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Star Wars finally sets the record straight about Snoke

Looking back, it's easy to forget how hugely successful Star Wars: The Force Awakens was, back when it first hit theaters in 2015. For decades, fans had questioned what happened to the galaxy far, far away after the Empire fell, and while the J. J. Abrams film offered some answers — many of them bittersweet — what it also did, perhaps more tantalizingly, was tease questions, in the form of Abrams-style "mystery boxes." For one, who were Rey's (Daisy Ridley) parents? Two, what were the Knights of Ren, and how did a son of Leia and Han turn into such a jerk? And three — perhaps most crucially — who the heck was Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis), and where did he come from? 

The Force Awakens, of course, was followed by two films which offered near-opposite approaches to these mysteries, to polarizing results. The Last Jedi, for its part, broke all the mystery boxes, most notably when Kylo Ren killed Snoke off, arguing (on a meta level) that the villain's identity didn't matter. The Rise of Skywalker, in contrast, started off by showing Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) arrive to meet Emperor Palpatine (AKA Darth Sidious, played by Ian McDiarmid) on Exegol, whereupon he passes by strange vats containing the bodies of multiple Snokes, implying that various clones of the so-called "Supreme Leader" had actually been Palpatine's puppets all along.

However, the movie itself never elaborates on this. For instance, was Snoke — or, well, the Snokes — actually living beings, with free will? Did Snoke exist before Palpatine started using him, perhaps? Or were the bodies just empty vessels for Palpatine to possess, via some spooky Force powers? 

Luckily, the release of The Star Wars Book — set to be published October 20 — finally offers concrete answers. 

Did Snoke have free will? Well, it's complicated

While The Star Wars Book hasn't yet arrived, as of this writing, a number of early photos posted on Twitter by user Old Man Blinks demonstrate that the book won't be afraid to explain the finer details which the movies never bothered with. Chief among them, of course, being whatever was going on with Snoke. 

First thing first: While Snoke certainly talks and acts a lot like his creator, it turns out he is not an empty vessel which the Emperor inhabited. He's not an independent entity, either. As the book describes it: "It's possible Snoke himself may not know his true nature. Snoke is a strandcast — an artificial genetic construct concocted by the resurrected Darth Sidious to be his proxy in power. Snoke has free will, but his actions and goals are still orchestrated by Sidious."

So, essentially, there was no Snoke before Palpatine invented Snoke, and while Palpatine guides Snoke along, it's presumably more through Dark Side suggestion and influence — or, perhaps, just genetically engineering him with certain goals — than outright mind control. The book also states that Snoke falling prey to Kylo Ren's lightsaber, whether intentional or not, worked such that it allowed the Emperor to "sidestep" the standard ritual of an apprentice slaying their Sith master to move upward in rank. Sneaky guy, that Palpatine.  

Now, whether these answers are satisfying or not, they do work to patch up the torn quilt that is the sequel trilogy's narrative, and the book deserves credit for that. Still, you have to ask — was any of this planned out? 

In real life, there was no grand design behind Snoke

Palpatine, clearly, is a man with a plan. The movies he stars in? Not so much. Because it doesn't take a film student to see that The Force Awakens was obviously setting up the Supreme Leader as the new trilogy's big bad. 

Remember, J. J. Abrams never planned to come back for the second film — or the third, for that matter, which was to be directed by Colin Trevorrow — so he designed The Force Awakens to leave mysteries unanswered, so the next two filmmakers could tackle them in whatever direction they liked. Rian Johnson, clearly, didn't find Snoke to be that intriguing, so he boldly subverted expectations by killing the character off, as a way to elevate Kylo Ren (who is, objectively, more interesting) in his place. As Abrams later put it, via Cinema Blend, "When I read [Rian Johnson's] first draft, it made me laugh, because I saw that was his take and his voice. I got to watch cuts of the movie as he was working on it, as an audience member. And I appreciated the choices he made as a filmmaker that would probably be very different from the choices that I would have made. Just as he would have made different choices if he had made Episode VII."

So, when Trevorrow left and Abrams jumped back into the driver's seat, he didn't have a game plan. He had to choose between either having Kylo Ren as the main villain (which was Trevorrow's intention) or something else — that something else, then, being the resurrection of the Emperor, whom he used to explain Snoke. 

Now, thanks to The Star Wars Book, this mystery box can finally be checked off for good. 

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