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Rise Of Skywalker Novelization Confirms Palpatine Was A Clone

Ever since the first trailer for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker was released, ending with a ghostly laugh that is the stuff of nightmares, fans of the franchise have been wondering how on earth Emperor Palpatine could possibly have survived being unceremoniously tossed down the Death Star shaft by Darth Vader just moments before the massive battle station was destroyed in (another) fiery explosion.

The Emperor, who is portrayed by actor Ian McDiarmid, made a shocking reappearance in the final film of the Skywalker Saga, and brought bombshell after bombshell with him. The Sith Lord is alive — at least as much as someone in his zombie-like form can be considered alive — he is the grandfather of Rey (Daisy Ridley), and he has been building up an enormous fleet of Star Destroyers to finally eliminate the Resistance and form what he's calling the Final Order. That's a lot of plot twists in less than 150 minutes.

But none of the big reveals actually answered how the evil Emperor had managed to return to the land of the living in the first place. Fortunately, there's finally an explanation that's been released for public consumption that can lay the myriad questions to rest. Rise of Skywalker's official novelization confirms one of the more popular theories about Palpatine's return: the psychotic Emperor is actually a clone.

Kylo Ren's powers of deduction point to Palpatine's plot

According to Screen Rant, the novelization has once again been used by Disney to "tie up loose ends," something they've done with all three of the sequel films since taking over the franchise from Lucasfilm. With the book set for release on March 17, Lucasfilm Publishing decided to surprise fans who attended C2E2 in Chicago over the weekend of February 1 with some copies they released early. Naturally, passages from the book have since started to make their way online, including one that explains Palpatine's nightmarish reappearance in that galaxy far, far away.

In the book, it's Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) who deduces that the Emperor Palpatine he meets on the Sith planet of Exegol is actually a clone, not the Emperor somehow back from the dead. Kylo, who studied the Clone Wars as a child during his training under Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), recognizes the machinery keeping the ghastly shell of Palpatine alive.

"All the vials were empty of liquid save one, which was nearly depleted. Kylo peered closer. He'd seen this apparatus before, too, when he'd studied the Clone Wars as a boy. The liquid flowing into the living nightmare before him was fighting a losing battle to sustain the Emperor's putrid flesh ... Emperor Palpatine lived, after a fashion, and Kylo could feel in his very bones that this clone body sheltered the Emperor's actual spirit. It was an imperfect vessel, though, unable to contain his immense power. It couldn't last much longer."

Palpatine is the nightmare that won't seem to end

It's not the first time in Star Wars lore that Palpatine has returned from the dead as a clone. The Dark Empire miniseries also saw his unwanted return, also in a cloned body, but in that incarnation the clone body was able to handle the immense dark force he brought with him to the vessel. In Rise of Skywalker, it's evident that his clone body is failing him, unable to cope with all that darkness, and Kylo notes that he won't last much longer in his current form. It's part of the reason Palpatine reveals himself, and part of the reason he so desperately wants to sway his granddaughter Rey to the Dark Side before it's too late. Rey will become a new "vessel" for his evil spirit to fester in, should she decide to take him up on his treacherous offer.

Kylo also notes that Palpatine seems to be running out of the regenerative formulas that have managed to sustain him in his clone body for all these years, making it all the more urgent that the Emperor find a new (and hopefully more sustainable) host.

Events in the film give Palpatine a new idea for regenerating himself, though. Seeing Rey and Kylo operate together makes it clear to him that the pair form a Force Dyad, and he tries to drain them of their power in order to restore himself to his full strength. Fortunately, Rey is able to overpower and destroy him, and Star Wars fans can only hope it's for good this time, and that there aren't any more Palpatine clones hiding on remote, hard-to-find planets.