Everybody loves a good villain. Whether it’s Darth Vader, Darth Maul, or the Emperor himself, villains have a way of captivating us even when they scare us. It’s no surprise, then, that new villains like Kylo Ren are capturing the imaginations of Star Wars fans across the globe. Even so, while Kylo may be the primary villainous character in The Force Awakens, he’s not the one in charge of the First Order. Supreme Leader Snoke, portrayed through motion capture by Andy Serkis, is the shadowy figure who leads the resurgent Imperial forces, speaking to his underlings only through a massive holographic projection that makes him look dozens of feet larger than any mere human. His deformed face and ghastly demeanor suggest he could be ancient and incredibly powerful in the dark side of the Force — but beyond that, we know nothing about him.
That mystery is why fans have started theorizing who Supreme Leader Snoke could be. Here are a few of the best…
SPOILER ALERT: This feature contains major plot details for Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Rogue One!
(This entry was added on December 16, 2016.)
Rogue One might have just given us a secret reveal for the main Star Wars series. In the film, Director Krennic visits Darth Vader at his personal hideaway on Mustafar. Vader is resting inside of a bacta tank when a cloaked figure appears to tell him that Krennic has arrived.
The novelization of Rogue One simply calls him “the aide,” but the Ultimate Visual Guide for Rogue One says his name is Vaneé. A close assistant (possibly an apprentice?) to Darth Vader seems like a likely candidate for the eventual leader of the First Order. This might be a brand new character that we’ve never known about, or it could be this character who shares a similar name. Could this have been Lucasfilm’s sly way of paving the way for Snoke’s eventual reveal?
(This entry was added on November 16, 2016.)
Not all of the popular theories about Supreme Leader Snoke are equal, and we may have stumbled upon one of the wackiest yet. There’s actually a small contingent of fans who believe that Snoke is Mace Windu.
The evidence presented sounds compelling at first. Mace Windu possibly survived his final encounter with Palpatine and went into hiding. Palpatine’s Force lightning could have scarred Windu and affected his skin. And there’s even an element of the theory that posits that Finn is Mace Windu’s son. That’s why Snoke takes an interest in him when there’s an awakening in the Force.
There are other bits of “evidence,” but this theory should be taken with an incredibly large grain of salt. Finn is not Windu’s son — he was taken from his family at a young age, and Windu would be dead or “transformed,” as the theory proposes, for decades by this time.
The most critical argument against this theory is the most mundane: common sense. Consider the casting alone… Andy Serkis portrays Supreme Leader Snoke. Mace Windu was played by Samuel L. Jackson. That casting would be preposterous if the story intent was to ultimately reveal Snoke as Windu. They’re both bald — that’s literally all the two characters have in common.
(This entry was added on July 14, 2016 – MAJOR SPOILERS for Aftermath: Life Debt follow.)
Although his name wasn’t revealed until Aftermath: Life Debt, Admiral Gallius Rax was first introduced as a mysterious fleet admiral and advisor to Rae Sloane in the novel Aftermath. After the release of Life Debt, fans began to speculate that Admiral Rax could in fact go on to become Supreme Leader Snoke.
Rax was a child from Jakku. One day, he saw a ship land on Jakku and begin drilling into the surface. This ship was looking for something. It left worker droids behind to do the drilling, but Rax jumped onto the ship in search of a life better than the one he had on Jakku. Aboard that ship he found Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, who saw a great destiny in Rax. He sent the boy back to Jakku to safeguard what he was looking for. It’s not entirely clear in Life Debt what Palpatine was searching for, but some fans believe it’s a clue to the extra-galactic wellspring of the dark side that was first referenced in Aftermath. Whatever it is, it’s likely to lead into the Battle of Jakku; Rax moved all of his forces to Jakku in Life Debt, and the battle there will be a big part of the third and final Aftermath novel, Empire’s End, due for release in January 2017.
