With the recent trailer for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, many fans were blown away by the laugh heard at the end of the film. While casual viewers and newcomers may have been confused, fans understood that was the laugh of Sheev Palpatine aka Darth Sidious. His return marks an interesting way to end and tie all 9 films of the Skywalker journey together because of how integral he has been to the Skywalker family.
When Shmi Skywalker, Anakin’s mother, was a slave on Tatooine, Sheev manipulated the force in a way that created life inside of her. This had been debated for many years by the fandom before being essentially confirmed by the recent Darth Vader comic series which is canon. This makes Sheev the architect of the Skywalker family as we know them today, and in a twisted way makes him the “father” of Anakin.
For those that read the Legends books, it’s well-known that Palpatine utilized the transfer essence technique to cheat death. This technique wasn’t just restricted to consciousness transference, as Sith Lords in the past had also put their essence into objects such as the Muur Talisman. This allowed the Sith Lord to essentially haunt the object and possess the body of the wearer. Another aspect of powerful Sith Lords such as Palpatine was how their dark-side energies would corrupt objects or entire environments even after death.
This was the Legends explanation for the dark-side cave located on Dagobah, as it was corrupted upon the death of a leader of Dark Jedi in 700 BBY (Before the Battle of Yavin). Like this moment, it’s possible upon Palpatine’s death in Return of the Jedi his dark-side energies were focused into an object or environment.
A natural environment for his energies to remain would be the location of his throne room upon the second Death Star. Shown in the trailer for The Rise of Skywalker, it would make sense that Palpatine’s energies would be focused there vs elsewhere. However, another possibility is that Darth Vader’s mask is an object Palpatine focused his dark-side energies which remained upon death. It would make sense, as Anakin was constantly being manipulated and exposed to dark-side energies by Palpatine in order to corrupt him.
In many ways, it would make more sense for Darth Sidious’ energies to remain with Dark Vader’s helmet vs Darth Vader’s own energies as Anakin already found redemption and peace with the light side of The Force. In this case, it could be revealed that Palpatine corrupted Ben Solo to become Kylo Ren and was the external force seducing him to the dark side.
From this point, Palpatine would be corrupting and trying to mold Kylo Ren into what Darth Vader could never be which was a perfect vessel. While Star Wars hasn’t made hints towards the transfer essence in either Episodes VII or VIII, it would make sense with Palpatine’s character. Kylo would be a great host containing the strong natural connection to the Force and vast potential Anakin and Luke possessed without the same physical limitations (lost limbs).
The only problem with Kylo Ren would be his mental state, which is conflicted and seemingly will always be for an unknown reason. It’s possible Kylo Ren is naturally on the light-side and conflicted due to the influence of Palpatine’s spirit via Darth Vader’s helmet. It’s also possible that this confliction makes Kylo Ren a mentally weak vessel, which would make transferring essence easier for someone with a strong and focused will such as Palpatine.
This theory could explain how Palpatine is tied to being the villain of The Rise of Skywalker. Overall, it would be interesting to witness the return of Palpatine as Snoke becomes even more irrelevant. The largest negative about Palpatine potentially never being killed is how it damages the legacy of Anakin’s redemption and role in bringing “balance” towards The Force and galaxy.