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Star Wars: Everything Palpatine Did Between Return Of The Jedi & Rise Of Skywalker


  • Palpatiine’s death led to Operation: Cinder, which devastated the galaxy and reduced the Imperial Remant to the most fanatical.
  • These fanatics were able to resurrect the Emperor through cloning technology.
  • The Emperor then set his plans in motion, bringing about the rise of the First Order and the fall of Ben Solo.

Emperor Palpatine died in Return of the Jedi but somehow returned in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, creating a significant gap in the Star Wars timeline. Between the end of the Galactic Civil War and the rise of the First Order, Palpatine had 30 years to plot revenge, but most of this history was brushed over in the movies. Since The Rise of Skywalker‘s release, the Star Wars books, comics, and video games have revealed more about Palpatine’s actions after the original trilogy.

These stories explain how Palpatine survived his defeat in Return of the Jedi and how he was the mastermind behind the First Order. It creates a fascinating account of the Emperor’s return to power between the Star Wars trilogies that may be explored further. While there are more details to be fleshed out, Star Wars has revealed quite a bit about what Palpatine did between Return of the Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker.


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8 Palpatine’s “Death” Unleashed Operation: Cinder

The Empire launched devastating attacks across the galaxy

  • Told in Star Wars: Battlefront II and Chuck Wendig’s “Aftermath” trillogy

With Palpatine’s “death” and the Rebellion’s victory at the Battle of Endor, the Empire began to crumble as worlds rebelled across the galaxy. However, Palpatine’s protégé Gallius Rax initiated the Contingency, which was designed to destroy the Empire for failing to protect its Emperor. The Contingency began with Palpatine’s Operation: Cinder, which scorched the surface of countless worlds, rebel and Imperial alike.

Operation: Cinder came to a head in the Battle of Jakku, a planet the Emperor had secretly turned into a gigantic bomb. Palpatine – who had always planned to be resurrected – wanted this to wipe out all potential opposition, whether from the rebels or rival Imperial warlords. New Republic forces successfully prevented Jakku’s detonation, and the Empire was defeated. Imperial Remnant forces under the leadership of Grand Admiral Rae Slone fled into the Unknown Regions.

Like many of Palpatine’s plans, there were many aspects to Operation: Cinder. The worlds targeted by Palpatine’s forces included those on which he’d situated some of his most valuable facilities, and he hoped to ensure his enemies would be unable to obtain information from them. Meanwhile, the various acts of genocide meant the remaining Imperials were the most fanatical and inhuman – and the most dedicated to Palpatine’s return.

7 Palpatine’s Spirit Was Transferred Into A Clone Body

Palpatine’s Resurrection Ahead of Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker

  • Currently being explored in The Mandalorian era

As seen in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Palpatine’s spirit was transferred into a clone body. It was initially believed he did this immediately after the events of Return of the Jedi, but the truth has gradually been revealed; the cloning project had stalled during the Dark Times of the Empire’s reign, and the so-called Project Necromancer resumed after Palpatine’s death. The Emperor was resurrected over five years after his death, and the experiment was only partially successful, leaving Palpatine stranded in a feeble clone body and dependent on constant life support.

This was also how Palpatine survived in the Legends continuity, as seen in
Star Wars: Dark Empire
by Tom Veitch and Cam Kennedy.

Palpatiine had always envisioned Exegol as his ultimate base of operations, but the failed cloning meant he became stranded on the ancient Sith redoubt. He was forced to resort to more complicated schemes to control the remnants of his Empire, playing the long game. All the time, though, he would always be watching for another potential host body for his spirit.

6 Palpatine Oversaw The Construction Of The Final Order Fleet On Exegol

The Final Order fleet would be unveiled in The Rise of Skywalker

  • Told in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

While the First Order prepared to reclaim the galaxy one day, Palpatine oversaw the construction of his own fleet. The Sith Eternal spent decades building a fleet of 10,000 Star Destroyers, each capable of destroying an entire planet. Palpatine called this fleet the “Final Order” and waited until the time was right to offer it to the First Order.

Palpatine began constructing the Final Order fleet before
Return of the Jedi
, as seen in
Star Wars: Darth Vader
(2020) #11 by Greg Pak.

There’s a sense in which the construction of the Final Order fleet was the grandest Imperial project of all. Each Xyston-class Star Destroyer was armed with Death Star technology, crewed by cultists the Emperor had corrupted into serving him. The Emperor sought to create a fleet vast and powerful enough to tame the entire galaxy; it would take far more than one shot to destroy this fleet of superweapons.

