If you are like millions of others, you already have seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens in the theater, potentially multiple times. If not, then you should skip this post for now, because it’s all about speculation surrounding one particular character, and it refers to specific lines and events from the movie. I really don’t want to spoil anything for anybody, so this is your chance to bail before I start hypothesizing. We all good? Okay, here we go.
Spoilers for The Force Awakens abound from this point forward!
There are a lot of intriguing questions posed in The Force Awakens, and one of the central intrigues that interested me the most is the question of who the Star Wars saga’s new big bad really is. He’s played via motion capture by Andy Serkis and appears as an enormous hologram when addressing Kylo Ren and General Hux, but beyond that, we don’t know much at all about the disfigured guy called Supreme Leader Snoke. Or do we?
While pondering, I came up independently with a theory about Snoke’s true identity, and I was able to back it up with what I feel like is some pretty compelling support. After doing that, I did some searching and found that I most certainly am not alone in drawing the parallels I’ve drawn, so I don’t in any way claim that my theory is unique. I do, however, feel pretty convinced that it’s a solid idea.
No more beating around the bush: Supreme Leader Snoke is Darth Plagueis. I propose that Plagueis is his Sith name, and Snoke is his townie name. Plagueis has had a lot written about him in the Star Wars Expanded Universe novels and comics, all of which have been invalidated as non-canonical after Disney purchased Lucasfilm. Given that, I’ll stick mostly to what still is considered canonical for this explanation. The most direct reference to Plagueis comes in the opera scene from Revenge of the Sith. Check it out:
So, reading between the thinly veiled lines, Darth Plagueis was an immensely powerful Sith who trained Palpatine to become Darth Sidious. Plagueis was able to manipulate midi-chlorians (I know, I know), effectively moving the Force in and out of people at will. The Force Awakens goes to great lengths to distance itself from midi-chlorians, and Han refers to the Force as a sort of magical thing, so I’ll just refer to what Plagueis does as manipulating the Force.
It’s strongly suggested that Plagueis impregnated Shmi Skywalker with the Force, effectively creating Anakin’s virgin birth. According to Palpatine, in addition to creating life Plagueis also is able to prevent death. Palpatine suggests that Plagueis’s apprentice (who was, in fact, Palpatine himself) learned all of his master’s knowledge, took his power, and killed him. In reality, I believe Palpatine took Plagueis’s Force abilities, whacked him in the head with his lightsaber (see the gnarly scars on Snoke’s head), and left his master for dead. Snoke, now greatly depowered, hung onto life using his remaining ability to manipulate the Force.
In the canonical Aftermath novel, it is suggested that there is a mastermind behind the scenes who is manipulating events in the days after the Battle of Endor. Many fans assume, rightly I believe, that this shadowy controller is Snoke. This suggests that he’s pretty old, and it’s no great leap to think he might have been lingering in the background all through the events of the classic trilogy and throughout all the prequels, waiting for his opportunity to resurface. Once Palpatine died on the second Death Star, Plagueis would have been the only remaining living Sith of significance in the galaxy (barring any random ones that might show up in the comics or something). As a Sith, his compulsion would be to rebuild his power and to take on an apprentice.
Enter Ben Solo, an untrained disciple of the Force who has a lot of inherited power through the Skywalker bloodline but who doesn’t yet know how to harness his abilities. As a direct descendant of Darth Vader, Plagueis’s own creation, Ben would be prime pickings for Plagueis’s manipulations. The weakened Sith seduced Ben to the Dark Side, at which time Ben became Kylo Ren. We still don’t know what the whole Knights of Ren thing is, but bear with me. Plagueis’s intent is very much as Han describes it. He wants to train Ben to become powerful in the Force, and then he wants to use his own abilities to siphon the Force into himself. Like all good Sith, Plagueis is all about gaining power and being a dominating figure again.
That’s the sum total of my theory, and here are some suggestive pieces of evidence you can check out. From The Force Awakens’s soundtrack, here’s Snoke’s theme:
Compare that to Darth Plagueis’s theme from Revenge of the Sith (also featured in the opera house video above):
John Williams is adept at crafting themes for every character and weaving them into the Star Wars films’ scores in interesting ways, and I believe Snoke’s theme is our updated version of Plagueis’s theme since the two are the same character. Additionally, Palpatine refers to his master as Darth Plagueis the Wise in the opera scene. In The Force Awakens, Kylo Ren specifically says that his master is “wise.” His use of the word “wise” seems very deliberate in its scene, tying the reference back to the Sith master. Not to mention that his calling Snoke his master is a very Sithy thing to do.
Add to that the fact that Plagueis essentially is Kylo Ren’s great-grandfather (assuming that he did create Vader), and the Star Wars family dynamic remains in check. It’s very possible that Plagueis would have sought out Vader’s remains and could have given the burned helmet to Kylo Ren, encouraging him to finish what Vader started (while conveniently leaving out the whole, “You were right” Light-side turn Vader took just before dying).
Delving into the non-canonical Expanded Universe stuff for a moment, Plagueis was written to be a Muun, an alien species with an elongated face, pasty skin, no pupils, and no noses. Here’s what a Plagueis action figure looks like (image via Rebel Scum):
Again, this is no longer canonical, as nothing in current Star Wars canon has specified what species Plagueis might have been. If you slap a nose on that face and add a lightsaber scar to the head, though, he starts looking a whole lot like Snoke. Also check out the cover to the (again, now non-canonical) previously released Darth Plagueis novel, and you’ll see Palpatine kneeling to an enormous hologram of his master. Not entirely dissimilar from Snoke’s massive hologram when addressing Kylo Ren, right?
So that’s my theory. It’s a lot of other people’s theory, too, and it’s interesting enough that I felt compelled to share it here. There’s a chance it could prove to be as weak as my “Peter Petrelli is Sylar” theory from season one of Heroes, but I feel like there’s a lot of potential for this one to be correct.