The Last Jedi: Identifying the Enemy

I know who Snoke is.

Ok, I admit that I originally had that as the title, but could foresee the flood of ?clickbait? accusations with the overall discontent surrounding Snoke’s identity, so I moved it. But in all seriousness, I do know who he is. In a way.

I know there are hundreds of articles on Star Wars: The Last Jedi, so what could one more hurt? I enjoy discussing and reading countless theories and thoughts because there is always something new in the Star Wars universe that may have been overlooked the first time around. I mean, it?s a timeless story that spans generations and galaxies, and bridges the past with the experiences of the present and with a hope for the future. The conversations after the credits are part of what makes Star Wars Star Wars.

I want to be sensitive to everyone?s personal definitions of ?spoiler,? so if you are still avoiding all of the press and discussion until you see it, here is where I say ?it?s better to be safe than sorry,? and perhaps come back later. For everyone else, I want to talk about Snoke.

Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) has been an enigma since The Force Awakens gave us a holographic introduction of a seemingly larger-than-life villain with a mastery of the Dark Side of the Force. He not only controlled the First Order, but guided and influenced a young Ben Solo, a former Jedi-in-training under the tutelage of Luke Skywalker (Adam Driver and Mark Hamill respectively), and transformed him into Kylo Ren.

In The Last Jedi, Snoke is still in charge, and still pushing Kylo Ren to a deeper commitment to the Dark Side. Granted he isn?t as physically imposing up close and personal, but his power seems all but absolute, much like the villains that have come before him. In the prequels, Senator/Chancellor/Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) seduces Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) with a promise that he can prevent the death of Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman). In epsidoes IV-VI, Darth Vader (voiced by James Earl Jones), uses the family connection between himself, Luke and Leia (Carrie Fisher) in multiple attempts to turn the young Jedi into following in his father?s footsteps.

Snoke uses those same external influencers and family connections but in a very pointed way, as he flips the relational dynamic between the ?target? (in this case, Ben Solo) and the path of darkness. And this is what makes Snoke far more dangerous, and far more recognizable as a villain, than either Palpatine or Vader.

Instead of focusing on what the Dark Side can offer, Snoke uses the weaknesses he sees in Kylo, compares him to those he has admired (or hated), and twists a manipulating knife of self-loathing and doubt deeper into Kylo?s vulnerable soul. Snoke has taken hold of Kylo?s sense of self?who he is, his bloodline, his purpose, his talent?and poisoned it with talk of inadequacy and failure. It isn?t that the Resistance is too strong, or Rey too powerful for him to defeat, it?s that Kylo is too weak. His conflicting feelings keep him from doing what is necessary. Snoke feeds the doubt that is already inside of Kylo?that is inside of all of us?to maintain his control over him.

And this is why Snoke is such a dangerous enemy ? not because of his skills with a lightsaber (apparently none), or because he has a connection to the villains before him (we actually get nothing of his backstory, which I think is what makes him even more dangerous) ? but because of how he pulls the strings. His approach feels familiar because most of us have seen it or lived it in our own lives.

I mentioned that we get nothing on Snoke?s backstory. Maybe it will come later, but I don?t think it?s necessary. Snoke is more dangerous for the same reason Rey is more powerful ? because they aren?t anyone ?special.? Like the Force can choose anyone, so can the Dark Side. Snoke is a scarred, dangerous, hurtful person not because of who he may have been, but because of how he permits the Dark Side to work within him and in turn, helps him convince Kylo Ren that is an epic failure.

There are people in our lives that seem to have an unshakeable hold, and not because they are caring and supportive, but because they feed the small voice inside of us that whispers ?you aren?t good enough, you aren?t smart enough, you aren?t pretty enough, you aren?t thin enough, you aren?t rich enough.? They poison our hearts with false declarations of our identities and leave no room for us to break free. Their power doesn?t come from a supernatural source or an inherently evil past (for most people anyway), it comes from the moment we accept their assessment of our weakness.

