Spoilers for Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Is Snoke really dead? J.J. Abrams's The Force Awakens introduced us to the terrifying menace of the Supreme Leader, leaving fans with so many questions. Who was this dark side being? How did he lead Ben Solo to the dark side? And just how powerful was the creator of the First Order?
The Last Jedi wasn't particularly interested in Snoke. In fact, partway through the film, Rian Johnson pulled a shocker; in a fantastic inversion of Return of the Jedi, the apprentice slew the master. Yes, Snoke was literally cut in half, brutally slain by Kylo Ren. It was an anti-climatic end for a being Lucasfilm revealed in the build-up to the film was more powerful than Vader and the Emperor. And quotes like that has led fans to wonder whether or not he could yet return for Episode IX.
The Case For Snoke's Return
The Visual Dictionary emphasizes that Snoke hides his true nature. He even conceals it from the few who are allowed into his presence. That's leading some fans to argue that even Kylo Ren and General Hux have never really seen the true Supreme Leader.
One of the central themes of The Last Jedi is that of deception, most pointedly with Force illusions like nothing the films have ever shown before. Crucially, these illusions actually seem to take on a physical form; Luke's projection could physically interact with Leia, and could even give her Han's golden dice. It's also possible Kylo Ren felt some pain from Rey's blaster bolt (although it's not made clear if he just expected to be shot and reacted accordingly).
If this theory is correct, Snoke was never really present in the throne room. Rather, that was always a projection of himself; put there to "hide his true nature" or further nurture Kylo.
Why This Won't Be True
While this an attractive theory that neatly accounts for the anticlimactic death, it's also highly unlikely. Plainly, it doesn't work from a thematic point of view. As noted, the throne room scene was designed to be an inversion of Return of the Jedi. In Johnson's film, the apprentice strikes out at the master and claims the throne for himself. Rather than be redeemed, Kylo Ren signs himself over to the dark side once and for all. For Snoke to have survived would be to destroy that tremendously effective subversion.
The wider narrative of The Last Jedi only reinforces that. The film takes care to show us Snoke's mangled body and present General Hux's horrified reaction to the Supreme Leader's death. Further, there's not a single hint that Episode IX will see Kylo Ren supplanted by his master once again. What it does set up is a classic light/dark dichotomy, with both Kylo Ren and Rey finally choosing a side. One will stand with the dark side, the other will be a champion of the light. Although the darkness is ascendant, Rey brings balance to it as Kylo Ren's mirrored equal. Episode IX will essentially be yin versus yang. Snoke has no role in that story.
Of course, it's highly unlikely Lucasfilm will have this be the last we see of Snoke; the canon goes well beyond movies and the current era, and as his backstory is known, it would be somewhat expected to have it revealed at some point.
Snoke's death was certainly an unexpected - and unprecedented - narrative twist. But the reality is that Kylo Ren has indeed killed his master. Snoke may have been powerful in the dark side of the Force, but he failed to read his apprentice right and paid the ultimate price. Now, the story of the Star Wars sequel trilogy has moved on.
- Star Wars 8/Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) release date: Dec 15, 2017
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019