'Star Wars 9' theory may reveal Palpatine's shocking secret identity

Has wily old Sheev been hiding in plain sight all along? 

Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine.

With Emperor Palpatine’s high-profile return in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker overshadowing almost everything else, the mystery of the Knights of Ren seems to have been swept under the rug. Who are they beneath those intimidating masks? Are they even human? Is Kylo Ren really controlling them?

Recent leaks haven’t offered many potential answers to these questions. Even official announcements for things like toys and books haven’t even given us their names, let alone told us more about their motives. Behind the masks, the Knights of Ren could be anybody, including Palpatine himself. A tantalizing new theory draws upon clues from the Ultimate Star Wars New Edition: The Definitive Guide to the Star Wars Universe to explain that Palpatine may have been disguised as one of the Knights of Ren this whole time.

Knights of Ren Rise of Skywalker
Who really are these guys?

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

Over on reddit, u/Animation_Bat12 gleaned some information from the updated Star Wars encyclopedia and put together a theory that connects the Knights of Ren with Palpatine’s return. The book describes the Knights as “loyal to” Kylo Ren. More interestingly, however, is that their bodies are apparently “encased in rusty, battered armor” and their faces “permanently concealed” behind their masks. This description implies that they’re physically incapable of removing any part of their armor or, at the very least, that they need it to survive.

Now, remember that Palpatine presumably died in Return of the Jedi, plummeting to his death right before the Death Star II exploded. If we’re to consider the idea that he somehow survived, wouldn’t his body have needed protection? The theorist suggests Palps has been hiding in plain sight this entire time, and he’s “needed the full body armor and mask as life support since his apparent fall to his death in Return of the Jedi.”

Additionally, The Souvenir Guide to the Movie Star Wars: The Last Jedi, an official Star Wars magazine, said Supreme Leader Snoke trained another apprentice besides Kylo. Could that apprentice have been Palpatine? Perhaps Snoke rescued him from the explosion and encased him in the armored suit, just as Palpatine once did to Anakin. After all, Snoke could have definitely lied about Palps being an apprentice. In fact, Animation_Bat12 argues that it’s Snoke who’s been under the tutelage of Palps this whole time and the apprenticeship was just a cover story. Makes sense, right?

Knights of Ren Star Wars Rise of Skywalker Kylo Ren
Is this the battle between Kylo and the Knights of Ren?

One Making Star Wars leak revealed Kylo would cross paths with Palpatine early on in Rise of Skywalker, while another suggested that Palps is back, but he’s attached to a bunch of mechanical stuff. Maybe both are true. Besides the mechanical implications, none of the other leaks necessarily describe what Palps will look, like beyond having a new suit. Perhaps Palpatine was using the armor to help rejuvenate himself to gain back full power.

However, knowing Kylo is somehow involved with the Knights of Ren throws a bit of a wrench into the theory, but there’s a chance that even Ben Solo doesn’t know what they look like beneath their masks. And, if a leak from the reputable redditor JediPaxis is correct and it’s Kylo who defeats the Knights of Ren in Episode IX, then he might be killing two birds with one stone.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters December 20, 2019.