Since childhood, Palmer was chronically ill. His doctors did not expect him to live past the age of forty. Craving immortality, he devoted his entire life to becoming one of the richest men in the world so that he could use his formidable resources to preserve his life, be it through legal or illegal means. By the time of the Master's arrival on Flight 753, Palmer was 76 years old, after having spent several decades on dialysis machines, living in climate-controlled environments, and relying on repeated organ transplants (several of them harvested from unwilling participants, kidnapped from other countries).
When he was younger, he developed a keen interest in the occult. Palmer researched the legends surrounding Vampire (Strigoi), and financed the careers of several men with similar interests. One of these men was Abraham Setrakian, whose post at the University of Vienna was made possible through a grant from Palmer. However, when Setrakian later refused to help Palmer find the Master, Palmer exposed Setrakian's affair with his student, Miriam, and the scandal resulted in Setrakian's dismissal from the University.
Palmer continued his search, regardless, eventually coming into contact with three of The Ancients residing in Europe. The Ancients were highly selective about which humans they turned, using them to add to their untold amount of resources, as well as to further their aims. They refused to turn Palmer, which they later explained to Setrakian. They felt that he would not be sufficiently obedient to their commands, and felt that he was too interested in his own personal gain. Palmer was, subsequently, enraged, largely due to the fact that he was wealthier than any of the other magnates the Ancients had "admitted," and so felt that he held the most power.
Out of anger and stubborness, Palmer eventually managed to track down the Master, meeting with him in the "Dead Zone" outside of Pripyat (the city near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant meltdown) in the Ukraine. The two struck a bargain: Palmer would facilitate the Master's transport to the United States, as well as build a series of nuclear power plants at select sites across the world. When the time was right, these plants would be set to trigger a deliberate meltdown, obliterating the origin sites of the other Ancients and creating a nuclear winter , which would allow the Master and his strain of Strigoi to move freely without fear of the sun. In exchange, the Master would turn Palmer, granting him immortality and a place at the Master's side.
From his climate-controlled homes in Dark Harbor, Virginia, and Manhattan, Palmer monitors the arrival of Flight 753 and the subsequent Occultation of the Sun that allows The Master to escape JFK Airport. He also provides sanctuary at one of his properties after the Master's casket is transported across the East River into Manhattan.
Thanks to his influence, he is granted free access to information on the ongoing investigation into the growing crisis, including regular reports from Jim Kent, a senior official of the CDC's Canary Project. He also learns that Ephraim Goodweather is beginning to suspect the truth, and that Abraham Setrakian has resurfaced. He tells The Master of these developments, which prompts the Master to attack Eph directly by using his wife, Kelly Goodweather, against him after she was turned.
In the first week after the arrival of Flight 753, Palmer meets with Thomas Eichhorst, the Master's right hand, to assure him that everything is proceeding as planned. Impatient, Palmer demands that the Master fulfill his side of the bargain. Eichhorst reminds Palmer that he still has one, last promise to keep: the delivery of the Occido Lumen, a unique book being auctioned that week at Sotheby's, which the Master refers to as "the last hope of the pig humans."
Palmer also publicly devotes his resources to "combating" the growing health crisis in the United States, effectively masking the truth about the emerging Strigoi threat . Ephraim Goodweather becomes obsessed with killing Palmer, due to his ties with the Master and the fact that he served as an impediment to the resolution of the crisis. Using Dr. Everett Barnes as cover, Goodweather slips into the Capitol building where Palmer is addressing a session of Congress, and attempts to shoot him when he appears in a hallway. Goodweather misses, however, and is arrested by the FBI.
For his own amusement, Goodweather is spirited away out of the FBI's custody to have a "last meal" at his estate. Palmer expresses regret that no one, including Eph, can accept that the vampires' victory is inevitable, or that human society is nearing its end, with or without the Master. Soon, Palmer believes, the only wealth worth having will be life, by which Palmer will still remain one of the richest men in the world. Goodweather is unimpressed, telling Palmer that he is the bigger fool if his fear of death has led him to believe that the Master will actually honour any promises made. Eph is quoted as saying to Palmer: "Take it from an epidemiologist, Mr. Palmer, viruses don't make deals." Palmer appears unconcerned, but inside, however, he is deeply vexed when Goodweather points out one simple truth: that the Master has turned thousands of "ordinary" people into vampires "for free," yet insists on making Palmer, who is considered to be his most valuable ally, "wait in line." Over the course of events, this will remain a fact that continues to peeve Palmer, partly contributing to his doubt in the Master later on.
To "remind" the Master of their bargain, Palmer rescinds Eichhorst's line of credit during the auction for the Occido Lumen at Sotheby's, allowing Setrakian to win the book.
When the Master and Eichhorst confront Palmer as a result of his actions, he demands the "reward" for his services, and assures him that all of their other plans are ready to proceed. With his usefulness at an end, the Master kills and dismembers Palmer.
Later, Setrakian confronts Eichhorst inside the Stoneheart Group's nuclear plant in Long Island, inquiring about Palmer. Eichhorst states that Palmer's death was inevitable, since he was always fixated on his own aspirations, rather than that of the Master's. This implies that the Master had never intended to turn Palmer and give him immortality.
The Night Eternal
Though Palmer is killed before the nuclear winter transpired, his Stoneheart Group is co-opted, and its personnel are reassigned as prison camp guards and private military contractors by the vampires and their collaborators. They are one of the few groups of humans allowed freedom and safety in exchange for their services.
- In the TV series, Palmer makes a habit of keeping his "expired" organs in jars on shelves to admire, like trophies. In Guillermo del Toro's earlier vampire film, Blade II, the oldest vampires likewise lose their human organs as they become unnecessary; in a deleted scene, the elderly vampire Eli Damaskinos points to a jar containing his human heart, and remarks to a human familiar, "only a fool would appeal to it now."
- Palmer is the first antagonist to become a former antagonist/anti-hero of the series.