Of all the mysteries in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, few have generated as much discussion as the one surrounding the identity of Supreme Leader Snoke. Seen only in giant hologram form, Snoke is the classic “maneuvering behind the scenes” Star Wars villain, cut from a similar mold as Emperor Palpatine in the original and prequel trilogies. With 30 years between Star Wars: Return of the Jedi and Snoke’s first on-screen appearance, it leaves a large gap in our knowledge of the new character, which of course, leaves us free to wildly theorize in the meantime.
What we do know so far is that Snoke is a Force user of some kind, he turned Kylo Ren against Han, Leia, and Luke, he’s been around for a long time, and is horribly disfigured. Andy Serkis, who did all the motion capture and voice work for Snoke, cryptically told Entertainment Weekly, “Obviously he has a huge agenda. He has suffered a lot of damage… there is a strange vulnerability to him, which belies his true agenda.” We obviously know little about what that agenda may be, but we certainly have some thoughts as to his true identity.
1. Darth Plagueis
For anyone who doesn’t remember, Darth Plagueis was the Sith lord who trained Emperor Palpatine and was brought up briefly in the prequel trilogy. In terms of the Star Wars canon, Plagueis possessed the power to bring his loved ones back from the dead, before his eventual betrayal and death at the hands of Palpatine.
Things only more get confusing from there; Lucasfilm had originally commissioned an expanded universe novel explaining Plagueis’ origin as a Muun (the species known as the leaders of the Banking Clan), his behind-the-scene role in the original trilogy, and his responsibility for accidentally triggering the virgin birth of Anakin Skywalker. As we know though, the original expanded universe novels are no longer canon, leaving us largely in the dark as to who Plagueis was, past what we were told in Revenge of the Sith (which, incidentally, was very little).
It seems like no coincidence that Snoke looks a lot like early artist renderings of Plagueis. There’s also a certain poetry to bringing a character who’s been around since the beginning of the Star Wars timeline back full circle. However, Lucasfilm Creative Executive Pablo Hidalgo recently debunked this theory on Twitter, confirming that “Sidious killed Plagueis. He killed him. Killed. As in “to kill”. Like, there was killing.” Whether you believe Hidalgo isn’t trying to hide Snoke’s true identity though is entirely another matter.
2. Gallius Rax, “The Operator” from the Aftermath trilogy
This theory is a little more obscure, but still carries as much weight as any other. In the first Aftermath novel, the story centered around a summit of Imperial leaders meeting on Akiva directly following the destruction of the second Death Star at the Battle of Endor. The summit was betrayed by one of their own, an admiral by the name of Sloane. Sloane in turn was working under instruction of an informant known only as “The Operator,” whose goal was to destroy the remnants of the old Empire, in the interest of building “an Empire worthy of the galaxy it will rule.”
Later on, Life Debt, the second novel in the Aftermath series, reveals The Operator to be Gallius Rax, a mysterious fleet commander with a bold vision for a reborn Empire. Throughout Life Debt, Rax prefers to move behind the scenes, pulling the necessary strings of his subordinates in order to accomplish his goals. All that seems to prime him perfectly for eventually assuming the role of Supreme Leader Snoke.
3. The Grand Inquisitor from Star Wars Rebels
Disney’s Star Wars Rebels cartoon series introduced a whole load of new canon to fans, chief among them, the presence of the Empire’s Force-trained Inquisitors, who are tasked with hunting down and destroying the remnants of the Jedi Order.
The Grand Inquisitor, voiced by the always-ominous Jason Isaacs, would make an interesting fit for the true identity of Snoke. He fell to his death after an ill-fated duel with former Jedi Padawan Kanan Jarrus, but as we all know, death is rarely permanent in major franchises.
What’s even more intriguing are the Grand Inquisitor’s final words: “You have no idea what you’ve unleashed here today. There are some things far more frightening than death.” Showrunner Simon Kinberg has long teased at an eventual connection between Rebels and the new trilogy. Could the Grand Inquisitor’s warning be a foreshadowing of that connection, and more specifically, a hint at his return as Supreme Leader Snoke? It would be a little bit of a stretch, but the physical resemblance and cryptic final words don’t seem unintentional.
4. Darth Bane
If we’re going to talk about bringing characters back full circle, we’d be remiss in not bringing up Darth Bane. Bane’s only canonical appearance in the Star Wars saga came in the Star Wars: Clone Wars cartoon series finale, when Yoda battled his ghost on the Sith homeworld of Moraband.
