Set up in the first half of the Sequel Trilogy as a powerful new Star Wars villain, Supreme Leader Snoke of the First Order turned out to be something else entirely. Despite fulfilling the role of Emperor Palpatine in The Force Awakens, he’s completely off the table by the end of The Last Jedi. And in The Rise of Skywalker, the galaxy is only big enough for one galaxy-conquering villain as Kylo Ren’s fall shows.
By the end of the trilogy, Snoke is revealed to have been a bio-engineered villain all along, Force-puppeted tool Emperor Palpatine used to regain his grip on the galaxy while hiding his weakened physical form on the Sith planet of Exegol. His triumphs no longer truly his own, Snoke’s ultimate legacy is the rise of Kylo Ren as well as legendary motion capture actor Andy Serkis’ performance.
As we look back at Snoke’s short tenure as the big bad of Star Wars, here are some facts you might not know about Supreme Leader Snoke:
1. Snoke Was a Strand-Cast Created by Palpatine
Emperor Palpatine created Snoke to be his proxy through which he could regain his power. Although Snoke was bio-engineered in a lab on Exegol, he was a strand-cast, not a clone. This bit of Star Wars jargon means Snoke isn’t an exact copy of anyone, but isn’t natural-born either. We’ve heard the term “strand-cast” before. In The Mandalorian, Kuill speculates that Grogu might be a strand-cast — a speculation which turned out to be wrong when Ahsoka revealed Grogu grew up in the Jedi Temple.
Palpatine’s ultimate plan was to use Snoke as his voice to whisper in Kylo Ren’s ear. It was one of several ways he was working behind the scenes all along to build the First Order — itself just a shell for the new Empire being built on Exegol. With his own clone body decrepit but his spirit still strong in the Force, Palpatine could possess other people but was looking for a permanent new vessel.
Snoke was likely born from these experiments but was too imperfect a vessel to house Palpatine’s spirit. There were other candidates, like the strand-cast who became Rey’s father. But since the process that created strand-casts could not reliably replicate Force-sensitivity, Palpatine’s “son” was not Force sensitive. It was another dead end. The Sith lord next turned his attention to Rey in The Rise of Skywalker.
This strand-cast/cloning storyline shares several plot points with the classic Dark Empire comic series, where Palpatine bided his time until he could come back in a younger, stronger clone body and re-create the Empire.
2. Snoke Wasn’t Aware of His Own History
Unlike Palpatine’s strand-cast “son,” Snoke didn’t know he was created in a lab by the Sith lord nor that he was being manipulated to rebuild the Emperor’s forces. In fact, despite being created some time after the Battle of Endor, he believed to have lived through the rise and fall of the Empire.
All of this is revealed in the novelization of The Force Awakens, in a twist that might actually have been a result of The Rise of Skywalker not having been written or planned out yet. But his status as a Sith sleeper agent fits with Palpatine’s plan, too. Snoke truly believing that he himself was really a dark Force user who had lived through the Galactic Civil War likely prevented Ben Solo/Kylo Ren from sensing the deception throughout his time as Snoke’s apprentice. Palpatine needed Snoke to believe the lies he told Kylo Ren so that he could more easily manipulate the fallen Skywalker.
3. Hugh Hefner and Snoke’s Injuries Informed How Serkis Played the Character
Andy Serkis rose to fame as the motion capture performer behind Gollum’s creepy mannerisms in The Lord of the Rings, quickly becoming well-known for injecting unique life and personality into monstrous characters. For Supreme Leader Snoke, Serkis drew from “the gold-lamé Hugh Hefner look,” the shining robe evoking the Playboy magazine founder. Serkis says he and The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson also considered drawing inspiration from “so many different dictators,” but settled on the uncanny Hefner idea.
Snoke’s visual appearance was still being finalized when Serkis joined J.J. Abrams to work on the character for The Force Awakens. Therefore, the actor developed his ideas about the character at the same time as the artists were developing theirs. In The Last Jedi, Snoke finally appeared in the flesh as opposed to as a hologram, allowing Serkis to draw even more from the villain’s grotesque physical appearance.
