As others have pointed out since the release of the novel Aftermath: Life Debt by Chuck Wendig, the book may contain our strongest canon evidence for the identity of Supreme Leader Snoke. And with the upcoming release of the third book in the series, Empire’s End, on February 21, we may get a more definitive answer to whether or not Gallius Rax becomes Supreme Leader Snoke.
At first I was skeptical when I saw multiple articles spring up suggesting that Snoke could be this new character, especially given the countless theories—many bordering on the absurd—about who Snoke “really” is. However, the evidence presented in what I read was intriguing enough to get me to read the novel for myself.
This article aims to be a more in-depth look at the evidence that Gallius Rax is—at the very least—designed to make us think he could be Snoke. Some of the evidence will be very substantial, some will be more loose and subjective.
Rax in the first Aftermath novel
Fleet Admiral Gallius Rax was first introduced in the novel Aftermath as a mysterious character known only as “The Operator” who fed the New Republic information on the Imperial remnant—with the secret intent of testing and purging it—including the whereabouts of a group of top Imperial officials meeting to regroup the Empire. Only Admiral Rae Sloane, who set up the meeting on Rax’s orders, escaped the Republic assault. At the end of that novel Rax reveals to Sloane his belief that the old Empire must be broken down and rebuilt into something new.
Rax’s Background – The Prologue & Epilogue
The prologue and epilogue of Life Debt take place roughly thirty years before Return of the Jedi (about 4 years before the events of Attack of the Clones and 60 years before The Force Awakens).
Galli (the future Gallius Rax) is a young orphan on Jakku who is “compelled, as if by destiny” to shirk his duties and follow a black ship across the desert, “as if something invisible is tugging him along—an unseen thread bound to his throat, leading him like a leash-and-collar.” Galli appears to be drawn by the dark side of the Force to the ship (revealed to be the Imperialis, a ship owned by Palpatine) which we know, from the Lando comics, housed Sith artifacts powerful with dark side energy.
The ship lands beneath the “plaintive hand” plateau, a holy place where a figure known as the “Consecrated Eremite” made his home thousands of years before, when Jakku was supposedly a “verdant, living place.”
Droids come out of the ship, followed by Adviser Yupe Tashu (a non-Force sensitive dark side historian and adviser to Palpatine who was introduced in Aftermath). Tashu commands the droids to begin excavating the site. When Tashu returns to the ship, Galli sees an opportunity to finally escape Jakku. He is afraid, but knows there is nothing but death for him if he stays. He runs into the ship just before it takes off, which ends the prologue.
The epilogue picks up with Galli having been hidden on the ship for some time, cold and hungry. He hears a voice commanding him to come forward: “…in that single word is more than just a request—it has gravity to it. Like it’s pulling him willfully closer.” This is Palpatine using the Force to compel Galli, but the boy successfully resists him, which intrigues Palpatine. This resistance shows that the young Gallius is very strong willed, and, especially coupled with the descriptions of his being drawn to the ship, possibly Force sensitive, though nothing else seems to suggest this.
Palpatine then “requests” that Galli come forward and asks the boy his name. He says that they “call him” Galli, indicating that it is likely not his real name.
Palpatine demonstrates the Force and offers to end Galli’s miserable existence by either killing him or giving him a new life in his service, starting with a task that will lead to “greater things.”
“Not something so mundane as a job, but a role. A purpose. I sense in you potential. A destiny.”
Is the “potential” Palpatine senses Force potential?
“Most people have no destiny… They are useless. They are not actors on the stage but just props. Just decorations to be moved around, painted, knocked over. Do you know opera? No. Of course you don’t. But we can fix that if you accept from me this new life.”
We also see here that it is Palpatine who introduces Rax to his future obsession with drama and opera, which Rax uses to define his philosophy and strategy. This is a possible connection to Snoke; as many others have noted, Snoke’s musical theme is similar to the track “Palpatine’s Teachings,” heard during the opera scene in Revenge of the Sith where Palpatine introduces Anakin to “The Tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise.”
Galli does not seek death “for himself” and accepts the offer. “I want a new life. I don’t want to be me anymore.” Palpatine orders him to return to Jakku and guard the site where the droids were working. He says that the site is “precious” to the galaxy. “It is significant. It was significant a thousand years ago and it will be significant again.” He says the droids will excavate and then more will be sent to “build something below the ground.”
This could be the site of the secret Imperial research base said to be highly important to the Empire in the Battle of Jakku. The Empire made a suicidal attempt to keep the base out Republic hands, and the retreating Imperial remnant destroyed it before heading for the Unknown Regions.
