“If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.”

You probably remember Obi-wan speaking this line to Darth Vader on the Death Star. Immediately after, Vader strikes down his old master. The old Jedi became “one with the Force,” whatever that means, and returned as a ghost on a couple occasions to enlighten Luke. Obi-ghost’s clearest contribution was telling Luke to “use the Force” instead of his targeting computer to take out the first Death Star. Without that tip from beyond, and working under the assumption that targeting computers are crap, the Rebel Alliance might have been wiped out in that early battle. We could say that this is the action that fulfills Obi-wan’s promise to Vader.

There is a clearly great power in the Force and the afterlife seems to be the accumulation of that power. Anakin achieved this only after redeeming himself, joining the Jedi-only cast of Force ghosts we know. We have yet to see a user of the Dark Side as a ghost…right?

Here’s the twist. Supreme Leader Snoke is not a hologram, he is a ghost.

Holograms and ghosts look similar and Snoke’s appearance, I believe, is purposefully ambiguous. Snoke doesn’t look exactly like the ghosts we’ve seen, but nor does he look like previous holograms. I’m not just talking about his size either. Snoke’s size could be exaggerated in either case–by technological or supernatural means–or he may actually be a giant, we don’t know. We don’t know a lot, but let’s consider what the evidence allows.

Evidence that Supreme Leader Snoke is a hologram:

  1. There is a light source behind him that could be a hologram projector.
  2. Kylo Ren and General Hux always meet him at one location.
  3. Near the end of ‘The Force Awakens’ Snoke asks for Kylo to be brought to him, implying he is alive and stationary at a specific location.

Ways the evidence could be misdirection:

  1. The light source behind Snoke could be an opening to starlight behind the ghost. The scene is dark and this light would be needed for both visibility and dramatic effect.
  2. Snoke might just like that location. This may seem like a cheap excuse, but it fits with the Dark Side mindset. The master shouldn’t need to come to the student, the student should have to come to the master–even if the master can much more easily appear anywhere.
  3. See 2. Also, Snoke might have a reason for Kylo and others to meet his ghost somewhere specific. It could be a burial ground or a First Order/Sith temple or some relic that may aid in Force sensitivity.

Now we can consider the evidence that Supreme Leader Snoke is a Force ghost. First of all, he looks in bad shape. That gash on his head looks fatal–even worse than the one old Vader had. More interestingly, Emperor Palpatine spoke of Darth Plagueis in the prequels, a Dark Force user who found the key to immortality. It’s possible that this isn’t referring to Plagueis discovering how to live forever in this life, but rather how to continue on in the afterlife. If so, then Snoke could still be Plagueis even if Palpatine or someone else killed him. It’s worth mentioning that the Plagueis theory has been floating around enough so that the motion capture actor playing Snoke, Andy Serkis, has recently said that his character is not Plagueis, but what does he know really? I’m pretty sure James Earl Jones didn’t know Darth Vader was Luke’s father in ‘A New Hope.’ Only the writers of future Episodes know the truth. Whether Snoke is Plagueis or not, the possibility of a Dark Side user overcoming death is out there.

It’s hardly conclusive, but I’m of the opinion that the least expected yet possible option is the most compelling. Star Wars is a franchise built on a twist that has become part of our culture and J.J. Abrams, a directer known for his love of mystery, has revived it. Maybe that isn’t all he has revived.