Serkis says he imagined Snoke’s deep scars were the source of some of his anger. “He’s terribly powerful, of course. But he is also a very vulnerable and wounded character,” Serkis told EW (via io9). “He has suffered and he has suffered injury. The way that his malevolence comes out is in reaction to that. His hatred of the Resistance is fueled by what’s happened to him personally.”
4. His Look Was Based on Classic Horror Movies
According to the book The Art of The Force Awakens, “J.J. [Abrams] and [creature effects supervisor] Neal [Scanlan] didn’t want him to be old and decrepit, like the Emperor,” said senior sculptor Ivan Manzella, who sculpted a maquette of an elderly, bald face for Snoke. Early ideas made the difference even clearer by making Snoke a female character.
The final result did look a lot like Palpatine, though: a hunched old man with a face distorted by deep wrinkles and scars. Manzella, who also made the final sculpt, says that Abrams wanted his look to evoke Hammer Films horror movies (such as classic takes on Frankenstein and Dracula). In particular Peter Cushing, who played Victor Frankeinstein and Abraham Van Helsing in several Hammer movies, was a direct inspiration.
Manzella also added what he felt was a sense of beauty to the character: “I imagined him to be a beautiful marble sculpture, so dark and menacing, but actually quite beautiful to look at … It’s almost like Snoke was quite handsome when he was younger.”
The Frankenstein comparison is especially apt since Palpatine and his Sith cultists built Snoke themselves.
5. Snoke Is Not a Sith Lord
You may have noticed that Snoke does not have the “Darth” title like the Dark Lords of the Sith do. He was never given one because he isn’t technically a Sith Lord. But the fact that he’s a bio-engineered being created by Palpatine explains why his training of Kylo Ren followed the Sith mold so closely, since all along Palpatine was trying to manipulate Ren.
During the time of The Force Awakens, many fans theorized that the next film would reveal Snoke to be Darth Plagueis, the Sith master who taught Palpatine the ways of the dark side. Plagueis was interested in extending one’s lifespan through the use of the dark side, so an old man with mysterious origins could very well have been him. This theory didn’t pan out.
6. Rian Johnson Felt Snoke’s Presence Distracted From Rey and Kylo Ren’s Stories
The fan theories didn’t line up with what The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson had in mind for moving the Sequel Trilogy cast into the future. In a conversation with EW (via Collider) Johnson explained his reasoning for knocking Snoke off the Sequel Trilogy’s chessboard.
“When I was working on the character of Kylo, I came to a place where I thought the most interesting thing would be to knock the shaky foundation out from under him at the beginning of this movie…By the end of this film, he’s gone from being a wannabe Vader to someone who is standing on his own feet as a complex villain taking the reins.”
But if Kylo took the reins, where would this leave Snoke?
“That made me realize the most interesting thing would be to eliminate that dynamic between the ‘emperor’ and pupil, so that all bets are off going into the next one. That also led to the possibility of this dramatic turn in the middle, which could also be a really powerful connection point between Kylo and Rey.”
Instead of focusing on Snoke’s history, Johnson found Kylo Ren’s ongoing story more relevant and felt killing Snoke was necessary to push his former apprentice’s arc forward.
7. Snoke Chose Ben Solo Because of His Skywalker Blood
Speaking of the Sith, Snoke may not be one, but he is interested in the lineage of one of the strongest Sith of all time. He chose to corrupt Ben Solo specifically because he was the grandson of Darth Vader. Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa were perhaps too ingrained in the light side and too dedicated to the cause of the New Republic for Snoke to manipulate them, but the mercurial and directionless Solo was the perfect target. Using Ben’s obsession with Darth Vader to turn him further to the dark side was a relatively easy task for Snoke.
In the comic series The Rise of Kylo Ren, we learned how Snoke began reaching out to Ben from an early age– and another comic, Age of Resistance: Supreme Leader Snoke, also fills in some of Snoke and Ben’s history. Before the events of The Force Awakens, Snoke spent a lot of time planting seeds of distrust between Ben and his uncle and teacher Luke Skywalker from afar, all while biding his time on a space station with an expansive garden, where Ben flees for guidance after the destruction of the Jedi academy.
