Written by robotical712, the views expressed our my own.
Emperor Palpatine is the central villain of the Saga and franchise. He masterminded the fall of the Republic and established the Empire, yet this was only the beginning of his long term plans. Plans for which even death was only a temporary setback.
- The Nature of the Force and Balance
- The Plans of Emperor Palpatine <
Prior to The Last Jedi, I had crafted a detailed theory for the events leading up to the Sequel Trilogy. Aside from Ben’s fall, TLJ did little to confirm or break most of the ideas contained in the theory. However, since the movie came out, plenty of new information has become available and the movie itself does contain some subtle hints to build on.
In the following series, I will be going through the theory top to bottom, updating and expanding it with new information and ideas. The theory is meant to cover the overall narrative LFL is building and I do not expect all or even most of it to be covered in The Rise of Skywalker. As most of what happens traces back to Palpatine and the The Rise of Skywalker teaser makes it clear he is still very much a presence in the Sequel Trilogy, the series will start with him.
Pre-TLJ Background Theory: Evaluation
The Palpatine sections of my theory have held up remarkably well. Although I did not anticipate Palpatine himself potentially coming back (an idea I have some trepidation over), my instinct that he is the main catalyst for the Sequel Trilogy and the Saga in general appears to be well founded.
Whereas most people focused on Snoke as an even greater villain than Palpatine, I theorized he was in fact an acolyte carrying out Palpatine’s long term plans in his absence. While this has yet to be confirmed, the chances of it look very good. Palpatine’s interest in Force Sensitive children continues apace as the Vader 2017 comic illustrated and I still anticipate Palpatine is building a Force sensitive cadre utterly loyal to him (as hinted at in The Clone Wars).
Quite a bit has been added to the plot thread of Palpatine’s pursuance of becoming a living god in the last year and a half. In Rebels, there was the Lothal temple that led to the World Between Worlds. In the Vader 2017 comic, Palpatine was depicted collecting and studying Force related artifacts from across the galaxy and Vader plumbed the dark side looking for a way to resurrect Padme (further explored in Vader Immortal). However, there was little new information to support or discredit my theory he was after something far more dangerous and ancient in the Unknown Regions. Until the last few months, that is.
A Living God
Subverting the Republic and wiping out the Jedi stand as incredible achievements on their own, but they were but a stepping stone for the new Emperor. His goals went well beyond physical control of the galaxy. Only complete control over reality and the Force itself would satisfy Darth Sidious:
And he would not allow himself to be sidetracked from his goal of unlocking the secrets many of the Sith Masters before him had sought: the means to harness the powers of the dark side to reshape reality itself; in effect, to fashion a universe of his own creation. Not mere immortality of the sort Plagueis had lusted after, but influence of the ultimate sort.Luceno, James. Star Wars: Tarkin (Kindle Locations 4579-4582).
While Palpatine was working towards this goal even before the fall of the Republic, the Jakku Observatory was built prior to the Clone Wars for example, unopposed rule allowed him to focus fully on it. Before the bodies of the slain Jedi had even cooled, Imperial forces had set about gathering and cataloguing every artifact before shipping it to Coruscant or other repositories. The one setback was Jocasta Nu’s successful purge of the entire Jedi library.
Even the Death Star itself was meant to cow the galaxy to free the Emperor from needing to devote attention to securing his rule. Sidious excavated the ancient Sith Temple located beneath the Jedi Temple and spent as much time as he could to meditating within it:
Save for Sidious, no sentient being in close to five thousand years had set foot in the shrine. The room’s excavation and restoration had been carried out by machines under the supervision of 11-4D.Tarkin (p. 125) .
Corrupting the Chosen One, Anakin, was a key part of achieving the Emperor’s goals:
Even Vader was unaware of the shrine’s existence. But it was here that they would one day work together the way Sidious and Plagueis had to coax from the dark side its final secrets. In the intervening years he had actually come to appreciate Plagueis for the planner and prophet he had been. Such perilous machinations required two Sith, one to serve as bait for the dark side, the other to be the vessel. Success would grant them the power to harness the full powers of the dark side, and allow them to rule for ten thousand years.Tarkin (p. 125).
