'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker' Novel Confirms That the "New" Palpatine Was a Clone the Whole Time

It's no secret that Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker was one of the more divisive movies released in 2019. Moviegoers were split over the ending to the decades-long "Skywalker Saga," and whether the final film in the latest Star Wars trilogy represented a good time at the theater or a step backward for a franchise in desperate need of renovation. One particularly controversial story choice was the decision to bring back Emperor Palpatine, the "Big Bad" of the original trilogy, and make him the final enemy for the series' new generation of characters.

Aside from being a symbol of how self-referential Star Wars can often be, Palpatine's return also caught flack for the story logic—or rather, lack of it. How was a character who was very clearly killed in 1983's Return of the Jedi just suddenly back from the dead? Well, the soon-to-be released novelization of The Rise of Skywalker offers some clarity: The Palpatine in the latest Star Wars film is indeed a clone.

Set to hit shelves on March 17, author Rae Carson's novelization provides some extra context to an early scene from Skywalker, in which Kylo Ren first encounters the resurrected Palpatine in a laboratory-like setting.

"All the vials were empty of liquid save one, which was nearly depleted," reads one section of the book, as shared by Screen Rant. "Kylo peered closer. He'd seen this apparatus before, too, when he'd studied the Clone Wars as a boy. The liquid flowing into the living nightmare before him was fighting a losing battle to sustain the Emperor's putrid flesh."

The novel continues: "Emperor Palpatine lived, after a fashion, and Kylo could feel in his very bones that this clone body sheltered the Emperor's actual spirit. It was an imperfect vessel, though, unable to contain his immense power. It couldn't last much longer."

So that (sort of) explains how Palpatine makes his comeback, and why he looks to be decaying all throughout the big-screen version of Skywalker. Regardless of the screenplay's murkiness, the character's reveal shouldn't have come as a surprise to anyone who paid attention to trailers for The Rise of Skywalker: The Emperor's signature cackle could be heard at the very end of one of the blockbuster's previews.

Emperor Palpatine in 'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker' Lucasfilm / Disney

In a 2019 interview with Uproxx, director J.J. Abrams explained why he decided to revive the cloaked villain, saying he thought it would provide more meaningful resolution to the main nine films that provide the spine of the Star Wars story.

"Well, when you look at this as nine chapters of a story, perhaps the weirder thing would be if Palpatine didn't return," Abrams explained. "You just look at what he talks about, who he is, how important he is, what the story is—strangely, his absence entirely from the third trilogy would be conspicuous. It would be very weird."

Whether or not Palpatine's return was a good idea will be argued over for years to come, but at least the novel gives a more definitive answer as to how he returned for one final battle.