The Clone Wars were a smokescreen.
As Obi-Wan told Padmé in Revenge of the Sith, Anakin was “deceived by a lie,” along with the rest of the galaxy. If you’ve seen the prequels, you’ll remember that Palpatine orchestrated the conflict between the Republic and the Separatists so he could eventually “reorganize” everything into the Galactic Empire, getting rid of the Jedi in the process.
But what if Palpatine’s real goal with the Clone Wars was more technological than political? New developments in the Star Wars canon — including The Bad Batch — could indicate that the Palpatine didn’t need the Clone Wars in order to create the Empire. He needed the Clone Wars so he could live forever. Mild Bad Batch spoilers ahead. Wild speculation follows.
Legends canon sets up new clones
In the final moments of The Bad Batch Season 1 finale, “Kamino Lost,” it’s revealed that the Empire didn’t shut down cloning after eliminating the clone army. Instead, Nala Se — formerly of Kamino — was relocated by the Empire to the planet Wayland.
While this cloning facility is fairly new to the contemporary Star Wars canon, it was a big deal in Legends canon. Back when Timothy Zahn’s novel Heir to the Empire was the only direct sequel to Return of the Jedi, Wayland and Mount Tantiss were the site of Palpatine’s secret cloning operations. Now, with The Bad Batch, it seems like that’s the case again.
Combined with recent in-canon revelations about Palpatine’s contingency plan, this new detail means the elimination of the Clone Army post-Order 66 wasn’t the end of secret Sith Lord cloning schemes. Instead, it appears it was just the beginning.
Was this the point of the Clone Wars?
It’s not entirely clear how many bodies Palpatine has inhabited and how many of those were clone bodies or strand-casts.
We’ve been told outright by Star Wars canon experts that Snoke was “one of Palpatine’s evil duplicates,” but what’s not easily discerned from that is just how many times he’s been cloned. In Legends canon, a clone would often be named using an extra vowel, like “Luuke Skywalker,” though these days it appears that rule is less than hard-and-fast, leading to funny names like “Snoke.”
Palpatine’s first name is suspiciously “Sheev” (two vowels!), but that alone isn’t proof that the version of him we see in the prequels is a clone.
In fact, everything we’ve been led to believe — thanks to StarWars.com in conjunction with The Bad Batch — is that Palpatine only got his self-cloning operations started after the conclusion of the Clone Wars. To infer further, because Palpatine was secretly operating as a Sith Lord in the pre-Revenge of the Sith era, it feels unlikely that he’d task the Kaminoans with building him experimental clone bodies prior to the end of the Clone Wars. As far as the Kaminoans knew, everything about the “Grand Army of the Republic” was happening above board. After Palps declares himself Empire, it became easier for him to be openly evil.
All this leads to a very interesting theory: what if the Clone Wars weren’t only about Palpatine gaining political power? That was part of it. But, more importantly, Palpatine needed the Clone Wars to take place so he could seize power and openly develop cloning technology to extend his own life. For Palpatine, the real work on cloning started just after Order 66 and kept going until The Rise of Skywalker.
Palpatine’s effective “Snokescreen”
Let’s take this theory a few steps further. Presumably, Palpatine named his “Contingency Plan” aptly. It was not his main plan. Palpatine didn’t plan on establishing the Empire only to be defeated less than three decades later by the Rebel Alliance.
He also didn’t plan on having Vader throw him down that exhaust shaft, though he suspected something like that might happen, which is why he made sure to develop the cloning tech.
As the Rebels were successful, it’s conceivable all of Palpatine’s secret self-cloning tech could have been uncovered and retrieved. In The Mandalorian, the remnants of the Empire are desperate to get their hands on Jedi-blood from Grogu, which could indicate that those Sith loyalists on Exegol have a resource problem.
It’s also pretty clear that Snoke is a failed clone of Palpatine, one whom Palps just decided to reappropriate as a puppet version of himself. In other words, the creation of Snoke and the First Order allowed for a snoke-screen to cover up the fact that those Sith loyalists needed time to reboot that self-cloning tech. As Star Wars.com pointed out recently, when Palps discovered Rey, that helped to fill in some gaps.
But, the larger point remains: Had Palps not funded the cloning operation on Kamino during the days of the Republic, he wouldn't have access to cloning tech decades later. It’s heavily implied that cloning tech is pretty widespread in the Star Wars galaxy, but The Bad Batch also makes it clear that the technology is at its best if it’s from Kamino.
What Palpatine did with the Clone Wars, then, was to offer himself a healthy kickback. Not only would his clones loyally kill the Jedi when he whispered in their ear – but the tech used to create said clones would give him eternal life, too.
The Bad Batch is streaming on Disney+.