And that name is Snoke! Yes weirdos and gentlefreaks, we are going to be talking about Snoke, easily one of the creepiest, nastiest, vilest monsters that have ever crawled out of the Dark Side in Star Wars. And yet, easily one of the most consistently dismissed, in favour of his freakin’ pawns. Today, we are going to try and correct that little self-delusion.
Join me under the cut!
Snoke in The Last Jedi
Snoke is the Big Bad. He is the Irredeemable Villain, The Ultimate Evil of the Sequel Trilogy. He is the Final Obstacle that Rey must overcome to claim her destiny. He is a manipulator, a deceiver, a mass murderer and a monster. He’s the nastiest son of a bitch since Emperor Palpatine, and his arc in The Last Jedi is going to be all about showing off just how nasty he is.
Snoke as a Child Predator
In our tired and worn out discussions on Kylo Ren, we tend to overlook this fact: Snoke has been preying on and manipulating Kylo since before his birth, right in Leia’s womb. That actually puts him at a level below most child predators in real life: they can’t screw with your head before you’re born, after all.
But that’s not all our boy Snoke does! Oh no. His monstrosity goes way beyond that. In the book Phasma, it’s confirmed that Snoke uses subliminal brainwashing on his captured children to turn them into perfect soldiers. Finn himself hinted at this back in TFA when he claims that the First Order kidnapped him as a child and raised him. For a given definition of ‘raised’ anyway.
Shreev Palpatine, the original Big Bad, was a child predator given his interactions with Anakin. But Snoke makes Palpatine look almost harmless in comparison. For he is a child predator on an industrial scale, manufacturing victims for his crimes. That he started grooming Kylo Ren in his womb only serves to add a personal malice to his crimes, not diminish them in any way.
Snoke as a Cult Leader
Similar to his status as a child predator, Snoke’s credentials as a cult leader could be easily established by Kylo Ren’s utterly deranged devotion to the guy. Palps screwed Vader, big time, but he at least was decent enough to leave Vader enough of his mind to hate his master. Snoke has learned from Palpatine’s mistake and made sure to thoroughly brainwash Kylo Ren. This not only serves to highlight his creep factor, but it also has serious implications for Kylo: if he’s too brainwashed to ever escape from Snoke, how can his arc be resolved. He can’t be a true villain if he’s just Snoke’s puppet, nor can he be redeemed if he cannot take control of his own actions. In-universe, even, Snoke is limiting Kylo’s agency.
But it gets better! And by better, I mean much, much worse. You remember how I talked about how Finn and the book Phasma confirmed that Snoke likes to kidnap and brainwash children into being his soldiers? Yeah, well, it get’s creepier: according to Cardinal, Phasma’s adversary in her self-titled novel, that subliminal brainwashing was comforting, like a mother’s voice. Yeesh. If that doesn’t scream ‘cult’, I don’t know what will. On the other hand, my respect for Finn grew immeasurably when I read that: if he could escape brainwashing that thorough and complete means he must have balls so large he needs a separate starfighter just to carry them around.
Oh, and then there’s Hux’s totally off the goddamned walls speech in TFA. TvTropes refers to it as being totally divorced from reality and if anything, they’re downplaying just how nutso it is. Another good comparison from that site (though it may not be there anymore) is that it sounds like Hitler if he were speaking English in one of his speeches. Hitler was, among other things, the leader of one of the largest and most dangerous cults in the history of the world, and he was totally frigging nuts too. There’s a reason why he and the Nazi’s remain favourite villains and the inspiration for villains even when the work isn’t trying to make an explicit political statement.
Snoke is fundamentally petty and self-serving
Andy Serkis refers to his character as damaged and vulnerable, that the First Order is really a big ass revenge scheme against the Resistance in general and (presumably, given all the implications that were friends once) Leia in particular for something in the past. Vengeance is never given a positive spin in Star Wars, and war is rarely treated much better. It’s hard to see any ‘crime’ against Snoke as being presented in-universe as sufficient justification for, among other things, brainwashing the kid of a friend to turn against his parents, starting a massive war and wiping out an entire solar system.
There’s also his golden robes in TLJ. Whereas Palpatine ditched the finery shortly after his ascension and embraced his ugliness, Snoke appears to what to avoid the damage his own actions have done to him. He wears the robes, according to Andy Serkis, to highlight his materialistic and vain nature. To look good, in other words.
And then there’s Han’s assessment of Snoke and his interest in Kylo: that he’s just using Kylo for his power, that he has no greater interest in Kylo’s well-being or personal development. This is born out by just how fucked up a human being Kylo is: personal issues aside, Snoke’s been very clearly fucking with his mind.
Even Snoke’s Name is Terrifying.
Look, I know ‘Snoke’ has been the subject of jokes among the Star Wars fandom for years, but it should scare the piss out of you.
You see, ‘Snoke’ is a variant of the Dutch word ‘snoek’, which refers to the northern pike.
Now, all honest woodlanders and all vermin unfortunate enough to get lost in Mossflower know perfectly well what a pike is, but for those of you who don’t, I’ll explain:
Basically, it’s a river shark. Indeed, one of its variant names is ‘slough shark’. It’s an apex predator in its environment and it is capable of growing up to 21 kilos. That’s a big fucking fish, and it fits with Snoke’s description of a nine-foot monster.
They are vicious, aggressive, prone to cannibalism and intensely predatory. California has a law that requires you to chop off the head of any pike you catch to make sure they can’t migrate.
All perfect qualities for a Master of the Dark Side, now?
Snoke as The Evil Wizard
This one’s pretty simple. Traditionally, starting with Vader and Palpatine, the Dark Siders in Star Wars have been divided into two:
- There’s the Heavy/Dragon. This is the physical threat of the duo, the more personal bad guy who kills heroes and terrifies everybody. Vader, Maul, Dooku, Grievous and finally Kylo Ren all fit this mold.
- The Big Bad/Evil Wizard. This guy rarely interacts with the heroes, and even more rarely does he get involved in the action. But when he does, watch out: he’s a Master of the Dark Side and is never as harmless as he appears. For six movies, this was Palpatine. Now that Palps is dead, we need a new Evil Wizard.
Enter Snoke. He’s seen torturing Rey through the Force, so we know that he is strong in the Force. A fact that Kylo Ren alluded to when he begged his master for help in breaking Rey. He likes to hide behind a hologram, like Palps did. He never directly confronts the heroes, despite ostensibly being much more powerful than they are. And then, there’s his choice of clothing. Golden robes. Could you pick a design more reminiscent of ‘Evil Wizard’ than that?
All right, so what’s Snoke’s arc?
Snoke doesn’t really have one. Like Palpatine before him, Snoke is a static character: he will not develop and grow. He already has, long before we met him. What Snoke is, and what we are going to see in this movie, is pretty close to pure evil.