On several occasions Palpatine’s extended use of Force lightning has bounced back on him. In each situation he has carried on firing lightning from his hands even when it was harming himself instead of just stopping.

Is there a canonical reason for this? Does a user of the dark side of the Force have to keep firing the lightning a certain amount of time to release energies, or does use of the lightning remove the ability to think rationally?

  • 4
    Haven't we already established that Palpatine isn't all that smart? ;)
    – DavidW
    Jan 4, 2020 at 23:50
  • 10
    Ironic...he could kill others with lightning, and also himself.
    – Adamant
    Jan 5, 2020 at 0:31
  • 4
    The Dark Side is a pathway to many powers some would consider...electrifying. Jan 5, 2020 at 2:23
  • 6
    The answer will shock you
    – Machavity
    Jan 5, 2020 at 5:50
  • 2
    If you touch a live wire, why not just let go? Typically electrocution causes unwanted muscle contractions. Perhaps Palpatine, once electrocuted with his own Force lightning, entered a feedback loop that prevents him from stopping.
    – jamesdlin
    Jan 7, 2020 at 1:59

3 Answers 3


At least in the case of his duel with Mace Windu, he seems to offer an explanation:

Don't let him kill me.

I can't hold it any longer.

The implication seems to be that if not for his lightning attack, Windu would kill him. The lightning is preventing Windu from killing him, as Windu is stuck trying to block it with his lightsaber. Even though the lightning is bouncing back at Palpatine, it still gives him a few more seconds alive before Windu kills him. As such, it is the lesser of two evils.

  • 10
    To me, the entire duel seems to be staged by Palpatine in order to force Anakin to move against his old order. So it could very well be intentional so Anakin has to make a quick decision.
    – wrtlprnft
    Jan 5, 2020 at 8:07
  • 1
    Whilst this is probably somewhat true if you watch the scene it obvisouly isn’t the full story. Palpatine is pretending to die to get Anakin to defend him and kill Windu.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Jan 5, 2020 at 19:06

I like to believe that Palpatine's force lightning scene in ROTS was just a ruse to lure Anakin and that the 'scarred' Palpatine or Darth Sidious is his actual true form which he managed to hide from the Jedi for a very long time. I'm not sure if its canonical but it does make the Sith Lord darker and more evil! He even convinces the entire Senate that the Jedi messed up his face...that type of deception and trickery is totally badass which made his return in TROS even more spectacular.

  • 1
    Hi, welcome to SF&F. Can you point to any evidence for this, or is it just a pet theory? Answers should be based on what we know from the work.
    – DavidW
    Jan 6, 2020 at 6:15
  • 2
    Luke gets a big dose of force lightning in ROTJ and doesn't suffer any sort of scarring.
    – rld
    Jan 6, 2020 at 18:12

I feel it’s one of 2 things. #1 his ego. I think he feels he will eventually over power the person holding a lightsaber and it will push the saber into the holder or the holder just can’t hold it any longer and lighting gets to them. #2. The lightsaber energy could making the lightning keep going a bit. Almost like a conductor. So its kinda stuck u til one or the other gives in. Or becomes too weak to keep holding up the energy going back n forth. I feel Rey had more going for her with having all the Jedi helping her push forward til palps just couldn’t keep the lighting going forward any longer. Just my opinion.

  • great theory. Unfortunately, opinion based answers are not a good fit for the format, here. In fact, questions are closed if they rely soley on opinion to answer the question.
    – Gnemlock
    Jan 10, 2020 at 7:43

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