Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Producer Explains Why the Emperor’s Return Was Inevitable and Appropriate

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker producer Michelle Rejwan says the return of the believed-dead Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) in the ninth and final episode of the Skywalker Saga was both inevitable and appropriate. Palpatine returns as Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), Poe (Oscar Isaac) and the Resistance mount a last-ditch effort to defeat the reigning First Order, now commanded by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) following the murder of another villain cloaked in mystery, Ren's former master Snoke (Andy Serkis). Rejwan says writer-director J.J. Abrams and co-writer Chris Terrio were careful not to undercut the endings of the prequel and original trilogies, and particularly the ending of Return of the Jedi, where the Emperor was overthrown by a freshly redeemed Anakin Skywalker (Sebastian Shaw).

“I think there was a feeling of inevitability that Palpatine had been a part of all three [trilogies] and in the biggest picture of nine movies, he has been there from the very beginning,” Rejwan told io9 when asked if there were worries the Emperor’s resurrection might undercut past endings. “And his presence in this movie, we will not spoil that, but when you see it, it does feel to us, not only does it have the feeling of inevitability, but the ending of where we left him last, in Return of the Jedi, was very important to J.J. and Chris and to all of us.”

Rejwan continued, “We discussed it at great length. So no, I don’t think so. I think it definitely feels as though it is in the DNA of the nine. And it felt appropriate to have his presence be in this movie.”

Abrams previously said he felt compelled to bring back Palpatine because Rise of Skywalker marks the end of a nine-movie story and the return fulfilled an angle Abrams and co-writer Lawrence Kasdan once hoped to include in The Force Awakens.

“Well, when you look at this as nine chapters of a story, perhaps the weirder thing would be if Palpatine didn’t return,” Abrams told Uproxx. “You just look at what he talks about, who he is, how important he is, what the story is — strangely, his absence entirely from the third trilogy would be conspicuous. It would be very weird.”

In a separate interview with Uproxx, Terrio expanded on Abrams' point when explaining the decision to have the vanquished Emperor act as endgame of the 40-year saga:

“We decided pretty early on that we wanted to really think of this as the Skywalker Saga. And from the beginning, the chess game has been between Palpatine/Sideous and the Jedi,” Terrio said. “Specifically, the Jedi as represented by Anakin and the Skywalkers. So, we were convinced someway or another Palpatine had to be a presence in this film.”

Terrio also hinted Palpatine’s return could be tied to a famous conversation between Palpatine and then-Jedi Anakin (Hayden Christensen) in Revenge of the Sith.

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“Of course, the sacrifice of Vader at the end of Return of the Jedi and bringing balance to the Force, we still had to honor that and I think we do honor that in the film. We don’t take the end of Return of the Jedi lightly at all, because it is one of the most beautiful moments in any film, really — in seeing what Vader does for his son,” he said. “... That moment when Vader lifts Palpatine was a genuine shock to me and it’s full of truth and beauty. We had to be careful about that, but if you look at some of the lore of Palpatine and the Sith and the way that George [Lucas] has embedded ideas about the Sith into the mythology of Star Wars, there are ways the presence of that character can still cast its shadow in the future. I guess I’ll leave it at that.”

Starring Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Kelly Marie Tran, Anthony Daniels, Keri Russell, Richard E. Grant, Naomi Ackie, Domhnall Gleeson, Joonas Suotamo, Ian McDiarmid, Billy Dee Williams, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker opens December 20.

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