“Somehow, Palpatine has returned.” They’re words that ring in the ears of Star Wars fans everywhere. In The Rise of Skywalker (and further explained in the novelization), we learned that Palpatine just kind of ... yeeted his spirit into a clone body when he fell to his apparent death in Return of the Jedi. But is Palpatine the only Force user to use this method? One wild theory claims another never-seen character may have transported his spirit into a beloved figure — everyone’s favorite astromech, R2-D2.
Redditor wentzitcame claims that R2 is none other than Darth Plagueis, Darth Sidious’ master. You recognize his name from the iconic Mon Calamari Ballet scene of Revenge of the Sith, in which Palpatine tells young Anakin about Darth Plagueis the Wise. Plagueis tried to discover the secret to immortality but was killed by his apprentice before he could use the power to his advantage.
This theory claims that Plagueis actually did use this power and transported his life force into a nearby astromech.
The timing makes sense, as Palpatine grew up on Naboo and was presumedly trained by Plagueis there. R2 was also on Naboo at the start of the prequel trilogy. It certainly would explain why R2 has so much personality when compared to other astromechs.
Now, this is a theory that could only exist within the canon, as Legends has established that Palpatine killed Plagueis not long before Revenge of the Sith, making the “Tragedy of Darth Plagueis” a relatively new tale. Then, there’s the old explanation that R2 has so much personality because his memory has never been wiped, as is protocol for astromechs to keep from glitching.
But even if Darth Plagueis did summon his powers and transport his essence into R2-D2, why would R2 become such an ally to the Rebellion? Easy, he wanted to get back at his old apprentice for killing him. The Rule of Two is a harsh edict, and Palpatine’s betrayal may even be enough to convince Plagueis to switch sides and assist the Rebellion.
If Darth Vader could switch sides, why not Darth Plagueis? He was, after all, supposedly quite wise.
The Inverse Analysis — This may not be the most structurally sound theory, but it does work as a thought experiment when considering R2-D2 as a character. He’s a droid, but he’s also much more. Could there be a Force element to that, be it Plagueis or some other aspect? We may never know for sure.