Supreme Leader Snoke was seemingly killed off unceremoniously in the climax of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, leaving a major mystery about who he really was and what his motives were, but with Palpatine confirmed to be back in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, could the two characters have more in common than fans assumed?
Some Star Wars fans were upset when Kylo Ren killed Supreme Leader Snoke before they could get more answers about who he was or where he came from, but now that Palpatine is back, we can forget everything we thought we knew about the sequel trilogy. There’s clearly more at play here than was apparent with Snoke, and the answers could be even more of a twist than fans expected.
We don’t know much about his role in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker yet, but his ominous cackle at the end of the first teaser trailer opens up a world of new possibilities.
- This Page: Palpatine’s Survival Changes Everything We Know About the Sequel Trilogy
- Page 2: Palpatine-as-Snoke Answers Every Big Snoke Mystery
In Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The First Order is presented as an organization that grew out of the ashes of the defeated Empire after it retreated into the Unknown Regions, and their return to the galaxy to destroy the New Republic was a mystery.
Now that Palpatine is back, there’s a complete shift of context. Thanks to Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath book trilogy, which took place shortly after Star Wars: Return of the Jedi we know Palpatine was seeking a dark power in the Unknown Regions and was seeking to find a way to navigate to it. The route was long and treacherous, so it took decades of research and calculations, but he finally found a way, laying out a plan for the Empire to retreat there in the event of his death.
Known as the “Contingency,” Palpatine’s plan was full of revenge, mystical ceremonies, and assassination plots all intended to destroy the New Republic and what was left of the Empire, with only some hand-picked loyal followers selected to retreat into the Unknown Regions to create a new Empire. One of his followers, a Sith cultist named Yupe Tashu, was convinced Palpatine wasn’t actually dead and they’d find him in the Unknown Regions:
“Palpatine lives on. We will find him again out there in the dark. Everything has arranged itself as our Master foretold. All things move toward the grand design. The sacrifices have all been made.”
If this is the case and this was all just part of Palpatine’s plan, that means the First Order itself and likely its mission in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Star Wars: The Last Jedi was also according to his will, whether directly or indirectly. But how does Snoke fit into all of this? Did Palpatine simply allow someone else to lead his reborn Empire, were they working together? Or is there more to their relationship?
Palpatine may have lived beyond his fall into the chasm in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, but it seems likely his body was destroyed, meaning his consciousness would be in search of a new host. This is an idea that was already heavily explored in the now non-canon Expanded Universe, AKA “Legends,” stories. A popular concept created by the comic Dark Empire saw Palpatine survive by transferring his consciousness into the body of a clone, and something similar to that seems like the most logical route for the sequel trilogy to follow.
Gallius Rax, the man Palpatine brought up since he was a child with the sole purpose of executing his Contingency for him, didn’t believe in the same mystical aspects of Palpatine as Yupe Tashu did, but he still used Tashu’s belief to keep the cultist in line, indicating they planned to go to the Unknown Regions to “find Palpatine and revivify him, bringing his soul back to flesh anew,” suggesting Palpatine would be formless and need new flesh.
Whether this new flesh is custom-grown as a clone, an unwilling sacrifice from someone Palpatine chooses to possess, or something else entirely remains to be seen, but one possibility that clears up a surprising number of dangling questions is that Palpatine chose to inhabit Snoke’s body.
Page 2 of 2: Palpatine-as-Snoke Answers Every Big Snoke Mystery
Snoke’s minimal backstory seems to have some significant connection to the events depicted in the rest of the Skywalker saga, yet he’s not a character we’d ever seen or heard of before. Even the books, comics, and animation, which take a much deeper dive into areas not explored in the movies, don’t reveal who Snoke is or introduce any new characters that could turn out to be Snoke.
