Long Live the Emperor: Why Disney Brought Back Palpatine

And how they will do it

Tyler Christopher
Oct 10 · 10 min read
Emperor’s throne room.
Emperor’s throne room.
The Emperor’s throne room

It’s been nearly seven years since Disney first announced the intention to acquire Lucas Film and the Star Wars property for the groundbreaking purchase of four billion dollars. Since then, the House of Mouse has recouped its initial investment making much of its revenue on it’s critically received films and merchandise. It’s because of this that it’s surprising to hear Disney has already announced plans to slow down the production of new Star Wars films.

This move is an unusual one as Disney’s other property Marvel is just finishing its 17th film since the acquisition of the company in 2009. Since then, the Marvel franchise has grossed over 21 billion dollars worldwide and continues to grow. That said, Marvel is quickly coming to a slow-down /reboot phase after its phase three plans ended with the final film in the Avengers Saga. With Disney’s moneymaker slowing down, why would Disney halt the production Star Wars after only five films? The question may be a puzzling one, but I have a theory, and it’s the reason why the Emperor is laughing at the end of the Star Wars Episode 9 trailer.

The Hero’s Journey and the lack of one in The New Trilogy

From Harry Potter to Frodo Baggins, the “Hero’s Journey” is one of the most original forms of storytelling ever created and the most used in Hollywood. Harry Potter must become a wizard and defeat the monster that killed his parents, and Frodo Baggins must destroy the One Ring while resisting it’s corrupting power. In these stories, the Hero is tasked with an impossible challenge, leaving only one of two outcomes for the audience to witness. The Hero either wins as is the case with Luke Skywalker, a farm-boy turned pilot, turned Jedi Master, or he falls, which is the case of Anakin Skywalker, who was a slave-turned pilot and eventual genocidal Sith Lord.

Win or lose, one thing that brings all these characters together is the fact that they have grown and arcs. They grow from weak characters to strong ones, and it’s from watching these characters grow that we, the audience find entertainment and fulfillment. I argue that this aspect of the Hero’s Journey is lacking in the new trilogy, and it’s why the Emperor is back.

Luke looking at twin suns
Luke looking at twin suns
Luke looking towards the future

There’s no set up for a third film

The biggest culprit to Disney’s slow down situation, I believe lays with the handling of the Last Jedi and its lack of setups for the final film. Perhaps it was due to Disney’s rush to flood the market with content, or the sudden transfer of creative powers from JJ Abrams to Ryan Johnson mid trilogy. Still many of the problems for Star Wars seem to begin with a lack of trilogy spanning storylines.

In The Last Jedi, we see the death of Supreme Leader Snoke, the destruction of both the Resistances and New Order fleets, and the end of Luke Skywalker. From a story point of view, all the plot points established in the Force Awakens have seemingly been tied off. Conversely, In The Empire Strikes Back, both the Emperor and Darth Vader are made aware that the offspring of Anakin Skywalker lives, Yoda trains Luke Skywalker, and the Rebels regroup after Hoth for a final battle.

Vader speaks to the Emperor
Vader speaks to the Emperor
Vader speaks to the Emperor

Though the characters in this second film don’t achieve their plot goals, the plot does set them up to succeed for the third film.

Additionally, the second film in a trilogy tends to be the Hero’s lowest point while also revealing something to the audience we didn’t know before. In The Empire Strikes Back, it’s revealed that Vader is Luke’s father, in Episode 2: Attack of the Clones, it’s revealed that Anakin is falling to the Darkside and that the Sith are controlling everything from the shadows. In The Last Jedi, Rey finds out her parents are nobodies; she isn’t unique and that the Resistance is dead.

It’s here where The Last Jedi fails in a cinematic sense, Rey, the Resistance, and Kylo lack plot points to conclude. She is not exceptional, the Resistance, Supreme Leader Snoke, and Luke are dead, and Kylo is the new Emperor. This begs the question, where does the story go from here, and if the Emperor is back, what’s his connection and contribution to the new trilogy?

Emperor Palpatine created the Skywalker line

What was once a popular fan theory of Palpatine manipulating midi-chlorians to create life from nothing, has recently been made official canon with the release of the final issue of the Marvel series Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith vol 2. In this new comic series, the essence of Darth Vader travels to the spirit world of the Force. It is here where he sees a force vision of his life, beginning with his conception. In this disturbing image, Anakin sees a vision of Palpatine with his hands around Smee Skywalker, his mother.

