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New head-turning Palpatine Star Wars theory is a real doozy

We hope you're near the Mos Eisley Cantina, because you'll definitely need to unwind after hearing this head-spinning new Star Wars theory.

Over at Screen Rant, writer Thomas Bacon has published a theory centered around Emperor Palpatine, the Sith Lord otherwise known as Darth Sidious who used Machiavellian manipulation to rise through the ranks of the Galactic Republic to become its Emperor... before Darth Vader murdered Palpatine in Return of the Jedi by launching him into the Death Star's reactor. Or, at least, that's what we thought happened to ol' Palpy. 

The vicious villain — mainly portrayed on screen by Ian McDiarmid through Star Wars' original and prequel trilogies (Marjorie Eaton and Clive Revill brought him to life in the original release of The Empire Strikes Back) — is slated to make a jaw-dropping comeback in writer-director J.J. Abrams' The Rise of Skywalker, set to cap off the Skywalker saga with a definitive conclusion. Palpatine's signature cackle was heard in the first trailer for The Rise of Skywalker, and his presence could be felt in the final pre-release footage for the film, when Daisy Ridley's Rey stood opposite a dark figure. 

Many have speculated as to what Emperor Palpatine's role in The Rise of Skywalker will be, without accounting for how he would even be alive to return and wreak havoc in the first place. Now, Bacon has presented a theory — apparently crafted by many other Star Wars fans — as to how the character survived his apparent death-by-the-Death-Star. 

The idea goes that Emperor Palpatine didn't really die when Darth Vader, overcome with emotion while watching Palpatine attack and torture his son Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) with Force lightning, chucked him into the Death Star's reactor. Rather, it's believed that Palpatine transformed himself into Force energy to survive the fall into the reactor and the subsequent blue-tinged explosion seen on screen. And speaking of that energy blast, it may not have been a release of Dark Side energy as traditionally believed, but instead Palpatine himself in his new Force energy form. 

How exactly might have Emperor Palpatine rid himself of his mortal body and turned himself into intangible Force energy? The theory points to the in-universe legends collection Star Wars: Myths & Fableswhich contains a story entitled "Gaze of Stone." The narrative involves a mystical stone statue connected to Sith Lord apprentice Ry Nymbis, who worked beneath Darth Caldoth. During his training and while focused on the ultimate goal of taking Darth Caldoth's place, Ry "began to pore over ancient secrets" and "forgotten Sith magics" — including a ritual that grants the performer the ability to turn flesh into other objects. Ry tried to execute the ritual in attempts to strip Darth Caldoth of his corporeal form and trap him within another form of matter. The plan went sideways when Darth Caldoth turned the ritual back onto Ry, who was turned into rock, never to become living flesh again. 

According to this new theory, Emperor Palpatine used this exact Sith ritual or one very similar to it to escape death during Return of the Jedi. Palpatine's preoccupation (to the point of obsession) with immortality is an important foundation of this theory, as the ensuing details claim that Palpy built his Throne Rooms — like the one within the Death Star — in a way that would allow him to "amplify his power" and "transform into an energy state rather than die." 

The implications of this Emperor Palpatine theory

It isn't out of the realm of possibility that Emperor Palpatine, fearful of dying and losing power over the galaxy, would call upon a Sith enchantment to cheat death. However, there's a big snag in this theory: it doesn't explain how Palpatine would return to his physical form — pale skin, haunting eyes, and all — to stir up trouble in The Rise of Skywalker

Many have turned to Chuck Wendig's Star Wars: Aftermath novels for a possible solution. The books detail that a man named Yupe Tashu, a Sith cultist and former adviser to Emperor Palpatine, performed a ceremony within one of the Emperor's Throne Rooms in an attempt to "enflesh" him. Yupe wasn't successful and actually wound up dying himself when an aide, Gallius Rax, killed him. 

Could someone else carry out the "enfleshing" ceremony in The Rise of Skywalker and place Palpatine back in his corporeal form? Anything's possible in the Star Wars universe, but the ritual-performer would have to be someone extremely devoted to the dark side and the advancement of the First Order who would genuinely want to see the Emperor return. 

An obvious choice would be Adam Driver's Kylo Ren, but considering he was briefly shown fighting alongside Rey and smashing a statue of his grandfather (and biggest idol) Darth Vader in the final Rise of Skywalker trailer, it seems that the edgy villain may be suffering a crisis of confidence and faith in the upcoming movie. Plus, there have been a ton of rumors suggesting that Kylo Ren will abandon the dark side and his villainous moniker before the end of The Rise of Skywalker, reclaiming his birth name of Ben Solo to complete his redemption arc. (Many refer to his rumored arc as "Bendemption.") A potentially faltering First Order baddie isn't exactly the kind of candidate one would select to resurrect Emperor Palpatine and bring about what's probably going to be the most intense First-Order-versus-Resistance battle the galaxy has ever seen. Unless, of course, Kylo revives him for the sole purpose of killing him for good.

A second pick to revive Palpatine would be Dark Rey. Fans saw flashes of her in special-look footage from The Rise of Skywalker released at this year's D23, and a few theories have cropped up about Dark Rey that explain her existence. A popular idea is that Dark Rey, who wields a dual-bladed red lightsaber and cloaks herself in a jet-black hooded robe, is a clone of the Rey we know and love — or is her long-lost twin sister who actually did join the dark side. It's plausible that Dark Rey might be the one to bring Emperor Palpatine back into his human body if she truly is Rey's dark-sided sister or clone. However, another idea has it that Dark Rey lives only within regular Rey's mind — that she's just a vision of what Rey could become if she gives into temptation and uses her Force abilities on the dark side. Can't exactly revive a guy if you're a figment of someone's imagination, right?

In The Rise of Skywalker, both Kylo Ren and Rey will make their way to the second Death Star and engage in a standoff within the Throne Room. Might this be the site of Emperor Palpatine's resurrection? Could Kylo be there to revive the Emperor, and Rey there to stop him? Or will the revival have already happened and the two of them are visiting the ruins of the Death Star II in order to meet with Palpatine for very different reasons? Maybe, but also maybe not! 

Star Wars theories are a dime a dozen and are almost always fun to dig into. But at the end of the day, we simply don't know for certain what will happen in The Rise of Skywalker until the movie actually comes out. Sure, it could be revealed that Emperor Palpatine turned himself into Force energy to avoid death, and that someone aligned with the First Order or the dark side takes him out of whatever form of matter he was in and places him back into a human body. Yes, it's possible that The Rise of Skywalker will show that Rey has had an evil, Empire-devoted twin sister this whole time, making the existential struggle she's been dealing with throughout the current trilogy even harder to resolve. It's also just as likely that nothing anyone has theorized about the new movie will actually come true, and that J.J. Abrams and company have planned a story so unpredictable and astonishing that it'll surprise everyone around the world. 

Fans will have to sit on their hands, try to keep their minds from running wild with unconfirmed theories, and patiently wait until The Rise of Skywalker opens in theaters on December 20 to learn the whole truth — about Emperor Palpatine, Force energy, what it means to "enflesh" someone, evil clones, and all the rest.