Why bringing back Palpatine Killed the Sequel Triology
The Sequel Star Wars trilogy, now dubbed “The Skywalker Saga” came to an end with 2019s the “Rise of Skywalker” a film which in the eyes of fans proved to be extremely controversial and proved lukewarm with critics. This single film of course wasn’t responsible for the outstanding problems with the entire trilogy, which included wildly inconsistent writing, unoriginal storylines and a lack of the romanticism which defined its predecessors. Yet, there was one big problem in particular which served to deliver the death blow to these films, and that was the decision by J.J Abrams to bring back deceased arch-villain Palpatine (or Darth Sidious). Here, we explore why bringing back Palpatine killed the sequel triology as a whole, despite all its outstanding issues.
At the end of Return of the Jedi, Palpatine was destroyed by Darth Vader inside the Death Star which formed the completion of his own character arc across the spread of six movies. With the context of the prequel trilogy, we understand how Anakin fell to the Dark side, became evil, yet ultimately through his own son seen the light and sacrificed his life to destroy the Sith and become the prophesized Chosen One. While many people picked issues with the sequels, there can be no denying in terms of storylines they did their job, expanded the lore, and gave the original trilogy a poetic ending.
The decision to bring back Emperor Palpatine, however, was a decision which killed these themes by making Anakin’s character arc worthless, bulldozing and contradicting six films worth of established lore purely to compliment J.J Abram’s clear love of nostalgia as a means to selling tickets, in fact it was so unsupported it even did not fit in the premise of the Sequel trilogy itself (if there ever was one). Not only was the explanation given to bring him back unconvincing, but it felt forced, unsupported, random and poor from a storyline perspective, as if they had run out of ideas.
In doing so, Palpatine’s return was a cold reminder that the sequel films had no purpose, no direction and no established vision on what they ought to become in the end, a problem aggravated by having different directors and rushed timelines. The story went from introducing a possible new major villain in the form of Snoke, to then pre-maturely killing him off (butchering any buildup and long term premise for cinematic tension) and then writing him off as a clone by the then hidden Palpatine who was then behind everything all along on a hidden planet, as a sort of surprise which didn’t fit.
While the prequel films were disliked by some, they had a very consistent premise. We seen Palpatine’s plan to take power materialize from a long term perspective, which played into a broader theme of the decline of democracy and the rise of authoritarianism. All along the way there were clues, hints and precursors of what was to come, making excellent storytelling. Yet the ending of the Sequel Trilogy premised on Palpatine came from absolutely nothing and ultimately meant nothing, which rendered these three films as a very, very poor quality and ill-thought out carbon copy of the original trilogy lacking any of its charm.