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Why the Emperor Palpatine Reveal Is Particularly Bad For Star Wars

Also bad for: my nightmares!

Emperor Palpatine

“The Dead has an ‘O’ Face!”

Guys. We need to talk about The Rise of Skywalker and a disturbing trend I’m starting to notice amongst some of our beloved franchises. But first, SPOILER WARNING: turn back now if you haven’t seen it yet and have somehow managed to dodge every other spoiler about the final installment of J.J. Abram’s Star Wars trilogy.

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Now that that warning is out of the way it’s time to talk about the reveal of Rey of being a Palpatine. Because “the dead speak” but they also have a hidden, normal-seeming child – which also must mean that at some point they also had a secret wife and/or baby mama. Basically, Palpatine fucks. Or at least, fucked once.

And before people jump straight to “but clones!” or “but midichlorians!” we are going to look at the scenes and images presented to us by Abrams. Yes, Palpatine does have cloning technology (something the empire has had access to since Episode II) and used it to create Snoke, but the man we see playing Rey’s father in her flashbacks is not a clone. He looks nothing like even the middle-aged Palpatine that we meet in the prequels. Not to mention the fact that ol’ Palpy would never have created a clone of himself. He hates threats to his power and what could be more threatening to him than another him? Someone not only strong in the dark side of the force, but intelligent, ruthless, cunning, and full of ambition? That is simply not a risk he would take.

As for midichlorians, Lucas’ magic force sperm only crops up because Lucas was trying to create a Star Wars analogy to Jesus to twist, and they would still require a female human vessel to impregnate. Also, whatever baby they created would not have Palpatine’s DNA and so he would not be able to claim any progeny it created as his own. So no midichlorians. We just have to accept that Abrams wants us to picture Palps boning down. (And turn Rey into a LITERAL Mary Sue trope in the process, thanks for that Abes.)

Which is a problem, not just for this trilogy, but for the way it retcons the entire franchise. The nature of the Sith master/apprentice relationship is already meant to parallel a toxic parent/child dynamic. Why would a Sith ever choose an apprentice that was not their own flesh and blood if they had children of their own to mold and manipulate? And when was Palpatine supposed to have had this secret wife/baby mama/one night stand? Judging loosely by the ages of Rey and Kylo (who are supposed to be around the same age) and the flashbacks to Rey’s parents it would seem that her parents are of … Luke, Leia, and Han’s generation? Which means that we are supposed to believe post-disfigurement Original Trilogy Palpatine had a lover and kid stashed somewhere?? Again, why would he waste any time on Darth Vader (except maybe as a placeholder) if he had his own child waiting in the wings?

If anything, the only semi-logical time for Palpatine to have a family would have been in the prequels when he was still posing as a senator. But for that to work Rey would have needed to be much older now, or if she was a great-grandchild of his, that means he somehow made a top-secret family with children and grandchildren that no one ever found out about. A top-secret family that somehow messed up its indoctrination of his grandson who escapes with baby Rey.

There’s also the Nightsisters (if you’re a Clone Wars fan) but ain’t no way they are producing a normal baby, plus they tend to only mess around with the Dathomirian race. But you see what I’m getting at here.

To jump to another beloved franchise for a moment, I couldn’t help but think of the reveal at the end of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child that notoriously and explicitly asexual Voldemort had a child with Bellatrix Lestrange. Another lazy retcon decision that weakens the entire preceding series of work. Voldemort was not interested in sex. He was not interested in creating a family line. His whole thing was that HE WANTED TO LIVE FOREVER. He wouldn’t have created children because he didn’t see a need for them since he didn’t plan on going anywhere. Plus any child he created he would have also seen as a threat, and we have already seen what he does to babies he thinks are threats. In fact, that is the prompt for the entire series of books: Voldemort tries to kill a baby to eradicate a threat to himself.

And the reason for all of this retconning? Laziness. Pure and simple. Why create a new “Big Bad” when you can just resurrect a tried and true one? Why have your characters evolve when you can just make them repeat the same battles and make the same mistakes over and over again? Why tell a new story when you know at least half your audience will be fine with seeing what is already familiar? Who cares if it creates massive plot holes and weakens forty plus years of previously established story? This is your sandbox now baby! And if you want to make your Palpatine doll make wookiee with a random barbie doll then that’s your prerogative! But it doesn’t make for good storytelling.

(Photo: Lucasfilms/Disney)

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Brittany Knupper
Brittany is a lifelong Californian (it's a big state, she can't find her way out!) who currently resides in sunny Los Angeles with her gigantic, vaguely cat-shaped companion Gus. If you stumble upon her she might begin proselytizing about Survivor, but give her an iced coffee and she will calm down.

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