Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker is considered by many to be the weakest link of the sequel trilogy. While it does have its defenders, it was a very polarizing film for more reasons than one.
Perhaps the single biggest question that left audiences without an answer is that of Darth Sidious’ resurrection. Outside of a line of dialogue calling back to Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith, “The Dark Side is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be…unnatural,” and the newly revealed truth of Supreme Leader Snoke’s origin, little to no other information was given to the audience in regards to Sheev Palpatine’s return.
As a result, fans were left with two options. They could either accept that Palpatine had told Anakin that he figured out how to cheat death all the way back in Episode III and that he figured out how to clone force-sensitives at some point, The Force Unleashed II style, or they could fire up the grill and get some fan theories cooking. While both options were indulged by many, sometimes at the same time, the explicit truth of the matter remained a mystery until Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker novelization was released.
Star Wars Fan Theories: Sith Essence Transfer
One of the most popular fan theories about Palpatine in The Rise Of Skywalker hinges on his declaration that “I am all the Sith!” While this always read as prideful boasting and intimidation tactics to me, some fans took this statement a little more seriously.
The basic thought process here is that Palpatine was literally “all the Sith,” the latest in a long line of shells housing an amalgamation of all (most) of the Sith. The introduction of a technique known as the “Essence Transfer” made this a possibility and radically changed what we thought we knew about the rule of two… Before the novelization was released, but we’ll get to that in a second.
Essence Transfer allows a Sith on the brink of death to transfer their spirit into a nearby object or person, hence why Palpatine could have used Rey as a vessel and why the ancient Sith Lord Momin possessed his mask in Charles Soule’s Darth Vader run. If a Sith could transfer their essence, perhaps that’s what the rule of two was truly intended for.
Hypothetically, Darth Bane could have achieved immortality by assimilating into his apprentice, who became one with their apprentice, and so on and so forth. This would have even meant that Darth Sidious was Darth Plagueis all along, which was a particularly tantalizing tidbit of speculation for fans, and made Sidious’ telling of The Tragedy of Darth Plagueis The Wise to Anakin extremely ironic.
Unfortunately, the following excerpt from the novelization explicitly debunks this theory, although it still does alter that iconic Revenge Of The Sith scene, albeit in a very different way.
“Falling… down a massive shaft, the betrayal sharp and stinging, a figure high above, black clad and helmeted and shrinking fast. His very own apprentice had turned against him, the way he himself had turned against Plagueis… whose secret to immortality he had stolen.
Plagueis had not acted fast enough in his own moment of death. But Sidious, sensing the flickering light in his apprentice, had been ready for years. So the falling, dying Emperor called on all the dark power of the Force to thrust his consciousness far, far away to a secret place he had been preparing. His body was dead, an empty vessel, long before it found the bottom of the shaft, and his mind jolted to new awareness in a new body – a painful one, a temporary one.”
Well, there you have it. “Plagueis had not acted fast enough in his own moment of death.” That means that if this process of combining Sith Lords through the power of Essence Transfer had occured in the past, it ended with Plagueis, who definitively and canonically fell at the hands of Sheev Palpatine.
In my humble opinion, this development is for the best. While the idea that each Sith contains within them the souls of their deceased brethren is certainly an interesting one, it fundamentally changes how we would perceive many of the villains in this beloved franchise, and retcons are always risky business.
While the debunking of this theory does mean that Palpatine was telling the truth to Anakin about his former master, the reason for telling him the story in the first place is quite different now.
Before the Star Wars sequel trilogy saw the revival of Darth Palpatine, fans often debated whether or not Plagueis was lying to Anakin about being able to save those he loved from death. Certain fans of the old Expanded Universe claimed that he was telling the truth, other fans argued that Palpatine must have been lying or he would not have perished with such finality in Return Of The Jedi.
The new Disney Canon shows us that Darth Palpatine learned how to resurrect himself through the Sith Essence Transfer, but we never see him prevent another’s death. Classic Sheev. Realizing this, we can logically infer that he was lying to Anakin when he promised him that he could learn the power to save Padme from death. He simply used this entirely false promise as one of many tools in his quest to gain Anakin Skywalker as his apprentice.
Why Palpatine didn’t suggest something as seemingly simple as force healing is a question for another article. Outside of Force Healing between two individuals who are a Dyad in the Force, the only canonical way to escape death in the Star Wars universe is through a Sith Essence Transfer. Anakin never had a chance to save Padme through Palpatine’s tutelage, which is tragic if not shocking.
What do you think about the novelization of Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker? Are you sad that your favorite Plagueis theory got debunked? Let us know in the comments below and on our social media pages!