Snoke?s identity is clear: he is the abuser. He is the former boss, the ex-spouse, the controlling significant other, the overbearing parent, the toxic friend?Snoke is the manipulator in our lives that plants seeds of self-doubt and worthlessness, who cultivates a garden of thorns in our hearts, devoid of the warmth of the sun and relief of the rain. His sickening self-confidence that Kylo will strike down his ?true enemy? solidifies his position as abuser. He is absolutely convinced that Kylo belongs to him.?

Our hardest battles aren?t fought with weapons and epic cinematic throw-downs (although the tag team of Rey and Kylo was majorly epic in my opinion), but in quiet determination, with a few key people pulling us through ? both past and present.

I find it no accident that Kylo cuts the tie to his abuser with the Skywalker lightsaber when he strikes down Snoke. Kylo has been unsuccessful in the past at retrieving that lightsaber, yet in this scene he wields it effortlessly.?You can?t convince me that Rey?s presence in Kylo?s life isn?t fueling his already conflicting soul, encouraging him to break free, making it possible for the lightsaber to respond to his command. And for me, having it seem such a simple act is what makes it so poignant and powerful.

Now Kylo did identify his true enemy and take him out, but the remnants of Snoke?s power still run deep. We see this play out for the remainder of the film. At first this really bugged me, as I was so ready for him to turn light. But it can?t be that way. It hardly ever is. When we take that first step away from a toxic presence, we are simultaneously at our strongest and weakest points. The journey is just beginning, which makes it vital to surround ourselves with people of light, like Rey and the fledgling remainder of rebels, as opposed to dwelling on our anger and sense of injustice and pouring our energy into violent revenge. Snoke?s role is far from removed because Kylo still reels and responds to his influence.

But there is hope! There is always hope, and in true Star Wars fashion, we are left with an image of resiliency, inspiration, and dare I say it?grace for the ones fighting a battle deeper than we may ever know.


17 thoughts on “The Last Jedi: Identifying the Enemy

  1. This film has inspired some smart and insightful writing, which is ironic because the movie itself was so poorly written and poorly structured. I guess it’s a good lesson in redemption and finding hope, even in the midst of the detritus of this film.

    1. Both agree and disagree. I think the reason why the film has inspired insightful writing is because it was well written and structured. Does it have flaws? Sure, but all SW films are filled with flaws (many we choose to ignore from the OT because we hold them in such high regard).

      With that said, each experience and opinion is different, and there’s nothing wrong with that

  2. The, “force can choose anyone” premise set up by this movie is an absurd undermining of the first film which was trying to so desperately create suspense in learning why our new protagonist is so deeply connected with a lightsaber previously owned by both one of the greatest Jedi and Dark Jedi to have ever lived (both of whom also happened to be related). The change in direction in the narrative of this film serves more as a slap-in-the-face to those dedicated to the mysteries set up by the first film than as a refreshing reminder that “anyone can be a Jedi/Sith”. It’s such an absurd contradiction, and it completely tears down not only the original lore of both of the previous trilogy installments but also manages to undermine their own writing from the Force Awakens. It’s all very odd…

    1. I disagree with your premise. Anyone can actually be a Jedi (or train to be), if they show signs of being force sensitive. The OT was simply about one fallen Jedi and how he was redeemed by his son. That is just one story in the history of the Jedi. Granted, it is one of the most defining stories. So no, TLJ premise isn’t a slap in the face because Jedi isn’t exclusive to Luke or Anakin. From early Jedi like Pre-Vizla (the only Mandalorian) to Ashoka and Obi Wan or Yoda, they were all chosen by the Force. Rey is no different. The issue is that everyone has this idea that she needs to be from some great bloodline in order to be who she is and the reality is, she doesn’t. If anything, this film erases the ridiculous Midichlorians idea that was put in Anakin’s backstory.

