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The following story contains MASSIVE spoilers for Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Seriously, if you haven't seen it, don't read a word until you have. Come back later, we'll be here.
For better or worse, Star Wars: The Last Jedi takes a lot of risks and makes a number of fairly surprising decisions. One of the biggest involved the mysterious character of Supreme Leader Snoke. We expected to learn more about the man in the new film, and somewhat shockingly, we really didn't. However, what's even more surprising is what did happen to Snoke. In a heated moment where Snoke ordered Kylo Ren to strike down Rey, Ren instead used the Force to ignite the Skywalker lightsaber, running it through Snoke's middle and killing him. Star Wars: The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson explained to our own Eric Eisenberg, that the decision to kill off Snoke came as a necessary part of Kylo Ren's character arc. Johnson realized that after getting Ben Solo where he needed to be at the end of the film, there was no need for Snoke to continue. According to Johnson...
That came out of the development of Kylo's character. I kind of thought very early on, 'Well, the most interesting thing to do with Kylo in this movie would be to take the rocky foundation he's on coming into it -- in terms of, he's kind of a wanna be Vader, and see his insecurities... even this act of killing his father was a cowardly one, from the audience's point of view. And to, basically through Rey's eyes, learn more about him and then, but the end of it, get him to a place where he was standing on his own two feet as a complicated villain, but still, he's come into his own. He has shed that rock thing, and we now understand him as a 'Villain.'
I thought, well, once we get him there, if he's set up for that in [Episode] 9, what's Snoke's place? Then I thought, 'Well, huh. Interesting. If we really get Kylo to the place where he can carry it as the Vader of going forward, his own version of that at least, then Snoke... what's the point of repeating the Palpatine [story]? That gives us the opportunity for a really strong dramatic beat in the middle of it, and it clears the decks so that you have less of an idea where you can predict what's to come in the next chapter, which could lead to some much more interesting places.
Fans were somewhat split on Kylo Ren following Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Even as The Last Jedi opens Ren is still apt to throw temper tantrums. However, by the end, the character really does take control of the situation. At no point is this driven home more than when he kills Supreme Leader Snoke. The moment works on multiple levels as it, at first, gives the impression that Kylo Ren may have turned, uniting alongside Rey. It's not until after the pair has defeated Snoke's guards that we realize that Ren's decision to take out Snoke was for his own purposes, so that he might take control as the Supreme Leader.
It will be interesting to see where things go from here. Where Snoke came from exactly is one of the biggest questions that fans had coming out of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and while it's still possible that we might get that answer in Episode IX, the fact that Snoke is dead greatly reduces that likelihood. That answer, like so many others in The Last Jedi, might simply be that it doesn't really matter.
The Force Awakens set us up for the possibility that people could die in this new trilogy, but we certainly didn't expect a character quite so new to be gone quite so soon. Of course, we know that Snoke was a powerful user of the Force, and we know that they don't always stay gone.
SPOILERS: Star Wars: The Last Jedi Ending - What Happens And What It Means
There's one thing for sure, as Rian Johnson says. with Snoke gone, the possibilities for where things will go with Star Wars: Episode IX are a lot greater. Kylo Ren is an unpredictable character, and we can't imagine where things will go with him in charge.