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Palpatine's Return In The Rise Of Skywalker Was Supposed To Go Differently

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker featured the return of an iconic villain in Ian McDiarmid's Emperor Sheev Palpatine, and while some fans welcomed the return of the galaxy far, far away's biggest Big Bad, others felt that his presence could have been explained a heck of a lot better. After all, it seemed like he was pretty much done for after his last chronological appearance in the saga (getting tossed down a near-endless shaft on an exploding space station will have that effect).

The case could be made that Rise of Skywalker effectively hand-waved Palpatine's return; frankly, not much of an explanation was given for just how he survived being given the old heave-ho by his former apprentice, Darth Vader. But according to the flick's editor Maryann Brandon, this almost wasn't the case — at various points during Rise of Skywalker's production, she says that the filmmakers considered explaining the means by which Palpatine made his comeback in far greater detail.

"[It was] tricky," Brandon said in an interview with the Huffington Post. "It was kind of a delicate balance, and [we] went back and forth a lot about how much we wanted to revealSome scenes changed quite a bit, the way that we wanted to present it to the audience. In the end, we ended up showing a lot less of it than we started with."

So, why leave the audience in the dark about such a significant element of the plot? Brandon says that it was basically a matter of keeping the narrative from losing focus.

Why wasn't Palpatine's return explained in more detail?

Emperor Palpatine made his presence felt very early in Rise of Skywalker, and audiences were clued in to his return quite matter-of-factly right in the movie's opening crawl. He's seen hooked up to a massive machine that appears to be keeping him alive, indicating that he wasn't revived by some magical means; no, it seems that he actually lived through his impromptu tour of the second Death Star's lovely bottomless shaft, and had been manipulating events behind the scenes during the entirety of the sequel trilogy.

Brandon indicated that writer/director J.J. Abrams and his co-writer Chris Terrio essentially decided to trust that the audience would glean all that they needed to know from the Emperor's reliance on that big-ass machine, and that when additional information was included, the story became less streamlined. "[There was at one point] a little more information about it, what was keeping [Palpatine] alive," Brandon said — but, when it was presented as part of that opening scene, "it seemed to go off topic."

She went on to say that as dense as Rise of Skywalker's narrative was, it made sense to trim unnecessary exposition. "There was so much information in the film and so many characters that we wanted to have an audience concentrate on," she explained. "I think we felt we didn't want to clutter the film up with things you didn't need to know."

Fair enough, we suppose — but this isn't the only Palpatine-related question some fans needed answered.

Why was Rey able to defeat Palpatine?

When Rey faced off with Palpatine in Rise of Skywalker's climactic scene, the baddie made it pretty clear that if she were to kill him, it would mean that his spirit would transfer to her. (Why he told her this, instead of goading her into killing him and securing victory, is a question Brandon didn't attempt to answer.) 

Some fans were understandably confused, then, when Rey ended up killing Palpatine by deflecting his own Force lightning back at him — and the threatened outcome failed to materialize. When asked why this was so, Brandon pointed to the specific means by which the Emperor met his end, and the fact that Rey didn't strike him down in anger (or, you know, unplug his life support machine in anger). Instead, Palps' own hateful, hateful Force lightning being the cause of his demise was what spared Rey from being possessed by the old dude.

Look, we're inclined to take Brandon at her word; for all she knows, all of this information (which was likely passed down to her from on high) is 100% accurate. It's probably just a coincidence that her entire conversation with HuffPo happens to read like a complete refutation of virtually every assertion made by the mysterious anonymous source of a Redditor by the name of egoshoppe, who alleged — in a widely disseminated post — that Rise of Skywalker is the result of one of the most egregious cases of studio meddling in Hollywood history.

We suppose we'll never know... unless some brave soul lifts the rumored 3-hour director's cut of the flick from Disney's vault.