5 Palpatine Controlled The First Order Through Snoke And Other Agents

Snoke was nothing but a puppet

  • Told in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, with important clues in Charles Soule & Will Sliney’s The Rise of Kylo Ren

Most of the First Order had no idea that Palpatine was alive, but the Emperor ensured they followed his will. Most of the First Order’s top-ranking leadership was eliminated and replaced by Supreme Leader Snoke, whom Palpatine had created on Exegol. Snoke may not have known that he was a puppet, but many of Palpatine’s servants from the Galactic Civil War continued to serve him from within the First Order. The most notable was Allegiant General Pryde, who took over after Ben Solo returned to the light, combining the First and Final Order forces for a final assault on the galaxy.

Snoke’s work brought him into contact with Luke Skywalker, and the strandcast clone was badly injured by the encounter. It seems as though the Jedi Master saw hints of the dark side ascending, and was working against Palpatine the whole time. The Emperor grew to fear Luke Skywalker.

4 One Of Palpatine’s Clones Became His “Son” Dathan

Rey never truly knew her parents – only experiencing visions through the Force

  • Told in Adam Christopher’s Shadow of the Sith

As Palpatine continued creating new clones, one of them became his “son” Dathan. Palpatine and the Sith Eternal viewed Dathan as “the Abomination” because he wasn’t Force-sensitive, but he was allowed to live as a potential replacement body. Dathan came to resent his “father” and the ways of the Sith, dreaming of a life beyond the dreary nightmare of Exegol.


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Dathan eventually escaped Exegol to make a life of his own and met a young woman named Miramir. The two fell in love, married, and had a daughter named Rey, but they knew she would never be safe if Palpatine learned of her existence. They remained on the move throughout Rey’s childhood, not trusting anyone with the secret of her lineage.

3 Palpatine Sent Ochi Of Bestoon To Capture His Granddaughter Rey

The Sith assassin named Ochi of Bestoon pursued Rey

  • Told in Adam Christopher’s Shadow of the Sith

Sadly, Dathan and Miramir couldn’t keep Rey’s existence a secret from Palpatine, and her Force-sensitivity made her a perfect candidate for transferring his spirit. Palpatine sent Ochi of Bestoon to hunt Rey and bring her to Exegol, but Dathan and Miramir left her on Jakku and fled the planet to keep Ochi off her trail. After they refused to tell Ochi where Rey was, Palpatine gave the order to have them executed, leaving Rey waiting on Jakku for a family that would never come back. When Ochi was killed on Pasaana, Palpatine lost any chance of finding Rey and using her as his dark vessel.

This likely does not mean the Emperor forgot about hsi granddaughter, however. It’s entirely possible he had agents scouring the galaxy for her, but none would have thought of heading to the junkyard planet of Jakku. Rey’s parents had saved her life by leaving her in such an unlikely location.

2 Palpatine Distracted Luke Skywalker From Finding Exegol

The Emperor feared Luke Skywalker

Star Wars Shadow of the Sith cover art depicting Luke Skywalker and Lando

  • Told in Adam Christopher’s Shadow of the Sith

Luke Skywalker sensed great darkness rising in the galaxy, and he recruited Lando Calrissian to help him track down Ochi. Palpatine knew he had to distract Luke from finding Exegol, so he made Luke think he had fought and destroyed an ancient Sith spirit. Luke and Lando followed Ochi to Pasaana but couldn’t find him, causing the trail to go cold in the mystery of the Sith.

It’s fascinating to note the lengths Palpatine took to keep Luke Skywalker off his trail. The Emperor knew he was more vulnerable than ever before, stranded within a failed clone body, and he could not afford a confrontation with the Jedi. Luke had foiled his plans before, and he couldn’t risk him doing so again.

Buy Shadow of the Sith from Amazon

1 Palpatine Seduced Ben Solo To The Dark Side

Ben Solo fell prey to the Emperor

  • Told in Charles Soule and Will Sliney’s The Rise of Kylo Ren

Palpatine wasn’t content to distract Luke, seeking revenge against those who had defeated him. Palpatine seduced Ben Solo to the dark side through Snoke and later projected Darth Vader’s voice into his head to make him think his grandfather guided him. This destroyed Luke’s New Jedi Order, led to his exile, and ensured that Han Solo and Leia Organa’s marriage fell apart. Palpatine had set all the pieces in place for revenge on the galaxy and the rise of a New Empire stronger than the old.

The Fiirst Order emerged shortly afterwards, establishing itself as a political and military power under the command of Supreme Leader Snoke. Ben Solo became Kylo Ren, taking his place as Snoke’s apprentice. The pieces were finally set in place for the Star Wars sequel trilogy.

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