Fan speculation surrounding the return of Emperor Palpatine in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker has suggested that his return would involve some kind of elaborate mind tricks. Or, they predict that Sheev Palpatine went all Lord Voldemort on the Star Wars franchise and decided to use objects, such as the mysterious “wayfinder” device, to hold parts of his soul. However, an interesting new theory suggests that the reasons behind Palpatine’s survival were laid out in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Possible spoilers ahead for The Rise of Skywalker.
During the First Order’s attack on her ship in Episode VIII, General Leia Organa was launched into space in the midst of fighting. To the shock of no one (ok, maybe me), she didn’t immediately die. Instead, she was suspended in space for a few terrifying moments, before making her way back to the ship. She was later sent to the infirmary to recover. The Force was strong within her, and the same might have happened for Palpatine following Return of the Jedi. See where this is going? Good, let’s break it down.
Redditor u/IndianaTrekker26 theorizes that if Leia could manage to survive the “vacuum” of space for a few moments, then Palpatine would likely be able to do the same. “Just imagine how easy it would be for Palps to survive the Death Star II explosion, considering how much more powerful he is in the Force,” they write.
It’s a pretty solid point. After all, why wouldn’t Palpatine use the Force to survive his fall and the explosion? Admittedly, the likelihood of surviving space is pretty slim, so Palps making it out of an explosion alive no longer seems impossible.
A previous theory had speculated Palpatine had somehow been rescued following the reactor’s explosion in Return of the Jedi. Since then, he’s spent the last few decades repairing his body. But likely not all of it: reputable leak site Making Star Wars has said Ian McDiarmid filmed his Palpatine scenes while sporting a variety of life-support machinery.
But, how could he have survived the explosion? Well, he might have used his Force powers to propel himself elsewhere in space (where Snoke was possibly waiting for him). Another idea is that Sheev simply let the explosion happen, and used a Force barrier to shield himself. This seems more plausible, as explosion happened quite shortly after we saw him bested by Darth Vader.
While that’s all possible, one particular theory — which draws upon the events of Star Wars: Age of Resistance — Supreme Leader Snoke #1 and shows the First Order leader training Kylo — lends credence to the idea of Palps using his Force powers to save himself. Could Palpatine have drawn upon the Force to escape the Death Star II before the reactor blew up? Stranger things have happened.
Perhaps Palpatine drained his Force powers to save his own life and that’s why he needs Kylo Ren and Rey to siphon the energy of the Force to return to full power. That would confirm this theory and key elements of the Making Star Wars leaks all at once. While the reasons for Palpatine’s return will remain a mystery until the release of Episode IX, it seems the puzzle pieces are finally coming together.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters December 20, 2019.