Why we probably haven't seen the last of Supreme Leader Snoke

If you haven't seen Star Wars Episode VII: The Last Jedi yet, stop right here—this article will definitely contain some spoilers. Now, if you have seen The Last Jedi, then you're probably aware of some of the controversy that's sprung up among fans because of the way director Rian Johnson resolved the mystery of Supreme Leader Snoke's identity: by having Kylo Ren unceremoniously slice him in half with Rey's lightsaber. 

Many Star Wars fans were unhappy with the idea that Snoke's identity doesn't really matter. This new trilogy may be about passing a torch to the younger generation, but there's no question that Snoke will be back (if only in spirit) in the future. Here's why we probably haven't seen the last of the Supreme Leader.

Larger than life

When Snoke was first introduced in The Force Awakens, the way director J.J. Abrams depicted him onscreen (via an impressively massive hologram) really set the stage for how audiences perceived him. None of us had even seen Supreme Leader Snoke "in the flesh" yet, but he was both intimidating and intriguing. Snoke's appearance in The Force Awakens really generated a lot of buzz among fans who wondered about the origins of this mysterious and seemingly powerful figure.

Immediately, posts about him sprung up on Reddit and other social media, and many news outlets jumped on board to discuss this new and presumably important leader that had been added to the Star Wars universe. Then everybody had the rug pulled out from under them in The Last Jedi, with Snoke's apparent death. Despite the seeming finality of his ignoble exit from the canon, it's a really poor way for his story to end.  

Unsolved mysteries

One of the biggest criticisms fans have had about The Last Jedi is how Rian Johnson essentially discarded the questions posed by Abrams in The Force Awakens. Most fandoms have a love/hate relationship with mysteries. They love when a fictional universe doesn't lay all its cards on the table, so they have the opportunity to speculate and theorize on what they're holding back. But fans hate unsolved mysteries, ones that have been firmly established by the writers and then completely discarded or ignored.

Who is Rey, who are her parents, and why is she so amazingly powerful in the Force? Answer: she's nobody, her parents were neglectful nobodies, and she's powerful because the Force works in mysterious ways. Next question. Okay…who is Snoke, how did he rise to power, and what will he do next? Answer: you don't need to know, none of that matters because he's dead, and this movie wasn't about him.

When fans went to see The Last Jedi, they were hoping to open up these mystery boxes and see what was inside. Instead, it felt a lot like Disney stuck some really exciting-looking presents under the tree, made us wait for two excruciating years, and then we eagerly opened them up to find…socks. Obviously, a studio can't fill their movie with nothing but fan service and still make something good, but a lot of fans still feel extremely ripped off by the way things played out.

Destined for greatness

Part of the reason we're convinced we haven't seen the last of Snoke is just how important he is to the trilogy's story. He took the shattered remains of the Empire, and managed to forge them into the incredibly powerful war machine of the First Order. He managed to influence Ben Solo—the grandson of Darth Vader himself—turning him to the Dark Side. He oversaw the construction of a galactic weapon so powerful, it wiped out the entire planetary system at the core of the Republic in one shot. He accomplished these impressive feats within just a few short decades, and while keeping completely out of sight until he was ready to make his move.

Snoke's identity and history would seem to be absolutely critical to the current story. When the original trilogy first came out, Emperor Palpatine's story didn't really matter at first. A New Hope's opening crawl established the Galactic Civil War, and that was that. The problem with ignoring Snoke's origins in the sequel trilogy is there isn't an emotional disconnect with what happened during those intervening years. Fans care, and they care deeply. That's why so many had a problem with how Luke has changed since Return of the Jedi. Snoke has obviously already done great (if horrible) things, and it seems silly for Disney and Lucasfilm to discard a storyline with this much potential impact.

