Emperor Palpatine is one of the most iconic villains in Star Wars history. His grotesque appearance and evil ideologies rank him second to none, while his Force lightning and knowledge of the Force make him a lethal opponent.
Palpatine is often seen behind the scenes pulling strings and working in secret to achieve his Sith plan. During much of the prequels, he hid in plain sight as Chancellor.
However, as his plan came to fruition, his outward appearance started to reflect the evil within. He quickly transitioned into the hooded, deformed villain we all know him as today.
But his reign didn’t last forever. He was defeated on the second Death Star, and then again when he returned in the sequel trilogy.
So who killed this notorious Sith? And how could he die twice?
To give a quick answer, Anakin Skywalker killed Palpatine the first time on the Death Star and Rey killed him the second time on Exegol.
Are you still curious? Keep reading to get all the details and learn more about Palpatine’s deaths.
Table of Contents
Who Killed Palpatine The First Time?
Palpatine was first killed by Darth Vader when he threw him down a radiation shaft on the second Death Star. In doing this, Anakin Skywalker fulfilled his prophecy of bringing balance to the Force.
Up until this point, Vader was Palpatine’s close comrade and second in command of the entire galaxy. Palpatine acted as the Emperor, but Vader was his enforcer and Sith apprentice.
Together, they worked to crush the rebel alliance. Vader even attacked his own son, Luke Skywalker, in an attempt to bring him over to the dark side of the Force.
However, there was still good in Vader.
When he and the Emperor finally had Luke Skywalker in their grasp, Luke refused to join them. He fought with his father, but he wouldn’t give in to hate.
Since Luke refused to join the dark side, the Emperor stepped in to destroy him. Palpatine shot powerful bolts of Force lightning into Luke’s body, leaving him writhing in pain on the ground.
Luke was already suffering, but the Emperor wouldn’t relent until Luke was dead. He kept shooting Force lightning at him while Luke called out for help from his father.
It was at that moment that Vader saw how truly evil the Emperor was and realized the good inside of himself. As Luke called out for help, he knew he had to help him or else he would die at Palpatine’s hand.
Vader picked the Emperor up as Force lightning flowed through his body and threw him down a radiation shaft. There, Palpatine died in the core of the Death Star.
Even though the Force lightning left Vader inches from death, he finally started to live as Anakin Skywalker again in his final moments.
Anakin stood up to Palpatine and brought an end to the reign of the Sith, and in doing so, he saved his son.
Who Killed Palpatine The Second Time?
Although Palpatine was already dead, his soul endured. He had become a spirit, but he was able to manifest a twisted physical form on the Sith planet Exegol.
After all, “the dark side of the Force is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural.” Palpatine’s deep connection to the dark side of the Force allowed him to endure even when it defied all logic.
Even the rebel alliance didn’t fully understand how Palpatine came back to life. Poe Dameron famously explained it, “somehow, Palpatine returned.”
Rey and Kylo Ren joined forces to fight the Emperor, but it was Rey who eventually defeated him by harnessing the power of all the Jedi. When the spirits of all the past Jedi appeared to her, she used their power to combat Palpatine’s deadly Force lightning.
Rey tried deflecting the lighting with one lightsaber, but could only hold it off for a while. After she acquired the past Jedi’s power, she used both Luke and Leia’s lightsabers to deflect the Emperor’s lightning and repel it back at him.
This explosion of power from the Emperor’s lighting resulted in his death and the crumbling of the Sith citadel. Thanks to Rey’s power and natural ability to wield the Force, the reign of the Emperor was finally over.
Is He Really Dead Now?
The story implies that Palpatine is dead forever, and Sith logic would agree.
The Sith use killing as a ritual, sometimes to increase their power, and sometimes to perform more unnatural abilities.
Kylo Ren killed his father and Supreme Leader Snoke in an attempt to grow his power in the dark side. However, the Emperor intended to use his ritual another way.
The Emperor wanted Rey to kill him so that he could transfer his soul to her, his own granddaughter. By killing him with her saber, she would be completing the Sith killing ritual and allowing his soul to live on through her.
However, Rey took a different route. She deflected his Force lightning and killed him with his own attack.
Given that the Emperor was defeated by his own Force lightning, Rey didn’t actually kill him. Thus, the Sith killing ritual wasn’t completed and the Emperor died, both body and soul, without being passed on to Rey.
Although Anakin Skywalker was the original chosen one of the Star Wars Skywalker saga, both he and Rey killed the Emperor in different ways. While Anakin killed his physical body and brought balance to the Force, Rey killed his body and soul so he could no longer return.
The evil of the Sith may live on in other beings who wield the dark side of the Force, but the galaxy is much safer without Palpatine’s evil working in the shadows.
It’s unlikely that Star Wars will continue with the Skywalker saga, but on the off chance that they do, it’s at least good to know that they won’t bring the same villain back again. After Palpatine’s roles in the nine movies, most Star Wars fans are ready for a new antagonist.
Mitchell Layton is a freelance writer and touring musician living in Philadelphia. When he’s not playing guitar or writing for clients, he enjoys rewatching cult classics like Star Wars, Twin Peaks, The X-Files, and more. Mitchell has been published by sites like HM Magazine, Glassworks Literary Magazine, GameRevolution, Pif Magazine, and others.