Supreme Leader Snoke was the primary villain for two-thirds of the Star Wars sequels trilogy, but his shocking demise put a wrench in any ongoing plans for the First Order. With Emperor Palpatine set to return for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, however, Episode IX may be setting us up for an even bigger surprise. What if Snoke was just a pawn in the Emperor’s plan?
Speculative spoilers for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker below.
Palpatine’s laughter shocked fans when it played at the end of The Rise of Skywalker trailer back in April, and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy confirmed that his return to the franchise had been planned all along. As the ultimate big bad of the original and prequel films, Palpatine certainly left his mark on the Star Wars movies, but he hasn’t been seen in a very long time.
The Emperor’s return certainly fills a gap left behind by Snoke, but what does it mean that Lucasfilm always meant to bring back the original Sith master? A new theory from redditor u/TheFiveStarMan posits that Snoke might have been nothing but a stand-in for Palpatine, a “hand-picked successor” positioned to oversee everything until the former emperor could once again rise to power.
“Palpatine needed someone who had enough potential in the dark side to corrupt the Skywalker descendants,” they write. “But [Snoke] was always expendable once the plan started to get underway to reclaim the galaxy.”
The best part of this theory is that it ties all the Star Wars films together under one supervillain despite the Emperor’s absence in Episode VII and VIII. After all, if Palpatine isn’t behind the First Order, what would ultimately be the point of him coming back? He’s far too much of a powerful and corrupting character to make only a small appearance. The Rise of Skywalker director J.J. Abrams has explained how he wants the ending of the film to be a grand finale for all three trilogies, and there’s no better way to do that than to reinstate the villain who started it all.
If this theory is true, it means Kylo (and not just Snoke) was also a pawn in the Emperor’s plan. And just like Palpatine made Anakin Skywalker an apprentice and influenced him to become Darth Vader, turning Kylo to the Dark side and against Luke weakened the Jedi Order and kept them from properly fighting back against the rise of the First Order.
How Palpatine will return is another matter entirely, especially since he was presumably killed by Darth Vader in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. But as one of the most powerful Sith lords, we’re sure he’ll find a way to come back. Who knows, maybe he found a way to fake his own death. After all, he’s nothing if not a man with a plan.
However, Snoke’s power and influence shouldn’t be underestimated simply because Palpatine might reemerge. The supreme leader was able to maintain tight control of the First Order and heavily influenced Kylo in all things regarding the Dark side. He also foreshadowed the possible return of Luke Skywalker and new Jedi, and definitely seemed intelligent enough to have orchestrated the resurgence of an evil galactic empire. Whether Snoke turns out to be an expendable pawn remains to be seen, but Palpatine’s return in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is definitely reason enough to rethink everything we know about the First Order’s leader in The Force Awakens and Last Jedi.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters December 20, 2019.