One of the biggest plot holes in recent Star Wars history concerns how Emperor Palpatine was brought back to life without anyone, even the Force-sensitive Jedi Luke Skywalker, being fully aware. However, a new Star Wars book has resolved that conundrum after revealing Palpatine’s plans in that galaxy far, far away.
As pointed out by Screen Rant, a new Star Wars novel – Shadow Fall – reveals that a plan set in motion by Palpatine after his (first) death in Return of the Jedi helped pave the way for his eventual, surprising return – and even explains why Luke and Lando were searching for that Wayfinder in The Rise of Skywalker.
Fair warning: this dives into a few years’ worth of comics and side stories, so we’ll try and keep it simple.
A trilogy of pre-Star Wars: The Force Awakens books titled Aftermath were released back in 2015 and unveiled Palps’ posthumous revenge: to set up secret bases across the galaxy. Later, in the comic series Shattered Empires, it’s revealed that some of these bases contained Sentinel droids that helped send out instructions from the now-deceased Emperor to his top advisors – instructions concerning a new galaxy-shattering plan titled Operation: Cinder.
Operation: Cinder – which you can actually play through in Star Wars Battlefront 2 – involved Palpatine’s most trusted allies wiping out all remnants of both the Empire and New Republic in the hope of starting afresh under a new totalitarian rule more in line with the Emperor’s philosophies.
Unfortunately for the villains, the plan was foiled by Luke Skywalker. A battle erupted on Jakku between the last members of both the Empire and the Resistance. The Emperor's plan was to blow up the entire planet, thus completing Operation Cinder. However, Luke stopped this from happening (as chronicled in The Legends of Luke Skywalker) and even infiltrated the Emperor's secret base on Jakku before it could be destroyed by his remaining allies.
This year’s Shadow Fall has since unveiled a once-hidden side effect of Operation Cinder. The bases being destroyed by the remnants of the Empire actually contained information about how the Emperor mapped the Unknown Regions where he would eventually amass his Final Order. When the majority of these bases were destroyed, this stopped Luke from being able to track down the Emperor – but not for lack of trying.
As we see in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Luke hired Lando to help him figure out what was happening. Thanks to the new story Shadow Fall, we can infer that Luke was using the information found in the remnants of Palps' base on Jakku to try and find out what was happening in the Unknown Region. As we know, Luke and Lando were unsuccessful; Luke was thrown off course by Ben Solo and retired to Ahch To, while Lando's own daughter went missing around the same time. Coincidence? Or Palpatine once again messing with Luke Skywalker?
Luckily Rey picked up the pieces where Luke left off and found her Grandfather and ended the Sith once and for all. Phew. It was a long, long road to get there – but that’s how the Emperor got away almost without a trace. For more Star Wars content, check out our pieces on: