J.J. Abrams Intended To Bring The Emperor Back To 'Star Wars' Since 'The Force Awakens'

When the first trailer for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker debuted during Star Wars Celebration this past spring, fans went absolutely nuts when the return of Emperor Palpatine was teased with his signature evil laugh. But many wondered exactly how the villain would be returning after being chucked down a reactor shaft by Darth Vader. And why was he suddenly returning after seemingly having no presence in the first two installments of the new trilogy? Well, those answers could be coming, because director J.J. Abrams says the Emperor returning in The Rise of Skywalker has been planned since The Force Awakens.

J.J. Abrams sat down with Uproxx and directly talked about bringing back Ian McDiarmid as Emperor Palpatine, the Sith Lord who manipulated Anakin Skywalker into Darth Vader while also secretly controlling the Republic as a senator and then as chancellor. In fact, Abrams argues that it would have be strange if the Emperor wasn't part of this final trilogy. The director said:

"Well, when you look at this as nine chapters of a story, perhaps the weirder thing would be if Palpatine didn't return. 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. That's not to say there was a bible and we knew what happens at every step. But when Larry Kasdan and I worked on The Force Awakens, we didn't do it in a vacuum. We very purposely looked at what came before. We chose to tell a story that touches upon specific things and themes and ideas that we've seen before, to begin a new story. But we examined all that came before to ask where does this feel like it's going? So there were discussions about that at the time. Yet, like any beginning, you want to put the threads in, but you don't want to necessarily be literal about *everything*."

That would imply that while there are no overt hints of the Emperor still being alive during the events of this new trilogy, perhaps he's still somehow pulling the strings. After all, the voiceover in the trailer has the Emperor saying, "Your coming together will be your undoing." It's as if this is something he's been waiting for in the wings this whole time.

Abrams also doubled down on the fact that nothing that happened in The Last Jedi derailed anything that Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan thought about for the future. He elaborated:

"When Rian was brought on to do The Last Jedi, we met and we talked about things and he wrote his story. And when I read it the script, I realized this didn't get in the way of anything Larry and I talked about that I thought I'd get to. There were some very specific things we did get to do in this movie that we were laughing and going, "Oh my god, we're finally doing that thing we talked about five years ago.'"

The return of Emperor Palaptine also has fans wondering exactly what the purpose of Supreme Leader Snoke was if not the new man behind all this villainy. Was he just a puppet of the Emperor? Will The Rise of Skywalker address his role in all this beyond being a plot device that allowed Kylo Ren to become the master of his own destiny? Abrams is much more vague about that, but he does seem to hint at some kind of explanation:

"I will say, without giving anything away, knowing this movie is an ending is, for me, infinitely more challenging than a beginning. We knew we needed to provide answers. And while there may be some things that aren't entirely demystified by the end of it, we wanted to make sure people left feeling that they were satisfied. So I hope, on a number of issues, people will leave and feel like that it's a true ending and not an advertising ploy. We really are bringing it to an end."

That's more of a non-answer than anything, but surely there will be plenty of exposition explaining how the Emperor is still alive. Whether or not that includes any sort of reference to Snoke will likely only be revealed once we see the movie in theaters starting on December 20, 2019.