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Star Wars 7 Theories: Who Is Supreme Leader Snoke?

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Up until Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens released, the mastermind villain behind the scenes of the entire Star Wars saga was Emperor Palpatine a.k.a. Darth Sidious. The prequel trilogy explored Palpatine's political rise to power over the Galactic Senate and the original trilogy showed his attempts at squashing any who oppose his Empire's reign. Even the canonical television series, Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels both take place in an era where Palpatine is the ultimate evil. But that's no longer the case.

The Force Awakens takes place more than three decades after Palpatine was killed by his apprentice Darth Vader, and there are now entirely new villains working for a mysterious new leader known only as Supreme Leader Snoke. Who is Snoke? How did he get into power? What is his connection to the Force and prior events of the saga? We're going to take a closer look at these questions and the best available theories.

NOTE: The following post contains MAJOR SPOILERS for Star Wars 7

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Before we start speculating on Snoke's identity and whether he's a new, original character or someone previously established in Star Wars canon, let's first examine what we know for certain about this powerful and dangerous being and what's been said about the character.

What We Know About Snoke

It wasn't until later in post-production that the final design of Supreme Leader Snoke, commander of the First Order, was finalized. Here's what Andy Serkis - who plays Snoke - told EW in November about the Snoke's introduction and how "damaged" he is.

“When we first started working on it, he [Abrams] had some rough notions of how Snoke was gonna look, but it really hadn’t been fully-formed and it almost came out of discussion and performance… That’s been fascinating. And in the meantime I’ve been able to see the look and design of the character grow and change as the performances change. So it’s been really exciting in that respect.”

“Supreme Leader Snoke is quite an enigmatic character, and strangely vulnerable at the same time as being quite powerful. Obviously he has a huge agenda. He has suffered a lot of damage. As I said, there is a strange vulnerability to him, which belies his true agenda, I suppose.”

“No, he’s a new character in this universe. It is very much a newly-introduced character. He’s aware of what’s gone on, in the respect that he has been around and is aware of prior events. I think it’d be fair to say that he is aware of the past to a great degree.”

When performing the voice and motion capture for Snoke, Serkis claims he didn't even know what the character would look like. Abrams and co. had gone through quite a few design iterations but landed on the old and damaged design pictured above. According to the novelization of Star Wars: The Force Awakens Snoke is “Tall and gaunt, he was humanoid but not human." We also know from Neal Scanlan, Star Wars 7's chief of creature and droid effects, Snoke is actually "7-foot-something tall; he's very, very thin."

While Serkis' and Abrams' words shouldn't be taken as fact since they are attempting to preserve mysteries for the trilogy, here's what we do know for certain about Snoke from Episode VII:

  • He turned Kylo Ren against Luke and the new Jedi order.
  • He believes the most power can be obtained from embracing the light side and the dark - hence his interest in Kylo Ren.
  • He has something to do with the Knights of Ren, and Kylo being their leader, and therefore responsible for their obsession with Darth Vader.
  • He is severely damaged but still lives.
  • He's aware of the happenings of the saga.
  • He's in charge of the entire First Order and is responsible for reassembling the Empire.
  • He seemingly has limitless resources.
  • He's unquestionably a Force user given that Force users follow his orders, he trains Kylo, and is described as being "powerful" by the actor playing him.

"It is where you are from. What you are made of. The Dark Side—and the Light. The finest sculptor cannot fashion a masterpiece from poor materials. He must have something pure, something strong, something unbreakable, with which to work."

- Snoke in the Star Wars: The Force Awakens novelization

There are additional details we know about Supreme Leader Snoke that will be referenced in the following pages as we break down some topics on who Snoke really is. Here are the theories we'll examine.

  1. The Operator
  2. Darth Plagueis
  3. Grand Inquisitor
  4. An Original Character
  5. Bonus: Mesa Bombad Jedi

Is Snoke The Operator From Star Wars: Aftermath?

 

  • Species: Unknown male
  • Appearances: Introduced in Star Wars: Aftermath

The Operator is a mysterious character in Star Wars canon who moviegoers will not know, for he was only introduced in reference in Chuck Wendig's Star Wars: Aftermath novel published by Del Rey Books on September 4, 2015 as part of the official Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens initiative. The character is unnamed but is expected to have an important role in the rest of the Aftermath trilogy.

We know from Aftermath that "The Operator" is a male character who enjoys classical Old Republic music and who commanded the last remaining Executor-class Star Dreadnought ("Super Star Destroyer"). He took command of this starship after the Battle of Endor, and after being thought dead. It's this same ship, called the Ravager, that's seen in the wrecked on Jakku in The Force Awakens.

This mysterious Fleet Admiral is just as manipulative as Palpatine was. After the Battle of Endor at the end of Return of the Jedi, this character actually leaked information to the New Republic in an effort to destroy the weak, old-fashioned elements of the surviving Imperial fleets.

