Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker was, like any movie in the Disney era of Lucasfilm, a bit controversial. It’s a hard problem to avoid, unfortunately. Star Wars is one of–if not the–biggest film franchises of all time, with a lot of very passionate fans. You can’t please everyone, and we don’t envy the creators tasked with trying to do exactly that. It’s nearly impossible, especially in the internet era, when everyone can pick things apart to death.

But The Rise of Skywalker, more than any recent Star Wars movie, seemed especially open for criticism. A lot of that had to do with behind-the-scenes shifts. Colin Trevorrow was fired from his writing/directing duties last minute and replaced by J.J. Abrams, who had to pull something together to meet the desired release date. He and co-writer Chris Terrio landed on a plot that revived one of the most popular movie villains of all time: Emperor Palpatine. But the film doesn’t shed much light on how, exactly, Palpatine returned from the dead. Only that the master manipulator somehow succeeded in a dream he had since the prequels.

The decision to leave that explanation offscreen didn’t sit well with fans who like their Star Wars full of exposition–or at least very general explanations. Luckily, The Rise of Skywalker official novelization is here to fill in some of the blanks. The novel, written by Rae Carson, isn’t formally released until March 17, but early copies were made available at C2E2 in Chicago over the weekend. Eager fans plowed through the book and put excerpts online. One brief moment explains Palpatine’s return. Turns out, Grandpa Palps’ body was actually a clone.

Lucasfilm/via Giphy

Here’s the explanation from the pages of the novel (via Mashable):

All the vials were empty of liquid save one, which was nearly depleted. Kylo peered closer. He’d seen this apparatus before, too, when he’d studied the Clone Wars as a boy. The liquid flowing into the living nightmare before him was fighting a losing battle to sustain the Emperor’s putrid flesh.

“What could you give me?” Kylo asked. Emperor Palpatine lived, after a fashion, and Kylo could feel in his very bones that this clone body sheltered the Emperor’s actual spirit. It was an imperfect vessel, though, unable to contain his immense power. It couldn’t last much longer.

So yeah, from this blurb we can surmise that Palpatine created a clone of himself and somehow embedded his spirit into this phantom body. To be honest, this begs a lot more questions than it answers. Namely: If Palpatine could put his soul into a body of his choosing, why did he pick something old and decrepit that needed an apparatus to survive? The implication is that the liquid somehow damages the body, but does it also age it?

We’ll probably never know, because we’re not even that convinced how much thought was put into this. It does make sense that the man who conceived of a clone army would wind up a clone himself one day. And the vat of Snoke clones in The Rise of Skywalker insinuates there were many experiments before Palpatine “perfected” his body. But why not provide that explanation in your actual film? It’s one of the many things that still frustrates us about The Rise of Skywalker, although we’re happy to have a bit more knowledge on this topic thanks to Carson.

Featured Image: Lucasfilm