Vader has a vision of the Emperor manipulating his conception through his mother.
Vader has a vision of the Emperor manipulating his conception through his mother.
Darth Vader: Lord of the Sith vol 2. Issue 25

This revelation that the Emperor created Anakin is a huge plot point to finally be confirmed within the Star Wars community. If the Emperor did create Anakin, did he somehow create Rey? Is Rey a secret daughter of Luke and thus a third-generation creation of Palpatine? These questions are fun and would be great reveals to the new trilogy. Unfortunately, the coolest cannon being created by Disney writers are not making it into the series's most important medium, the films, and are instead put on the backs of the comic creators.

More EU sources reveal how Palpatine could be connected

Back before Ryan Johnson was given creative control over JJ Abram’s story , the consumable media surrounding The Force Awakens was filled with hints of mysterious forces throughout the Star Wars Universe. First, Kylo started the Knights of Ren to search the galaxy for Sith Artifacts, such as Darth Vader’s Lightsaber and even his helmet. Additionally, it’s mentioned in the Expanded Universe books, that Kylo has been speaking with the essence of Darth Vader or at least a presence which he thinks is Vader. Could this Darkside force be the Emperor from the grave? Though we are not given any answers to Kylo’s mysterious influencer, we have been shown through new canon novels that Kylo has been affected by something his whole life evening starting before he was born.

Cover of the Star Wars novel Aftermath.
Cover of the Star Wars novel Aftermath.

An excerpt from the Star Wars novel Aftermath, shows baby Kylo being effected during a scene where Leia is training in the ways of the Jedi with Luke.

“Right now, her son is upset, tumbling inside her as if he can’t get comfortable. His light, flickering with dark…

The baby turns inside her again, troubled by something she cannot feel and cannot yet understand.”- Star Wars Aftermath.

Leia subconscious also feels the spirit of Kylo pulses back and forth between the light and the dark.

The light that sometimes dims, that sometimes is thrust with a vein of darkness. — Star Wars Aftermath.

If Palpatine created Anakin Skywalker from the nothingness of the universe, it must also be possible that his effect on the Skywalker family may be eternal. Is it possible that Kylo has been influenced by the Emperor this whole time, and if so, why? The Aftermath revelation also leads us to the question of Snoke. Was Snoke manipulating Kylo Ren from the beginning, or was it Palpatine controlling Snoke controlling Kylo? Ok, I’m dizzy.

The Emperor always planned to come back

Palpatine, for all his goofy laughter and joy in the Darkside, was a planner. Not only did he orchestrate the conspiracy of the Clone Wars to seize power in the Galactic Senate, but he also created “Contingency droids” with his likeness to carry out his final wishes in the event he was “killed”.

A red cloaked Contingency Droid built by Palpatine.
A red cloaked Contingency Droid built by Palpatine.
Contingency Droid Star Wars Battlefront 2

This new insight into Palpatine’s planning comes once again from a piece of Star Wars media not in the movies. This time the “new” cool cannon is taken from the single-player campaign of Star Wars Battlefront 2. In the initial cinematic of the single-player DLC, an Android Emperor orders Admiral Versio to begin the execution of “Operation Cinder,” which is an order for the Galactic fleet to lay waste to the galaxy in what the admiral calls the destruction on the rebel’s “Hope.”

In Battlefront 2, it is made clear that the Emperor has what are called “Observatories,” which are used to store ancient Sith and Jedi treasures excavated from all over the galaxy. One of these relics, a ‘Star Compass” was seen hanging in the hut of Luke Skywalker during The Last Jedi but was never mentioned or seen except for one scene. The origins of this off-screen artifact, is found in the Battlefront 2 DLC , where we see a post-Return of the Jedi Luke Skywalker finds the compass in a hidden Observatory. The Star Wars Visual dictionary shows that the “Star Compass” uses a supraluminite lodestone, which is attuned to hyperspace vectors, an interesting artifact to look for if you plan to then hide for 30 years, as Luke did.

Luke holding the Emperor’s Star Compass.
Luke holding the Emperor’s Star Compass.
Luke finds the Emperor’s Star Compass.

I believe this compass will finally get it’s due in Episode 9 as the item that will give our heroes a way to find the location of something important. I theorize, that something contains a great evil, perhaps Emperor’s essence.

If the Emperor comes back, where is he?

