More than 30 years after his apparent death in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, Emperor Sheev Palpatine returns in The Rise of Skywalker to taunt Kylo Ren and threaten Rey and the rest of the Resistance heroes. But how? One fan out there may have finally figured it out ahead of the film’s release later this week, and their theory forges a strong connection between Palpatine and Snoke that nobody’s really thought of before.
Warning! Speculative spoilers for The Rise of Skywalker below.
Redditor u/paxtoncrawford shared his theory on Reddit on Monday morning as part of a post titled “Five Final TRoS Predictions”, which made a series of guesses about Episode IX based on various recent leaks. Alongside a prediction about a swarm of Force ghosts in the final fight, the most interesting throughline here theorizes that “Palps did not physically survive ROTJ,” meaning that he did die when Darth Vader through him down the shaft, triggering an explosion of energy.
“His spirit joined the Dark side equivalent of the living Force,” they write. “He has slowly been working his way back to the corporeal world, but has not been able to maintain a physical form for any extended period of time.”
If true, this would explain why the much-rumored “Force dyad” between Rey and Kylo Ren, because it would allow Palpatine to drain their energy and restore himself.
The theory continues that Palpatine survived by attaching his essence to Snoke’s ring, and whenever the Supreme Leader of the First Order put it on, that’s when Palpatine possessed him. Based on what we know of Light and Dark side Force powers, this is probably the most likely possibility.
Only Jedi or others strong in the Light side of the Force can train and acquire the power to present themselves as a Force ghost after death. The closest that Sith and other Dark side users can manage is to attach their essence to some kind of artifact.
The best precedent for this comes from Lord Momin, an ancient Sith Lord and architect whose malicious dark spirit remained in his mask for many years after his death. At some point between the prequel and original trilogies, Palpatine communed with the mask, eventually gifting it to Vader so it might help with the creation of his castle on Mustafar.
All of this happened in a Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith comics storyline where Vader builds his castle over a Sith Cave containing a dark side locus. With the right design, he was able to open a door to the Dark side of the Force. Vader’s intention was to resurrect Padmé Amidala, but Momin used it to resurrect himself fully instead. When we see Darth Vader in Rogue One, he’s at this castle.
Yet another important comic for this theory is Star Wars: The Rise of Kylo Ren that chronicles Ben Solo’s fall to the Dark side. On the cover of the second issue, Ben Solo and Luke Skywalker face off against the Knights of Ren.
The theory suggests that the original version of Snoke was Force sensitive with limited powers and acted as leader the Knights of Ren, but when “he came in contact with the spirit of Palps through the obsidian ring [he] suddenly had much greater powers.” The theory also assumes that the original Snoke died in this previous confrontation with Luke and a younger Ben, “but returned … as a clone multiple times, still oblivious that he was a puppet of Palps.”
Given what we know about the ring, all of this is possible, especially when Palpatine easily puppets Snoke’s voice in a recently released clip from the movie. The idea is that he’s been a pawn all along, and this ring could explain how — and also why the comic Star Wars: Age of Resistance — Supreme Leader Snoke includes multiple panels prominently featuring the ring.
An official Star Wars blog entry says this ring is “capped with a piece of obsidian from the catacombs below Darth Vader’s castle on Mustafar.” This detail is also in The Last Jedi: The Visual Dictionary, as is a note that the gold on the ring is etched with “glyphs of the Dwartii.” Notably, Palpatine kept statues of the Four Sages of Dwartii in his office at the senate, and it looks like the huge statues on Exegol are also of these sages.
If Snoke’s ring is that important, perhaps it will play a crucial role in The Rise of Skywalker. We already know several artifacts could drive the story, including a mysterious dagger and something else allegedly called a “wayfinder.” But if this theory is right, then the obsidian ring could be the most important object of all.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker will be released December 20, 2019.