Never underestimate the power of the Dark Side.

As much as fans love their noble Jedi and plucky rebels, Star Wars Celebration 2019 showcased how much power the Dark Side still holds over fans and filmmakers alike, as it was the bad guys who stole the show this year.

When fans finally got their first look at Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, there was genuine surprise and excitement when the trailer ended with the familiar cackle of the (presumably) long dead Emperor Palpatine.

This revelation, in turn, triggered a deluge of speculation and theories about how Palpatine could return. We won’t know what the truth of it all is, of course, until Episode IX opens in December, but the apparent return of Darth Sidious will surely remain a hotly anticipated and ravenously searched topic until then.

The Emperor wasn’t the only Star Wars baddie to make waves at this year’s Celebration.

On the TV front, the first stunning footage from the upcoming Disney+ series The Mandalorian also stirred up attendees. Sure, the title character (played by Pedro Pascal) may be an antihero in the vein of a Clint Eastwood gunslinger or a Toshiro Mifune samurai, but he’s still a bounty hunter. And, for those who may have forgotten, BOUNTY HUNTERS BEGAN AS STAR WARS VILLAINS.

They worked in service of Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back. Boba Fett hauled away Han Solo frozen in carbonite. They may have been “cool” but they were decidedly the bad guys.

It remains to be seen just how “bad” the title character of The Mandalorian really ends up being, but seeing him bash in stormtroopers’ faces and forging an alliance with a former Rebel soldier indicates he’ll likely end up that most romanticized of outlaws, the good bad guy. As much as Star Wars storytellers love chronicling characters’ falls from grace, they also love a good redemption story. We’ll see if The Mandalorian follows the latter path.

Also on the TV side, Lucasfilm and director Dave Filoni revealed at Celebration that Darth Maul would return for the seventh and final season of Clone Wars, where he will once again be voiced by Sam Witwer. Maul and Ahsoka Tano will do battle in the Siege of Mandalore, an event that Filoni promised fans will be among the most ambitious storylines they’ve ever attempted.

As we reported Sunday, “Filoni revealed that these episodes will feature some of the most elaborate lightsaber sequences in the series’ already impressive history. In fact, Filoni brought in actor Ray Park to perform motion capture for the lightsaber battles. That makes Clone Wars the second time Park and Witwer have joined forces to bring Maul to life after Solo: A Star Wars Story.” Speaking of that Solo cameo, Darth Maul will also have a new costume for Clone Wars that’s more in the vein of the one he wore in Solo.

The only Star Wars villain bigger than either Palpatine or Maul is inarguably Darth Vader, who also made a splash at Celebration 2019. The Dark Lord of the Sith is the big bad in the upcoming VR game Vader Immortal, which is set between the events of ​Revenge of the Sith​ and ​A New Hope. The story follows a smuggler operating near Vader’s volcanic home world of Mustafar who ends up face-to-face with Vader himself.

IGN’s Brian Altano got to preview the Oculus game at Celebration, and found it “really, really cool and ambitious” and that Darth Vader in VR is “(expletive) terrifying”. So all in all it’s fair to say the response to Vader Immortal has so far been impressive … most impressive.

For more on Star Wars Celebration, check out everything we learned about Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker as well as Jedi: Fallen Order, discover how George Lucas contributed to Episode IX, and learn more about The Mandalorian. And to see how much Star Wars fans like their villains, check out some of the best bad guy cosplay we saw at Celebration.

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