One of the more tantalizing questions surrounding Star Wars: The Force Awakens is just who the man behind the curtain is. We don’t see much of Supreme Leader Snoke, and we see nothing of him in person. Which in turn raises the question of just who the man really might be.
What We Know
One thing we do know is that everyone, from Leia to Luke, knows who Snoke is. Leia mentions him in connection with Kylo. We also know that Snoke has, or at least claims to have, Force powers and runs the remnants of the Empire, and that he likes his Wizard of Oz references. Snoke’s hologram is a giant image designed to make him seem towering over General Hux and Kylo Ren, after all.
Who He Isn’t
One thing we can say, right off the bat, is that Snoke is not Vader. Oh, Snoke is absolutely playing off of Kylo Ren’s obsession with Grandpa, which is why their scars line up, but think about it: We not only see Vader die, we see Luke burn his corpse and Anakin Skywalker return as a Force Ghost. Even Kylo doesn’t think Snoke is Vader. Bar Episodes VIII and IX getting really weird, Vader is about as dead as it gets.
We can also rule out anyone we meet in person in the actual movie. Unless somebody’s got a holo-projector or an elaborate puppet rig, it’s not going to turn out to be Poe Dameron or anything. So, that leaves us with a few different theories…
Who He May Be
A New Character: That’s what Andy Serkis and J.J. Abrams claim. But come on, Abrams is the same guy who swore up and down that Benedict Cumberbatch was not playing Khan, well past the point anybody remotely believed him. We’re not going to buy that until we see Snoke in person, and maybe not even then.
Darth Plagueis: A character we never see in the movies, Darth Plagueis is the Emperor’s master. And he would fit the bill; tall, thin, pale, and the root of Palpatine’s “larger view” of the Force. The one downside is, of course, the rule of two when it comes to the Sith; there’s a master and an apprentice, and their partnership ends when the apprentice kills the master. Then again, if those scars are real, Snoke had to get them somehow.
Emperor Palpatine: Granted, this one is a bit of a stretch. He got chucked down a shaft, and then Lando blew up that shaft. And you’d think Luke would spot Palpatine right away. But he’s evil and pretty durable for a senior citizen, so we can’t entirely rule him out.
One of the Inquisitors From Star Wars Rebels or a Character from the Novels: A popular theory among fans, but we don’t buy it. It might be possible, but Disney seems to view these movies as very much standalone pieces from the rest of the universe building they’re doing, and turning around and saying “He’s this guy! You know! This guy, from a cartoon most of you aren’t watching!” is not exactly a stunning dramatic reveal.
Darth Maul: That said, in those supplemental materials, Darth Maul keeps turning up. For example, during Star Wars: Shattered Empire, Leia senses Darth Maul on Naboo. It’s not clear if it’s Maul or his ghost or what, but he’s not in a good mood. Similarly, in the new Obi-Wan and Anakin comic, Anakin creates a holographic version of ol’ Red and Pointy. He’s got the motive, but of course, he’s also got a pretty fatal injury to deal with. Still, just like Palpatine, we can’t rule him out.
Those are our theories, but one thing we do know is that we’ll find out sooner rather than later. Episode VIII arrives May 26, 2017.