Darth Vader may have a bigger impact on 'Rise of Skywalker' than expected

The movie titles may have hinted at something obvious all along.

darth vader emperor palpatine return of the jedi

Star Wars speculation is ramping up to a fever pitch with just about two months to go until the release of the ninth mainline film in the saga, The Rise of Skywalker. Ever since Lucasfilm unveiled the official title for Episode IX, fans have wondered which character it might refer to, since Luke departed for the big Toshe Station in the sky at the end of The Last Jedi. Now, one fan has made a simple but compelling case for the idea that the answer to that tantalizing question may have been staring us in the face all along.

Over on Reddit, user Noctelus suggested that each third film in the trilogy of trilogies actually refers to Anakin Skywalker. In Episode III, he embraces the Dark side and plays a key role in the downfall of the Jedi, enacting the revenge of the Sith. In Episode VI, he betrays the Emperor in his own “return” to the Light side as Luke formally completes his Jedi training. With the ninth movie, Noctelus suggests Anakin will return (in some form) to help stop the forces of the Dark side and restore balance to the Force, as he was prophecied to do all the way back in The Phantom Menace.

Anakin Palpatine episode 2 chosen one
Chosen one Anakin Skywalker and Sheev Palpatine (pre-face melt) in Attack of the Clones.

Warning: discussion of alleged Rise of Skywalker plot leaks ahead. If you want to steer clear of spoilers online, turn back now!

At first glance, this seems to run counter to a leak that’s gained a lot of traction in recent weeks, which claims Rey will take the surname of Skywalker at the end of the film as a tribute to her fallen mentor. But both story elements could work together.

Rey will likely need all the help she can get in her showdown against Palpatine, and there’s been so many rumors about the Force ghosts that might support her in the final battle, we’re not sure which are credible and which are just fan fiction at this point. But we’d be shocked if Anakin didn’t appear at some point, whether he’s speaking with Rey, Leia, or his misguided grandson, Kylo Ren.

Kylo Ren
Kylo Ren ponders his grandfather's legacy.

Anakin’s return and posthumous redemption would make her adoption of the Skywalker name a more satisfying resolution of the nine-movie arc. Anakin doesn’t literally have to return from the dead and vanquish Palpatine himself. Even just seeing him for a scene or two as a Force ghost would be hugely satisfying for those looking for stronger connections between the sequels and the prequels.

That said, don’t expect to find out whether Anakin actually appears in The Rise of Skywalker until the movie actually hits theaters. The Last Jedi managed to keep Yoda a secret even from the most credible Star Wars leakers. Lucasfilm already revealed Palpatine’s return at D23, so we’re (probably) not going to see Hayden Christensen when the trailer drops during next week’s Monday Night Football game on October 21.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker comes to theaters December 20.

Media via Lucasfilm (1, 2)