Did 'The Last Jedi' Treat Its Villains Right?

The new 'Star Wars' movie's handling of its big bad is not without controversy.
Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

[Warning: This story contains spoilers for Star Wars: The Last Jedi]

One of the biggest questions fans had after watching Star Wars: The Force Awakens was, “Who is Supreme Leader Snoke?“

Speculation and theories abounded in the aftermath of the movie’s release, and continued until Star Wars: The Last Jedi answered the question with a resounding, “Who cares? He’s dead now.”

Well. That was one way to deal with the issue.

The death of Snoke was, at once, a highlight of The Last Jedi — because, really, who saw that coming? — and an example of one of the ways in which the movie refuses to play fair with its fan base. As shocking and exciting as the death is in the moment, the fact that it happens ahead of any explanation of who Snoke was and what he wanted comes across as, at best, ill-considered and, at worst, trolling the fans who have been obsessed with this issue for the last two years and wanted some level of closure to the plot thread.

Somewhat surprisingly, there’s not even any additional backstory to be found for Snoke in either novels or comic books, so it’s not as if those fans can look elsewhere for answers; although, now that he’s been sliced off-stage in the movies, we can probably expect that to change sooner rather than later.

In many respects, this is hardly a major problem; Snoke was a background character who had served his purpose by that point in proceedings; his murder allowed the story to proceed, and Kylo to continue to fall into darkness through insecurity and bad decision making more than malice, making him even more of a tragic figure. By offing him in this manner, the movie can continue, without worrying about adding to its already lengthy ~150-minute run time.

However, in following this path, the movie unexpectedly follows the argument that Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) makes to Rey (Daisy Ridley) when trying to lure her to rule the galaxy behind him: Let the past die. Kill it, if you have to. Nothing matters but the here and now, as far as Kylo Ren is concerned, and it’s surprising to see the movie apparently follow a similar logic when it comes to the character responsible for everything that’s actually going on in the new trilogy.

After all, while it’s unclear whether or not Snoke was responsible for building the First Order — a lot about the First Order is unclear, a fact The Last Jedi underscores on a number of occasions, but let the past die — but we’ve been told on numerous occasions that Snoke was responsible for corrupting Ben Solo, which led to Luke going into hiding, Kylo Ren being born and the deaths of both Han Solo and Luke Skywalker, not to mention Rey's becoming aware of her own Jedi nature. Without Snoke, the events of the new trilogy would be significantly different, if they occurred at all. (Then again, it also seems that by thinking of preemptively killing Ben Solo, Luke may be the one responsible for Kylo.)

There’s an argument to be made that Snoke’s mystery is no greater than that of the Emperor in the original trilogy, and to some extent that’s true — but ultimately, the Emperor’s motivation was clear: he wanted to maintain the power he had, and crush anyone who threatened that. Considering his focus on destabilizing the balance of the Force and, in The Last Jedi, destroying Luke Skywalker, Snoke appeared to be up to something else…and, because of how he was dispatched, we may never know quite what that was.

Unless, of course, Lucasfilm is already planning Snoke: A Star Wars Story. Stranger things have happened…!

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