There are minimal spoilers for Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens in this post, so please be advised.
Given that I'm geeking out on all things Star Wars, I thought I would chime in on one of my favorite theories surrounding Episode 7. I am not stating anything I believe as absolute; more thinking out loud and encouraging others to do the same.
This post is designed to present the evidence for and against the theory that Supreme Leader Snoke is actually Darth Plagueis; the Dark Lord of the SITH described in Star Wars Episode III and subject of the Star Wars Legends novel by James Luceno entitled, "Darth Plagueis" I believe there is some solid evidence to support this popular theory, but not enough that I'm entirely convinced. My intention is to attract as much insight and commentary from as many diverse perspectives as possible. So, please present your commentary below.
If we work together, I know we can discover the secret...
For the sake of argument, I am going to include some Star Wars "Legends" references in this post along with official Star Wars canon; largely from the James Luceno novel "Darth Plagueis". I include this material simply because I do not believe the "Legends" designation absolutely means that these stories cannot be used; rather that the new movies and official canon material is not bound by them. Additionally, the novel "Tarkin", also written by Luceno, includes a number of references to Darth Plagueis which canonizes certain elements that had been introduced in the Darth Plagueis novel.
The Tragedy of Darth Plagueis, The Wise
Ever since hearing "The Tragedy of Darth Plagueis, The Wise" in Star Wars Episode III, I've been intrigued about a Force user with that degree of power.
Just given what we hear about him in this short segment of the movie, Darth Plagueis appears to be the most powerful Force user we've seen or heard about in the saga.
“Darth Plagueis was a Dark Lord of the Sith so powerful and so wise, he could use the Force to influence the midi-chlorians to create…life. He had such a knowledge of the Dark Side, he could even keep the ones he cared about…from dying.”
It's inconceivable (to me at least) that a SITH Lord with power of that magnitude and apparent mastery over life and death could be killed by anyone. As far as official Star Wars canon is concerned, I believe this is the only screen reference to Plagueis (correct me if I'm mistaken), and all we have is Chancellor Palpatine's word that he existed at all.
Questioning the Existence of Darth Plagueis
In the Star Wars Expanded Universe, now deemed "Legends", we know that Darth Plagueis was Palpatine's SITH Master. We learned more about his power, his obsession with immortality and his pursuit of power over life and death. Regarding official Star Wars Canon however, this segment from Episode III is all we really have to go on regarding Plagueis.
So, considering that only; is it possible that Darth Plagueis may not have even existed? Chancellor Palpatine is clearly using this story in an ongoing effort to manipulate Anakin Skywalker to the Dark Side. Telling a story about a Force user strong enough to keep loved ones from dying is a great way to peek the interest of someone in whom you have deliberately manipulated images of his wife's certain death in the near future. Being a SITH Lord, the Darth Plagueis story is also a timely introduction to Anakin regarding the usefulness of the Dark Side (something we assume he has not been subject to before) and relevance to his current predicament. The images that Palpatine has given Anakin regarding the death of Padme in childbirth are an act of deception. Is it reasonable to think that the entire story of a being that discovered power sufficient to save her is also a complete deception? This is a difficult question because I'm not sure there is any evidence one way or the other. I'm simply interested if anyone has some insight on the issue.
The Death of Darth Plagueis is a Ruse
This can be looked at from a couple different perspectives from a "Legends" point of view...
In the Darth Plagueis novel, Palpatine's rise to power, destruction of the Jedi and establishment of the Empire was his plan all along. It was of course, "The Revenge of the SITH". Darth Plagueis planned to rule from the background, inserting his apprentice as the "face" of power. Could it have actually happened that way? As master and apprentice planned all along? Even through Episode VI when Emperor Palpatine was killed by his apprentice Darth Vader, could he have simply been the face of power with Darth Plagueis still very much alive and in control?
- The first part of this question is: was the death of Darth Plagueis a ruse that both he and Palpatine designed? Was it a co-conspiracy that Palpatine was directly involved in?
- The second part of the question is: was the death of Darth Plagueis a ruse that only Darth Plagueis was involved in?
Even the second perspective has a couple possible twists. The first being - Did Darth Plagueis lead Palpatine to believe he had been successful in killing him, when he actually survived? The second being - if Palpatine did take his master by surprise and legitimately kill him, is it feasible that Darth Plagueis resurrected himself, as he learned to do with others? (namely Darth Venamis). In the novel, we're not entirely certain that Plagueis mastered the power of self-resurrection.
These questions are relevant to the topic because it may serve to provide some insight as to how Supreme Leader Snoke was able to gain control over the remnants of the fallen Empire, and rebuild it to a considerable force in a relatively short period of time. If Snoke is Plagueis, and he was in control of the Empire from behind the scenes all along, that's an interesting and plausible solution. If not, and he survived Palpatine's attack without being in ultimate control, it's difficult to rationalize how such a powerful SITH Lord could wait several decades without enacting his revenge.
Similarities in Physical Appearance Between Supreme Leader Snoke and Darth Plagueis
In the novel, "Darth Plagueis", we learn that the Dark Lord of the SITH belongs to a species called the "Muun". We have seen Muuns on screen in the Prequels.
According to this article on Wookieepedia,
"Muuns were a thin, tall humanoid species from the mineral-rich planet of Muunilinst, which was also the headquarters of the InterGalactic Banking Clan, the largest banking organization in the galaxy. Muuns were known throughout the galaxy for their excellent financial and mathematical skills, and, seeking economic stability, the Empire exempted Muuns from their wide-spread non-Human persecution, in order to utilize Muuns and their economic finesse."
These images are very close to the way Darth Plagueis is shown on the cover of the novel. It makes sense that James Luceno would match the imagery of the prequels when selecting the Muun as his species for Plagueis.
What of his likeness to Snoke however? I offer the image below, but you'll have to rely on your memory of Snoke in Star Wars Episode VII primarily, as there seems to be an absence of quality screen captures from the movie online.
There are some similarities, but not an exact visual match by any means. Both appear to be quite old, thin and pale skinned. Snoke's head appears to be elongated somewhat, but not to the degree that we see Darth Plagueis on the cover of the novel or of the CGI Muuns we see in the prequels. This is either a deal breaker, or simply artistic license on the part of J.J. Abrams and the new Lucasfilm group at Disney. It could also be deliberate misdirection to conceal Snoke's identity.
Similarities Between the Darth Plagueis Story and Supreme Leader Snoke's Physical Appearance
In the Darth Plagueis novel, the SITH Lord is pretty beat up by the end. He sustains numerous injuries throughout the novel. In an assignation attempt, Darth Plagueis loses a portion of his jaw and neck, forcing him to utilize a respirator to breathe afterwards, and apparently for the duration of his life. In the beginning of the novel, Plagueis is badly burned just after killing his own Master, Darth Tenebrous. There are arguments both for and against Darth Plagueis being Supreme Leader Snoke in the novel based on this information. One one hand, the injuries he sustained matches the on-screen likeness of Supreme Leader Snoke, given the obvious deformity of his jaw and what appears to be burn scars along the entire bottom portion of his face. On the other hand, we do not see Snoke wearing a respirator, or mask of any kind. Again, this could be a deal breaker, or more artistic license that can easily be explained in Episode VIII or IX. In the novel, Darth Plagueis eventually began to heal his injuries as he became stronger with the Dark Side, but not enough to breathe without the mask. Given another, say, 40+ years, possibly he gained additional healing.
The Stature of Supreme Leader Snoke
In Episode VII, Supreme Leader Snoke is a towering figure; possibly 20 or 30 feet tall. We learn eventually however, that Snoke's image is a hologram; a familiar aesthetic in the Star Wars saga. What we don't know is whether or not Snoke's size is exaggerated in the hologram. If it's not exaggerated, then Snoke cannot be Darth Plagueis. His species, the Muuns, are described as being anywhere from 8 to 10 feet tall; much taller than a human, but not the immense figure Snoke is depicted as. I will offer two pieces of commentary about that:
We have seen the SITH displayed in larger-than-life fashion in holograms before.
In the above image of Darth Vader speaking with the Emperor, the size exaggeration is very similar to the displayed size of Supreme Leader Snoke in Episode VII against the known size of a Muun.
The cover of the Darth Plagueis novel is interesting as well.
Again, we see the master displayed in larger-than-life fashion. We know (and the novel explains) that Darth Plagueis is not this large in comparison to his human apprentice. It appears that SITH Lords may have a preference to be displayed in this manner; possibly to convey power and authority.
The Evidence in Summary:
There are numerous considerations to this discussion, such as how old Darth Plagueis is. Such a question may help to determine whether or not it's plausible for Darth Plagueis to still be alive at the time of Episode VII. This question is heavily dependent on Star Wars Legends material and is nullified as irrelevant if Plagueis did master life and death, but... worthy of analysis. Point being, is that this post would be everlasting if I listed all considerations that even I am aware of. In keeping with the spirit of this post, I prefer to let others chime in with their theories and general commentary.
So, let's look at the evidence (Some explained above, some not):
Arguments for Darth Plagueis Being Supreme Leader Snoke
- It was the grand plan of Darth Plagueis to place Palpatine into lasting power; to become Supreme Chancellor of the Republic, to destroy the Jedi Order and eventually declare himself Emperor.
- The visual likeness of Darth Plagueis bears reasonable resemblance to the on-screen depiction of Supreme Leader Snoke.
- Injuries sustained by Darth Plagueis are mostly consistent with the on-screen depiction of Supreme Leader Snoke.
- Darth Plagueis was said to have mastered the elements of life and death. He succeeded in his pursuit to keep people from dying and to resurrect the dead, as he did in the case of Darth Venamis. He succeeded in his quest to create a sentient, Force-sensitive being out of nothing but the Force in the conception and birth of Anakin Skywalker. He likely had the ability to survive Palpatine's attack, or resurrect himself after dying.
- In this excellent post on the same topic by Eleanor Tremor, it is revealed that almost identical music is utilized in the background for both Supreme Leader Snoke's reveal in Episode VII and during Palpatine's telling of the Darth Plagueis story in Episode III.
- If not Darth Plagueis, what SITH Lord or other Dark Force users are we aware of at the conclusion of Episode VI? Who are we aware of that is as powerful as Supreme Leader Snoke, or who could become that powerful? Who do we know that is powerful enough to seduce Luke Skywalker's star pupil, wipe out his new Jedi Order and send him into exile as the First Order gains power?
- Supreme Leader Snoke's obsession and hatred for Luke Skywalker could be made more legitimate and explainable if he is Darth Plagueis; given that Luke was instrumental in the death of both his apprentice and Force-conceived offspring in one act.
Arguments Against Darth Plagueis Being Supreme Leader Snoke
- The simple one... Why is he called Snoke? Besides being too much of a plot reveal for the remainder of the new trilogy, why would such a proud and powerful SITH Lord take an alias?
- Most of the evidence is based on non-canon "Legends" material.
- Force abilities aside, Darth Plagueis is far beyond the average age /expected lifespan of a Muun by the time of Episode VII.
- The similarities in appearance between Darth Plagueis and Supreme Leader Snoke are reasonably close, but not very close.
- Through the testimony of multiple different people associated with the new Lucasfilm group (including J.J. Abrams and Andy Serkis), it has been said that Supreme Leader Snoke is a completely new character to the saga, which Darth Plagueis is not.
- In the same post by Eleanor Tremor referenced above, it is mentioned that Supreme Leader Snoke and Kylo Ren are not SITH Lords. Given his testimony of allegiance to the great lineage of Darth Bane, this would certainly be a deal breaker for Plagueis being Snoke. Plagueis is a SITH through and through.
Some comments on this last "against" argument:
Coming directly from the source, I will not argue that Kylo Ren is not a SITH apprentice as they have said. However, I will argue that doesn't necessarily mean that Supreme Leader Snoke is not a SITH Lord. It's clear at the conclusion of Episode VII, that he believes Kylo Ren requires additional training. It is suggested in the Darth Plagueis novel that a certain level of training and Dark Side knowledge is required before a master bestows the title of "Darth" onto an apprentice. Kylo Ren displays a great deal of power in Episode VII, yet is clearly conflicted, admits to being repeatedly called to the light and is defeated handily by someone who is just beginning to learn about the Force and their own abilities. This is not indicative of someone especially well trained, and certainly not an apprentice worthy of the "Darth" prefix. Because Kylo Ren is not a SITH Lord in Episode VII does not necessarily mean that he will not become one in a future installment. In order to be a match against an obviously powerful Rey, I believe he will.
As stated in the beginning of this post, I'm geeking out on Episode VII and I enjoy theorizing about things such as this. In the end, I understand that the simplest explanation can often be the correct one; in this case meaning that Supreme Leader Snoke is not a familiar character. Personally, I think that Snoke being Plagueis really just ties the saga together nicely.
If you've read this far, thank you; and may the Force be with you. ( ;