You’d have been forgiven for assuming that Supreme Leader Snoke, played by Andy Serkis, was a Sith Lord. While we only saw him in holographic form in The Force Awakens, it was made crystal clear he was the man—er, being—in charge. Both General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) genuflected before him like two squabbling brothers before their overbearing, terrifying father. And while Hux complained to Snoke that Kylo Ren’s petulance was hurting the First Order’s cause, it was clear that Snoke liked, or at least tolerated, Ren’s rage, as it seemed to fit his larger plan of using Ren to destroy the Jedi once and for all.
Everything we seemed to learn about Snoke in The Force Awakens, which was admittedly minimal, pointed to his being a Sith Lord, in the same way Emperor Palpatine, who tempted Anakin Skywalker to the Dark Side in the Star Wars prequels, was the Sith Lord. Yet Andy Serkis himself has told Empire that Snoke is not a Sith Lord, begging the question of what, exactly, the big bad in the new Star Wars trilogy actually is. One thing that Serkis said is that Snoke’s seething fury is even greater than Palpatine’s was.
“Snoke is bloody dark; way darker than Palpatine. He’s riddled with this osteoporosis so his body’s twisted, like a corkscrew. He’s incredibly damaged, so there’s a bizarre vulnerability about him. Beneath that vulnerability, though, is this intense hatred. He’s definitely not a Sith, but he’s certainly at the darker end of the Force. Without giving too much away, that begins to unfold a little in this one.”
The ‘darker end of the Force’ will ignite a whole lot of speculation about what this means, and who Snoke actually is. There have already been plenty of theories proffered about Snoke’s true identity, from being the reincarnated Palpatine (this idea has been officially put to bed) to Snoke being Darth Plagueis to some other character from either the Star Wars canon or from Star Wars Legends. Yet the most likely possibility is the most obvious; Snoke is a brand new character.
Rian Johnson was given a fair amount of free reign when he developed The Last Jedi story. While he periodically checked back in with the Star Wars story group, and he was working off the events in The Force Awakens, Johnson did a lot of world building in The Last Jedi from his imagination, and Snoke very likely could have been conceived during his process. In Vanity Fair’s big Last Jedi cover story this past May, the nature of Johnson’s creative process was spelled out, and it leads us to believe Snoke is his own creation:
Part of what makes Lucasfilm’s new system work is that Kennedy has set up a formidable support structure for her filmmakers. Upon her arrival, she put together a story department at Lucasfilm’s San Francisco headquarters, overseen by Kiri Hart, a development executive and former screenwriter she has long worked with. The story group, which numbers 11 people, maintains the narrative continuity and integrity of all the Star Wars properties that exist across various platforms: animation, video games, novels, comic books, and, most important, movies. “The whole team reads each draft of the screenplay as it evolves,” Hart explained to me, “and we try, as much as we can, to smooth out anything that isn’t connecting.”
What the story group does not do, Hart said, is impose plot-point mandates on the filmmakers. Johnson told me he was surprised at how much leeway he was given to cook up the action of Episode VIII from scratch. “The pre-set was Episode VII, and that was kind of it,” he said. If anything, Johnson wanted more give-and-take with the Lucasfilm team, so he moved up to San Francisco for about six weeks during his writing process, taking an office two doors down from Hart’s and meeting with the full group twice a week.
What we know for sure is Snoke will have a much bigger role in The Last Jedi, and he will no longer be purely holographic. While we might not find out his true nature until J.J. Abrams trilogy closing Episode IX, you can be sure his role in The Last Jedi, whatever his identity, will be as impactful as Palpatine’s was to the first six films—and possibly more so.