Not only does Snoke have a connection to past events, but he also appears to hold a sort of grudge against the Skywalkers and the New Republic. He knows that if Luke Skywalker returns, he will create a new generation of Jedi, and he chooses Ben Solo, the Skywalker heir, to lead his forces, corrupting him and turning him to the dark side.
The only person who cleanly fits this bill is Palpatine. He has a clear bone to pick with the Skywalkers and the New Republic, which grew out of the Rebel Alliance, and is already adept at turning Skywalkers to the dark side. The Aftermath trilogy also describes Leia feeling her baby under some kind of attack from the dark side, and before it was revealed Palpatine was alive, fans naturally assumed it was Snoke, but it really makes more sense if it was Vader’s former dark lord, coming for his apprentice’s grandson.
One of the more curious aspects of Snoke was his disfigurement. He’s a species of alien that hasn’t been featured previously, but his head and face, and possibly even more of his body, bear the marks of great injury, and upon close inspection, it’s hard to understand why he’s even alive. He has what appears to be a major gash, which has caved in his skull, making a canyon down his forehead, chunks of his face missing, particularly at his cheeks, and a similarly mangled neck.
His injuries appeared significant enough to have killed a normal person, and while he was quite powerful in the Force, he resembles a re-animated corpse more than he does a battle-scarred being. Could Palpatine have possessed his dead body, or maybe even have caused the injuries as he took control?
We can only speculate at this point, since there’s no clear evidence for how or why Palpatine would have assumed control of Snoke’s body, but Palpatine sent his forces into the Unknown Regions, his close followers believed he’d be reborn there, then 30 years later, the Empire re-emerges at as the First Order, led by a powerful dark side Force user who corrupts a young Skywalker, takes him as an apprentice, and desires to destroy Luke Skywalker and the New Republic.
Interestingly, Snoke wore an obsidian ring on his finger, which the Star Wars: The Last Jedi: The Visual Dictionary revealed had two major Palpatine connections. First, the obsidian came from beneath Vader’s castle on Mustafar, a planet Palpatine had significant investment in. The ring was also engraved with glyphs used by the Four Sages of Dwartii, who Palpatine admired and had statues of in his office when he was Supreme Chancellor.
So, while there’s no clear connection, the circumstantial evidence (and lack of evidence in some cases) more than speaks for itself.
The big question this theory creates, though, is “if Snoke was Palpatine, why did he maintain the identity of Snoke instead of declaring himself Emperor Palpatine reborn?” The declaration would not only strike fear in the hearts of the New Republic, but also attract the support of some of the galaxy’s remaining Imperial loyalists.
The biggest answer to this is Ben Solo. Whether for simple cruel poetry, or because he actually needs the raw power of Ben Solo, Palpatine would have had a lot more trouble turning Ben to the dark side if he didn’t mask his true identity. Ben idolized Darth Vader, and while his grandfather was also evil, we know a younger Anakin Skywalker had ideals that survived his transformation into Vader. Vader wanted to recruit Luke and overthrow the Emperor, which he eventually did. Using the Snoke identity and the pull to Vader, Palpatine would have been able to lure in Ben Solo to his service.
But Ben was still torn. It wasn’t until the end of Star Wars: The Last Jedi that he seemed to truly, fully embrace the darkness. By this time, Palpatine will have moved to a new host and can reveal himself to Kylo Ren, either to gain his true allegiance or to contest him for control of the First Order.
There’s really no conclusive evidence to prove Snoke wasn’t Palpatine, but much of that is due to the lack of information about Snoke in general. The small hints about his history and identity are enough to find similarities to Palpatine, but also too minimal to make a conclusive statement one way or the other. So, while the strongest argument against the theory is that it requires a number of assumptions to fill in the blanks, the fact that the Palpatine is Snoke theory also satisfactorily answers or expands on some of the biggest mysteries surrounding Snoke makes it too compelling to dismiss.
NEXT: Star Wars 9 Theory: Kylo Ren Is Redeemed… Because of Darth Revan
Stephen M. Colbert