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Palpatine in Return of the Jedi

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The Star Wars franchise as we know it will soon come to an end. J.J. Abrams' The Rise of Skywalker will hit theaters next week, ending the nine-film narrative that George Lucas began with A New Hope. The pressure is certainly on to deliver, and the limited footage we've seen revealed the inclusion of Ian McDiarmid's Palpatine. It's unclear how he'll factor into the story, but one Star Wars producer recently defended the iconic villain's role in Episode IX.

Michelle Rejwan is a film producer who often collaborates with J.J. Abrams. She previously worked on The Force Awakens, and returned for the final movie in the Skywalker Saga. Rejwan recently spoke to Palpatine's return to the big screen. When asked if she and the team were worried about bringing him back, she said:

I think there was a feeling of inevitability that Palpatine had been a part of all three and in the biggest picture of nine movies, he has been there from the very beginning. 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. 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.

Well, that's certainly a logical way at looking at it. Palpatine has been the overarching villain of the first two trilogies, a puppet master who was playing a long game and manipulating those around him. As such, he deserved to have a role to play in the upcoming final installment.

Michelle Rejwan's comments to io9 should help shine a light on the creative process of writing Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. J.J. Abrams and company needed to cover a ton of group in order to wrap up the long running narrative, including a one-year time jump and the final chapter of the battle against the First Order/Empire/Sith.

Ahead of the release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, fans can catch up on the Skywalker Saga with Disney+. You can use this link for a free 7-day trial to the streaming service.

Palpatine's role in The Rise of Skywalker is a complete mystery, but he's been given a few lines of dialogue throughout the movie's marketing campaign. It looks like he might be appearing in a floating throne, but Lucasfilm has been keeping Episode IX's contents under wraps ahead of its release.

It will be fascinating to see what happened to Palpatine after Vader threw him off a ledge in Return of the Jedi. We all assume he perished when the second Death Star exploded, but it looks like he might have survived. And if he's been the architect behind the First Order all along, then his true villainy is even more powerful that we realized.

All will be revealed when Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters on December 20th. In the meantime, check out our 2020 release list to plan your next trip to the movies.