'Star Wars: Episode IX' Leaks Hint at Emperor Palpatine Cameo

Citing unspecified "leaks," the U.K. tabloid Daily Express writes Emperor Palpatine may appear in Star Wars: Episode IX, the upcoming sequel to Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

According to the Express, Episode IX includes a scene with Kylo Ren using his lightsaber to cut through a blast door "on some jungle planet." Inside is a vault, where Ren finds a "square object that projects a lifelike projection of Emperor Palpatine." The projection shows "blueprints or plans that could be a new weapon."

While we'll have to wait for the theatrical release of Episode IX to test its veracity, this supposed leak fits nicely with what we've learned about the Emperor since his enigmatic introduction in The Empire Strikes Back.

The first appearance of the Emperor in "Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back." Disney / Lucasfilm

Video game Star Wars: Battlefront II dramatizes Palpatine's plans for his Empire after his death, which amounted to self-destruction and pillaging. Just as in (now non-canonical) Extended Universe novels like Timothy Zahn's 1991 Heir to the Empire, Palpatine collects Force relics and hides them all over the galaxy. This makes him less of a political figure and more of a Force mystic —his reign mostly bent toward securing the future of the Sith Order.

One of the most important of Palpatine's secret hoards, described in C huck Wendig's series of Star Wars: Aftermath novels, was on the Plaintive Hand plateau of Jakku. There, Palpatine hid Sith relics and maps to the Unknown Regions, which Imperial remnants followed after the Empire's final downfall at the Battle of Jakku. It's in the Unknown Regions where Snoke gathered his fleet and established the First Order.

While the description of a jungle planet suggest Kylo Ren has found a different vault, the uncovering of Palpatine's secrets are likely to connect to Jakku, which was so central to his post-Imperial plans. Unless Ren is just there to pick up the blueprints for Death Star IV—this is a J.J. Abrams movie, after all—the return of Palpatine suggests Ren is in for a spiritual confrontation with Sith tradition, mirroring Rey's own grappling with the failure of the Jedi Order in The Last Jedi. Will Ren decide to plot a new course, or will he follow in Palpatine's footsteps?

Emperor Palpatine's appearance in Episode IX also lends credence to the popular fan theory that Rey is somehow related to the Emperor, though completely reversing course on The Last Jedi's reveal—Rey's parents are nobodies—seems too brazen a plot change to be all that likely.

The past looms over both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, as the galaxy suffers from choices made 30 years earlier. Assuming these leaks are accurate, it seems the same will be true of Episode IX, with the Emperor casting a shadow over Kylo Ren, just as Darth Vader does.

Star Wars: Episode IX is in theaters Dec. 20, 2019.