    2. Arnaldo Reyes Again, my main issue is that Force Awakens set her up as if to be from some great bloodline. This “nobody really” background is essentially asking me to accept that it is completely feasible (based on preexisting lore) that she is an expert pilot, a crackshot with a blaster, incredibly force sensitive, decent with a light-saber with little to no training… yet has NO connection to any other “legendary” characters who possess these traits? That is a bit far fetched to say the absolute least. I honestly thought she must be an old apprentice with amnesia at least to explain her oddly powerful connection with the force (Similar to the story line of Knights Of The Old Republic series; they used the “forgotten past” concept to explain why a seemingly unpowerful person could become powerful so quickly; they were severed but later reacquainted with the force).

      In The Force Awakens, Rey also has a critical scene where the light saber of the Skywalkers calls out to her and shows her visions. This entire plot point is tossed out of the window in it’s sequel. Those themes aren’t even hinted at in The Last Jedi. It is an incredibly odd circumstance to have a lightsaber grant any sort of knowledge or premonitions and it’s completely glossed over in the second film.

    3. But the Force Awakens simply didn’t set her up that way. We as fans, media, theorists and more set her up that way. The Force Awakens not once in the film alluded to her parentage being some great bloodline. In fact, in hind sight, Maz pretty much said forget your parents and the past because the Force is calling you.

      As far as the dream sequence, I think you missed it. It was a combination of the past and future. We did get some of it (the burned down school and her being abandoned) and the other half is into the future, yet to come.

      Also, why do people dislike Reys quick ability with the Force and accept Lukes? Before the droids, Jedi were nothing but a story. Next thing you know he wants to be one and a few hours later was weilding a lightsaber and training blind folded. Lets not forget, he also was some great pilot that we just accepted as is and used the force to take down the death star. It’s funny that we accept it with Luke who trained for just a few hours with Obi Wan, left his training with Yoda and in the third film all of a sudden is a Jedi Knight without going back to Yoda. We accept all that, but not Rey?

    4. Your synopsis of the dream sequence does nothing to change the point I was trying to make. Again… It makes no sense. Regardless of what visions she is seeing, she is wielding the weapon that connected both Anakin and his son, and for some strange reason finds an odd connection with. Not only that, R2 stops being “depressed” when she shows up in the first film and openly offers her the map.. almost as if there was some connection. There is significantly more than those two circumstances, and It’s a lot to throw a way… But I digress.

      Why do I dislike Rey’s quick ability with the Force? Didn’t I just explain it? Because it turns out she is nobody… And has no attunement whatsoever with the Force to begin with according to this movie and no connection to other masters of any craft. Luke was the son of the presumed “chosen one” who went on to become one of the most powerful sith that ever existed (he also happened to be an incredible pilot); likewise Luke also became incredibly powerful and a decent pilot… It at least makes sense from a mythological standpoint. Also, before Luke trained with Yoda he was barely able to even budge his light saber from the snow. He was very weak at first. When he goes to face Vader he gets absolutely slaughtered. The only reason he wasn’t immediately killed was because Vader was trying to convert his son. It isn’t until the return of the Jedi that he masters his use of both the light and dark side of the Force four years later (I doubt Yoda would have taught him how to use force choke on the gamorreon…). It seems that very little time passed between force awakens and the last Jedi (considering most of the film takes place during a single starship chase) yet this apparently nobody had a stronger attunement to the Force than any other person we’ve seen previously WITHOUT training. That’s absurd.

    5. That is the thing, everything you are saying about the connection, the lightsaber, R2 etc. Is because we chose to view it that way. It was a theory, not an absolute. No one knew that lightsaber was there, but it called out to Rey because the krystal sensed the force i her. But like you, I digress, it’s simply a matter on how one views it.

      Now, with Luke, again we accept his story because we were told later his dad was Vader. Ok, thats fine. Bloodline makes logical sense. But why limit the Force? Anakin comes from a lame concept that we are willing to deal with. He then breaks all Jedi code and as a result Luke and Leia are the first children born of a Jedi (at least active Jedi). Their story is unique to them. That story and fall continues in Ben Solo. It is a flawed bloodline yet we want either Rey to be part of it or her to be part of another Jedi bloodline that at some point also broke Jedi code?

