Star Wars’ Ian McDiarmid Defended Palpatine’s Return In The Rise Of Skywalker, And I Have Mixed Feelings

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Written By Maya Cantina

“Somehow, Palpatine has returned,” is a line of exposition delivered in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, one that’s been turned into countless memes and also received some eye rolls in theaters. That line, and the decision to resurrect Palpatine, is one that a number of moviegoers have taken umbrage with over the years. Actor Ian McDiarmid defended Palpatine’s return, and I’ve got mixed feelings.

The ending of The Rise of Skywalker completed the Skywalker Saga forever, so in some ways it makes sense that the overarching villain would be back. Still, Palpatine coming back from the dead cheapens his death in Return of the Jedi. The actor himself spoke to Empire about his surprise return to the galaxy far, far away, offering:

A lot of people said it was ridiculous. Of course, he was dead at the end of Return Of The Jedi! And frankly, I think George thought he’d killed me too. But J.J. thought it would be a good idea – I wasn’t going to argue with him. I felt that Palpatine always had a plan B – probably a plan C, D, E, and F as well. And he was an expert in cloning, so…

There you have it. While McDiarmid admitted that George Lucas probably didn’t intend for Palpatine to survive, the 79 year-old actor thinks its perfectly plausible for his strategic villain to have a cloning-related backup plan. We’ll just have to see if his words manage to win over any of the film’s naysayers. 

The Star Wars franchise, which is streaming with a Disney+ subscription, is known for having very passionate fans. So whatever J.J. Abrams landed on for The Rise of Skywalker, there was goin to be criticism. And the Palpatine plot twist took heat for a few reasons.

On top of Palpatine somehow being alive and the one pulling Snoke’s strings, Episode IX also revealed that Rey was his granddaughter. This seemed to be in direct juxtaposition with The Last Jedi‘s claim that she was actually “no one.” And in Rey’s final scene she claimed herself as a Skywalker. And these concepts definitely contributed to the reception about Palpatine’s survival. 

Later in that same interview, Ian McDiarmid revealed why she ultimately liked how Palpatine was brought back and utilized during The Rise of Skywalker. In his words:

The thing that I’m most pleased about, and you know, this only came to a head when they asked me to come back for The Rise Of Skywalker, is that every single evil act in all of the Star Wars franchise is either directly or indirectly down to that character. That is total evil, and that’s strangely satisfying as an arc. I do feel fortunate to have been able to do it – and other villains of cinema now have to compete with that.

I mean, I get it. This has only made his signature character all the more powerful… even if some fans don’t like the twist. But I’m still not totally sold.

It should be interesting to see how Palpatine’s legacy factors into upcoming Star Wars movies and TV shows. Particularly since Lucasfilm announced a new trilogy which includes a movie about Daisy Ridley’s Rey after the events of The Rise of Skywalker

It’s currently unclear when the Star Wars franchise will return to theaters, as we wait for the new trilogy (and Taika Waititi’s movie) to be developed. While we wait, check out the 2024 movie release dates to plan your next movie experience. 

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