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Is Snoke In Rogue One: A Star Wars Story?

Supreme Leader Snoke is the most powerful new character introduced in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but we still don't know much about him. Could the upcoming Rogue One: A Star Wars Story offer some clues to this mysterious villain's origin? Here's an intriguing fan theory prompted by a few key moments from the film's first trailer. Let's discuss.

Bacta tank

The Rogue One trailer is loaded with scenes that had Star Wars fans talking, and one of the coolest was a brief glimpse of what looks like an Imperial inner sanctum. It's over in a blink, so unless you rewound it a bunch of times (and we're definitely not judging you if you did), you might not have noticed that the glowing column in the middle of the chamber looks a lot like a Bacta tank—the fluid-filled container fans will remember as the device used to nurse Luke Skywalker back to health after he was attacked by the wampa on Hoth in Empire Strikes Back.

Imperial guards

So if that's a Bacta tank, who's in it? Well, the presence of the Imperial guards flanking the column would seem to serve as a pretty powerful clue. Their only purpose is to follow orders from the Emperor himself. In fact, they're rarely seen outside his physical presence. If they're in this chamber, it's very likely that the Emperor is too. But given that the period covered by Rogue One finds him at the peak of his galactic reign, it's hard to believe he'd need to take a Bacta bath.

Show of respect

If the Emperor's in the room but not in the tank, then he might just be the hooded figure we see walking into the chamber. It's impossible to tell, since we're looking at this character from the back, but the Emperor loved his dark cloaks—even if the height and build don't match the wizened little creep we love to hate. More perplexing is the way the figure kneels in front of the column. Who would the Emperor ever kneel to?

Floating Snoke

Here's the part of the theory that requires climbing out a little further on a speculative limb. If that's Palpatine kneeling, and if he's in front of a Bacta tank, then there's a hugely powerful and very important Imperial figure bobbing around in there. And given Snoke's status in The Force Awakens, it could very well be him. Was Snoke Palpatine's old master? Did Palpatine inflict the injuries that necessitated his Bacta bath? Is he, as some have speculated, kneeling as a sarcastic jab at a former leader turned vanquished foe? We don't have the answers to any of these questions, but it's clear from Snoke's lines in The Force Awakens that he had an intimate knowledge of the Empire's inner workings, and a first-person view of its rise and fall. Perhaps he watched the whole thing go down while recuperating, being held prisoner, or both—which would explain his scarred and deformed appearance years later in The Force Awakens.

On the other hand...

At this point, 99 percent of everything surrounding Rogue One is speculation. Star Wars movies have always been shrouded in secrecy prior to their arrival in theaters, and this one's bound to be part of that tradition. The figure we see in the trailer doesn't really look like Palpatine from behind, the glowing column might not even be a Bacta tank, and it's definitely possible that the whole thing is a classic bit of misdirection aimed at keeping fans from figuring out what's really going on. Working him into the story while explaining his ties to the Empire would be a great way of weaving Rogue One further into the new Star Wars trilogy, but that doesn't mean it'll really happen. We'll just have to wait until Rogue One arrives on December 16 to find out for sure.