Historically, he’s an ancient Sith Lord responsible for devising “The Rule of Two,” declaring that the Sith must only ever have one master and one apprentice at all times. Bringing Bane back as a resurrected Force ghost would be digging deep into the canon, pitting our heroes against the most formidable evil the Star Wars universe has to offer.
5. Emperor Palpatine
Sure, we saw Emperor Palpatine perish at the end of Return of the Jedi, but if the fearsome Sith lord proved anything over his tenure in the Star Wars saga, it’s that he’s nothing if not resourceful. And while it would be a bit of a cop-out to have Snoke turn out to be Sheev Palpatine in the flesh, it wouldn’t be crazy for him to at least be a deformed clone of the late Emperor, created as a back-up plan in the event of his untimely death.
6. A former apprentice of Palpatine
Emperor Palpatine took on a handful of apprentices throughout the years. We know that list included Darth Maul, Count Dooku, and Darth Vader, but what if the late Emperor had a secret fourth student? He managed to keep the identity of Gallius Rax a secret for years, so it stands to reason that he could very well have had another Sith apprentice operating from the shadows, tasked with keeping the Empire alive indefinitely.
7. Darth Vader’s deadbeat father
Awhile back, a YouTuber claimed he had a leak from the script of Star Wars: The Last Jedi in-hand, that revealed Snoke to be none other than Darth Vader’s father. Suffice it to say, we don’t believe for a second that he somehow got his hands on the most protected screenplay in Hollywood, but it’s still a theory worth diving into.
What if Anakin Skywalker actually did have a father roaming the galaxy, biding his time before seizing control of the First Order, and turning his grandson to the Dark Side of the Force? It’d be something of a stretch, but also not entirely out of the question.
8. Mace Windu
We’re starting to scrape the bottom of the barrel in terms of likely theories with this one, but it’s worth mentioning all the same. A few different sites posited the idea that Mace Windu could have survived his encounter with Palpatine in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. It would go a long way toward explaining Snoke’s horrific scarring too, given that Windu was Force-lightning’ed into oblivion before getting thrown out a window. Why he’d be working directly against the galaxy’s best interests is unclear though, even if he had a sizable grudge against the Skywalker family.
9. Grand Moff Tarkin
In terms of physical similarities, it’s not hard to see how Snoke bears a striking resemblance to Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin, who allegedly perished during the destruction of the first Death Star. Perhaps Tarkin somehow made it out alive and horrifically scarred, carrying his own vision for how to remake the Empire in his own image.
10. Darth Maul
Darth Maul may have left the Star Wars movie saga back in Episode I, but the horned Sith apprentice has made frequent appearances elsewhere in the canon. He first resurfaced in the Clone Wars animated series, resurrected from near-death by his brother and Mother Talzin, and then again on Rebels, when he reappeared in search of an ancient Sith holocron. His arc will come to a head later on this season on Rebels, with a rematch between him and an elderly Obi-Wan Kenobi on Tatooine.
That all being so, could the focus on Maul’s character all be part of some grand design to have him assume the role of Supreme Leader Snoke? Given that Snoke lacks Maul’s trademark red and black markings (and horns), it seems unlikely, albeit not entirely impossible.
11. Yupe Tashu
Yupe Tashu first significantly appears in the Star Wars story in the first Aftermath novel, as a former adviser to the late Emperor Palpatine, and a Dark Side devotee. He later appears in the final installment of the Aftermath series, now as the leader of the Acolytes of the Beyond, a splinter cell of Darth Vader worshippers intent on plunging the galaxy into darkness.
His role as the head of the Acolytes certainly sets him up well to take over the First Order as Snoke. This, in turn, makes us wonder if that was the foundation for the Knights of Ren we see in The Force Awakens.
12. An entirely new character
For all our theorizing, there’s still a distinct possibility that Supreme Leader Snoke is a new creation entirely. The best evidence supporting this comes from Andy Serkis himself in the aforementioned Entertainment Weekly interview, where he matter-of-factly states, “he’s a new character in this universe.”
If you’re someone who takes statements like that at face value, it wouldn’t be a stretch to believe Serkis’ claim. That being said, it’s not beyond Lucasfilm to pull a bait-and-switch on us. Whoever Snoke is though, the revelation of his identity will likely be one of the biggest moments in the new trilogy.
In the meantime, perhaps The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson has the best answer to all the outlandish Snoke theories that are floating around the internet:
— Kristen Hidalgo (@manraysky) July 19, 2016
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