Yet it’s not clear how the Emperor ultimately intended to use Vader. What does it mean for one Sith to serve as bait for the dark side and the other to be the vessel? Was Vader to be the vessel or the bait? Did the Emperor attempt these machinations prior to his death? Why did the Emperor risk replacing Vader with Luke? All important questions to explore.1
An Unholy Grail
The Unknown Regions are a large contiguous unexplored region of the galaxy. They are not simply a region of space galactic civilization hasn’t had time to explore yet, but a dangerous maelstrom:
For decades, these computers have been plotting a journey. Outside the known galaxy is an unexplored infinity, Palpatine explained, one closed off by a labyrinth of solar storms, rogue magnetospheres, black holes, gravity wells, and things far stranger. Any who tried to conquer that maze did not survive. The ships were obliterated, or returned to the galaxy devoid of travelers. Communications from those explorers were incomprehensible, either shot through with such static as to make the content useless, or filled with enough inane babble to serve as a perfectly clear sign that the explorer had gone utterly mad out there in isolation.Wendig, Chuck. Empire’s End: Aftermath. Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
As further discussed in Thrawn: Alliances, the Unknown Regions are virtually unnavigable by ordinary means. Hyperlanes are highly unstable and those that were usable once before, cannot be counted on to remain so. Yet the Emperor believed there was something worth reaching even before becoming the Emperor and had an observatory built on Jakku with the task of finding a way through the chaos:
The computers here have long been searching for a way through the storms and the black spaces. Slowly, surely, they have been putting together a map: a journey into chaos. The Empire has sent probe droids to test the computations as the computers have made them.Empire’s End
Just what was the Emperor searching for? Although there has yet to be a clear description of what’s worth the trouble of traversing the Unknown Regions, there have been a number of hints:
“No Sith remain,” Tashu says. “And the lone Jedi that exists-the son of Anakin Skywalker-possesses an untouchable soul. At least for now. We must instead move toward the dark side. Palpatine felt that the universe beyond the edges of our maps was where his power came from. Over the many years he, with our aid, sent men and women beyond known space. They built labs and communication stations on distant moons, asteroids, out there in the wilds. We must follow them. Retreat from the galaxy. Go out beyond the veil of stars. We must seek the source of the dark side like a man looking for a wellspring of water.Star Wars: Aftermath Pg. 114
For decades, these computers have been plotting a journey. Outside the known galaxy is an unexplored infinity, Palpatine explained, one closed off by a labyrinth of solar storms, rogue magnetospheres, black holes, gravity wells, and things far stranger.Star Wars: Empire’s End. Kindle Locations 5961-5962
Palpatine said that this galaxy was to be his, but that it was only one among many. Again that phrase arose: the unexplored infinity. This, he noted, was his demesne. The galaxy was his game board.Star Wars: Empire’s End. Kindle Locations 5967-5969.
From these passages, we can surmise the Emperor is looking not to simply control the galaxy, but all in existence! If he had not been stopped at Endor, it appears there would have been little stopping him. Further, by finding the ‘source of the dark side’ it’s probable he believed he could unlock the remaining mysteries of the Force and gain dominion over it as hinted in the Tarkin excerpt. While gaining access to the World Between Worlds via the Lothal temple would have been useful, it was ultimately unnecessary to Palpatine’s plans.2
A Glimpse of Hell
Palpatine appears to believe the dark side emanates from an actual location. This seems to stand in stark contrast to how the Force in general has been described wherein life creates it and it permeates the entire galaxy. As my previous exploration of the how the dark side has been portrayed in the franchise, this does not seem compatible with the concept of the dark side as a natural side of the Force. Yet, it has been described with both natural and unnatural terms.
To rectify this contradiction, I theorize the ‘dark side’ is in fact being used to describe two separate concepts. There is the natural ‘dark side’, which is simply the light’s opposite and then the unnatural, which is a wound in the Force. I further theorize this wound was created in the distant past and the state of the Unknown Regions are likely a byproduct. As the Unknown Regions appear to have been more or less stable, it would seem the corruption caused by the wound was somehow stopped, but not reversed. Unfortunately, the taint on the Force caused by the wound remained and can quickly corrupt anyone foolish enough to use the dark side.3
Past is Prologue
“The danger of the past is not past, but sleeps in an egg. When the egg cracks, it will threaten the galaxy entire.
-Ancient ProphecyGray, Claudia. Master and Apprentice. Pg 133.
While Palpatine may have lost Vader and failed to corrupt his son, a third generation of Skywalkers provides a fresh opportunity:
Snoke demurred. “It is far more than that. It is where you are from. What you are made of. The dark side-and the light. The finest sculptor cannot fashion a masterpiece from poor materials. He must have something pure, something strong, something unbreakable, with which to work. I have-you.” He paused, reminiscing.TFA Novelization
The egg spoken of in the prophecy above may be very close to cracking indeed.
Next: In the Beginning – An exploration of what we know about the distant past through the waning years of the Galactic Republic.
- The Sith Temple below the Jedi Temple is the first mention of the Emperor keeping things from Vader, but it is by no means the last. This will come up again later in the series.
- According to Empire’s End, the computers finished their work just before Endor. It’s very interesting to consider the Emperor still risked turning Luke. More on this later.
- As discussed in An Examination of the Dark Side of the Force, the rapid and dramatic changes in personality of those who fall to the dark side further suggest there’s something unnatural at work.
- An intriguing possibility is Palpatine was deliberately strengthening the dark side by fomenting as much corruption and chaos as possible. The Empire was definitely structured to favor the most unscrupulous and greedy individuals, which allowed the underworld to reach unprecedented heights.
- It’s possible the dark side well on Mortis is actually a representation of the wound in the Force. No equivalent appears to exist for the light.
There is additional circumstantial evidence that the Unknown Regions have not always been so unknown or difficult to navigate:
- The Unknown Regions is contiguous and covers a vast area of the galaxy. It’s far too large to be explained by normal phenomena.
- The Jedi had ancient maps of the Unknown Regions deep within their archives at the Temple on Coruscant (Right).
- Illum was located in the Unknown Regions.
- Jedha, a major location for many Force based religions and once the seat of the Jedi Order itself borders the Unknown Regions.
The rumor in Rey’s Survival Guide that there was a storehouse on Jakku holding artifacts from ancient civilizations.