Supreme Leader Snoke was very mysterious villain. He was obnoxiously tall, horribly disfigured, and was immensely powerful. His first appearance as a hologram in The Force Awakens sparked the curiosity of a lot of fans. Where did this mysterious villain come from? How powerful is he? How and why did he turn Kylo Ren to the dark side? These are just a few of the questions fans had for the origins of Snoke, and the sequels were sure to answer them.
Well, at least that’s what we all thought, until he was unceremoniously killed off by Kylo Ren in The Last Jedi. Any questions we had about Snoke were never answered and his time as a villain was cut short. The biggest crime this did to the character was the anticlimactic end to his arc. Take one look at him, and you know there is a story to tell. He looked like someone hit him with a lot of force lighting and was still so powerful that he could torture someone using the force without lifting a finger. That’s good for a villain, especially a Star Wars villain, so why wasn’t he flushed out more?
His introduction in The Force Awakens set him up to be Darth Sidious on steroids, but in a very flat twist, he turned out to be a pawn. That’s right, the guy who delivered the biggest amount of damaged to Rey without lifting a finger was just a pawn. Snoke had some serious potential, but it sadly went nowhere. All that time fans spent making fan theories about who he was was a waste. Ouch, now that’s harsh.
Speaking of Darth Sidious, he was actually the main antagonist of the Rise of Skywalker. Darth Sidious, or Sheev Palpatine, turned out to be the big evil mastermind behind the sinister machinations of the new trilogy. What did he have to do with Snoke? Well, the beginning of the Rise of Skywalker revealed that Palpatine was actually alive, although just barely. He revealed to Kylo Ren that Snoke was one of the many clones he attempted to create with the intention of using them as his pawns. With Snoke as his puppet, Palpatine could hide in the shadows while once again manipulating others to help him regain control of the galaxy.
This sounds like the kind of plan Palpatine would concoct. However, there was only one very crucial problem with this plan: How on God’s green Earth did Palpatine come back?! Darth Vader threw him down a shaft where he surely disintegrated and whatever could’ve been left was on the Death Star when it blew up. Sure, this is Star Wars and crazy things can happen, but there’s always a limit. When we see Palpatine again in the Rise of Skywalker, he’s sitting down nice and comfy, but he looks like a corpse. It looked like something right out of a horror movie and could have been interesting, but there was no explanation. How did Palpatine miraculously survive his apparent demise in Return of the Jedi? Well, a Rise of Skywalker Visual Dictionary gives us somewhat of an explanation.
This was given to us through a report by Screen Rant, courtesy of Ana Dumaraog. The report had this to say:
“According to the tie-in book, Darth Sidious was brought to Exegol by his hooded cohorts called the Sith Eternals. These mysterious beings weren’t mentioned in the movie, although they were explicitly featured climatic battle between Rey and her grandfather. Apparently, they are devoted Sith followers who were Palpatine loyalists. After Darth Sidious’ defeat in Return of the Jedi, they brought him to Exegol, and using “technology and occult,” they were able to revive him.”
That’s all the book had to say on Palpatine’s return. Does it justify his presence in the Rise of Skywalker? The answer is absolutely not. This wild explanation wasn’t at all explored in the film and Palpatine just reappeared like he didn’t blow up twice. Who are the Sith Eternals? The visual dictionary admits that they weren’t in the movie and that’s bad. Aside from Darth Vader, Palpatine had other devoted followers and they played the vital role of literally resurrecting him. Characters like that should’ve been in the movie and yet they had no presence. Were they among the acolytes surrounding the frail Palpatine? By the way, how does this cryptic explanation tell us where the massive fleet of Death Star ships came from? The answer is it doesn’t, and that’s why it doesn’t bring any kind of clarity to our questions.
The job of a film’s narrative is to explain how and why certain plot points happen. The return of a major villain like Palpatine certainly should’ve warranted an explanation, but the film provided none. The explanation to his return was instead given in a book and on top of that, the book’s explanation was very unsatisfactory. No one had to read any kind of books to answer questions from the original trilogy because everything was explained pretty well. Palpatine’s return wasn’t earned and the vague explanation we got behind his return wasn’t good enough, simple as that.
Aside from all of that, Palpatine is a villain we’ve seen before. In fact, he was the chief antagonist of the last two trilogies. This is were Snoke would’ve fit in as an (ugly) fresh face for the franchise and a new all-powerful Sith villain. Wait, was he even a Sith? No, he was just a clone. This was a bad twist as a result of Johnson killing him off in The Last Jedi, resulting in Abrams going the damage control route. Abrams had to throw away any kind of backstory and plans he had in mind for him. The worst result of this was replacing him with a villain we’ve already seen before too many times. Palpatine had his time, destroying the Jedi, ruling over the galaxy for decades, and then died.
Palpatine’s inclusion in Rise of Skywalker just seemed like a last-ditch effort to save the ending because Snoke was gone. He was villain Abrams chose to begin with, then Johnson killed him off. It’s a crying shame. There were many routes they could’ve taken with Snoke, but unfortunately, we’ll never get to see it. The most memorable thing we got from him was another stellar motion-capture performance from Andy Serkis. It probably won’t be his last though, so don’t worry.