[A drawing from Rey’s Survival Guide of the base’s remnants being guarded by mysterious figures]
Palpatine tells Galli to keep others away and kill them if he must. Galli agrees to this and Palpatine responds “Then we may have a future together.” Palpatine entrusts Galli with his first name, Sheev, and casually mentions his aspirations to become Emperor: “We will be friends. An Emperor must have friends, after all.”
It is both odd and intriguing that Palpatine would trust a boy he just met to not only keep this important site safe and secret, including the possibly of committing murder, but to entrust him with his name and his plans to be Emperor. This is a big indication that Gallius is more than a random, temporary villain to act as a “red herring” to be usurped with yet another mysterious puppetmaster in Snoke.
We also learn here that Jakku is more important in canon than simply a humble origin point for Rey’s journey.
Thirty Years Later – Several months after Return of the Jedi
While Grand Admiral Rae Sloane is now the “de facto leader of the Galactic Empire,” Gallius Rax, officially her adviser, is the one pulling the strings.
Though highly decorated, little is known about Rax. He first appeared in Imperial records twenty years before the events of Life Debt and was immediately assigned to the Naval Intelligence Agency as a commander. His reports, which were ninety percent redacted, bypassed his immediate superiors, eventually going directly to the Emperor himself after the destruction of the first Death Star.
In his chambers, Rax wears a floor-length robe rather than the admiral’s uniform that he wears in public. In private, Rax is less like a military man and more like Palpatine or one of his dark side advisers.
Rax greets Sloane with a “feral sneer,” arched eyebrow, and spread arms. He takes “dramatic steps” and makes “showy gesticulations” with his hands. This made me immediately think of Snoke’s dramatic gesturing in The Force Awakens, which always struck me as very theatrical.
Sloane calls Rax a “specter” and compares him to a hologram several times. “That is how she feels… as if she is meeting the hologram of a dead man made to pass as real.” This could be a nod to Snoke appearing in The Force Awakens only as a giant hologram.
Sloane says of Rax that he is in love with artifice, and he says of himself, “I am more interested in truth than I am fact. I am comfortable with artifice when it suits our needs.” A giant hologram is certainly artifice, and Snoke seems insincere at times; when he calls Kylo “Master of the Knights of Ren,” it has always felt to me as if he is pretending Kylo and the Knights are more important than they really are.
We see that Palpatine’s interest in opera had a profound impact on Rax. He refers to drama and opera many times with regard to his strategy and philosophy.
“Opera moves me. And yet none of it is real. Therein lies the crux of what you need to understand: Something does not need to be real for it to have an effect. The instruments and song, the drama and melodrama, the pathos and tragedy. It’s a lie. A fiction. And yet what happens on the stage speaks a kind of truth just the same. Facts and truth are separate things.”
As already stated, the opera connection between Palpatine and Rax could be a reference to Snoke. Either way, it is another connection between Palpatine and Rax.
In one scene, Rax plays the first piece of music he ever heard after leaving Jakku, the story of a woman who refused to join the Sith or the Jedi and took revenge on them both for the death of her family.
We know that Snoke is not a Sith but is part of a new dark side order. Could this music be a reflection of his ideals? It has been said in canon material that Snoke sees Kylo as the perfect embodiment of the Force as he comes from both the light and dark sides. Perhaps Rax has his own understanding of what Balance is: something in-between the Jedi and Sith.
On Coruscant, Sloane finds an old holo-image of a young Gallius Rax with Palpatine, Mas Amedda, and leaders of the NIA.
The boy looks like a dirt-cheeked rube shoved into an ill-fitting academy uniform. His hair is dark, his skin is pale. Those eyes, though. A familiar arrogance shines there. Each a black hole swallowing the light.
Notice that he is described here as “pale,” which made me think of how pale Snoke is; though I don’t place much weight on this.
One thing stands out: One of the boy’s hands is facing outward, and Sloane sees something across his palm. A marking of some kind. A tattoo?
Or a brand?
It is intriguing that Rax has some kind of permanent mark as if he is part of a secret order, perhaps the Acolytes of the Beyond. All of this, along with Palpatine’s immediate interest in him as a boy, indicates that he is much more than a simple Imperial officer.
As a part of Rax’s goal to create a “stronger, leaner Empire” he plans the rescue of Commandant Brendol Hux (father of General Hux from The Force Awakens) from a Republic siege. Rax says that once Hux is with them he will have a “Shadow Council to govern the Empire from behind the scenes.” This Council will be made up of “the first and highest order of Imperial minds.” Notice the words “first” and “order,” which I believe to be a hint towards the origin of the First Order name.
