Tor.com content by

Emily Asher-Perrin

The 4 Ways That Emperor Palpatine Engineered His Return in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Ever since the first trailer for Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker premiered, and fans heard that horrific, familiar cackle, we’ve known—The Emperor…Sheev Palpatine himself…was somehow back.

Ugh, that guy. How? How is this possible? According to J.J. Abrams, this was always part of the framework for the third Star Wars trilogy, so it’s not like they made a late game change. Which means that there’s a plan. Which means that The Emperor planned out how to circumvent his own overthrow, and even planned on how to cheat his own death.

And we’ve seen it happen in four different ways already.

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To Understand Anakin Skywalker’s Full Story, You Need to Watch the Star Wars Animated Series

In Star Wars, Episodes I-IX are wrapped around the Skywalker family like a fluffy, strangling blanket of expectations and betrayal. This journey begins with one person in particular: Anakin Skywalker, the supposed Chosen One of the Jedi, later best known as the Emperor’s right hand, Darth Vader. The problem with this very dramatic arc is that the first three films—meant to show us exactly why Anakin becomes one of the galaxy’s most infamous tyrants—doesn’t actually give us much by way of explanation on his actions. We’re told things rather than shown them. We don’t know how he gets from Point A to Point K(ill-All-the-Younglings). And that’s kind of important, given that his actions set the entire saga in motion.

Don’t worry. Television’s got you covered.

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The Mandalorian Tries to Do Things the Old-Fashioned Way in Chapter 4, “Sanctuary”

Did… did the Mandalorian just find his ride-or-die? A bruiser who is aware that he’s a total mess, but hangs out with him anyway, and sneers (lovingly) at all of his terrible decisions? Is this the team up of my dreams? “Sanctuary” delivers on that and also a quaint little farming village full of blue shrimp.

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The Dragon Prince Ended Season 3 With a Battle That Could Rival Any Lord of the Rings Movie

Are you watching The Dragon Prince? You should watch The Dragon Prince. It’s the holidays, give yourself a gift. The gift is The Dragon Prince. You can binge all three available seasons in a day. It will make you laugh. It will make you cry. It’s a great cooking companion. It’s an excellent addition to your yearly fantasy marathon. It will keep you from setting fire to the kitchen if your big oven-baked protein doesn’t cook right.

You may think I’m overselling this. I’m really not. You can go ahead, and I’ll wait here.

Presuming that you’ve now seen all of The Dragon Prince… how about that finale, eh?

[Spoilers for The Dragon Prince season 3]

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Frozen 2 Is Better Than the Original, a First for Disney Animated Features

Most Disney animated sequels provoke a cringing response. The Return of Jafar, The Lion King 2, The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea—they’re all sorry affairs, even if you’ve got a soft spot for them. And it’s hardly surprising either because Disney was never know for pumping money into any of its sequels, let alone creative power. But with a runaway success of Frozen, easily one of the most popular films of the past decade, Disney found a reason to give it a go.

[Spoilers for Frozen 2]

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Star Wars: Resistance Is at Its Best When It Stops Worrying About the Resistance

The first season of Star Wars: Resistance was promising if a bit slow, but it typically takes any show a season or two to find its voice. Unfortunately, with the end of the Skywalker Saga upon us, it seems that Disney is hoping to sever any long running media that connects to the third trilogy. So Resistance has to wrap its story in this second and final season, meaning things can feel a bit rushed.

It’s too bad because Resistance is actually best when it chooses to turn its focus away from… the Resistance.

[Spoilers for season 2 so far]

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The Mandalorian Has His Work Cut Out For Him in Chapter 2: “The Child”

The Mandalorian aired its second episode just days after the premiere, so we’ve already got more to munch on. It’s time to talk about “The Child” and all the troubles it brings. It’s also time to revel in the fact that Jawas will always present problems to anyone looking for a problem-less day.

[Spoilers ahead.]

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Terminator: Dark Fate Finally Lives Up to Sarah Connor’s Legacy

The Terminator series started as the story about a woman with a terrible destiny. That’s how most prophetic narratives work, after all. But after the sequel, filmmakers seemed to forget that. They made new movies in which that woman was dead, or her son took center stage surrounded by men, or she was played by Emilia Clarke for some reason. Every single film past Judgment Day forgot that the Terminator series was meant to be one thing—a moment in time when a singular woman had the power to save the world.

Terminator: Dark Fate is a renewal of faith in that story. And it is a beautiful thing to witness.

[Major spoilers for Terminator: Dark Fate]

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The First Terminator Movie Gave Sarah Connor One of the Most Compelling Origin Stories

If you’re excited to see Terminator: Dark Fate this week, chances are you’ve seen the first two films starring Sarah Connor. And chances are, when given a say, you prefer to watch T2: Judgement Day over its progenitor. Which is a shame, really. Because The Terminator is a rare film, particularly where its protagonist is concerned. Sure, it has its very cheesy moments, and isn’t quite as exciting as Terminator 2. But it’s special because it allows Sarah Connor something that male heroes are typically always given and female heroes are nearly always denied: An origin story.

Not in the “how did they become super/an action hero/reincarnated god” sense, though. What I’m talking about is that very first step when the hero is fresh and green and not too bright. When they’re haven’t been trained into competency via years of war and suffering, before they get the Chosen One rant, back when their lives are relatively normal and pretty boring. Sarah Connor gets that chance. And because she gets that chance, we actually get to watch her complete the journey as she morphs from Normal Person to Badassery Personified. That’s always more fun than meeting a character after they’ve already leveled up.

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Tim Burton’s Films Hide Stories of Powerful Women in Plain Sight

If you were a kid growing up in the U.S. during the ’80s and ’90s, entertainment had a certain shape. It was full of suburban lawns, the excitement of excess, gated communities, and nostalgia for the soda-fountained, saddle-shoed “simplicity” of post-WWII values. Flashy blockbusters were the rule of the day. In the face of reasserted homogeny, a specific set of subcultures flourished, grown out of punk movements and other anti-establishment groups. Which is a roundabout way of saying, if the mainstream didn’t float your boat (or only did part of the time), chances are, you were a Tim Burton kid.

Burton sidestepped his way into cinema juggernaut status, getting his start in Disney’s animation division before being fired and sweeping into feature films. He quickly made a name for himself by being “too dark” and “too creepy” for children (plenty of actual children who grew up on his films would dispute this claim), and for a distinct visual vernacular born of gothic sensibilities intertwined with a deep understanding of old monster movies, low-budget sci-fi films, and German Expressionism. But there is something even more fascinating about Tim Burton films, especially when looking back on the director’s career: They often seem to center male protagonists when they are plainly about women.

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Celebrating Practical Magic, the Witchy Rom-Com About the Bonds Between Women

Practical Magic is called a romantic comedy, and that’s funny because its leading man doesn’t show up until well over half the film’s runtime has elapsed. (It’s also based on a book of the same name, though they don’t resemble each other very much.) I suppose it is a romantic comedy in that many parts of the film are funny, and there’s a lot of romantic stuff in it. The romance is basically a tangent that occurs so that the story has a thought to end on, and it’s perfectly nice. But really, more than anything, Practical Magic is about how important it is for women to have other women in their lives for the sake of their empowerment and protection. And that’s really it.

Also witch stuff. And tequila.

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