Supreme Leader Snoke. The antagonist of the Sequel Trilogy. The antithesis to Luke Skywalker. The Emperor’s replacement. What do we know about him? Very little. What could we piece together to form a theory? Absolutely anything apparently. From reincarnations of Palpatine, to being a “Sith No One Knew Existed”, to being the continued essence of a long since departed Darth Plagueis. There are so many theories out there now, from both before and after the release of The Force Awakes, that it is highly unlikely that the true identity of the Supreme Leader hasn’t actually been discovered somewhere in the deepest recesses of Reddit.
With that being said, I figure with D23 looming on the horizon and a new trailer for The Last Jedi no doubt being in tow, that now would be the perfect time to finally throw my hat into the ring on the identity of this generation’s big bad.
So strap yourselves in, because this will be a long one.
The further back you go in time you go the wilder the Snoke theories tend to be. Prior to the release of The Force Awakens, and even after it there were a plethora or pretty outlandish theories making their way around the internet. But the one that took hold the most was that Snoke was in fact Palpatine’s old master, Darth Plagueis. On the surface it makes a lot of sense. Snoke was this anonymous figure who had knowledge of the Empire’s rise and fall, combining this with his obvious connection to the Dark Side of the Force and the fact that the music which plays during his introductory scene in the Force Awakens is incredibly similar to that of the Opera scene in Revenge of the Sith, where Plagueis is first mentioned and the dots began to add up. Bringing in an already established character would help connect the prequel trilogy to the sequel trilogy (Something that has yet to be done), but it would maintain the mystery and fog that comes with a character reveal.
However, in the weeks and months following the release of The Force Awakens cracks began to appear in the Plagueis armour. In interviews with Entertainment Weekly and Empire magazine, Director JJ Abrams made it very clear that 1.) There were no Sith in The Force Awakens and that 2.) Snoke is a new character who is yet to be introduced to the Star Wars universe, and that he’s on the Dark side of the force. Whilst this doesn’t give us much in the way of exactly who Snoke is, it does tell an awful lot about who he isn’t.
So the cogs of the internet started turning once again and all eyes were suddenly being cast on unfamiliar territory, the new expanded universe. Following the purchase of LucasFilm and the announcement that all new comics, novels, games etc. would be canon, many fans of the franchise began to look for clues to Snoke’s identity in mediums other than films. Unsurprisingly, the expanded universe was willing to help them out.
In the first post-Return of the Jedi canon novel, Star Wars: Aftermath, we are given hints towards a character called “The Operator”. A character very much in the background of the first novel who works for the would-be First Order, the successor branch to The Empire, which at this point is on its last legs. Although some fans clung (and still do) to the idea that Snoke was Plagueis, many more now turned their heads towards The Operator. A hope that once again turned out to be dud.
In the subsequent Aftermath novels we find out that the Operator is in fact a character called Gallius Rax. A character whose storyline is very much tied together in the Aftermath trilogy and one who likely won’t be appearing on the big screen anytime soon.
So who exactly is Snoke and where did he come from? Well, I think that the new canon novels do actually provide us with our most convincing clues. But before we look at those clues we need to first understand the direction that LucasFilm are taking the Star Wars franchise and the obsession with areas of grey.
Since the adoption of a new canon, novels, TV shows and even films set in the Star War universe have begun to adopt a multi-layered approach to good and bad. Rather than there being just the two absolutes of the Sith and the Jedi, we are now being introduced to the concept that a being can be one with the Force, and yet not take any particular side. The Bendu in Star Wars Rebels claims to be the “one in the middle”, sitting in the middle of the Force, whilst the Jedi and Sith occupy the light and dark. Ahsoka from Clone Wars/Rebels/Novel famously left the Jedi Order and now also occupies that space in the middle. And then you have the sub-factions; the Church of the Force, the Knights of Wren, the Guardians of the Whills. All of whom are neither Sith nor Jedi, all of whom occupy a space of their own along the spectrum of the Force, so to speak.
This area of the grey shades of the Force is one that we can surmise is going to be continued in Episode 8 as Luke potentially tries to move away from the concept of the Jedi that we are so used to. But what does all this mean for Snoke, and how can it be connected to his reveal in Episodes 8 or 9? I think the answer can be found in a few plot points from recently released novels and the minor details we already know about the Supreme Leader himself.
The strong push from LucasFilm to emphasize the existence of sub-sections of groups who are strong with, or believe in, the Force leads me to believe that this must play an important role in the upcoming Saga Episodes. So to start with I believe we can deduce that JJ Abrams was not lying when he said that Snoke is not a Sith, instead I would argue that he is someone who knows the history of the Force and of the Galaxy. Much like the Bendu he has a deep knowledge of the Universe around him and is likely much older than he appears to be. As a consequence I would argue that it is highly likely that he views the Jedi and Sith as being below him. Single-minded religions that were too regimented in their ways to be anything more than puppets in his game. Which leads me into my second point, in the Aftermath trilogy we find out that Emperor Palpatine was in communication with someone or something in the Unknown Regions, and that he was concocting a plan to venture there and find the source. It’s also important to note that it was the source of these communications who reached out to Palpatine, not the other way around. I think it’s a safe assumption to make that whoever it was on the other end of those discussions was maybe even more powerful in the Force than Palpatine was, due to his ability to search and reach out that far into the Galaxy. I also think that it’s safe to assume that person is Snoke and that much like the Bendu, Snoke is a creature of immense connection to the Force. From what we learn in Aftermath and the setting in which we find ourselves in The Force Awakens, the fleet of ships that Palpatine sent into the unknown regions are likely the ones who came across Snoke. Whether he was trapped or for some other reason lacked the ability to relocate himself will remain unknown. But it’s likely that he demonstrated enough power and knowledge (Perhaps killing the other contenders for leadership, including Rey Sloane?) that the now-First Order adopted him as their leader.
Having used the Sith as his tool and not the Jedi it’s likely that whatever creature Snoke is, he strayed further into the Dark side of the Force than the light over the unknown amount of time he spent in the Unknown Regions of space. With that being said, I don’t think he was completely undiscovered before he reached out to Palpatine. In the Thrawn novel, Grand Admiral Thrawn, the Chiss from the Unknown Regions of space, warns Palpatine of dangers in the Galaxy that would one day threaten the Empire. I believe that Thrawn spoke of Snoke, not having met him before, but likely as a figure whom the Chiss had learned to fear and avoid (Whether they were the ones to lock him away in the first place – if he even was locked away somehow – is up for debate, I would lean on the side of this not being the case).
One final piece of evidence I would like to examine comes from some very tiny spoilers for the Last Jedi. In a visual description of Supreme Leader Snoke we learn that unlike the Sith or Jedi he is clothed in ornate clothing, including gold shoes and wearing a large black crystal on his finger. Combining this with his reported Red Royal Soldiers (Akin to the Emperor) and it I believe that the dots finally fall into place.
Supreme Leader Snoke is/was…
- A creature who has an unprecedented connection to The Force, in a similar manner to the Bendu
- Neither a Sith nor a Jedi, instead he views himself as above such single-minded ideologies
- Portrays his superiority-complex (A result of being thousands of years old and likely having more knowledge of the Universe than anyone besides perhaps Maz Kanata) through his Royal clothing and throne etc.
- Locked away or trapped for potentially hundreds or thousands of years
- Swayed to the Dark Side of the Force over the thousands of years he spent watching the events of the Galaxy unfold
- Known by the Chiss Ascendancy and potentially feared and avoided
- In communication with Palpatine before his death and likely using him to be freed (Something which Palpatine ensured with his post-death plans for The Empire)