Hype beyond belief

Disney and Lucasfilm obviously knew what an impact Snoke would make upon the fandom when they introduced him in The Force Awakens. Director J.J. Abrams, actor Andy Serkis (who voiced Snoke and performed his motion-capture sequences), and Lucasfilm Story Group head Pablo Hidalgo have given countless interviews where they mention Snoke, throwing out tidbits of information about this enigmatic figure like breadcrumbs.

Eager fans snatched up these clues, turning them over and examining them in more online discussions and countless theorycrafting videos on YouTube. The hype train left the station at full speed, and it would be against Disney's best interests (financially, at least) to just let that train be completely derailed in The Last Jedi. That's why we're convinced they have a backup plan, one that will allow them to continue to capitalize on all the buzz Snoke has generated so far. If Snoke and his backstory really don't matter, then why would Lucasfilm continue to drop tantalizing new bits of information about him in The Last Jedi Visual Dictionary and elsewhere? So, all aboard the hype…bus!

Prequel precedent

As previously mentioned, the origins of Emperor Palpatine and the Empire didn't really matter to the plot of the original trilogy. The Empire and Emperor just were, and the movies simply told us the story of how Luke, Leia, and Han come together to defeat them. However, the massive popularity of the original Star Wars trilogy meant that the Emperor's backstory couldn't stay unknown forever. The voracious fans now needed to know everything…they demanded answers. And George Lucas responded, with the prequel trilogy. As imperfect as the prequels were, you can't deny that Lucas definitely explained how everything happened.

Telling the story of Anakin's fall to the Dark Side in the prequels was impossible without also intertwining it with the story of how Palpatine rose to power and the Empire was formed. The Last Jedi has clearly made the point that the new trilogy is about Rey, Finn, and Kylo–but that sets up its own paradox. How can we fully understand the conflict between Kylo and Rey without also understanding how the First Order came to be, and how Snoke turned Kylo to the Dark Side in the first place?

A novel idea

Since Disney bought Lucasfilm in 2012 for just over $4 billion, they've really been working hard to revitalize the Star Wars franchise. They've got their new sequel trilogy, the standalone anthology films like Rogue One and Solo, another planned trilogy helmed by Rian Johnson, and all sorts of associated merchandise. As of January 2018, these new Star Wars movies have made more money for Disney than they originally paid to buy Lucasfilm.

But that's not all—Disney also declared nearly all the old "expanded universe" info (books, comics, etc) to be no longer canon to the story. The old material is now "Legends," while Disney and the Lucasfilm Story Group have started cranking out their own books, comics, and supplemental information. They've published visual guides to the films, comic books about Poe Dameron's adventures, a book about Leia's teenage years, and even a Captain Phasma novel. If Phasma (who was little more than a footnote in The Last Jedi) can get her own book, then it seems extremely likely that Snoke will get the same treatment sooner or later. There's absolutely no question that if they made it, fans would buy it in a heartbeat.

He's not really dead

Hold off on the tinfoil hats—we don't mean that Snoke is literally still alive. Some theorize Snoke isn't really dead, or that he'll somehow come back–as a Force ghost, reincarnated, or maybe with spider legs like Darth Maul–but we mean this only metaphorically. Think back to the heartbreaking scene between Luke and Leia in The Last Jedi. Luke apologizes to Leia for not saving Ben, and Leia tells him it's okay—she's accepted that her son is gone. Luke shakes his head. "No one is ever really gone," he replies. The meaning is clear: even after death, we live on in the hearts of those we've touched.

Okay, it's likely nobody's going to remember Snoke when they look at a snowflake or feel the breeze on their face, but there's a good point to be made here. These films might be about Kylo, Rey, and the other new faces—but Snoke shaped the landscape that is forging the future of these characters. Kylo let go of his ambition to surpass Darth Vader—a legend he never actually met in person—but his history with Snoke will surely come back to haunt him. He must now step into the role of Supreme Leader, and also deal internally with killing the surrogate father figure he chose for himself when he turned to the Dark Side. He may not make an actual appearance in Episode IX, but there's no doubt that Snoke's influence and legacy will continue to be felt, especially in Kylo's story arc.