Four years ago, when The Force Awakens hit theaters, it would have seemed insane that the new trilogy would end with the return of a really old villain. And yet, with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker nearly upon us, the return of Palpatine feels both inevitable and awesome. Still, the question is, was this really the plan from the start of the sequel trilogy? There’s a fair bit of evidence from the existing movies that the answer might be yes. Even if was an accident!
Speculation for The Rise of Skywalker ahead. Spoilers ahead for Return of the Jedi, old Sherlock Holmes stories, and the 1986 Transformers movie.
If you study the history of how Star Wars movies have been made, you’ll find a lot of key elements were revised and made up on the fly. George Lucas openly admitted he didn’t have specifics nailed down for the prequels, the classic films constantly had elements shifting around in terms of various reveals and twists. The sequel trilogy, of course, lost a key actor (Carrie Fisher) and swapped-out screenwriters during the production of both The Force Awakens and The Rise of Skywalker. Yet, despite all of that, it’s possible that the sudden resurrection of Emperor Palpatine/AKA Darth Sidious in Episode IX is not a last-minute Hail Mary. There are clues that suggest this was planned all along.
On Reddit, one user named skywalkinondeezhatrz humbly posed the question: “Are there any Palpatine “crumbs” scattered throughout TFA and TLJ?” basically wondering if we’ve got some breadcrumbs in the existing sequel trilogy films that have suggested Palpatine was always going to come back.
Obviously, a billion fans have chimed in on this question, but there are a few emergent pieces of evidence that yes, there are, in fact some Palps crumbs lurking around both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. Here the four most obvious ones.
The existence of Snoke
Since The Force Awakens, hardcore Star Wars fans have wanted to know who the hell Snoke is and where he came from, while casual fans (like my mom and my wife) kind of just thought he was the Emperor from the old movies. Think about this like you’re a child. If the Emperor was going to make a comeback in new Star Wars movies, the coolest way for this to happen is if he looked slightly different and had a weird new name. In 1986, in the animated Transformers: The Movie, the famous baddie Megatron was transformed into an even bigger baddie named Galvatron, and suddenly, he sounded like Leonard Nimoy. It was pretty sick! Also, it’s a really smart way to get a new bad guy and an old bad guy at the same time.
The going theory now is that Snoke was either a reincarnation of Palpatine or some kind of puppet created by Palpatine to keep attention away from himself. Literally everything about Snoke and the utter fakeness of Snoke in both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi constitutes a huge Palps crumb right there.
John Williams’ score
Rey’s theme and the music for Palpatine from Return of the Jedi and the prequels contain similar progressions and notes. Now, if Rey really does turn out to be some kind of decedent of Palpatine, the score itself could have foreshadowed this all along. John Williams isn’t a hack, he does things with deliberate intent, so, if the musical motifs he created for Rey are supposed to echo some of the Palpatine stuff, that’s not an accident.
Now, this isn’t to say that similarities in music is some kind of smoking blaster that proves Rey is related to Palpatine by blood, but it could prove that his return has been planned all along and that Rey has always been instrumental to that return.
Rey’s fighting style in The Force Awakens
This is an old one, but it’s still relevant. Back when The Force Awakens first came out, a lot of fans noticed that Rey jabbed and swung her lightsaber a lot like Palpatine did in Revenge of the Sith. When you consider Star Wars comics have established that Palpatine used the Dark Side to create baby Anakin, the idea that some of his essence could have been passed on to Rey feels pretty possible. Again, this doesn’t mean Palpatine and Rey need to be related. But, just like the Skywalker lightsaber “called” to Rey, it’s equally possible some aspect of Palpatine has imbued her with powers, and the evidence we’re seeing for that comes through in the way she swings a lightsaber.
George Lucas never gave us a body
If you’re a Sherlock Holmes fan, then you know that the death of Palpatine has a vague connection between the final struggle between Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty in the shorty story “The Final Problem.” Famously (or infamously) Holmes author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle never actually had anyone find the bodies of Holmes and Moriarty, which allowed for the former to return in “The Empty House,” and the latter to be referenced in The Valley of Fear. In “The Final Problem,” Sherlock Holmes “dies” when he tumbles from a great height into the Reichenbach Falls. Palpatine fell down a huge chasm in the Death Star. We never heard Palpatine go “thump.” Sure, there was that big explosion when he fell, but we never saw him die.
So, whether George Lucas planned it or not, on some subconscious level, it was like he wanted to leave the possibility open for Palpatine to return. In other words, the first Palps crumb was planted by George Lucas himself.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is out everywhere on December 20, 2019.