You might have sensed a disturbance in the Force watching trailers and teasers for The Rise of Skywalker. Yes, it appears that Emperor Palpatine is back and badder than ever, telling Kylo Ren he's been "every voice in his head." He was the ultimate villain of Star Wars, responsible for pulling strings on a galactic scale in the saga's first six movies before meeting a grisly end aboard the second Death Star. Or so it seemed. Since that appears to no longer be the case, here's what you need to know about Palpatine for The Rise of the Skywalker.
"If you strike me down, I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine," Obi Wan warned Darth Vader in A New Hope. Unfortunately for the universe, it turns out the same applied to Vader's master Palpatine, who seems to have survived getting hurled into the Death Star's reactor and is back to torment a third generation of Skywalker.
Long before he took on the ghoulish visage and black cloak, the leader of the Galactic Empire was just Sheev Palpatine, senator from Naboo. At least, that was the face he presented to the public. Power hungry and Force-sensitive, he'd also been training as a Sith apprentice using the name Darth Sidious. Over Episodes I-III, Palpatine manipulated the Galactic Republic, the lawmaking body of the galaxy, to sow fear, doubt, and mistrust between planets. As Sidious, he set up a blockade of Naboo, causing Queen Amidala to seek help... from Senator Palpatine, who was all too happy to use it as excuse to start the Clone Wars. Twisting other political events to his favor, Palpatine eventually convinced the Republic to hand him an unprecedented amount of power while seemingly demurring from taking it and assuring them it would only be temporary.
At some point, Sidious slayed his own Sith master in accordance with The Rule of Two and took on apprentice Darth Maul. Here's a key point about the Dark Side's intense power to keep in mind concerning Palpatine's fate — padawan Obi Wan Kenobi sliced Maul in HALF before both pieces fell into a deep pit. Seems pretty dead, right? "Fueled by his hatred for Kenobi, Maul survived and reconstructed himself as a cyborg," says Wookiepedia. Hatred: the ultimate motivational tool!
Sidious took on a new Sith apprentice, only to encourage Anakin Skywalker into killing him as Count Dooku lay helpless. When the Jedi Council unmasked Palpatine's treachery and attempted to arrest him, he was disfigured by his own reflected blue bolts of Force power (his major power move no other Sith or Jedi had) during the battle, turning him into the gray, hollow-eyed creature seen in Episodes IV-VI. By the end of Episode III, Anakin had taken on the Sith identity Darth Vader and Palpatine's control over him was seemingly complete.
Though he remained out of sight in A New Hope, Palpatine pops up via hologram in The Empire Strikes Back to tell Vader Luke Skywalker could be a useful asset to the Dark Side. When Palpatine finally meets the young Skywalker, he refuses to hurt his father Vader or turn to the Dark Side, even to save his friends' lives. Once again those blue bolts flow, but this time Vader turns against his master and chucks Palpatine to what's supposedly his doom.
Yet the Emperor seems to still be pulling the strings in The Rise of Skywalker, at least when it comes to Kylo's mind. Whether the Sith lord is merely a figment of his tormented imagination or Palpatine's power and hatred have allowed him to survive all these years remains to be seen.