Rae Carson’s novelization for The Rise of Skywalker officially releases on March 17, but parts of it have hit the internet early.
Included in that was the big but not crazy reveal that Palpatine’s spirit occupied a clone body in the film. That meant that there were two clones in the film (in Palpatine and Snoke)… but it turns out there was a third.
The novelization apparently reveals that Palpatine’s son was a clone.
Posted to the Star Wars Leaks subreddit, we read this excerpt from the book:
“The heretics of the Sith Eternal toiled, splicing genes, bolstering tissue, creating unnatural abominations in the hope that one of these strandcasts would succeed and become a worthy receptacle. The heretics would do anything, risk anything, sacrifice anything, to create a cradle for their god-consciousness.
“Nothing worked. But their efforts were not entirely in vain.
“One genetic strandcast lived. Thrived, even. A not-quite-identical clone. His “son.” But he was a useless, powerless failure. Palpatine could not even bear to look upon such disappointing ordinariness.
“The boy’s only worth would lay in continuing the bloodline through more natural methods.”
While I have yet to read the novel, it basically sounds like this: Palpatine wanted to create a clone body, which he would be able to project his spirit to before dying. And that’s what he did: as he fell down the Death Star reactor shaft, he flung his spirit to a distant clone. In this process, however, things didn’t go smoothly, which left him weak and damaged.
But anyway, as the Sith Eternal explored creating a clone for Palpatine, they produced one that survived. He wasn’t an identical clone, and Palpatine disowned him, but this “son” went on to father a girl named Rey. So technically Palpatine indeed is Rey’s grandfather (in the same way we’d consider Jango Fett the grandfather of Boba’s child, if that had happened), but not how we imagined it.
This one is quite surprising. Whereas the Palpatine clone reveal was mentioned as a possibility in the film and not all that unexpected, this one seemingly has come from out of nowhere. That doesn’t make it inherently bad, but it’s a shock. It answers the question of who Palpatine would have hooked up with, but creates more questions, specifically in regards to how Rey fits in to this whole picture.
I think your reaction to this really probably just comes down to what you think about cloning in general. I’m not a big fan of it overall, which is why this latest reveal leaves me a bit conflicted, but I do think it’s a good and interesting answer as to how Palpatine returned. In order to have a clone of Palpatine, they surely would have had to make several tries, and if one of those tries survived, it could be considered a son. And so in that regard, I think I’m fine with Palpatine’s son being a clone too. A lot of it will just depend on what future storytellers do with all of this information.
For example (and I’m really venturing into full-on speculation here), I wonder if both Snoke and Palpatine’s son were ‘failed’ clone attempts of Palpatine? The novel mentions that the Sith Eternal (whom we know created Snoke) made “unnatural abominations” (which would fit with Snoke’s species being unidentifiable in-universe) in the hope that one of them would be an acceptable clone for Palpatine. Perhaps one of those abominations turned out to possess Force sensitivity, so they used him as a vessel for their own nefarious purposes with Ben Solo? In a similar way, Palpatine’s son seems like he wasn’t Force sensitive (since Palpatine views him as useless), but his purpose is to carry on a natural bloodline, which Sheev never did. Put into the hands of the right storyteller, I think that this could turn into a really fascinating topic and story to tell. In fact, it’s possible one could even tie in things from the Clone Wars era (since obviously cloning was a big part of things), or even The Mandalorian (since the Imperial remnants want the Child for something, and many assumed it was something to do with trying to clone/replicate midichlorians).
All I’m saying is that the options are pretty open as to where the storytelling can go from here, and like Star Wars has always done, future stories can make something a bit curious at this moment seem awesome later. There’s enough already, however, that I can say I’m interested in and surprised by this direction, but I think it does make some sense.