New Star Wars book plugs one of the big ‘Rise of Skywalker’ plot holes

How exactly did Emperor Sheev Palpatine show up in The Rise of Skywalker when any fan will tell you he plunged to his death in Return of the Jedi? The novelization has an answer, it turns out.

Look. It’s pretty widely acknowledged at this point that the latest Star Wars movie fell kind of short on the storytelling front. It’s a big, busy movie that exists to cap off a massive, nine-chapter saga. We were always going to be left with some unanswered questions.

This is a big one, though. When Kylo Ren makes his way to the stormy planet of Exegol and encounters the seemingly reborn Emperor, it’s never really explained how the elder Sith Lord … you know … survived. 

Palpatine does allude to the fact that he possesses “unnatural” abilities. And even before he’s introduced, a tracking shot floats slowly by some kind of tank filled with inert bodies that bear more than a passing resemblance to the late Supreme Leader Snoke. There’s some suggestion, at least, that cloning technology is at the fallen Emperor’s beck and call.

That, as it turns out, is indeed the answer.

The book version of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, written by Rae Carson, won’t be out until March 17. But early copies were on sale over the weekend at C2E2 in Chicago, and Screen Rant has confirmed that Carson’s expanded version of the movie’s story describes the reborn Emperor’s path back from being burnt to cinders in the fiery heart of a planet-killing superweapon.

Here’s a telling snippet:

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.

“What could you give me?” Kylo asked. 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.

For those who might not remember, our old friend Sheev knows plenty about clones. He was the one who engineered a plot to have Kamino build an army of militarized Jango Fetts to counter the Separatist threat (that he also ushered into being) in the Prequel Trilogy.

It’s not a stretch to imagine that the power-mad Sith Lord took note of the Kaminoan efforts and saw in the Republic’s clone army an opportunity to prolong his own existence. Given all that, of course he took some of that clone tech back to his secret lair, where his army of monkeyfaced aliens could bend it to the Emperor’s will.

“He’s a clone” twists don’t always feel like the most inspired creative choice, but it actually fits the character and his history here. The fact that the clone twist is further supported in the visual language of The Rise of Skywalker‘s first visit to Exegol (see: the Snoke tank) only reinforces the sense that Palpatine’s return as a rapidly decaying clone fits perfectly in the context of the larger story.

The problem is, the movie never really does a great job of explaining it, or plenty of other things. Plot holes abound in The Rise of Skywalker. So while yes, it’s easy to buy an Emperor Palpatine clone in hindsight, as explained by the book, it’s much more of a leap to make that assumption based on what’s in the movie. The only real hint that Emperor Cloney Boy isn’t the original Palpatine is the easily overlooked Snoke tank.

Kudos to Carson for taking the Rise of Skywalker story to places the movie didn’t bother to go. Who knows what other details we’ll unearth once the novelization arrives on March 17?

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