Some time after this, Snoke took Kylo Ren to the Force cave on Dagobah from The Empire Strikes Back to experience a vision. There, Kylo kills an illusory Luke, but stops short of killing his parents. But Snoke encourages him to use his anger, fear, and other emotions associated with the dark side to complete his training.
The visual dictionary for The Rise of Skywalker shows how deep Palpatine’s plan went. It says Palpatine intended killing Snoke to be the mark of Kylo Ren’s full descent into the dark side and rise into Sith-hood. Snoke’s death was in a way a symbolic killing of a Sith master — it’s traditional for the apprentice to kill the Master — while Palpatine himself remained alive and well to take over as Kylo’s new master. A final, decisive victory over the Skywalker bloodline.
8. Snoke Trained At Least One Other Apprentice Before Kylo Ren
According to the The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary, Snoke canonically trained someone else before Ben. Little is known about this mystery apprentice. We don’t know the person’s name, when this took place, or how it connects to Palpatine’s overarching plans. The existence of this apprentice is implied by Snoke’s description of Kylo Ren as his most gifted apprentice, suggesting there must have been someone else to compare him to.
In the Age of Resistance comic, Snoke also mentions that he plans to have more apprentices after Kylo Ren is gone. But Ren cuts that plan short in The Last Jedi.
9. Snoke Had At Least One Earlier Run-In With Luke
The facial scarring and collapsed cheek Serkis talked about might have been created by Luke Skywalker. In The Rise of Kylo Ren, Ben Solo alludes to “what Master Luke did to you.” But Snoke is more interested in Ben’s conflict with Luke.
What happened between Snoke and Luke is still unknown. It’s possible that whatever confrontation led to Snoke’s scars was also the first time Ben met Snoke.
10. Snoke Played a Key Role in the Empire’s Transformation into The First Order
Since Palpatine had to hide his weak clone body from everyone except his secret Sith acolytes, he placed Snoke in charge of the day-to-day growth of the First Order. Through his own lackeys, General Hux and Captain Phasma, Snoke spearheaded the new stormtrooper program that captured and indoctrinated children, building a military force powerful enough to go against the New Republic. And behind the veil of the Unknown Regions, an uncharted sector of the galaxy where the New Republic held no dominion, Snoke helped reorganize what was left of the Empire into the First Order, eventually becoming its Supreme Leader.
Snoke’s Attendants, the purple-robed aliens seen briefly in The Last Jedi, are also part of this initiative. They are the ones who helped the Imperial remnant settle in the Unknown Regions, using their abilities to blaze hyperspace trails that made First Order conquest much more efficient.
11. Snoke’s Flagship, The Supremacy, Is the Only Ship of Its Kind
Snoke’s flagship was ripped in half by “the Holdo maneuver” in The Last Jedi, a strong blow by the beleaguered Resistance. Along with being the site of Snoke’s throne room, the Supremacy also contained enough factories to produce entire fleets for the First Order.
In fact, it was the base of operations for the entire First Order, which did not have a capital planet but instead maintained their military superiority from space. Technically, the Supremacy was a Mega-class Star Destroyer and the only one of its kind ever made.
12. Snoke’s Ring Contains a Relic From Darth Vader’s Castle
Snoke was a collector of Sith relics and secrets, traveling around the galaxy in search of knowledge, settling on his Force philosophy, and collecting things before he recruited Ben. It’s unclear how much of this Sith pilgrimage really happened versus the memories implanted by Palpatine, but it does appear that Snoke did actually discover the lost concept of a Force dyad, which he used to bring Rey and Kylo together.
He also discovered many dark side artifacts. One detail that’s easy to overlook in The Last Jedi is Snoke’s ring. The gaudy gold ring contains a hunk of black crystal. The Last Jedi Visual Dictionary defines this as obsidian from the catacombs beneath Darth Vader’s fortress on Mustafar. The ring also features “gold etched with glyph of the Dwartii.” In both canon and Legends, Dwartii is a planet which is home to several different schools of philosophers.