Ever since the first Star Wars movie hit theaters, the saga's mythology has reached far beyond the realm of the silver screen. Although Disney cast much of the sprawling and complicated Expanded Universe out of canon, they're continuing to boost the mythology with the publication of new #StarWars books and comics. And, thanks to a pattern of subtle hints we may already know the sequel trilogy's big twist.
It all comes down to who Supreme Leader Snoke is, what he wants, and why he catalyzed the First Order's rise from the ashes of the Empire. At first glance, Snoke seemed to be your standard Emperor Palpatine reboot in The Force Awakens: He's evil, he's commanding a white-suited army, every word out of his mouth sounds like something a cartoon baddie would say. But if these clues are to be believed, Snoke might just be the most important character in the sequel trilogy. So let's unravel this web of mystery.
Snoke's Origin: A Dark Power From The Unknown Regions
Many of these clues come from the last book in the Aftermath trilogy. Set just after the Empire's defeat at Endor, Chuck Wendig's Aftermath books detail the final skirmishes between the Rebellion and those still loyal to the Emperor. Ultimately, the Imperial survivors fled to the Unknown Regions, a terrifying area of space surrounded by a labyrinth of solar storms and gravity wells.
Palpatine was obsessed with the Unknown Regions, claiming to sense a dark, primordial power that was just waiting to strike at the galaxy.
"The Emperor was convinced that something waited for him out there — some origin of the Force, some dark presence formed of malevolent substance. He said he could feel the waves of it radiating out now that the way was clear. The Emperor called it a signal — conveniently one that only he could hear. Even his greatest enforcer, Vader, seemed oblivious to it, and Vader also claimed mastery over the dark Force, did he not? Rax believed Palpatine had gone mad."
Determined to discover this creature's intention, Palpatine established an observatory on the Outer Rim planet Jakku, and there are even hints that he communicated with whatever dark power lurked beyond the galaxy. The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary also stressed Jakku's role, explaining that Imperial forces used the desert planet as a rendezvous before fleeing the Outer Rim.
The Emperor also hired an ambitious alien known as Thrawn to inform him on the Unknown Regions. Thrawn, an EU character who was dragged back into canon by Star Wars: Rebels, hails from Chiss space, which is somewhere in the Unknown Regions. In Thrawn's own novel, penned by his EU creator Timothy Zahn, the blue-skinned commander alludes to a threat "more evil than the Empire."
Leia Senses Snoke
Are you seeing a pattern here? Hints about the Unknown Regions stretch from Aftermath to Rebels, and into two other canon books, meaning Lucasfilm are eager to establish the Unknown Regions' importance ahead of The Last Jedi. But that's not all — in Aftermath: Empire's End, Leia sensed Snoke reaching out to Ben Solo (later Kylo Ren) while he was still in the womb.
The dark, now lit with stars. One by one, like eyes opening. Comforting at first, then sinister as she worries. Who is out there, who is watching us? Hands reach for her, hands of shadow, lifting her up, reaching for her throat, her wrists, her stomach—
Inside, the child kicks. She feels her baby turning inside, right-side, up and down, struggling to find his bearings, trying so hard to find his way free of her. It’s not time, she thinks. Just a little longer.
This nightmare sequence screams Snoke, and it's worth noting that Leia was aboard a spaceship flying along the Outer Rim during this scene. In another hint, at Star Wars Celebration it was revealed that one of the planets in the new Disneyworld Star Wars park would be a new world from the Unknown Regions. Of course, the multiple allusions to the power lurking in the Unknown Regions his could just be a red herring — but we've seen this plot before.
Echoing The Yuuzhan Vong
Not everything in the Expanded Universe is good. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that only a fraction of the EU is good. The Yuuzhan Vong trilogy is not part of that fraction.
Okay, maybe that's a bit harsh. There are many fans who really enjoyed the Yuuzhan Vong books, which served to push the Star Wars canon forward and stop it from stagnating. Major players in these books were the next generation of Skywalker-Solo heroes: The twins Jacen and Jaina, ill-fated Anakin, and Luke's son Ben. These books saw the galaxy invaded by a powerful and evil race of beings from beyond the galaxy — the Yuuzhan Vong.
Worshipping life and believing technology to be blasphemy, the Yuuzhan Vong had no qualms in using technology to invade the galaxy in some kind of Amish holy war. Suffice it to say, this plot was shaky at the time and has not aged well, especially as there's some weird socio-political commentary in there. However, the concept itself is strong.
Which brings us back to the sequel trilogy. If Snoke really does hail from the Unknown Regions, and all signs point towards this being the case, then it could be that Lucasfilm are taking what was a fresh idea — invaders from beyond the galaxy — and doing it right this time. Snoke could well be just the first of an invasion force, or perhaps there's something darker and more abstract lurking in the Unknown Regions, some Force power that Snoke commands. Either way, this plot would be a great way to continue Star Wars without falling back on the kind of repetition that stopped The Force Awakens from being a total critical success.
tl;dr — Snoke's probably a powerful Force being from the Unknown Regions, and there might be more like him on the way soon. Neat!
Tell us in the comments: Do you think this is the right direction for Star Wars?