After decades of wondering, a Star Wars mystery has finally been solved. In the climactic moments of Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, Darth Vader uses his lightsaber to sever Luke Skywalker’s hand. It then falls into the abyss of the cloud city, Bespin.
In Episode VII: The Force Awakens, we learned that Luke’s lightsaber survived its fall, but what about the hand?
The fate of Luke’s hand has been a long-running joke amongst the Star Wars fandom. One that even Mark Hamill has gotten in on.
— Mark Hamill (@HamillHimself) August 3, 2017
This is where Luke Skywalker’s hand ended up
While the fate of a severed hand may seem insignificant with everything else going on in the Star Wars universe, it turns out Luke’s hand did actually have a life beyond what we saw on screen.
Marvel’s current run of Darth Vader comics has brought to light some interesting information about Darth Vader’s time off-screen. In Darth Vader #11 we find the Sith Lord on Exegol, which audiences know is a huge location in The Rise of Skywalker.
The comics reveal that following the end of The Empire Strikes Back, Emperor Palpatine senses that Darth Vader’s resolve is weakening. He decides to test his apprentice with a series of obstacles, one of which is entering the Sith temple on Exegol.
It’s here that Vader discovers the cloning experiments Palpatine has been running, which we know leads into his revival in Episode IX.
We saw Rey walk through this same experimental facility in Episode IX which contained twisted bodies from failed experiments. But we see something very different in Darth Vader #11.
Luke Skywalker’s severed hand floating in one of the tanks.
What use is a severed hand?
Somehow, Palpatine has recovered Luke’s severed hand from Bespin and appears to be using it in his cloning experiments. One reading of this is that Luke’s DNA could’ve helped to create Supreme Leader Snoke, and in turn contributed to the return of the Emperor.
The nature of the Emperor’s resurrection in Rise of Skywalker has always been largely unexplained. We know that Palpatine was somehow able to survive death thanks to these cloning experiments, but the whole plotline was shoehorned into the final movie with little build-up or logic.
Now, it seems the Star Wars comics are trying to retcon this plot point. This latest issue shows that Palpatine had planned his cloning experiments long before his death in Return of the Jedi, which paves the way for his eventual return in the sequel trilogy.
We’ve also seen similar cloning facilities in The Mandalorian, which many assume is why Moff Gideon is seeking the midichlorian-rich DNA of Baby Yoda. If this is true it makes sense that Palpatine would find a use for Luke Skywalker’s DNA via his hand.
No matter what the purpose ends up being, we now know the answer to the age-old question of what happened to Luke Skywalker’s hand.