What Rax’s motives are remain unclear, but we know that he was very close with Emperor Palpatine, part of his inner circle in fact. Rax spoke in Life Debt about how he wanted to build a better Empire, and his actions in both Aftermath and Life Debt back that up. It’s no surprise, then, that fans are wondering if this is the advent of the First Order. Could Rax, who wanted to form a more cult-like Empire, become Supreme Leader Snoke? Perhaps Snoke really is something from beyond the galaxy, at the wellspring of the dark side, and Snoke is just otherwise involved in or takes over Rax’s plans? The mystery deepens…
By far the most popular fan theory about Supreme Leader Snoke is that he’s secretly Darth Plagueis, the mysterious Sith Lord first referenced in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. Superfans know that Darth Plagueis was the master who trained Palpatine in the ways of the dark side. Palpatine later told Anakin Skywalker about “the tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise” in an effort to turn the young Jedi Knight to the dark side. After seeing visions of his wife, Padmé Amidala, dying in childbirth, the tales of Darth Plagueis learning to use the Force to keep the ones he cared for from dying were just too enticing for the conflicted Jedi hero. The non-canon Star Wars Legends novel Darth Plagueis, by popular series author James Luceno, later noted that it was Plagueis’s experimentation with the Force that led to Anakin’s conception as the Chosen One, as a way for the Force to fight back against the designs of the Sith.
So why do fans think Darth Plagueis could be Supreme Leader Snoke? Chatter about the theory started after it was announced that Andy Serkis would be playing the villainous leader using motion capture, and he was described as tall, thin, and ancient-looking. Darth Plagueis was established as a Muun in Legends, and the look of the Muun certainly fits that description, though Serkis himself has been quick to say that Snoke is a new character. There were even rumors that Rey’s quarterstaff weapon was the staff of Darth Plagueis, also referenced in Luceno’s novel. In the film itself, Kylo Ren says that “the Supreme Leader is wise” — perhaps a reference to Darth Plagueis the Wise?
While there’s not much evidence for this theory, I have to admit there’s something compelling about the idea of Palpatine’s master, spoken of only in legend, being the true architect of evil all along.
The Sith Emperor
Fans who have played the MMORPG Star Wars: The Old Republic will be familiar with the Sith Emperor, once known as Vitiate and later known as Valkorion. Vitiate was a Sith Lord who lived during the time of the Great Hyperspace War, the first conflict between the Old Republic and the Sith Empire. The Sith lost and retreated into the unknown, but Vitiate rebuilt them over thousands of years to become an empire that could once again take on the Republic. The Emperor’s true goal, however, was to live forever and rule the galaxy, so his spirit spent millennia jumping from one host to another. During the Galactic War, his true designs were revealed: Unknown to most in the galaxy, he forged the Eternal Empire to defeat both the Republic and the Sith Empire that he had built, which would allow him to reshape the galaxy the way he wanted it to be.
The Old Republic is commonly accepted as a Legends storyline, so it’s doubtful we’ll see its primary villain revealed as Supreme Leader Snoke, but with the transmedia storytelling involved at Lucasfilm, it’s not entirely outside the realm of possibility. There have also been hints that Snoke has lived for a very long time and has seen everything that transpired during the previous six films, suggesting he could be ancient. In the novelization of The Force Awakens, Snoke tells Kylo Ren about how he watched the Empire rise and fall, and wants to create something stronger than the Empire ever was.
Between that and his decidedly ancient appearance, it’s possible that Snoke could be Plagueis or the Sith Emperor, but there’s one theory that I think is far more likely to be true…
A New Power From Beyond the Galaxy
The recent novel Aftermath, the first in a trilogy by Chuck Wendig, tells the story of what happened in the months after Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. During the story, the remaining Imperial fleet commanders gather on Akiva to discuss how the Empire should handle its defeat at Endor and the rise of the New Republic. One of the new characters introduced is Yupe Tashu, who served as an adviser to Emperor Palpatine. He was a dark side historian, though he could not use the Force himself, and believed strongly in the powers of the Force. He wanted to follow the teachings of the Emperor, and he recognized that the Sith had found strength in hiding in the shadows and then striking when the enemy least expected them to. He also said this:
“No Sith remain. And the lone Jedi that exists—the son of Anakin Skywalker—possesses an untouchable soul. At least for now. We must instead move toward the dark side. Palpatine felt that the universe beyond the edges of our maps was where his power came from. Over the many years he, with our aid, sent men and women beyond known space. They built labs and communication stations on distant moons, asteroids, out there in the wilds. We must follow them. Retreat from the galaxy. Go out beyond the veil of stars. We must seek the source of the dark side like a man looking for a wellspring of water.”
Aftermath is part of the Journey to The Force Awakens series, so it seems unlikely that the story would introduce a detail like that only for it to never pay off. My guess is that Supreme Leader Snoke is from beyond the galaxy, perhaps from or influenced by the source of the dark side itself, and has been watching the galaxy for a long time. That would fit with Serkis saying that Snoke is a new character, and it would mean that the seeds for Snoke’s true nature have already been planted in the post-Return of the Jedi storyline.