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Was Supreme Leader Snoke More Powerful Than Emperor Palpatine?

Everybody wants to rule the world, at least according to the English pop-rock band Tears for Fears. In the galaxy far, far away, though, people want to rule a lot more than just one world. They want to rule everything and everyone with an iron fist. Many have tried to take over the galaxy, but few have succeeded to the degree that Emperor Palpatine and Supreme Leader Snoke did. Now that the dust from The Last Jedi has settled, we can look back at these two master manipulators and ask the all-important question: which one did a better job at being deeply and profoundly evil? You might naturally assume that the answer is Emperor Palpatine, but to that we ask you to remember Luke Skywalker’s immortal words:

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Was Supreme Leader Snoke more powerful than Emperor Palpatine? Did Snoke out-Palpatine Palpatine? We’ve run the numbers and the answer might just be yes, according to research from our senior news producer and resident Jedi Knight, Jesse B. Gill. Before you flip your desk over in a fit of prequel meme-fueled rage, though, watch our video or read on and hear why we there might just be a new contender for the Most Effective Villain in Star Wars trophy.

We may not know the precise details of how exactly Snoke became the Supreme Leader of the First Order, but there’s enough fresh information out there to suggest that he is one of the most powerful Force users in the modern Star Wars canon. Perhaps even more powerful than the man who gave himself the world’s worst nickname: “The Senate.” We’re not alone in thinking this; in an interview with People surfaced on reddit magazine that , Serkis was asked if Snoke is more powerful than Darth Vader and the Emperor. His answer? “Oh, without question. He has limitless resources, let’s put it that way.” It’s exactly the sort of arrogance you’d expect from a man who claimed that he cannot be beaten shortly before being beaten.

Both of these vile villains exhibited a vast understanding of the dark side of the Force that helped them achieve their goals, but the novelization of The Last Jedi explains that Snoke understood the truth of the Force from his time in the Unknown Regions. This could potentially explain why Snoke was able to bridge Kylo Ren and Rey’s minds across such an incredible distance. If you recall the tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise, “the dark side of the Force is a pathway to abilities many consider to be unnatural.”

Futhermore, we know from Timothy Zahn’s 2017 Thrawn novel that Palpatine was aware of a danger lurking in the Unknown Regions, but he didn’t know exactly what or who it was. This leads us to believe that said danger was, in fact, Snoke, who was skilled enough in the dark side of the Force to obscure his own existence from someone as powerful as we know that Emperor Palpatine was.

When it comes to combat skills, there’s no question that Palpatine was far more capable with a lightsaber in his hands than Snoke. Not many people can launch into a 920 corkscrew spin from a prone position and that includes the Supreme Leader. Just ask Yoda, one of the greatest swordsmen in the history of the Jedi Order, who had to fight the Senate in the Senate while the Senate threw the Senate at him. Palpatine’s effortless defeat of Darth Maul and his brother Savage Opress in The Clone Wars animated series makes it clear that ol’ Sheev may well be the deadliest lightsaber swordsman in the entire Star Wars canon. Obviously, we don’t know if Snoke has ever wielded a lightsaber before he had one inside of him, but he has clearly seen a few battles in his day judging by his complexion. Snoke isn’t completely useless in combat; rather, this mastery of the dark side of the Force is so complete that he doesn’t even need to cross blades with his opponents as he demonstrated with Rey.

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Both baddies took impressionable young apprentices–Darth Vader and Kylo Ren–under their wing and turned them into deadly killing machines who serve the dark side. Palpatine transformed Anakin Skywalker into Darth Vader through years of face-to-face interactions and strategic manipulation, which is well-documented. Snoke, on the other hand, did the same thing, but as far as we know he may never have even met young Ben Swolo before the troubled youth quit Luke Skywalker’s Jedi Temple in the most spectacular way possible. Snoke’s demonstrated ability to manipulate Force sensitive people and connections over vast distances is something that we saw firsthand in The Last Jedi, but in the novelization it is suggested that Snoke may have even used that power to influence Luke to take on Ben as his Padawan in the first place. Perhaps Snoke knew full well that Skywalkers have a tendency to try and slaughter their Padawans.

Kylo Ren wound up fulfilling the destiny that Darth Vader could not: proving himself to be the superior killing machine and replacing his master as Supreme Leader. If nothing else, it’s a testament to the quality of his training under Snoke. Speaking of killing machines, one must admit that as far as doomsday weapons go, Snoke’s Starkiller Base was more efficient than either of Palpatine’s Death Stars. While all three suffered from pretty much the same fatal design flaw, the numbers don’t lie: Snoke’s system-killer was more effective superweapon.

The question of which dark lord was more powerful demands that we look at the ultimate accomplishments that each can claim, which is why we think that Snoke has the edge. Palpatine manipulated two opposing sides into a galactic war and used the ensuing chaos as a means to create an indomitable military and install himself at the head of a ruthless totalitarian dictatorship. Snoke basically did all of that, too, but without those pesky Clone Wars or the politics. He seized the remains of the military apparatus that Palpatine built and made it stronger. And he did so in secret before using it to wipe out the entire New Republic government. He may not have been the most original thinker in the galaxy, but he was definitely effective in his villainous output. When Palpatine perished, his Empire failed, plunging headlong into chaos and ruin as Imperial survivors scrambled to grab whatever power and military assets they could. When Snoke died, his Empire kept chugging along, now under the control of his former apprentice. Their legacies are undeniably intertwined, but Snoke’s Galactic Empire 2.0 seems to have more inherent stability when it loses a head of state.

But what do you think? Who was the more powerful villain, Snoke or Emperor Palpatine? Will the galaxy be better or worse off now that Kylo Ren is in charge? Let us know in the comments below.

Images: Lucasfilm/Disney

Dan Casey is the senior editor of Nerdist and the author of books about Star Wars and the Avengers. Follow him on Twitter (@DanCasey).

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