the 10 biggest and best theories and leaks about the return of Emperor Sheev.

Palpatine and Anakin in 'Revenge of the Sith'

In less than three months, when The Rise of Skywalker debuts, Star Wars fans who grew up in the nineties will see something we never expected to witness on the big screen: A twisted version of a comic book called Dark Empire! The return of Emperor Palpatine in Episode IX is epic for fans of every generation, but if you’re a nineties kid it probably feels like a fever dream. Back in 2014, if you had told most Star Wars fans that Palpatine’s return would cap off the new trilogy, most people would have probably rolled their eyes. But now that it’s happening, it feels awesome. The only tricky part is sorting out which of the wild leaks, theories, and rumors about the return of Mr. Darth Sidious make sense — if any.

Here are 10 of the biggest leaks and rumors swirling around the return of Emperor Sheev Palpatine in The Rise of Skywalker, brutally ranked subjectively by how likely each idea is. If you’ve been sleeping on all these Palpatine theories, you’ve been warned: Here’s where the crazy begins!

Various theories, spoilers and supposed “leaks” for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker below. If you start down this path, spoilers may forever dominate your destiny.

Dark Rey
Dark Rey

10. Palpatine put Anakin Skywalker’s spirit inside of Rey

Anakin Skywalker is the chosen one, right? He was meant to bring balance to the Force, not leave it to J.J. Abrams to figure out! Well, this theory suggests that Palpatine somehow put the spirit of Darth Vader inside of Rey. This, in a sense, means that Rey is like a living reincarnation of Anakin, and the Force that woke-up inside of her is, in fact, Anakin.

This theory is bonkers, but it would explain a lot about Rey, particularly why that lightsaber loves her so much. More relevantly, it would tie-into the canon idea that Palpatine was responsible for creating Anakin from the Force in the first place, which means he is Anakin’s father, but because of the Dark Side. 

dark rey
She learned this from her grandpa, right?

9. Rey is Palpatine’s granddaughter

This one is both straightforward and confusing. For four years, fans have debating which character Rey is related to from the classic trilogy, and while no one has suggested Wedge (until now!) lately, Rey’s lineage has been linked to Palpatine by a lot of sources. Making Star Wars has said, “She’s a Palpatine by blood and a Skywalker by choice.” Meaning, that though Rey may be secretly descended from the worst bad guy of all time, she will choose the light. This concept gets weird when you start trying to figure out who Rey’s grandmother might be, or, you know, how any of that works if we also consider Palpatine to be Anakin’s father. Is Rey Luke’s second cousin in this situation? What is her connection to Kylo Ren? Who gets sent a Christmas card?

reylo star wars episode 9 leaks rey kylo
Are you the key master?

8. Palpatine needs Rey and Kylo to come back to life, Ghostbusters style

One of the weirdest in-the-weeds leaks suggests that the only way for Palpatine to come back is to link Rey and Kylo ren in some kind of “dyad”; which basically means Rey and Kylo Ren become like an energy gate for him to return to the afterlife.

Does this sound like the GateKeeper and the KeyMaster in Ghostbusters? It does. There is no Rey, only Zuul. Despite the huge amounts of leaks and speculation around this theory, do we really think the Emperor’s return will be exactly like the ending of the first Ghostbusters? Cross the streams, Finn! Cross the streams!

Luke Skywalker's death.
Thanks, Luke.

7. Luke’s death caused Palpatine to return to life

Worrying about the scales of balance within the Force will give you a headache if you try to visualize it too much. But, one compelling idea suggests that Luke joining the Force in The Last Jedi allowed Palpatine’s spirit to come back. This leak suggests that the Force is like a town in an old western and that this town is not big enough for both Luke and Palps at the same time. Weird? Yes. Plausible? Kind of?

star wars rise of skywalker sith troopers
These guys love Palps.

6. Palpatine has another clone army

Though not directly related to Palpatine’s bodily resurrection, the existence of a new kind of trooper, called the Sith Trooper, has created a lot of questions marks. Where did these troops come from? What about those old-school Star Destroyers in the D23 footage? One leak suggests that Palpatine created a secret clone army, separate from the clone army we saw in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. This secret clone army functions to help bring Palps back to life and does his bidding.

mandalorian
Is this guy looking for Sheev?

5. The Mandalorian will set-up Palpatine’s comeback

The fact that a new Star Wars TV show — The Mandalorian — is debuting just a month before The Rise of Skywalker is moderately suspicious insofar that it feels fairly impossible that the series won’t somehow connect to the next Star Wars movie. Because The Mandalorian is set between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, there is possibly a lot of stuff it could explain, including Palpatine’s comeback. We already know The Mandalorian will partially deal with the remnants of the Empire post- Return of the Jedi, and we all know who created the Empire in the first place.

star wars rise of skywalker spoilers theories rumors palpatine snoke
I love the Dark Arts. I mean Dark Side.

4. Palpatine has some sort of Star Wars Horcrux

One of the biggest words that pops-up in a lot of Star Wars leaks is “Wayfinder device.” Now, in most leaks, this is just a weird compass that Kylo Ren needs to either find the Death Star or the Sith Fleet. But, some leaks suggest that Palpatine has stored his spirit inside of this Wayfinder or some other device. If so, this means Palpatine’s comeback is exactly like Voldemort in Harry Potter.

'The Last Jedi' Snoke Death
Snoke is shocked!

3. Snoke was Palpatine all along

Though this may not have been J.J. Abrams’s intention; one compelling theory says that Snoke was never a real person, but instead, a faux-persona constructed by Palpatine. If so, all your Snoke theories really do suck: It’s just Palpatine!

palpatine
There are so many of me, it's hilarious. 

2. Palpatine was a clone

Ah, here we go, baby. In 1991, it was revealed that Palpatine survived the end of Return of the Jedi because he downloaded his mind into a clone body! And now, the idea that Palpatine’s clone died on the second Death Star is a leading theory for why he’s back in The Rise of Skywalker. Even though this is a throwback theory, its simplicity makes it that feels super likely.

palpatine fall return of the jeid
How did this fall really end?

1. Palpatine just used the dark side to survive that fall in Return of the Jedi

In a very recent Star Wars comic, Snoke taught Kylo Ren how to survive a fall from a very great height. This feels relevant as hell right now. Why would Lucasfilm release a Star Wars comic — which is part of the real canon — in which a scene that parallels Palapatine’s death is specifically depicted? The answer: because this comic is teasing how Palps comes back. He didn’t die on the Death Star, that explosion we saw in that exhaust shaft was a ruse. Palpatine used the Dark Side of the Force to stop himself before he fell to his death. So, the question of how he came back from the dead becomes simpler. He just never died.


Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is out everywhere on December 20, 2019.

Media via Star Wars, Lucasfilm, Lucasflim, Inverse