We Bet You Missed This Detail From ‘Return of the Jedi’
Did You Catch That?
The Battle of Endor in Return of the Jedi marked a triumphal moment in the Star Wars galaxy. The Rebel Alliance, led by Han Solo, managed to deactivate the deflector shield on Endor, and a starfighter squadron led by Lando Calrissian and Wedge Antilles managed to destroy the main reactor of the second Death Star, vaporizing the battle station and leaving Palpatine's Galactic Empire on life support. The most significant moment of the Battle of Endor, however, might be when Anakin Skywalker, enslaved to the dark side for decades as Darth Vader, the Dark Lord of the Sith, sees Luke's suffering at the hands of his dark master, Emperor Palpatine, and decides to sacrifice himself to save Luke by throwing Palpatine down a nearby shaft.
For nearly 33 years, at least as far as Star Wars (official) canon is concerned, this was the grand finale of the Skywalker saga and the supposed end of Emperor Palpatine. However, the saga continued in 2015, starting with The Force Awakens, which introduced us to the Force-sensitive scavenger, Rey, the orphaned girl with a mysterious past a little over two decades after the Battle of Endor. Although there are some cryptic visions provided to us in The Force Awakens about Rey's mysterious past and a little more is revealed by her nemesis Kylo Ren about her parents in The Last Jedi, we ultimately learn everything about her in the most shocking way possible in the (actual) final chapter of the Skywalker saga. Rey is actually the granddaughter of Emperor Palpatine, who, as the galaxy learns, is once again very much alive, albeit in pretty dire straits in terms of his physical appearance.
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Star Wars Legends once told a similar tale of the Emperor finally achieving his long-sought-after goal of cheating death by using the dark side of the Force and a series of clone bodies in the comic and radio drama series Dark Empire. Unfortunately, The Rise of Skywalker does not detail how Palpatine came back (the novelization clears things up a bit more). However, upon delivering the news to the Resistance about Palpatine's re-emergence after all these years, Poe Dameron can say to the rest of his fellow Resistance members, "Somehow, Palpatine has returned." Based on the visual cues present when Kylo Ren first visits him on Exegol at the start of the film, it is inferred that Palpatine's return is made possible by some kind of cloning technology (which is also hinted to have created Snoke). However, the technology, while it has brought him back, seems to have not been perfected, and Palpatine needs a host body to inhabit to survive as more than a grotesque laboratory experiment. So he draws Rey to him, believing that she would strike him down in anger, and he could then transfer his spirit to her body. In Dark Empire, he was forced to attempt a similar gambit, albeit with Han and Leia's infant son, Anakin. In both stories, Palpatine ultimately fails and is (we think) finally vanquished.
While the "how" of Palpatine's return remains hazy for the moment (although The Mandalorian and other post-ROTJ stories may help develop this further), we may need to turn our attention back to a detail that you might have missed in Return of the Jedi. That moment is when Anakin throws Emperor Palpatine down the shaft in his throne room aboard the second Death Star. As Palpatine falls, a bright bluish-white explosion is seen shooting back up from the bottom of the shaft and then receding, leaving Luke and Anakin alone together in the throne room. It is probably easy not to notice that detail and/or think much about it regarding Return of the Jedi. Initially, it's easy to just think of that as the end of Emperor Palpatine. However, in light of The Rise of Skywalker and Dark Empire before it, some have begun to suspect that maybe that particular detail is more significant than it initially appears.
What if that explosion could be viewed as a representation of Palpatine, amid his death throes, unleashing his spirit to travel away and inhabit that specially prepared clone body? Some Star Wars fans have scoffed at Palpatine's return and the idea that he could have survived the fall down the shaft and the later destruction of the second Death Star in Return of the Jedi. While I would definitely agree that that would be impossible and that he would have been vaporized, if not killed by his fall first, the idea that he found a way to transfer his spirit to another body seems plenty plausible by Star Wars standards and the general mysteriousness of how the Force works. Moreover, this seems even more credible when you factor in his discussion with Anakin in Revenge of the Sith about his former Sith Master Darth Plagueis the Wise's midi-chlorian experiments, as well as his own talk of learning his master's secrets about cheating death, one of his primary inducements to try to get Anakin to join him as a Sith.
As with all discussions about Star Wars, there is always another theory. Some fans have suggested that instead of transferring his Force spirit to another body a la Dark Empire and, presumably, The Rise of Skywalker, Palpatine was able to survive by opening a portal known as the World Between Worlds. The World Between Worlds was introduced in Star Wars Rebels and is summarized as a mystical plane within the Force, linking all moments within time and space together. Young Jedi Padawan Ezra Bridger was able to unlock and use this portal to rescue fellow Rebel Ashoka Tano from her expected death at the hands of Darth Vader at a Sith Temple on Malachor. Emperor Palpatine learned of this portal and attempted to access it for his own ends. However, Bridger succeeded in closing the portal and preventing his access to it. It is, of course, plausible that Emperor Palpatine might have succeeded in finding another way to access the portal, but there is currently no available sign that he did. Furthermore, given Palpatine's body's severe deterioration as seen in The Rise of Skywalker, it seems unlikely that he would have appeared in such a poor state had he simply been able to cheat death by sliding through the World Between Worlds before his demise in Return of the Jedi. But, which theory do YOU subscribe to?
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Written By Mara Butler
Source(s): Star Wars Rebels, Wookiepedia , , , , 
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