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At Star Wars Celebration this year we got our first look at the movie that would be named The Rise of Skywalker but the moment that drew even more attention than the name, was the laugh. The end of the first trailer gave us the familiar laugh of The Emperor, a character we believed had perished at the end of The Return of the Jedi, but will be back in the new film.
Well, when you look at this as nine chapters of a story, perhaps the weirder thing would be if Palpatine didn’t return. 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
While I'm not sure I entirely agree with J.J. Abrams' argument to Uproxx here, I can certainly understand where it's coming from. While the Emperor only plays a direct role in events in one film in the original trilogy, his presence is felt from the minute his name is first mentioned in Star Wars: A New Hope. The prequel trilogy is then entirely about Palpatine's rise to power. He's the one that set the ball rolling that eventually leads us to Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
We call these movies the Skywalker Saga but the first two trilogies could just as easily be called the Palpatine Saga. At the same time, while the Emperor is always known to be a part of the story, even when not seen, that's not the case in the new trilogy. There's no evidence that there was a power behind Supreme Leader Snoke or some other force exerting influence on events here.
But then, that's why the Emperor's appearance was such a shock. Certainly the character will find a way to fit into the story in a way that makes sense, at least we all really hope so, but this trilogy never felt like it needed anything else. The battle between the Resistance and the First Order is enough. Kylo Ren is enough of a villain. Of course, the question of whether he'll stay that way is a topic of discussion.
J.J. Abrams does say that, while nothing was set in stone, some discussions of where the trilogy could go were planted in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and that included the Emperor.
If it's all done well, then Abrams feeling that it would be strange to not include the Emperor will probably be shared the audience. We'll find out on December 20.