Oftentimes I see this notion within the online discourse surrounding The Rise of Skywalker that it retroactively makes the entire saga “The Palpatine Saga” because of the revelations of Rey’s lineage and the fact that a Palpatine was able to outlive the Skywalker lineage. That Palpatine somehow “won” in the end.
I also see that it “undid” Anakin’s sacrifice and it retroactively removes the Chosen One prophecy… or that Rey is the Chosen One because she was the one to ultimatly defeat the Sith.
Both of these notions couldn’t be further from the truth, though because Rey is not a Palpatine, nor is she the Chosen One. Allow me to explain…
The sequel trilogy does heavily focus on the Palpatine lineage. It retroactively gives more importance to the bloodline than the previous two trilogies. Though this isn’t because it wants to erase the Skywalkers’ accomplishments, but in fact, is giving them one more for the road: The redemption of the Palpatine line.
It’s clear in the text that Luke Skywalker, or the family in general when speaking more broadly, fit the archetype of the “Ultimate Redeemer”, a person so heroic and brave that they turn those evil-doers around them simply by leading by example. It’s why some complain about Luke’s role at the end of The Last Jedi, him understanding he isn’t the one who can save Ben Solo (though he overtly states that Ben is not lost… more on this in another article).
The sequel trilogy is, partly, about the last piece of the redemption puzzle left after Luke brought his father back to the light, Palpatine. Now, of course, you can’t redeem the big, bad himself. The literal representation of the dark side and all that is evil in Star Wars is beyond redemption… but how do you heal that old scar? That wound that’s been left open? Why you steer his off-spring in the right direction. You turn the Palpatines into heroes and extinguish his darkness from the face of the Galaxy through generations of redemption.
So when people complain that a Palpatine won in the end, that’s simply not true. The Skywalkers won in the end by turning his last blood-relative into a Skywalker by example… Through heroics and training and love and sacrifice is the final ember of Palpatine’s evil schemes snuffed out and made good.
After all, the last thing that ole’ Sheev would want is for his “Empress Palpatine” to become Rey Skywalker and restart the Jedi who he’d worked a lifetime to bring down and destroy…
The Sequel Trilogy is about legacy. The legacy of the Skywalkers is love, heroics, redemption and sacrifice. The legacy of Palpatine is turned from hate, pain, suffering and sadness and is instead made good and heroic and under the Skywalker name, Rey will work to undo her grandfather’s life and standing impact on the Galaxy. So not only is Palpatine dead physically, but his legacy will be the opposite of everything he fought for and the galaxy will be directly healed by that same lineage.
But let’s talk about Palpatine’s death. Palpatine died on the Death Star II. He was flung over the railings of his throne room and fell endlessly down in the reactor shaft where his body was obliterated into nonexistence. His apprentice cut the Sith line by dying a Jedi and fulfilling the prophecy he was born to be a part of.
There is no question that Anakin fulfilled the Chosen One prophecy and restored ultimate balance in the force in that moment. Palpatine, able to barely cling to a small semblance of life does not change that fact. For 30 years he spent his time, powerless and broken, trapped in a body constantly rejecting him, decaying … he spent 30 years on Exegol, or Hades, or Hell.
But I’ve seen the argument put forward that because he didn’t stay dead that the prophecy was not fulfilled. The Sith were never destroyed and Anakin never achieved true balance in the Force.
But Anakin did balance the force simply by destroying Palpatine’s power and dying a Jedi, leaving nowhere for the Sith line to go and Palpatine to spend 30 years trying to regain that lost power. And by cutting the line of the Sith and trapping the only one left in a decaying corpse in hell, the Force was brought into balance. And, even if that balance did not last eternally, the act of bringing the force into balance after literally thousands and thousands of years of it being unbalanced, twisted and maimed in the name of the Sith is an event worthy of prophecy in and of itself…
But what about Palpatine? He wasn’t truly snuffed out completely. Which means the Sith were not either.
Palpatine’s existence between RotJ and TRoS does not mean the Sith still existed. They were extinguished from existence when their power and influence over the force was extinguished with Palpatine in the reactor shaft. For 30 years, Palpatine sought to create a body able to hold this power, but he failed… and out of desperation, he made a last ditch attempt to find a suitable host within the two most powerful force-users in the Galaxy, Rey and Kylo Ren.
People seem to think that Palpatine is searching for an apprentice during the events of The Rise of Skywalker, but he wasn’t. The ritual performed in the citadel on Exegol is not the Rule of Two coming into place… “kill your master and take my place”-deal. It’s a different Sith ritual, one that would transfer his essence into either Rey or Kylo had they followed through with his wishes to strike him down in anger.
This is where the Sith would have returned. An actual Sith master regaining his power and then moving on to train an apprentice and practice Sith teachings again… But that doesn’t happen. The last gasp of the Sith is to try and restore the broken line… but it fails.
There is very deliberate language in The Rise of Skywalker to back this up. Notice how Palpatine is never talking about the Sith as if they’re still here… He talks about them returning, he talks about them being reborn because at that moment, the Sith are gone. And they stay gone once Palpatine is destroyed with his acolytes and the temple… All remnants of the Sith are wiped out of existence to prevent any further idea that they may rise again.
Anakin restored the ultimate balance to the Force, Rey and Kylo kept that balance in check, and beat back Palpatine’s attempted resurrection (and perform one of their own) and revival of the Sith Order. The Sith ended with Anakin’s turn on the Death Star II… they were kept in hell by his grandson and spiritual successor taking up the roles of keepers of the balance… “Guardians” if you will… which may be why Rey ended up with a golden lightsaber at the end of her journey.
“But what of Anakin?”, you might ask, “who killed Palpatine to make up for the years of suffering Sheev brought upon him and his family. Anakin is gone but the Emperor gets to live on… Anakin now died for nothing, right?” Well no, of course not.
Anakin won the day by turning from the dark side to the light. By achieving what his master could not… everlasting life. Why would Palpatine go through all of the trouble of creating broken clones and transferring essences, pitting Rey and Kylo against each other and staying attached to a mechanical arm for 30 years? Because “The dark side is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural”. The key word here is unnatural.
What Palpatine does is wholly unnatural. It’s an abomination of the force. It might be why every force-sensitive creation made in his lab ended up broken and frail and looking like Snoke while his only non-force-sensitive creation came out natural and able to create life.
The Force is not to be toyed with, bastardized, twisted and manufactured… But this is the only way for Palpatine to live on. He cannot achieve everlasting life any other way. He lost that power when he chose the dark side… and now he has to fight tooth and nail just to cling to any remnant of life he can get his stubby, rotted fingers on.
Meanwhile, Anakin gets to become a force spirit through his last redeeming act. He gets to live on eternally and keep his consciousness, a wholly light side-only ability that Palpatine could never find a substitute for.
Anakin bests his former master when he appears next to Obi-Wan and Yoda on Endor… when he lives on as a spirit, peaceful and eternal while Palpatine in that same moment is clinging desperately, painfully to his consciousness in a lab on Exegol. Years of suffering in his path because of his evil deeds…
Not only did Palpatine have to be kept down, but his lineage scrubbed clean and his legacy actively undone and atoned for. His attempt at everlasting life failed, and him and the Sith will remain a memory for the rest of time immemorial.
It takes a lot of work and blood to wipe clean the kind of scar of evil that Palpatine leaves on the Galaxy and only the Skywalkers are up for the task. This is one of the many reasons why it’s The Skywalker Saga…
Thank you for coming to my Ewok Talk