I have a theory about Supreme leader Snoke.
I think he has something to do with Grand Admiral Thrawn.
(for Thrawn by Timothy Zahn)
I’m not saying Snoke is Thrawn, mind you; I simply don’t see the Chiss Grand Admiral hiding behind a fake name. It isn’t his style. If Thrawn had managed to survive the fall of the Empire and gather its surviving factions into a viable replacement, he’d damn sure want everyone to know it was Mitth’raw’nuruodo who had done it. Not out of pride, mind you, though Thrawn certainly has that, but because Thrawn’s whole goal in leaving his homeworld was to protect his it and he would be able to do so much more easily if potential threats to the Chiss knew he had a large, if not entirely competent fighting force behind him. Also, Thrawn would never tolerate ‘not entirely competent’ as a standard for his fighting force. If the First Order were entirely his, Starkiller Base wouldn’t have been built because he wouldn’t have needed it and, somewhat incongruously, massacres aren’t Thrawn’s style either.
There are, however, a couple of reasons I believe Snoke to be Thrawn adjacent:
1) Thrawn was resurrected from the old canon (now Star Wars: Legends) for something more significant than playing a big bad on Rebels. Don’t get me wrong; I’m glad Filoni & Co. brought him back. He’s a fantastic addition to that part of the world but Thrawn? He has always been burdened with glorious purpose and that fact he’s important enough to be given a titular novel suggests to me there’s more to his story than the last season of Rebels can possibly wrap up. We know he ultimately fails to catch the crew of the Ghost because at least some of them are present at the Battle of Scarif. Where does that land Thrawn? Well, since he didn’t pop up in Rogue One, I have to assume the powers that be are saving him for something else and the next something else heading our way? Episode VIII.
2) In the recent novel, Thrawn, the titular character mentions several times he met a certain General Skywalker during the Clone Wars. He never gives any details but, given the way Thrawn thinks and maneuvers, his lack of elaboration actually leads me to believe the meeting was of some significance.
Thrawn would have seen the signs of the impending Empire even then, since he’s always ten steps ahead of anyone else and, since his primary objective has always been protecting his people, he would have wanted assurances of their safety both ahead of the Empire’s rise and in case of its failure. Anakin, as Palpatine’s nominal confident, would have had the information Thrawn needed to make those plans and would also have been in a position to negotiate with Thrawn behalf of both Palpatine and the Jedi Order. If mention was made of Padme, Thrawn would likely have picked up at least of a hint of her connection with Anakin and would no doubt have followed proceedings with great attention and interest; perhaps he even knows of the existence of a certain set of twins? And of their children and those children’s… let’s go with “issues.”
If Thrawn did meet Anakin, depending on where in the timeline the meeting occurred, he may also have met Ahsoka, which opens up the possibility of an alliance with the Gray Jedi and an entree into the Rebellion. Such a scenario wouldn’t be the first time Thrawn played both sides skillfully and even with some compassion – he isn’t one to waste life unnecessarily and often calculates strategy based on projected civilian casualty numbers – and as his ultimate goal is galactic order such that Chiss is protected, having a hand on either rein would make sense as would his raising of the First Order once the New Republic failed to provide stability.
Thrawn sent his “apprentice,” (though he never actually referred to his aide by that term) Eli Vanto, to Chiss space for a reason. One of Thrawn’s first acts after his “rescue” was to find, and begin training, Vanto. But why? To help Thrawn navigate Imperial society and politics? Sure, but Thrawn could have chosen anyone for that, certainly someone more experienced with such things than Vanto. Thrawn, in fact, probably didn’t need anyone at all; his naïveté is most likely an act, as was his apparent lack of fighting skills when he first sought to secure Vanto’s loyalty. No, Thrawn wanted someone he could mold, someone inexperienced and young enough his thought patterns could be altered and expanded. Part of me thinks Vanto may be Snoke though if that was the case, he would likely have a more forceful hand on his assets, including Hux and Kylo Ren. I do, however, think Thrawn sending Vanto to the Chiss may be the first step in the founding of Thrawn’s shadow empire, not the same as the one he attempted to bring about in his Legends stories, but something similar, something he needed Vanto to grow in his name, something that could either support or bring down the First Order depending on what was needed to keep Chiss safe and the galaxy orderly. It’s likely neither the New Republic or the Resistance would be too keen on allying themselves with a former Imperial, a former Grand Admiral no less, which would leave Snoke as Thrawn’s best option for an orderly galaxy and a protected Chiss.
What about Kylo Ren’s training, you may be asking yourself? Would Thrawn allow his ally to create such a powerful weapon and keep it for himself? Wookiepedia says Snoke is a powerful Dark Side user who trained Kylo Ren and while I do remember mention of Ren’s training, Snoke never says anything about the Force specifically, nor do we, at any point during The Force Awakens, see him wield it. We have no actual evidence it was Snoke who trained Ben Solo in the Dark Side and we know it was Luke who initially taught him the ways of the Force, perhaps even venturing into the Dark Side in an attempt to create the balance that had eluded even the most powerful of Jedi Masters for centuries.
Master tactician that he is, once his ally Snoke presented Ben to Thrawn, Thrawn would have had no trouble figuring out how to use the young man without having to teach Ren anything new and would have had knowledge of Anakin/Vader, and possibly other family secrets, he could use to push Ben toward the goal.
So. Do I think this is actually how it’s going to shake out? Probably not. But this is the story my writer brain has established and I had fun with it. Isn’t that what it’s really all about?
What say you, fellow fan-people? Do you have a Snoke theory? We have a comments section for a reason. Come play.