Who needs coherent storytelling when you can explain it in study notes afterward? A Star Wars expert has shed some light on how Emperor Palpatine returned for The Rise of Skywalker.
If you don’t remember, in Star Wars Episode IX, Palpatine is resurrected through evil Sith means. After it’s revealed he’s Rey’s grandfather, he goads her to kill him so his spirit can pass into her and they can rule together. Y’know, the usual. Rey and Kylo Ren face him together, and Rey channels all the Jedi before to destroy him. Honestly, none of it makes much sense, but the light show’s pretty neat.
Emily Shkoukani, a junior creative executive at Lucasfilm who helps maintain the continuity for a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, has published a column going in depth on how Palpatine came back. It’s all down to the Contingency, a backup plan if anyone double-crossed or killed the Emperor, which Darth Vader eventually does in Return of the Jedi. The Conginency used drones to provide instruction to Imperial cells, and sow seeds of radicalisation across the galaxy.
Part of this was Operation: Cinder, a brutal wave of environmental terrorism that made planets uninhabitable. The idea was to ultimately reduce liabilities, and tighten up the Emperor’s followers. Much of this went according to plan, except Grand Admiral Rae Sloane double-crossing Counselor of the Empire Gallius Rax and saving Jakku.
The New Republic was meant to quash the Empire at that point, giving way for the First Order. It didn’t happen quite that seamlessly, but the First Order rose all the same. Meanwhile, clones of Palpatine and his Sith Eternal were working to create an ideal clone of him on Exegol, and building a new Sith Armada to conquer the known galaxy.
This wasn’t going so well, but Snoke, who oversaw the First Order, was one of those clones, and his role was to bring Rey to Palpatine. In The Last Jedi, you can see that didn’t work out either. Alas, Rey does eventually find her way to Exegol, and defeats Palpatine once and for all.
The too long; didn’t read is: Palpatine planned for his own death, and decided to come back stronger by creating pocket cells that maintained the Empire’s beliefs on his behalf. Then he just cloned himself.
Your mileage may vary on how this changes your perception of The Rise of Skywalker. You can find mentions of the Contingency in Star Wars: Lost Stars by Claudia Gray, which introduced the idea, and Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath trilogy of novels.
Star Wars is going strong away from the big screen right now. We have The Mandalorian, which brought Ahsoka Tano to live-action, and The Bad Batch season two is on its way. The Force is strong, despite some shaky narrative elements.