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Massive spoilers ahead for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker!
It's been nearly a month since Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker arrived in theaters, and the conversation about J.J. Abrams' fast paced blockbuster hasn't slowed down. The filmmaker was tasked with wrapping up the nine-film Skywalker Saga, as well as the recent trio of films. One of the ways he did this was bringing back Ian McDiarmid's Emperor Palpatine, who was the overarching villain of the previous two trilogies. It was a plot twist that puzzled the fandom, especially given his apparent death on the second Death Star in Return of the Jedi. But a new Star Wars book has given more context about exactly how the hooded figure survived all this time.
Since The Rise of Skywalker has been in theaters for so long, Lucasfilm can loosen the reigns on its tight Star Wars security, and discuss the contents of the 142-minute long blockbuster. A book titled The Rise of Skywalker Visual Dictionary has just been released, which reveals more about the events of Episode IX. Specifically, how Palpatine survived and who his mysterious followers were.
Palpatine re-enters the franchise very early in The Rise of Skywalker, revealed to be hauntingly deteriorated but very much alive. As the companion book explains, Palpatine's hooded followers are called the Sith Eternal. They used a mixture of technology and occult/Sith magic in order to keep the Emperor alive in the decades between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens.
As for the fleet of Star Destroyers that Palpatine resurrected in Episode IX's opening sequence, they weren't leftover from the Empire. The Rise of Skywalker Visual Dictionary tell us (via MovieWeb) that the Sith Eternal and their slaves on Exegol spent years constructing the massive ships, including planet killing weapons. Palpatine spent the entirety of the sequel trilogy planning and manipulating the galaxy, just as he did in the prequels. And his plan very nearly succeeded.
In addition to being the main villain of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Palpatine also helped move Rey's story forward. It turns out that Rey's true lineage was related to The Emperor, as she was actually his granddaughter. This explains why she was so adept in the ways of The Force, and why her parents left her on Jakku. They were just trying to protect her from the Dark Side.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is in theaters now, complete with Palpatine. Be sure to check out our 2020 release list to plan your next trip to the movies.
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Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Double majored in theater and literature during undergrad. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his favorite actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid.