Once you start down the dark path, forever will its Spoilers dominate your destiny. If you continue reading, what you’ll here is only what you bring with you: namely, and hopefully, your experience with Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
You might think to yourself at this point, did I even see the right film? Supreme Leader Snoke is the leader of the First Order. He is the mastermind behind the First Order’s rise and the Knights of Ren having extinguished Luke Skywalker’s Jedi Order before it was even born. But the leader of the Knights, Kylo Ren, was curb-stomped by the young scavenger Rey and left wounded and fallen on the disintegrating world that was once the First Order’s superweapon Starkiller Base: before General Leia Organa’s Resistance obliterated it. Many of the First Order’s troops probably didn’t evacuate the planet in time and it lost a great many resources. This isn’t even taking into account Kylo Ren’s humiliating defeat, and injuries: even though it’s pretty certain he was taken off the planet in time before it exploded, and the fact that the First Order failed to gain Luke Skywalker’s location.
All things considered, you would totally be forgiven in thinking that the First Order had a really bad time from all the events leading up to, and including, the Battle of Starkiller Base.
But Supreme Leader Snoke had a really good day if you really think about it.
First, let’s look at what happened towards the end of The Force Awakens on a galactic and political level. By Snoke’s own order, the First Order destroyed the New Republic’s capital world, its star system of four other planets, and one Republic Starfleet. Suddenly the First Order is no longer just a well-organized fringe group of disaffected former Imperials. The Republic might not be gone, but it has been dealt a crippling blow: politically, economically, and morally. The First Order comes from the Unknown Regions. Starkiller Base was by no means its own capital or even the extent of its entire power. It seems that, right now, they are the most organized force in the galaxy against many worlds that have lost their leadership and fleets. And the Resistance itself is, on the surface, an even smaller group than the Rebellion had ever been: and with their resources from the Republic Senate permanently taken from them, they will be at an extreme disadvantage.
Of course there is the opposite argument. The Republic homeworld has apparently become rotational: the capital of the galactic government periodically shifting to different planets. It is also unclear whether or not the entire Republic fleet was destroyed or merely a part of it. Even if all of the Republic’s military force was destroyed, the other Republic worlds will not stand by and wait to be taken by the First Order. They will assemble their own fleets, or reunify them into another Republic armada. In addition, everyone by this point remembers what happened to Alderaan and they will fall upon whatever they can find of the First Order with great vehemence. If anything, while there might be a delay due to member worlds needing to elect and create a new Senate, Snoke’s order will potentially unify the Republic against the First Order in a military (as opposed to a diplomatic sanctioning) capacity. In short, unleashing Starkiller Base made the galaxy aware of it, and basically encourages the Republic to declare war.
Leia Organa’s immortal words to Tarkin come to mind.
And the Resistance itself may not lack for resources after the other Republic worlds decide to take on the First Order: much like the way the Rebellion gained more member worlds after the Empire destroyed Alderaan. Then again, any of this might take time, and politics and in the inevitable infighting can slow down a democratic government: even one at war. Perhaps that delay is all that Snoke truly needs.
There is a second consideration to take into account with regards to Snoke’s plans. While General Hux might believe in the power of his superweapon like the neo-fascist Tarkin enthusiast that he is, and both he and Captain Phasma have invested heavily in their child indoctrination stormtrooper program, they are all just so much dressing to Snoke. They are merely tools. As with Palpatine before him, Snoke seems especially preoccupied with the Force: specifically the dark side of the Force.
What do we know about the dark side? Well, the dark side feeds off of fear, anger, hate, and suffering. The Empire and the Order of the Sith Lords seem to have been destroyed thirty years ago: removing much of the dark side’s influence over the galaxy, or making it unfocused and decentralized. So what would be the best way to bring the dark side back into galactic prominence?
Well, a galactic war would be a start.
Snoke most likely possesses enough resources to tide the First Order against the Republic and the Resistance for a while: assuming he doesn’t have a few other surprises hidden away somewhere. The chaos will not be over anytime soon. This isn’t without precedent. Senator and then Chancellor Palpatine helped to engineer the Clone Wars and create the foundation of his New Order from the chaos.
And Snoke has his Knights of Ren. He had already succeeded in taking out the Jedi before they could become a threat to him. Right now he has an Order of darksiders against an enemy that — for the moment — lacks trained Force-sensitives to be any kind of threat. After all, what could soldiers do against enemies that can predict your movements, telekinetically attack you, and even mind control your troops: not to mention essentially overpower you with enhanced reflexes and potentially lightsabers that can cut through most substances. And of course they have a legion of elite trained stormtroopers to back them up.
Yet this is only the background. Being able to influence and even shape the battle field is one thing. The Knights of Ren and the First Order are still just tools: some more useful than others and all them thinking that they are indispensable. But there are still two pieces missing.
Luke Skywalker is still missing. In addition to that, Snoke also knows about the woman who defeated his apprentice: Rey. Kylo Ren never had the chance to hand her over to him when she was his captive: and now she is with Luke. Think about how powerful Rey was without Jedi training and imagine how considerable she will be when she inevitably gets it. Ideally, Snoke would have wanted the location of the world Luke is hiding on so that he could use Starkiller Base to erase both of them from the face of the galaxy, but that option is now off the table. Starkiller Base has also been destroyed before Snoke could have it used on the current Resistance planet base of D’Qar: thanks to the Battle of Starkiller Base.
But this also works in Snoke’s favour. Snoke has influenced events to a point where the last Jedi Master can’t remain in hiding forever. He has wounded the Republic and created enough opportunity for anarchy so that the First Order can gain ground on a galactic level. Luke must have also felt the horrific wounds in the Force caused by Starkiller Base: making him aware of just how much power the First Order truly has. In addition, because Rey survived the destruction of the Base and discovered his location, she may well even provide a beacon for Snoke’s darksiders to find as she gains more training. Even if Luke teaches her how to mask her Force signature, as he most likely has, the two of them will inevitably be drawn right back out into galactic affairs: and right into Snoke’s new playground.
And now it is even more personal for Luke. It’s bad enough that Snoke corrupted his nephew against him and his dream, but now Snoke set the stage for the death of his best friend and brother-in-law by his former apprentice’s hand. It’s bad enough that the Resistance lost a potential General in the form of Han Solo, another victory for Snoke, but he keeps hitting Luke where it hurts: just trying to get him to reveal himself and “fight for his friends” like he did when Darth Vader captured them on Cloud City. Of course, Rey herself — whatever relationship she has to the Jedi — is now at risk and Luke, for all he might have learned to no longer be that impatient young man on Dagobah might not be able to sit this one out.
But then we have the centerpiece of this twisted little show: another impatient young man named Kylo Ren.
There was once another Master of the dark side who fomented a galactic war just to hone, train, and mold another young, powerful Force-sensitive to his will. At the very least, both Palpatine and Snoke engineered the perfect battleground to make a new apprentice to their respective orders. Kylo Ren is the master of the Knights of Ren. But for all of his power and skill with the Force, he is still young and relatively inexperienced. He has never really had a challenge to prove himself against, and he lacked focus.
Kylo Ren’s betrayal of the Jedi trainees wasn’t enough. He always tempted by the light to renounce the dark side. Kylo Ren wants to kill his uncle and finish off the Jedi once and for all, but that is too abstract: too detached to be a worthy sacrifice towards the dark side of the Force. It is when Han Solo shows his face again and actually goes to Starkiller Base that everything falls into place for Ren. Up until this moment Kylo Ren has been eliminating Resistance and Jedi trainees, but in one fell swoop he murders a potential Resistance asset, hurting Leia Organa’s morale, and increasing his own connection to the dark side. Ren’s guilt and self-loathing will only make him more powerful and the fact that he was defeated by Rey — the former beginning to have some kind of inkling as to who she really is — will make him more determined to excel.
In the end, Snoke destroys the capital world of the New Republic and a portion of its renowned fleet. He creates a the beginnings of a conflict of pain and suffering — the destruction of worlds creating wounds in the Force itself — that will spread the power of the dark side throughout the galaxy. Snoke essentially has great influence over the battlefield he made. Leia will undoubtedly remain uncowed by the death of her estranged husband, and her patricidal son and continue the conflict against him. Luke himself couldn’t even bring himself to kill his own father back in the day, never mind strike down his own nephew and former student. As it is, Luke and Rey will be drawn back into the fray again and made vulnerable. Meanwhile, Kylo Ren will continue to become more powerful in the Force and now has a single focus to eliminate both Luke and Rey: or perhaps gain other ambitions and become the dark side’s foremost champion.
And if Kylo Ren dies, that’s fine too. After all, there is always Rey — with her raw Force-sensitivity, self-righteous passion, potential Jedi training, and antagonism towards Ren — to corrupt towards his ends.
The destruction of a single planetary base and First Order lives can be seen as a small price to pay for someone like Supreme Leader Snoke: especially if following the Sith Handbook is only the beginning of his real plans. We will just have to wait and see if overconfidence, or victory, will be his ultimate downfall.