Spoilers for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker ahead…
Are we all in agreement that the worst aspects of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker all revolve around Emperor Palpatine? The sequel trilogy did not need Palpatine. With Snoke dead and Kylo Ren over the edge (he murdered his father, contemplated killing his mother and indirectly caused the death of Luke Skywalker), the door was wide open for the unmasked, unhinged and unchained master of the Knights of Ren to become the primary antagonist and lead the First Order ruthlessly against the thinning band of Resistance. But this is a film that’s obsessed with what’s in its rearview mirror. So, we get Palpatine. Even if none of it makes an ounce of sense.
Weirdly enough, it seems like the idea to bring Palpatine back wasn’t JJ Abrams’ but Kathleen Kennedy’s? In an interview with AwardsDaily, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker writer Chris Terrio had this to say:
Kathy Kennedy and [SVP] Michelle Rejwan had a clear plan for where they wanted things to end. They had clear plans about certain narrative marks they wanted us to hit. They also gave us a lot of freedom within that. We knew that Rey and Ren were utterly key to this trilogy, but we also felt that there was no way that we were going to not find a path to redemption for Kylo Ren, the son of Han and Leia.
That’s when we really started aggressively pursuing this idea that there is old evil that didn’t die. The source of the evil in the galaxy is this dark spirit waiting for its revenge and biding its time. The entity known as Palpatine in this version – his body died in Return of the Jedi – is patient and has been waiting. He dug his fox hole and has been waiting for his chance to re-establish his total domination.
Let’s take a moment to digest the quote above that’s full of contradiction. First of all, I find it baffling that Kathleen Kennedy and Michelle Rejwan had a longterm plan for the trilogy and narrative marks they wanted directors to hit. The biggest problem with the Star Wars sequel trilogy is that when you look at it as a whole, there doesn’t seem to be a proper throughline. It’s simply not cohesive. This is especially true for The Rise of Skywalker, which not only goes against The Last Jedi, both thematically and narratively but also contradicts The Force Awakens.
Also, if Kathleen Kennedy (or whoever) had in her mind from the start that Kylo Ren should be redeemed but could not possibly do so if whatever happens in The Last Jedi happens, then why didn’t she put her foot down during the scripting stages and tweak Kylo Ren’s journey? Why randomly bring back an “old evil” even if it doesn’t make sense given what we’ve seen in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi?
When asked if Palpatine had always been the plan, prior to The Rise of Skywalker, Terrio said:
Well, I can’t speak to Kathy’s overall intent. That was certainly discussed and was discussed before I ever came on. Kathy had this overall vision that we had to be telling the same story for nine episodes. Although from the sleight of hand of Episode VII and Episode VIII, you wouldn’t necessarily know immediately that we were telling the same story. She thought it would be a very strong end for the ninth movie. This fits well with J.J. because he loves magic tricks.
When you rewatch the earlier films, things start to make additional sense. Ren and his devotion to the idea of his grandfather. The voice that he’s always heard in his head. The certain similarities between Snoke and Palpatine. The intention was that, by the time you get to Episode IX, you realize there were real reasons this is all happening. It all shows how this story is being fought cyclically through the series.
Funnily enough, when you watch the earlier films, things make less and less sense. A good reveal/plot twist isn’t just about unpredictability. It’s one where the seeds are planted in front of our eyes, only camouflaged. It’s one that makes perfect sense given everything that’s set up. It’s one that adds layers and provides a new perspective. There is literally nothing in The Force Awakens nor The Last Jedi that even hints at Palpatine’s return. There’s nothing that hints at Snoke being Palpatine’s puppet.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is currently playing in Malaysian cinemas.