"This is how it must be. The Empire became this...ugly, inelegant machine. Crude and inefficient. We needed to be broken into pieces. We needed to get rid of those who want to see that old machine churning ineluctably forward. It's time for something better. Something new. An Empire worthy of the galaxy it will rule."

- The Operator to Imperial Admiral Slaone

While it's odd this character is currently unnamed, the secrecy must be for a reason. And remember, this book is in official canon and has at least two followups on the way. This admiral was in command during the original trilogy era and given his Admiral rank and command of one of the largest pieces of Imperial tech, he's likely been around since the beginning. This all explains how if Snoke was one and the same with The Operator, how he was able to reform the remaining Empire into the First Order and how he has such knowledge of the past and the Force. Perhaps it's The Operator's affinity with the Force that explains his calculated successes through manipulation?

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Is Snoke Palpatine's Old Master, Darth Plagueis?

 

  • Species: Muun male
  • Appearances: Mentioned in Star Was: Episode III

Some believe Darth Plagueis is one and the same as the mysterious Operator but that may not be possible given the obvious fact that The Operator is in command of a Super Star Destroyer and therefore fully known to the Empire's leadership, logically under the orders of Vader and Palpatine during the original trilogy.

Darth Plagueis was first introduced in 2005's Revenge of the Sith, when Palpatine makes a play at convincing Anakin that the Dark Side of the Force is the right path for him, that it could be used to help Anakin save his loved ones (in this case, Padme). We learn that Plagueis was actually the master of Palpatine and had so much mastery over the force that he could creative life and prevent death. This quote from the film is canon:

“Darth Plagueis was a dark lord of the Sith, so powerful and so wise. He could influence the midichlorians to create life. He had such a knowledge of the Dark Side, he could even keep the ones he cared about from dying.”

This backstory was fleshed out in 2012's Darth Plagueis novel by James Luceno. In this book, that was requested from Lucasfilm's high-ups intially before being canceled and then brought back, it's revealed that all of the major events leading up to and during The Phantom Menace were manipulated by Plagueis and Palpatine, from the creation of Anakin out of the Force to the appointment of Padme as a young Queen of Naboo. It's also revealed in this book that like Palpatine, Plagueis was hiding in plain sight as an influential political figure. Everything they do, for decades, is part of long-term plan for the pair to rule to galaxy but each of course had his own agenda. Plagueis wants to become immortal and be rid of the Sith "Rule of Two" (one master and one apprentice, which always leads to betrayal) and Palpatine wants to be the master, taking it upon himself to secretly train Darth Maul and ally with former Jedi, Darth Tyrannus.

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In the novel and by George Lucas' approval (source: TheForce.net), Plagueis is a Munn, the thin and tall long-faced aliens seen in the prequels and the Clone Wars series, and serves as the head of the InterGalactic Banking Clan under the name Hego Damask, CEO of Damask Holdings.

Note the cover artwork of the Darth Plagueis novel above and how it depicts Palpatine bowing down to an enlarged hologram figure of his master. Remind you of anything? This is the same way Snoke presents himself as in Episode VII. And just like Munns are actually tall, narrow humanoids, so too is Snoke. According to Neal Scanlan, Star Wars 7's chief of creature and droid effects, Snoke is actually "7-foot-something tall; he's very, very thin," which matches the description.

Snoke's appearance in The Force Awakens is that of someone severely disfigured. That damage must be relevant to the character's history and it does fit the idea that he was poisoned and attacked by Palpatine - as Plageuis was, but somehow survived due to his own experiments with the Force. It would be a brilliant way to tie the Skywalker legacy to the Sith master who started it. The problem here is that the Darth Plagueis novel is sadly no longer canon, meaning Plagueis may not even be a Munn anymore in canon. It's confusing but James Luceno did write the in-canon Tarkin novel and references (read: makes canon) some elements of the Darth Plagueis book.

Working against this Plagueis-is-Snoke theory are other things Andy Serkis and the creative team of The Force Awakens have said as well but these comments could be made in an effort to maintain secrecy. In the The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens book for instance, it's revealed that J.J. Abrams was at one time considering a female character design for Snoke which would contradict the Plagueis theory since Palpatine confirmed Plagueis is a male character. Then again, Serkis was cast very early in the process so they did choose to go with a male character a while ago (and perhaps, all along). Serkis also said - if we can believe him - that he had no idea what the character would look like when beginning to perform, explaining that Snoke concepts were still being developed. And of course, at San Diego Comic-Con in July, a question about Plagueis - specifically in connection to his staff weapon - was brought up to awkward response from co-writer Lawrence Kasdan and an ultimate denial from J.J. Abrams (which, if you followed the development of Star Trek Into Darkness, means nothing).

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Pablo Hidalgo of the Lucasfilm Story Group (who decide what's canon going forward) poked fun at the Plagueis theory on Twitter) which is curious:

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