Snoke dies in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Straight up dies. Ben Solo clouds his true intentions from his master and ignites the Skywalker lightsaber through his abdomen, slicing him in two. Snoke is dead.
That twist, right at the heart of Rian Johnson's first (but definitely not last) Star Wars film, isn't just one of the most shocking parts of Episode VIII, but quite possibly the entire franchise (bar "I am your father", of course). For sure, it's the best movie twist in a major film in the past few years.
Now, 2017 has been a good year for twists. Blade Runner 2049 subverted the version Star Wars-y notion of new generations. Split had a shocking outer-movie connection. And Spider-Man: Homecoming brought the house down by just having Michael Keaton open the door. Even blockbusters where the big shocker was pretty obvious - Alien: Covenant's robot switcheroo, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2's parental villain and even Wonder Woman's World War I-accurate Ares - had a greater sense of purpose to the reveal; none were just empty spectacle.
Snoke stands above these. His death is not just wholly and completely unpredictable in a single film, it reframes a previous movie, changes the progression of the sequel trilogy, and reshapes the real meaning of the greater franchise.
Snoke's Death Is The Red Wedding of Star Wars
Snoke Was Never Said To Be In Episode 9
We don't know what J.J. Abrams originally had in mind for Snoke. It's entirely possible he did expect him to survive up-to-and-beyond Star Wars Episode IX as the ultimate power in the franchise. But if that was the case, and whether Rian Johnson had to petition Lucasfilm or Kathleen Kennedy was already pushing him towards the death, any greater plan was never conveyed to us.
Let's make this clear from the start: it was never said that Snoke was in Star Wars 9. In fact, it wasn't even alluded to that he was the big bad. There is, plainly, no behind-the-scenes dishonesty at play. Everything we thought we knew about Snoke came from misread inference; every fan theory assumed a base understanding of how Star Wars operates under Disney - perpetuated by The Force Awakens over-rhyming - and so all speculation was built on the notion that Snoke was the new Emperor.
The Last Jedi admittedly plays into that, having the Throne Room scene replaying many key moments from Return of the Jedi's Emperor showdown. The ultimate villain taunts our hero, tries to get inside their head and corrupt them, even using the decimation of their friend's fleet as a manipulation tool. Our hero then Force pulls a lightsaber trying to take down the dictator before being put in an inescapable, deadly situation.
Of course, with that done, it should almost be expected for the morally conflicted underling to kill their abusive master. However, right up until Kylo Ren actually ignites the saber, it's impossible to believe, mainly because we're not at the end; this is killing a presumed integral character in the middle of the story.
Snoke's Death Is The Red Wedding of Star Wars
The Last Jedi is shocking. While the basic plot beats could be discerned from trailers, the only major plot point that could be predicted (without the aid of leaks) was that Rey was no one; there simply wasn't a satisfying proper solution. Kylo Ren ascending to become Supreme Leader of the First Order or Luke becoming one with the Force were last resort guesswork, with little-to-no pre-film grounding. Still, when they rolled out it slotted into what we were seeing. Snoke's death came entirely out-of-the-blue.
It's not an exaggeration to say no death in Star Wars has ever had this much shuddering shock. Obi-Wan's the mentor, predestined to die in the hero's journey. The Emperor the big bad and goes out at the end of Jedi. The same goes for tragic figure Darth Vader. The closest we've come before is Order 66, with the majority of the Jedi wiped out in a quick montage, yet we always knew they'd not make it out of the prequels alive, just not exactly how (nor did we get given the names of any victims in the films themselves). Just as Star Wars was never really about shocking twists, it wasn't about sudden deaths. Star Wars doesn't kill people like Game of Thrones.
And that's the closest cultural comparison to be made. This is the Red Wedding of Star Wars. And not because it's shocking - that's not what makes the best Game of Thrones' murders work - but because it's so purposeful in the narrative being told yet what exactly that story is hasn't been made fully clear yet. That was true of Ned Stark; it was true of Robb Stark; and it's true of Snoke: none of these were ever essential to the full story. The genius is that we were tricked into thinking they were.
- 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: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019