The Rise of Skywalker has finally arrived, and bringing with it the return of Emperor Palpatine to the Star Wars universe. But the grizzled old despot’s comeback has resulted in some head-scratching alterations to a few of of the series’ most enduring characters. Most recently, Lucasfilm Story Group exec Matt Martin disputed the notion that Palpatine somehow influenced the immaculate conception of Anakin Skywalker through nefarious Dark side methods. Here’s what it could mean for Star Wars going forward.
Spoilers ahead for Rise of Skywalker.
During the oft-referenced opera scene in Revenge of the Sith, Palpatine tells Anakin about Darth Plagueis, who was able to manipulate midi-chlorians to “create life.” In the context of the prequels alone, it’s a compelling enticement for Anakin to flip to the Dark side, as he’s terrified by the prospect that Padme will die in childbirth.
In 2018, [Marvel’s Darth Vader #25 picked up this intriguing thread by depicting an elaborate Force vision where Anakin sees his mother’s pregnancy was somehow infuenced by Palpatine. A lot of Star Wars fans interpreted this as confirmation that the Emperor was responsible for Anakin’s conception, or even his father. When you look at how this “reveal” is portrayed in the comic, it’s hard to reach any other conclusion.
Rise of Skywalker’s revelation that Rey is Palpatine’s granddaughter prompted lore-loving Star Wars fans to try to piece together the seemingly interconnected Palpatine-Skywalker family tree. If Palpatine’s sort-of Anakin’s dad, doesn’t that make Rey a step-sister of Luke and Leia… or possibly even Ben Solo’s aunt?
Fans sought answers from Lucasfilm exec Miller on social media, who promptly dismissed the idea that Palps had any role at all in Anakin’s immaculate conception, despite this very recent canon comic seemingly steering fans toward the exact opposite conclusion. Though the Vader arc was written by Charles Soule, who’s been working on Kylo Ren recently, Martin says he was also involved in the project and would have had veto power over anything that didn’t work within the established Star Wars canon.
Unsurprisingly, Martin responded with a variation on the “from a certain point of view” argument that Lucasfilm often invokes when it decides to play fast and loose with key story elements. By his account, this sequence in the comics is meant to be a paranoid fantasy from Anakin’s point of view, even though this is pretty clearly not the way most readers have interpreted it.
Even as someone who isn’t the biggest fan of the prequels, it’s strange to see the effort to which the sequel films have gone to minimize their relevance. Perhaps this vision from Vader #25 has been misconstrued all along. But it seems more likely, in light of The Rise of Skywalker, that the story group is retroactively reacting to J.J. Abrams making stuff up on the fly. It doesn’t help that another member of Lucasfilm Story Group, Pablo Hidalgo, all but confirmed the “Palpatine is Anakin’s dad” theory less than a year ago.
Oh well. At least the season finale of The Mandalorian was good, right? And we’ve always got a Knights of the Old Republic movie series to look forward to.
The Rise of Skywalker is in theaters now.