Emperor Palpatine is set to make a spectacular return in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. His comeback has prompted a deluge of fan speculation about the circumstances surrounding his return it. Most of these predictions and leaks place Palpatine in the position of the ultimate puppet master. However, an intriguing new theory flips our expectations to claim it’s Kylo Ren who’s actually in control of Palpatine.
Speculative spoilers ahead for The Rise of Skywalker.
We know that Kylo is now the Supreme Leader of the First Order after killing Snoke in The Last Jedi. One leak even implies that Kylo’s in search of Snoke’s power source at the beginning of Episode IX, but what if Palpatine’s revival is actually a fake-out?
Redditor u/HansZarkovLives theorizes that Kylo isn’t actually in search of Sheev Palpatine or Snoke’s power source. In fact, Palpatine may not be the ultimate threat in The Rise of Skywalker after all. Instead, Kylo will realize that his leadership alone isn’t enough to secure the loyalty of the First Order. This will prompt him to manufacture a fraudulent Palpatine to secure control and power.
How would Kylo manage to do that if Palps is dead? According to the theorist, Kylo will “create the image of the Emperor (via rumor, hologram, whatever) as a system of control. Someone else in charge that people will follow.”
There’s something to be said for the idea that Kylo might be using the face of a Sith Lord the galaxy actually fears to consolidate his power, but why go to all the trouble of killing Snoke only to join forces with Palps immediately after? Palpatine’s return would threaten Kylo’s place in the First Order, and it’s doubtful he’d willingly cede that power to someone else at this point.
However, General Hux and other First Order brass might not see Kylo as a worthy leader. So, he might be desperate enough to execute Plan B. Could it backfire? Big time. But, think of how much power Ben Solo would have if Palpatine openly declared him the rightful leader of the First Order. With Palps’ blessing, the rest of the First Order might finally see fit to follow Kylo’s orders without question.
Kylo successfully manipulated people in the past, including Rey. So, it’s not that farfetched to believe he’d use Palpatine as a means to attain the ultimate power. The theory also provides a clever workaround the Emperor’s return since a fake Palps would avoid having to explain how the character survived the climactic battle that capped off Return of the Jedi.
The theory might also explain the MSW leaks about Sheev being hooked up to “mechanical stuff” — if he isn’t the real Palps, then perhaps he needs the machinery to maintain the illusion. Regardless of whether it’s Kylo or Palpatine in the driver’s seat, the galaxy is in for a rude awakening come December.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters December 20, 2019.