Going into Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the identity and importance of Supreme Leader Snoke was one of the biggest questions in the Star Wars universe. However, director Rian Johnson's film subverted expectations by unceremoniously killing Snoke in a shocking, triumphant moment before his true nature was revealed.
However, one new fan theory suggests that Snoke may have had a strong connection to another major Star Wars antagonist, Emperor Palpatine.
As Reddit user overthecause presented the intriguing theory that Snoke could have actually been Palpatine the whole time. Given that we hear Palpatine’s evil laughter at the end of the trailer of Star Wars IX: The Rise of Skywalker, that theory is worth serious consideration.
While its clear that Snoke is very old and has been around for a long time, he may have been in the core of the galaxy before taking root in the Unknown Regions. He has considerable knowledge of the Old Republic, which he most likely gained first-hand. Snoke even says that Palpatine knew about him (but not his true strength) when he was still a chancellor. In The Last Jedi novelization, Leia also mentioned that she knew of Snoke before he started to corrupt her son, which suggests that could have been a known quantity like Palpatine.
Snoke also uses Force lightning attacks to punish Kylo Ren. While that attack is associated with Palpatine and could draw another parallel between the two, Palpatine wasn’t the only Dark Sider that used it on his enemies. Darth Tyranus, Momin, Mother Talzin of the Nightsisters and The Son could all use it. Even Count Dooku could deploy it (albeit erratically) while he was still a Jedi in order to save someone he loved.
However, Palpatine didn’t punish by lightning as often as Snoke does in The Last Jedi. Snoke seems to enjoy wiping the floor with his subordinates. He attacks both Force users and humans like General Hux with little regard to what damage that might do to the power structure of the First Order. Palpatine generally left the dirty work to Darth Vader (and even admonished him to chill it with the killing of officers.) This again suggests that Snoke was not Palpatine, but his own villain.
Snoke also seems to be a fan of explicit mental manipulation, as he tries to twist the affection that Rey and Kylo Ren/Ben Solo share and even bridges their minds together for the purpose. However, Palpatine just "let nature take its course" with a more subtle form of manipulation. Snoke cannot help to gloat and insult Kylo Ren’s intelligence, giving his disciple yet another reason to dispose of him. Palpatine already made this mistake in the past with Anakin/Vader, and if he were truly possessing Snoke, he wouldn’t make it again.
While it might seem frivolous, Snoke also has a very different fashion sense and overall appearance from the Emperor, even accounting for their different physiques. Ian McDiarmid, who plays Palpatine, told Empire interview that the Emperor’s only redeeming feature was that he was a patron of the arts, which implies a certain aesthetic integrity. While it's true that Senator Palpatine's office was covered in red and had many Sith artifacts on display, Palpatine as an Emperor favored dark robes and stark interiors. Snoke goes all out with a dramatic red throne room and golden, ornate robes and slippers.
Since Palpatine’s theme plays while Snoke is torturing Rey, but it is very possible that it was there to indicate Palpatine’s influence in the First Order and not the literal presence of Palpatine in the scene. On occasion, themes associated with specific characters appear at other points throughout the Star Wars saga, without those characters being present in the scene.
However, there are two objects that suggest that Palpatine has been manipulating events and people from beyond the grave, even if he wasn’t possessing Snoke.
The first one is Vader’s mask, which apparently “spoke” to Kylo Ren at one point, similar to how Sith Momin speaks to Vader trough his mask in Star Wars comics.
The second object is the black and gold ring that Snoke wears thorough the movie. The Star Wars Visual Dictionary says that the black stone is actually obsidian from Castle Vader in Mustafar, a Sith sacred place known for its connection with resurrection, and the gold ring itself is etched with glyphs of the Four Sages of Dwartii, a group of lawgivers that Palpatine admired greatly. Since it's been established that Dark Side users can attach their spirit to objects, eeither of these could hint at Palpatine's influence.
From a narrative standpoint, it would be pretty anticlimactic if the main avatar of Palpatine, the ultimate villain of the saga, was killed halfway through The Last Jedi. What’s more likely, however, is that Palpatine planned for Snoke to be killed so that Kylo Ren, a young and healthy Force User, could take his place as the Supreme Leader. If Palpatine is planning to take over the Galaxy again through possession, Kylo Ren would be in the perfect position to become an Imperial vessel.
Directed and co-written by J.J. Abrams, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker stars Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Kelly Marie Tran, Joonas Suotamo, Billie Lourd, Keri Russell, Matt Smith, Anthony Daniels, Mark Hamill, Billy Dee Williams and Carrie Fisher, with Naomi Ackie and Richard E. Grant. The film arrives on Dec. 20.