In a stunning move, it was confirmed at the panel for Episode IX that Ian McDiarmid is returning to the role of Sheev Palpatine for the final film of the Skywalker saga, The Rise of Skywalker.
That’s a pretty amazing and bold move, and director J.J. Abrams has spoken considerably about bringing back the character in the past 24 hours – including consulting with George Lucas. And it turns out that the decision was actually made quite a while ago.
If you’re one of those people who likes to criticize the sequel trilogy for not having a plan… you might want to stop reading right now.
Speaking with Yahoo’s Kevin Polowy, Lucasfilm President Kathy Kennedy was asked if this has been the plan since Episode VII. She responded: “This has been in the blueprint for a long time. Yeah. We had not landed on exactly how we might do that, but yes, it’s always to be [in Episode IX].”
As has always been the case, there has been some sort of a plan, but Lucasfilm has simply given their directors freedom to tell this general story. And it sounds like Palpatine’s return has always been intended to be in Episode IX.
Now, of course, it might be easy to assume that they’re just saying things currently regardless of whether it’s actually been planned all along. But I think there’s enough evidence to suggest that it actually has been in the plans. If you’ve kept up with the canon stories that have been told in the last several years, the seeds have been planted for some sort of return of the Emperor. It was told in such a way that Palpatine’s return didn’t have to happen, but at the same time leaving the door open if indeed Lucasfilm were to take that route. So in other words: this isn’t something that is suddenly announced and now has to be pushed in trying to make it fit; this is something that fits very naturally into what has been told, we’ll just now need additional details about how.
I also have plenty of questions, including how this was planned to interact with Snoke, and how much Rian Johnson was aware of this vision when he decided to kill Snoke, etc. But I’m sure in the coming months and years we’ll get more and more information. For now, Kathy Kennedy has struck a blow to the “sequel trilogy doesn’t have a plan!” crowd by saying that the plan all along was for Palpatine to return in the final film of the trilogy.