Emperor Palpatine has always played the long game in Star Wars, but who’s to say that Yoda wasn’t planning his own long-term counter attack? After all, the little green Jedi Master lived for 900 years, giving him plenty of time to plot a response to Palpatine’s “chess game,” and in Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker, we could see both of their schemes come to fruition.
An intriguing new theory could reveal how Yoda plotted to defeat Palps once and for all, and how a quote from the Clone Wars animated series paved the way for the Emperor’s final downfall in Episode IX.
Speculative spoilers for The Rise of Skywalker below.
While Palpatine has always focused on eternal life at the expense of all else, Yoda’s plan has ensured a lasting influence of Light side Force users through the use of Force ghosts, a gambit that’s been crucial since the time of A New Hope and should remain important for The Rise of Skywalker. In fact, Yoda’s long-term plan could very well be the reason that Episode IX is called The Rise of Skywalker — because a Skywalker, either Anakin or Luke, could rise from the dead to help win the final battle.
This new theory comes from redditor u/thebrywalker over on the Star Wars Speculation subreddit, and it brings together plot threads from The Clone Wars TV show and the main series of movies to highlight the importance of Force ghosts in preserving the forces of light in Star Wars. It all hinges on one line of dialogue that the theorist paraphrases:
“He is to teach one who has to save the universe from a great imbalance,” Force priestesses say about Yoda in The Clone Wars. It could mean a full resurrection for Anakin Skywalker, who’ll be the one to vanquish Palpatine once and for all.
Anyone who’s only watched the main Star Wars movies probably doesn’t know this, but the ability to become a Force ghost is exceedingly rare and difficult to learn despite what the ending to Return of the Jedi implies. It’s also totally impossible for the Sith. Qui-Gon Jinn learns the ability off-camera, which is why at the end of Revenge of the Sith there’s a quick conversation between Yoda and Obi-Wan about it.
It wasn’t until The Clone Wars Season 6, released in 2014, that we came to understand just how complex and spiritual the process of acquiring this ability is for Jedi. Guided by the voice of Qui-Gon Jinn, Yoda travels to a mystical realm where five Force priestesses train him in how to retain his identity after death. Yoda has to defeat his own darkness and endure various spiritual threats to prove himself. He also receives a vision of his future and the role he’ll play teaching others this ability so that the forces of Light might one day achieve victory over the Dark.
This is a breezy oversimplification of all the bonkers stuff that happens, but there’s a crucial line from Yoda at the end of the episode that could still prove important to The Rise of Skywalker:
Yet open to us a path remains, that unknown to the Sith is. Through this path, victory we may yet find, not victory in the Clone Wars, but victory … for all time.
Yoda realizes that there’s no way for the Jedi and the Republic to win the Clone Wars. He’s seen what’s going to happen. Anakin Skywalker is going to turn to the Dark side and become Darth Vader. Order 66 is going to nearly wipe out the Jedi. Hope will rise again in the form of a Rebellion. Through all this, Yoda learns how important it is that he masters how to transcend death and become a Force ghost. He also learns how important it is for Obi-Wan Kenobi to do the same so that he’ll be around to guide Luke.
“[Yoda] realizes he must be willing to sacrifice everything to save Anakin,” the redditor writes, paraphrasing the actual words. “[It] seems to imply he knew the Jedi Order would need to be all but destroyed and Anakin would need to fall so he could rise again for there to be a future for the Jedi.”
Could that mean Anakin Skywalker, the original Chosen One, will indeed rise in Rise of Skywalker?
Various leaks and speculation have shown that Luke, Leia, Anakin, Obi-Wan, or a mix of these dead Force-wielders return for the epic final confrontation against Palpatine as Force ghosts. Specific leaks have said that Rey “is empowered by generations of the Jedi that came before her.” Perhaps Rey deals the killing blow to Palpatine in the physical realm, empowered by Anakin’s Force ghost? Or perhaps Anakin legitimately rises from the dead to help fight Palpatine?
Either way, it’s only through Yoda’s propagation of the Force ghost technique that any of this is possible, which makes Yoda Palpatine’s true adversary in this cosmic, mystical chess match between the forces of good and evil.
“If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine,” Obi-Wan says to Darth Vader right before his death in A New Hope, but rather than die from a lightsaber slice, the old Jedi Master becomes a Force ghost that helps set Yoda’s plan in motion. It’s not a kind of power that a Sith can understand because this power is about providing a guiding influence that empowers others.
What could be more thoroughly Star Wars than an idea like that?
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker will be released December 20, 2019.
Here’s the new theory in full: