Warning: This post contains spoilers for Star Wars Rebels, and Episodes I - VII in the Star Wars franchise.
Who is Supreme Leader Snoke? This mystery has tantalized #StarWars fans since The Force Awakens went into production, and a number of elaborate theories about the character’s true identity have surfaced since the film’s release. Is Kylo Ren’s enigmatic master actually Emperor Palpatine? Or is Snoke a disfigured Darth Maul? There was even a terrifyingly credible theory that Snoke was Jar Jar Binks – so you could say that Snoke theories are getting a little out of hand.
The reality is that Supreme Leader Snoke’s identity probably isn’t a secret at all. He’s likely to be a new character, unlike any Star Wars character we’ve seen before. This would be the perfect way for #TheLastJedi to distinguish itself as the new trilogy attempts to move the franchise forward.
This has also been supported by the recently released teaser trailer for The Last Jedi, which gave us a brief look at the upcoming addition to the franchise. Above all, the most significant reveal was that Luke Skywalker may have fundamentally changed his philosophy when it comes to the Jedi Order and his understanding of the Force. With this in mind, I'd like to take a look at how the developments in Luke's philosophy make it even more likely that Supreme Leader Snoke is a character we're unfamiliar with.
Gold! Always Believe In Your Snoke!
What do we know about Supreme Leader Snoke so far? In The Force Awakens, the Supreme Leader appeared in the traditional hazy guise of a hologram. Scarred, leached of color, and larger than life, it’s difficult to discern much about how the character is going to appear in the flesh.
Well, according to recent leaks, Snoke eschews the traditional black robes of your average Star Wars villain in favor of something a little more bespoke.
"Snoke wears a gold silky robe with a very ornate pattern on it in The Last Jedi. In fact, I think you can pretty much see the robe on page 226 of 'The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens'.
What is also interesting is his slippers are like “jester shoes” or “genie slippers.” They’re also gold because you have to match if you that far in with the gold robe. I think the robe and shoes are lined in red too so he’s stylin’. He has a very “blood and gold” vibe to him."
This description of ornate finery is a far cry from anything Star Wars fans have seen before. The Galactic Empire drew on the cold, grey uniformity of Nazism, but this description of Snoke is more akin to a Russian Tsar in exile. In the Star Wars novelization Empire’s End, an ominous presence is established in the Unknown Regions of the galaxy - one that even Emperor Palpatine is wary of.
This presence is named only as ‘The Outcast’, and is described as “an origin of the Force, some dark presence formed of malevolent substance”. Palpatine suggests that the Outcast was so powerful and anarchic that it was banished, though by what and from what remains unknown.
We do know that Snoke’s emergence comes as a direct result of the fall of the Empire, at the hands of Luke Skywalker and the Rebel Alliance. If Snoke is both as powerful and evil as the Emperor claimed, then Luke and his father’s victory in Return of The Jedi will be tarnished, as they simply made way for a presence even worse than Emperor Palpatine.
The Last Jedi: Challenging The Cyclical Nature Of 'Star Wars'
Such a realization could force Luke to realize the culpability of the Jedi in preserving an imbalanced Force. Both the Sith and the Jedi are dogmatic orders, which enforce strict principles on young, Force-sensitive individuals from an early age. Each victory for the Jedi and the light is actually a victory for imbalance, which is why every Return is counteracted with a Revenge or a Strikes Back.
Even in the titles, there’s a constant sense of revolving motion which suggests that the Jedi and the Sith are caught in a loop. If Luke is finally going to realize this and truly bring an end to the Jedi order, then Snoke needs to be a threat large enough to make him fundamentally question his understanding of the Force.
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Star Wars is a deliberately recursive franchise, one that retraces old steps and tropes in the telling of generational parables. Who are Rey’s parents? Is Mace Windu Finn’s father? These questions all come back to the immortal twist in the closing moments of Empire. The lineage of any character comes under close scrutiny all because Darth Vader turned out to be Luke’s father.
Yet, it’s so much more than that. The Force Awakens mirrored the events of A New Hope so closely that many considered it more of a soft reboot than a genuine sequel. Now that the trailer for The Last Jedi has dropped, fans have noticed some pretty glaring similarities to the tone and visuals of The Empire Strikes Back. If Rian Johnson’s new film follows the format of Empire as closely as J.J. Abrams followed A New Hope, it’s a fair bet that there’ll be a late, villainous twist in The Last Jedi.
"Ever Heard The Tragedy Of Darth Plageuis The Wise?"
The only real option for Snoke’s secret identity is Darth Plageuis, a character that has previously been mentioned, but hasn't appeared in a Star Wars movie.
In one of the most memorable scenes of the prequel trilogy, Emperor Palpatine discusses the power of Darth Plageuis the Wise with Anakin. His ability to cheat death and achieve unnatural longevity makes him a possible candidate, adding a unique layer of irony that the Emperor was unable to recognize his old master’s presence out in the Unknown Regions.
If characters in The Force Awakens and Rebels are anything to go by, Lucasfilm would likely feature a retconned version of Plageuis that lightly draws on the now non-canon Legends, so the version that would appear in The Last Jedi would be vastly different to any we’ve seen before. The discussion surrounding Snoke’s finery and status as an ‘outcast’ combined with Plageuis’s apparent longevity, as well as his vicious betrayal are reminiscent of one of the most demonized individuals in history: Grigori Rasputin.
This is a unique inspiration that works well, whether Snoke is Darth Plageuis or not.
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But how does this relate to Luke's new philosophy?
Well, Snoke’s longevity allows Luke a unique window into the past to when the Jedi and Sith were paramount and unrecognizable from what we've seen so far. It gives him the chance to see the repetitive nature of the destructive conflict between light and dark.
This glimpse into a mystical past will show stark contrasts to the monasterial lifestyle that Luke has come to adopt, even if Snoke actually turned out to be the last Jedi: an entitled remnant of the Old Republic.
Light... Darkness... A Balance: A Fundamental Change To The Franchise Is Already In Motion
Whether it’s in #StarWarsRebels with the powerful and stoically neutral Bendu, or #RogueOne at the holy city of Jeddha, the franchise is increasingly dealing with factions and individuals that don’t align with the galaxy’s traditional institutions, or that represent those institutions in untraditional ways. With new and compelling characters like Chirrut Imwe and Maz Kanata entering the canon, it’s become apparent that a fundamental change is coming to Star Wars. Luke’s ominous claim in The Last Jedi's teaser trailer simply rubber-stamped this point.
“It’s time for the Jedi to end”
Luke Skywalker, The Last Jedi
Luke’s profound change of heart remains a mystery, but it seems to be a gradual questioning of the classically binary understanding of the Force. Snoke needs to be a new yet ancient threat, not a rehashed version of Darth Sidious, in order for Luke to realize the culpability of the Jedi in the constantly recurring battle between light and dark.
He needs to realize that he’s clinging to an outdated, piecemeal religion which isn’t the paragon of virtue he believed it to be. Only then can The Last Jedi really usher in a new age for Star Wars.
Unfortunately, this probably means that Luke Skywalker will be joining the other Force ghosts before too long.
If you still think Supreme Leader Snoke could be a familiar character, here's a look at each possibility and why they're unlikely choices for the new Star Wars trilogy's big bad:
Darth Maul Recently Died In A Duel With Obi-Wan Kenobi:
Darth Maul was a conflicted, furious character whose materialism extended towards artifacts of tangible power as opposed to monetary value, making him a less likely candidate for the role of Supreme Leader.
He also met a fitting if anti-climactic end in #StarWarsRebels, and reviving the character would be incongruous with the direction of the franchise at large.
Jar Jar Binks Became A Street Performer:
Just no. The only existing character that fits the decadent vibe rumored for Snoke is the controversial Gungan Jar Jar Binks, who developed a penchant for flashy outfits by the time of Revenge Of The Sith. Fortunately, he appears to have been too busy performing on the streets of Naboo to be orchestrating a new fascist regime.
Darth Sidious As Snoke Would Undermine The Legacy Of Previous Star Wars Movies:
There are tonnes of reasons why Snoke shouldn't be Darth Sidious, but he very well could be. However, we have to believe that #Disney understand their franchises well enough to know that this should be avoided.
Allowing the Emperor to survive Anakin Skywalker's redemption in The Return Of The Jedi would completely negate an iconic moment of the original trilogy, and the prophetic storyline throughout the prequel trilogy - unless you accept that the Jedi's reading of the prophecy was another example of their jaded view of the Force.
Ezra Bridger's Backstory Conflicts With Details About Supreme Leader Snoke:
One of the most interesting (yet unlikely) rumors is that Star Wars Rebels star Ezra Bridger could be the mysterious villain. However, Snoke admits to being ancient, and Ezra clearly hasn't been around long enough to be considered ancient.
While most expect the Rebels protagonist to end the animated saga as a very different character to the one audiences are used to, he's not going to become Supreme Leader Snoke.
With all of these theories seeming increasingly unlikely, it's looking like Supreme Leader Snoke really is a new character suitable for a Star Wars trilogy that wishes to fundamentally change the complexity of the balance of the Force.
So, there you have it. Who do you think Supreme Leader Snoke is?