It has been well established in Star Wars lore than the Jedi can train within the Force long enough to become one with it while still retaining conscious. Jedi that we know did this were Qui-Gon Qin, Yoda, Obi-wan Kenobi, and even Anakin Skywalker. Within canon thus far, Sith have been unable to attain this level of Force masterly. They can, however, connect their “essence” to artifacts or Sith Holocrons and live from beyond the grave in a half-life. An example of this was recently made canon in the comic Darth Vader: Lord of the Sith Vol 2. In this story thread, the Emperor gives the Mask of the ancient Sith Lord Momin to help Vader build his castle on Mustafar as Lord. Momin was known as a grand Sith architect; the mask speaks with Vader and becomes more and more critical of Vader. An Except from this issue follows Showing the Emperor telling Vader the history of Lord Momin.

Vader holding Lord Momin’s helmet in the air.
Vader holding Lord Momin’s helmet in the air.
Vader holds Lord Momin’s helmet.

“Momin was uncommon among Sith. Many of us build our legacy through destruction. Momin preferred to create. He and I have that in common. The uses he found for The Force were truly unique, likely never again replicated.”

The excerpt from the exchange between Vader and the Emperor is telling as it seems Palpatine considered himself a builder not only of the Galactic Empire but also of Anakin Skywalker. The Mask of Momin eventually tries to kill Vader by opening a portal to the Darkside itself the first time seen in canon. He then resurrects himself and duels a shocked Vader.

Lord Momin cuts  Vader’s arm off.
Lord Momin cuts  Vader’s arm off.
Lord Momin strikes down Vader

“It saddens me to see that the Sith have become such Jedi-obsessed weaklings. It saddens me, and I know it disgusts the dark side.”

―Momin insults Vader

Vader eventually kills Lord Momin but not before being severely injured. Before dying, Momin tells Vader he would never be able to open the door to the Darkside and resurrect his body because it would always reject him.

Vader looks at a portal to the Darkside.
Vader looks at a portal to the Darkside.
Vader looks at a portal to the physical Darkside

Connecting the dots, if an Ancient Sith Lord can resurrect himself through an artifact and remake his long-dead body, then so can the Emperor. With this idea, the plot of Star Wars Episode 9 will be revealed. I believe it will be discovered via Luke’s force ghost that a Dark Force has been manipulating Kylo and himself from the begging. This story-line will be one of the reasons Luke exiled himself on the island, so Palpatine couldn’t reach him. Rey will be tasked with putting an end to the essence of the Emperor, who is now controlling the First Order and may be trying to resurrect himself if he hasn’t already.

Why this works

If the Emperor is indeed controlling not only the First Order, Snoke, The Knights of Ren, Kylo, and Luke, then the key to redeeming Kylo and saving the galaxy is the destruction of the Emperor essence once and for all. This plot point would be the perfect Hero’s goal for Rey to undertake and would allow the final film to be more character-driven than superweapon inspired. It’s my prediction that Episode 9 will have no great space battles for the finale but will be a fight at ground level to save Kylo by destroying the Emperor.

In conclusion, all the pieces are there to support the idea that the Emperor is back in the flesh. Kylo’s manipulation from birth like Anakin Skywalkers would be a great way to tie the two trilogies together. The introduction of Sith Lords living on through artifact shows us that the Emperor could easily be attached to an object leading to his regeneration. Coupling this with the final scene of the Episode 9 trailer, the likely resting place for the Emperor is probably the Second Death Star. If the Emperor’s classic laugh is to be believed, all signs point to the ending of the Skywalker saga concluding with the destruction of a man who brought it into being. In the rich literal world of Star Wars, it’s possible that like Kylo, this saga can be redeemed and brought back to the light. After all, the anticipation we used to get from Star Wars is never truly gone.

A picture of the celebration scene from The Return of the Jedi.
A picture of the celebration scene from The Return of the Jedi.
Yub Nub!

An online magazine about the art, craft, and business of storytelling, STORIUS is a publication for everyone interested in how stories are created, discovered, distributed, and consumed.

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Storius Magazine

STORIUS is an online magazine about the art, craft, and business of storytelling. Featuring perspectives of professional and emerging authors, filmmakers, and other creators, it delivers a rich mix of storytelling facts, news, and techniques to its readers.

Tyler Christopher

Written by

A student of Design and Production at the University of Texas at Dallas and former Hollywood cameraman.

Storius Magazine

STORIUS is an online magazine about the art, craft, and business of storytelling. Featuring perspectives of professional and emerging authors, filmmakers, and other creators, it delivers a rich mix of storytelling facts, news, and techniques to its readers.

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