      How about in order to truly bring balance, the force chose someone with no connection to the past and sole purpose is to bring about the future. I mean, we choose to accept that the force is the thing that binds everything together, that its around us, in us etc. But then lose are minds at the concept that the Force can choose to make someone stronger because the galaxy needs it because “they are a nobody”. That to me is more absurd

    6. Again, as a narrative, this is a weak direction for the story to progress; especially given the direction the first film was moving.

      And again… I wasn’t reading this concept into the first film, they went to GREAT LENGTHS to make a connection between her and others. In her vision, this is the dialogue that takes place:

      “Young Rey: (Echoing) No!
      Yoda: (Echoing) Its energy…
      Yoda: …surrounds us…
      Man: (Echoing) No!
      Yoda: …and binds us…
      (Man screams)
      Obi-Wan: The Force will be…
      Young Rey: (Echoing) No! Come back!
      Unkar: Quiet, girl.
      Young Rey: No!
      Obi-Wan: Rey?
      Obi-Wan: These are your first steps.”

      Obi-wan acknowledges Rey… why? It makes it seem very clear that this is someone he is familiar with. This is yet another of many connections that can be drawn between the many characters of the current and previous installments that isn’t something being “read into the film”. This happened, and it isn’t even addressed at all in The Last Jedi. It’s poor, disjointed writing if nothing else.

    7. Again, its because you are looking for a connection in other Jedi or parentage when the connection is simply the force. Luke has turned himself off from the force and light needs someone. Remember that her dream sequence happened at the same time that the republic was destroyed(or seconds away from being destroyed). Light needed a new hero. To believe in the force is to also believe that somethings arent rational or logical. Its based simply on faith, just like Yoda told Luke in ESB when he raised his x-wing from swamp water “You dont believe, thats why you fail”

      All of the Obi Wan and Yoda talk was, as the title suggested, the force awakening in Rey. It was a rush of energy and dream sequences past and future, but like Yoda told Luke in ESB, the future isn’t definite. We got some answers from the past in the dream sequence, and now we await the answers from her future vision.

      I didnt mention this earlier, but this is the same, the whole R2-D2 waking up and the thought that it was because of Rey. In my opinion it wasn’t. It was because Han was killed. Again, viewing through different lenses.

      1. I think something important to take further regarding Obi-Wan speaking to Rey and Luke having shut himself off from the Force: Obi-Wan and Yoda would be the only previous characters to reach out to her if Luke wasn’t picking up the phone, so to speak. So yes, there is an implication of connection, but honestly from the beginning I was hoping she was a nobody – the daughter of “Muggles” (to borrow a Harry Potter term) and the two most prevalent “Force Ghosts” (in the films) were making sure she gets pulled in.

        Steven, I agree that from a film narrative, it is a new direction to introduce a key Force user that apparently doesn’t have much background and seems almost too natural to be new…but that is if we are looking at it as Rey’s story…IF we look at it from a different “point of view” to pull an Obi-Wan…this could be more of Kylo’s story…and in that case, it IS about a Skywalker…it IS about Anakin’s legacy…it IS about the lightsaber. It could easily be that Rey is a conduit for the Force to do something great in Kylo…that she is the missing piece to the Skywalker legacy, bringing a new sense of balance and power. I think it’s important to note that the lightsaber splits in half, so I interpret that as equal pull, equal strength, and dare I say it, equal light, from both sides.

        The focus on Rey could be a plot tool to explain how later events unfold…so while she is the current focus, at the end of the day, it isn’t her story – these are just a few of her chapters as part of a much bigger book. I don’t see Disney wrapping it all up in Episode IX and saying “the end.” This could very much be more of a beginning than anything else, depending on how we view in the larger context.

        I might not be offering anything new or overtly profound, but thought I’d share where my brain is at the moment in between meetings. 🙂

    8. Myself and millions of others felt the exact opposite was conveyed. And although you are likely correct in your theory, it still doesn’t adequately explain why Rey has the immense, unparalleled power that she possesses with zero training. Those like Anakin and Luke took many years to hone their ability to use the force in any meaningful way, yet Rey has an extreme control over her abilities in a very short time with no training. With no past, this is simply unbelievable (not even taking into account all of her other extreme skills).

