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Star Wars – Emperor Palpatine explained

Emperor Palpatine goes by many names, like Sheev, The Emperor, Darth Sidious, and The Senate, so let's learn about him and his role in the Galactic Empire.

Star Wars: Emperor Palpatine explained: Ian McDiarmid as Palpatine in The Rise of Skywalker

Who is Emperor Palpatine? The big bad of the galaxy far, far away is a complicated character, but we’ve got him all figured out here.

The living-shrivelled prune that is Emperor Palpatine is one of the most iconic movie villains of all time, and up there with the very best Star Wars villains around. He is one of the threads that links all nine Skywalker Saga Star Wars movies, and is the epitome of the Dark Side of the Force.

However, it’s fair to say that with such a sprawling presence and influence over Star Wars, the Star Wars character‘s plans and powers can sometimes be a tad confusing. At least, until now. We’ve put together the definitive list of all you need to know about Emperor Palpatine.

Emperor Palpatine explained

Emperor Palpatine is the overarching villain of the entire Skywalker Saga. His name is Sheev Palpatine, while his alias as a Sith lord is Darth Sidious. In the Original Trilogy, Emperor Palpatine is the ruler of the Galactic Empire.

The evil Sith lord made his first appearance in The Empire Strikes Back (one of the best movies of all time) establishing himself as Darth Vader‘s boss, and the biggest baddie around. However, when you watch the Star Wars movies in order, Emperor Palpatine’s first on-screen appearance was in The Phantom Menace.

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Emperor Palpatine in the Prequel Trilogy

During the Prequel Trilogy, Palpatine unfolded a plan to destroy the Jedi, and become the Chancellor of the Galactic Republic.

He did this by manipulating the powerful Anakin Skywalker into thinking that embracing the power of the Sith was the only way to save his wife, before convincing the Galactic Senate that the Jedi were a threat to the galaxy.

The Senate then granted Chancellor Palpatine emergency powers, which he used to assume full control of the Galactic Republic and turn it into his brutal Galactic Empire after executing Order 66 and killing countless Jedi.

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Emperor Palpatine in the Original Trilogy

During the Original Trilogy, Palpatine ruled the Galactic Empire with Darth Vader as his right-hand man, with the help of senior Admirals and ISB officials like Wullf Yularen and Orson Krennic.

His aim was to rule to galaxy, establishing the Sith as the dominant power and defeating all remaining Jedi. However, his plans were disrupted by the Rebellion, led by figures like Princess Leia and Mon Mothma and Luthen Rael. The Rebellion undermined the Empire and sought to destroy it and restore the Galactic Republic – and we’ve seen the beginning of this in the Star Wars series Andor where Palpatine even got a shout-out.

The Rebellion eventually managed to overthrow the Empire and Emperor Palpatine, destroying two Death Stars in the process. Luke Skywalker and his father Darth Vader were essential here, and it was Darth Vader himself who dispatched the evil Emperor by throwing him down into a deep shaft on the second Death Star, redeeming himself in the process.

All in all, Emperor Palpatine had much less screen time in the Original Trilogy compared to the Prequel Trilogy, only appearing in a small role in The Empire Strikes Back before his death in Return of the Jedi.

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Emperor Palpatine in the Sequel Trilogy

Emperor Palpatine was resurrected for the final instalment in the Skywalker Saga, and it turns out he has been influencing events behind the scenes for years.

In the opening to The Rise of Skywalker, the evil Sith lord was visited by Kylo Ren, telling him that not only did he create and manufacture Snoke, but he had also been the guiding voices in Ren’s head, pointing him in the direction of everything dark. He requested that Ren brought Rey to him so that he could extract her Force essence to return himself to his full power, and become the ruler of the Final Order.

Unfortunately for him, his plans were scuppered once again and Rey managed to disintegrate him completely by reflecting his Force lightening back on himself – but not before revealing that Rey was his granddaughter. Yes, that means that Emperor Palpatine got down and dirty at some point in his distant past, and that he had kids!

The Rise of Skywalker marked the end of the era of Emperor Palpatine, however, his bloodline continues as long as Rey is around. That raises the prospect of more evil Palpatine descendants in the future, though it’s impossible to make any predictions about the future of the science fiction movies with any degree of accuracy.

Star Wars: Emperor Palpatine Explained - Palpatine duelling Mace Windu

Emperor Palpatine’s powers explained

As a Sith lord, Emperor Palpatine had an impressive and formidable command of the Dark Side of the Force. He was able to use his Force powers in subtle ways such as in the creation of Anakin Skywalker, and through manipulating the minds of others.

He also used his powers for combat, and could shoot Force lightning from his fingertips as we see in his battles against Mace Windu, Yoda, Luke, and Rey. His Force abilities also enhance his skill with a lightsaber, and in Revenge of the Sith we see Palpatine duelling (and killing) multiple Jedi warriors at once.

That’s all you need to know about Emperor Palpatine. To keep up to date with Star Wars, check out our guides to the Andor season 2 release date. Or, dig deep into its characters with our guides to the Andor cast with Syril Karn, Luthen Rael, Dedra Meero, and Mon Mothma. Alternatively, for something completely different check out our rankings for the best Star Wars droids, the best Star Wars scenes, and the best Star Wars cameos.