Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Director J.J. Abrams Explains Twist Behind Emperor Palpatine’s Legacy

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker writer-director J.J. Abrams explains the thematic intentions behind a major reveal involving the returned Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid). Skywalker reveals — spoilers — the Emperor cheated death despite being vanquished by his former pupil Anakin Skywalker (Sebastian Shaw) aboard the Death Star II, and Palpatine’s son (Billy Howle) eventually sired his own child who would go on to become Jedi Rey (Daisy Ridley). Some 30 years after his defeat in Return of the Jedi, Palpatine would be eliminated — seemingly for good — when opposed by Rey and Ben Solo (Adam Driver), returned to the Light after renouncing the Dark Side's Kylo Ren, who ended Palpatine’s plan to restore Sith rule under Empress Rey Palpatine.

“I think one of the ideas, one of the themes of the movie, is that anyone can be anything, regardless of where you’re from. I don’t know if it resonates for everyone, but I think there are quite a few people who appreciate that idea of not coming from a place that you’re particularly excited about following or proud of,” Abrams said during a Q&A panel. “And though I completely understand ‘you’re nobody’ is a devastating thing, to me, the more painful, the more shocking thing is the idea that you’re from the worst possible place.”

Abrams continued, “And is your destiny, is that thing that you feel, that you know is part of you somehow, that you’re haunted by, is that your destiny? The idea that choices — that there are things more powerful than blood, as Luke (Mark Hamill) says — that feeling was important to convey, for us.”

The sequel trilogy is “really sort of about the generation that follows the great generation,” added Abrams, pointing to its focus on Force users Rey and Kylo-slash-Ben, the latter the child of Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), herself the daughter of the fallen Jedi Knight who served Emperor Palpatine as Darth Vader before he restored balance to the Force when ending the reign of the Sith.

“The idea of balance, bringing balance to the Force — which is the whole point of the Chosen One, Anakin, in the original trilogy — what I loved was the idea that balance brought to the Force doesn’t mean it’s forever, it’s not immediately everlasting,” Abrams said. “And I think the idea that if we are not careful, the evil — the ultimate evil — will rise again, that we have to be proactive and doing what we can to maintain the balance, and how does the generation that follows the great generation do that?”

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The answer lies with “the grandchildren of these crucially important characters, the Palpatines and the Skywalkers,” Abrams said. “The idea … [of] these two houses coming together in this next generation felt like there was inevitability to it. And if one were to watch I through IX 50, 100 years from now, hopefully you feel these stories were inevitably leading there.”

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is now in theaters.

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