    9. Aside from the overall plot, two major scenes that stick out in my mind from the end that make absolutely no sense to me are the scene where Lukes “mental projection” physically comforts Leah and hands her a physical object.. and then goes on to being untouchable. It’s such a disjointed pair of scenes that it’s just weird. The second one that stands out was Rey and Kylo’s visions being self-admittedly catalyzed by Snoke. Yet after he dies, the visions continue to the end of the film. The “theory crafting” part of me wants to start making presumptions about the story again (perhaps Snokes is still alive), but my experience with going any deeper than surface level with the first film leads me to believe it’s yet another ridiculous plot hole that likely will end up making little to no sense.

      These are just two examples that I remember after a single showing… but there are dozens of others; it was hard to keep track. I remember to events where people should have been sucked out into space (the bomber scene where they release the bombs, and the scene where leah pulls herself back to the ship and they open a door in deep space to let her back in).

      A final very frustrating point of contention for me was Lukes isolation. He says very specifically in the second film that no one knew where he was (meaning he didn’t tell anyone) and that he wanted to be left alone. How/why does R2D2 even have a piece of the map? We clearly see the xwing he arrived in submerged/crashed in water, so we are led to believe by the scene and his own words that he came alone. Yet several pieces of a map exist… and Luke is entirely unaware of this. That whole circumstance was just extremely odd to me. But again, this is coming from the layman’s viewing of both films.

    10. Those are all valid points. I dont think you’ll find anyone who loves the film that will say its perfect. It’s possible to like and yet even love the film while admitting there are some flaws. The Leia space death scene cheif among them.

      As for Rey and Kylo, I didnt understand it has Snoke initiated it rather that he found out and decided to manipulate it. The force connected them like that and Snoke tried to take advantage.

      As far as Luke, in a sense, be didnt tell anyone where exactly he went. He broke the map apart, gave one piece to the old man (i forget his name) and the other to R2. Neither knew the other had it. In a sense, looking at the separate maps alone it is true, no one knew. I think Luke was just bothered that they figured it out

    11. Right, there are a lot of “making sense of what’s there” sort of situations. But from what I understand, and have reinforced by researching online to make sure I wasn’t confused, Snoke seemingly brags about fabricating the connection and manipulating Rey. This makes sense considering he has the ability to manipulate the mind. I’ll have to wait until the film is released so that I can accurately represent certain scenario’s, but even if this weren’t the case than the odd connection between them is already a bit of a plot hole in-of-itself.

      I know I sounds like I’m ripping this film to shreds for the sake of it… But I went in really wanting to like this film. It took about 15 or so odd scenes to really get me in a critical frame of mind. And then the straw that broke the camel’s back was the surface level “anyone can be chosen by the force” story line was established, and Rey went on to perform unbelievable feats of combat and force use with virtually no training. There could have been a great twist in this film. Rey could’ve succumbed to the dark side while Kylo tries to form a new “balanced” order to the Force without Jedi or Sith (which it sounds like he wanted to do) for example. But they went the black-and-white route. I’m not entirely against the typical good vs. evil direction… But it only feels odd in this film because it seemed like they were prepping for something so much larger than life only to end the second film with very bland resolutions.

    12. Totally understand where you are coming from. Its ok to be critical and even disappointed with a film surrounded with so much hype and expectations. I dont think there has ever been a film who’s predecessor left open so many theories and questions. To be honest, I don’t blame writing for not answering all the questions, it is a trilogy after all.

      I have to rewatch because I’m pretty sure Snoke said he manipulated the conversation for Kylo to look like he was struggling, but I don’t think he said he was the one that made that connection. To be that strong and not sense Kylo’s betrayal wouldn’t make sense, but to only see and manipulate and not actually create makes the betrayal scene work.

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