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Who Is Palpatine? The 'Star Wars' Original Bad Guy Returns for Episode IX

If you thought Game of Thrones was spoiler-phobic, you haven't seen anything yet. Star Wars practically invented the concept with the Darth Vader twist at the end of Empire Strikes Back. Heck, the Game of Thrones team learned their spoiler hiding tricks from the Star Wars production, which has kept the details of Episode IX so tightly under wraps, fans didn't even know the movie's title. It was finally revealed as part of the Star Wars Celebration panel this week, along with the new trailer, that showed the revival of an old character. Who is Palpatine? His return shocked fans to the core.

Star Wars has been bringing characters from the original movies back throughout this final trilogy. The Force Awakens brought in Harrison Ford only to kill him off, The Last Jedi did the same to Mark Hamill. Carrie Fisher starred in both the first two films and unused footage was used to complete her story arc in The Rise of Skywalker. But no one expected the series to bring back Palpatine, who was supposedly killed off at the end of Return of the Jedi.

And yet, that is unmistakably his laugh at the end of the trailer. Check it out.

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Palpatine was first introduced in Empire Strikes Back, the evil behind the evil, the "master" to who Darth Vader bent the knee. The prequels traced the character's rise, from a Senator in the Republic to seizing power and becoming Chancellor, to naming himself Emperor once the Republic had fallen.

His reign came to an end in Return of the Jedi, when the Emperor went too far. He summoned Luke, correctly realizing that as long as both father and son lived, his control over Darth Vader would not be complete. As he saw, it, this would be a win-win scenario. Either Darth would kill his son, and reaffirm his commitment to the Dark Side, or Luke would kill his father, and Palpatine would gain a new apprentice.

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Instead, Luke refused to do the Emperor's bidding, allowing Palpatine to kill him rather than turn to the Dark Side. But Anakin could not bear to sit by and watch his son die. Spurred to action by Luke's cries, he picked up Palpatine and threw him over the ledge, sending the evil old man to his death.

This marked the end of the redemption arc for Vader, allowing him to walk in the light with his Jedi brothers as a Force Ghost. However, fans have always wondered if Palpatine was really gone. (After all, if Yoda can appear as a Force Ghost, why not Palpatine?) There have even been theories that Snoke was really Palpatine in disguise or a puppet controlled from beyond the grave.

With the return of the character (and the appearance of Palpatine actor Ian McDiarmid at the Star Wars Celebration) these theories could turn out to have been right all along. Perhaps Kylo's turn to the Dark Side was never really his own choice.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker arrives in theaters on Dec. 20, 2019.