After reading Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath: Empire’s End, the conclusion to his post-Return of the Jedi trilogy, I have found that although a lot things were brought to light in the novel, there are still so many unanswered questions. If you were wondering if the identity of Snoke is finally revealed in the book – let me go ahead and disappoint you by confirming that his identity remains a mystery – hopefully one that will be explained in The Last Jedi this December. That being said, the book did open up a few possibilities surrounding his origin, one of which I found to be very intriguing – so much so that I sat down and wrote this little piece immediately after finishing the book two weeks ago. Now that the embargo is lifted and our non-spoiler review has posted, it’s finally time to dig in to a new theory about Snoke provided by the content of Empire’s End. Let’s speculate…
Excerpt from Aftermath: Empire’s End:
Outside the known galaxy is an unexplored infinity, Palpatine explained, one closed off by a labyrinth of solar systems, rogue magnetospheres, black holes, gravity wells, and things far stranger. Any who tried to conquer the maze did not survive…But Palpatine had one in the navy who new something of the Unknown Regions: Admiral Thrawn, an alien with ice-blue skin who came from beyond the borders of the known galaxy. Palpatine only kept that one around because of what he knew of traversing those deadly interstices…
Palpatine said that this galaxy was to be his, but that it was only one among many…Before Palpatine’s demise [he finally found] a way through the unknown. The Emperor was convinced that something waited for him out there – some origin of the Force, some dark presence formed of malevolent substance. He said he could feel the waves of it radiating out now that the way was clear. The Emperor called it a signal – conveniently one that only he could hear…He believed that something lay beyond, and so that became a singular obsession.
What was calling to Palpatine? Was he simply mad, or was there something more sinister at work – an unknown entity from outside the known galaxy that was bidding Palpatine to seek it out through the Force? It is interesting that Palpatine’s contingency plan – to purge the failed Empire and build it anew from the ground up – would send his loyal servants outside of the boundaries of the known galaxy, closer to the source of this mysterious signal. Could it be that Snoke himself is this source, an entity from beyond? Well, it certainly seems plausible, but for some more evidence that lends credence to this theory, let’s turn to the old Star Wars expanded universe.
In the previous expanded universe, now dubbed Legends and in effect “non-canon”, there were a vast amount of stories set in the era that has now been replaced by the sequel trilogy (The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi, Episode IX). In the non-canon alternate version of that era, the main threat against the New Republic was an invasion from an alien species known as the Yuuzhan Vong.
When we look into these extra-galactic aliens, I think we will find that there are some possible connections with what we know about Palpatine’s infatuation with the Unknown Regions outside of the known galaxy and the similarities of some of the more notable Vong with the current threat to the New Republic, Supreme Leader Snoke.
Since their introduction in the New Jedi Order book series, the Yuuzhan Vong have been a huge part of the expanded universe, namely as the primary antagonists to the New Republic and Luke’s Jedi Order. While some fans were eager to embrace the new direction, not all were thrilled with the new villains. However, I think fans of the EU can all agree that they were far better than the Ssi-Ruuk (an alien species that came across like an effort to capitalize on the popularity of the dinosaur thanks to the recently released Jurassic Park), a grateful victim to the canon massacre of 2014.
Following Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm, all their stories (apart from the films and TV series) were sent into the vast Unknown Regions of what’s canon and what’s not – with the First Order of business to start fresh – building a cohesive and unified canon from the ground up.
Since LFL went all Order 66 on the expanded universe, the only story to make its way into the official Star Wars canon apart from the films/tv series was the Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir comic series, as this story was originally intended to be covered by The Clone Wars television show prior to its cancellation.
Although these stories have gone the way of the Ssi-Ruuk, LFL has shown that they are not afraid to pull characters and stories from the non-canon material into the official canon as long as it fits and serves the story. One of the most notable examples of this is the introduction of the blue-skinned Grand Admiral Thrawn in Season 3 of Star Wars: Rebels (pictured above). The character was also referenced in Aftermath: Empire’s End and will feature in his own novel, Thrawn, coming out this April.
That being said, we should not expect anything to be pulled into canon exactly as it was in the Legends continuity. Changes will be made to the previously established continuity moving forward, and in many cases, they already have been. Perhaps the most heavily affected era of Star Wars mythology is The New Jedi Order era, which is occupied now by the sequel trilogy (30 years after ROTJ).
In this new and official iteration we find a great departure from the expanded universe story line. Han Solo is dead…Chewbacca lives…Ben Skywalker, the Solo twins, and the younger Anakin Solo have been replaced by a singular descendant of Darth Vader – Ben Solo (the jury’s still out on Rey and her connection). Mara Jade and Kyle Katarn are nowhere to be seen. Changes.
So, I am in no way insinuating with this article that the Yuuzhan Vong will play an important role in Star Wars moving forward, nor am I suggesting that they will even make an appearance. However, as I look at their role and origin in the Legends continuity, I have to wonder if the Story Group at Lucasfilm didn’t at least draw inspiration from these alien antagonists when coming up with the new villain for the sequel trilogy.
Who are the Yuuzhan Vong?
The Yuuzhan Vong, also known as the “Far-Outsiders”, were a sentient alien species that originated outside of the known galaxy. They resembled a human in form, but were taller and heavier than the average human with less hair on their heads. They were unable to be sensed through the Force which confounded the Jedi and gave them an edge against the Force-wielders.
They were named for their god, Yun-Yuuzhan, their chief deity. According to legend, Yun-Yuuzhan sacrificed his body parts to form the universe, the lesser gods, and the Yuuzhan Vong.
The Supreme Overlord was the leader of the Yuuzhan Vong. What was his role and who was he?
The Supreme Overlord was the grand leader of the Yuuzhan Vong. He alone could address their god, Yun-Yuuzhan, and he was ritually scarred to resemble the diety in appearance. The Overlord held authority and power as Head of State, Commander-in-Chief, and supreme religious leader.
The Supreme Overlord was named Shimrra Jamaane, but it was revealed that another, by the name of Onimi was the true Overlord behind the scenes bending Jamaane to his will. Who was this Onimi?
Onimi was a male Yuuzhan Vong. He was the only Force-sensitive of his species and was revealed to be the true power behind the Yuuzhan Vong’s invasion of the galaxy. Onimi was marked as a Shamed One, taking the form of a mentally and physically twisted, demented creature.
While Onimi seemed weak, with his torso twisted, short limbs, small hands, and his wretched face being his worst feature, his repulsive physical features and lowly social status caused him to be underestimated. Despite his pitiful appearance, Onimi had the power to manipulate the minds of others.
Onimi manipulated Shimrra and the other Yuuzhan Vong to mastermind the invasion of the galaxy that the species chose as their new home.
While it’s clear that Snoke is unique from the descriptions above, the similarities are striking. If Snoke originates from outside of the known galaxy, it is apparent that the Supreme Overlord of the Yuuzhan Vong may have given inspiration to the creation of his character – specifically that of the true Overlord, Onimi, the mastermind behind the invasion of the galaxy.
Force-sensitive, twisted and deformed, ritually scarred, manipulative, Supreme…these all seem like traits and characteristics that could easily describe the Supreme Leader of the First Order. While the scarring is very noticable, it is difficult to see the full extent of Snoke’s deformity from his appearance in TFA. The above screenshot from a behind the scenes rendering of Snoke’s body gives us a much better glimpse.
Could it be that the surviving remnants of Palpatine’s Empire encountered Snoke in the Unknown Regions, only to be manipulated by him into taking over their native galaxy? Is Snoke a singular entity? Or is he only one member of a species hell-bent on galactic domination?
Wendig’s final book in his Aftermath trilogy also provides some other possibilites, even tossing around the idea that the Acolytes of the Beyond wanted to resurrect Palpatine to corporeal form once again – a possible nod to his return from the dead in the Dark Empire Trilogy (now Legends) from Dark Horse Comics.
In Life Debt, it was revealed that an individual known as the Consecrated Eremite lived on the Plaintive Hand plateau on Jakku back when the desert planet was lush and teeming with life. In the final book of the trilogy, we read of a well of energy hidden beneath the plateau. The well is a channel that bores through the schist and mantle of Jakku, reaching all the way to the center of the planet. From the mysterious abyss comes a wellspring of energy – the essence of life. Perhaps Snoke is this ancient Eremite who created the well to drain Jakku of its essence and somehow transfer it to himself. Who knows? Wendig was certainly laying the groundwork for something here, but what exactly he was paving the way to remains to be fully seen or understood.
It is also mentioned in Empire’s End that Palpatine’s advisor, Yupe Tashu, was only one of many leaders of the dark-side obsessed Acolytes of the Beyond. Given this reveal and the fact that we are never introduced to any of these other leaders, it is also possible that Snoke is one of these who ascended to the role of Supreme Leader in the years following Palpatine’s death.
“Kylo Ren, I watched the Galactic Empire rise, and then fall. The gullible prattle on about the triumph of truth and justice, of individualism and free will. As if such things were solid and real instead of simple subjective judgments. The historians have it all wrong. It was neither poor strategy nor arrogance that brought down the Empire. You know too well what did.”
– Supreme Leader Snoke
We also know from The Force Awakens novelization by Alan Dean Foster (see above quotation) that Snoke witnessed the rise and fall of the Galactic Empire. But whether he did so as one of Palpatine’s closest sycophants, a distant bystander from the shadows, or as a faraway observer from a galaxy away remains a mystery as the dark side emanating from the Lucasfilm Story Group currently clouds everything.
There is no clear evidence to support either theory wholeheartedly, but Aftermath: Empire’s End has definitely opened up more possibilities concerning the origin of the big baddie of the sequel trilogy. There is still so much that we don’t know about the character and his motivations. One thing we do know – he is coming for Luke Skywalker – and I’m sure Jabba the Hutt would agree from beyond the grave that if Snoke tries to kill a Skywalker, that’s the last mistake he’ll ever make.