It was Commandant Hux who believed, due to his early experience with the Jedi and clones during the Clone Wars, that it was better to train soldiers from birth rather than recruit them. Hux already had an academy for training children during the time of Rebels, and this becomes the standard for the First Order.
Rax commands the rescue not only of Brendol but also his illegitimate son, Armitage (the future General Hux).
“The Empire must be fertile and young. Children are crucial to our success. Many of our officers are old. We need that kind of vitality. That brand of energy you get with the young. The Empire needs children.”
Rax knows from his own experience with Palpatine that the young are more easily manipulated, and so they are a focus of his vision for the future of the Empire, and thus the First Order. Palpatine may have done something similar with Force sensitive children who were kidnapped for “Project Harvester,” which was also a secret part of Hux’s Arkanis Academy.
This also fits with the origin of the Knights of Ren that we seem to be getting in the Aftermath series: a gang of young Vader fanatics (the Acolytes of the Beyond) that Snoke will no doubt find a use for—if he isn’t manipulating them already by the time of Life Debt.
Rax asks Sloane to have faith in him. “Faith will light our path.” This kind of faith is something Snoke has clearly fostered in Kylo Ren and General Hux, but Sloane is disturbed by Rax’s talk of children and is worried that he is shaping his new Empire into a cult rather than a government.
With Hux and his son secured, Rax tells his Shadow Council that the Empire as they knew it is gone and they now have an opportunity to reshape it. He reveals that there are other Imperial fleets that have been hidden since the destruction of the second Death Star, “hundreds of Star Destroyers, thousands of smaller craft.”
He also reveals that they now have their own independent manufacturing facilities in the Outer Rim. In their retreat to the Unknown Regions, the First Order uses mobile Star Destroyer academies in violation of the treaty with the Republic, presumably supplied by these or similar facilities.
Sloane is furious that Rax didn’t tell her any of this, but he tells the Council that it was her plan, continuing to give the impression that she is in charge. Sloane wants to lead the Empire, not to be a puppet of Rax, but she continues to play along.
Later, Sloane learns that Rax was responsible for the destruction of a Star Destroyer using his Operator persona to eliminate another rival. Sloane wants to stop Rax, but knows she would be brought down with him if she attempted to expose him and she needs more information on his past.
From his point of view, we find out that Rax has been manipulating the main quest of the protagonists, guiding them to free Republic soldiers from Ashmead’s Lock, a prison on Imperial controlled Kashyyk.
While contemplating his plan for Ashmead’s Lock, Rax thinks, “The Contingency continues.” Given what we know from the synopsis of Empire’s End, “the Contingency” is the final plan of the Emperor, which Rax is now carrying out. I believe this could involve the feigned defeat of the Imperial remnant and the retreat into the Unknown Regions where the military of the First Order is secretly built up and Starkiller Base is constructed.
Rax sets up Sloane for a final test. He knows she hates him and he tells her that she can both respect and despise him, as he did with Palpatine: “He was mighty and deserving of praise. He was also a monster, and one who made mistakes.” A very Sith-like attitude towards one’s master.
Sloane then asks him who he really is:
Rax rolls his eyes. Such a brutal, worthless question. He doesn’t care to waste time on it. As if the identity of one man is really all that special? The beauty is in the total mechanism, not the parts pulled out of it.
I believe this is a clear jab at the many Snoke fan theories. It also confirms that there is more to Rax’s identity than has been revealed.
Rax tells Sloane that he plans on attacking Chandrila, the current capital of the New Republic. Ashmead’s Lock has been liberated and the freed prisoners will attend a public event in celebration. Rax tells Sloane “the instruments are nearly all lined up and the music has been written. It is time to perform the song.”
Rax has Sloane tell the Republic that she was “the Operator” and that she helped them in order to cement her position in the Empire. She tells them she now wants to negotiate a peace treaty.
While Sloane attends the festivities on Chandrila, the freed prisoners (who are being controlled with implanted bio-chips) suddenly open fire on the leaders of the Republic. Sloane is horrified at this as she thought the attack would be made with the hidden fleets. In a characteristically theatrical move by Rax, the signal controlling the chips was hidden in an opera house.
Sloane flees and tells her assistant Adea that Rax must be stopped. Adea is revealed to be a fanatical spy for Rax and Sloane is forced to kill her. Sloane then vows to kill Rax for his betrayal. Could Sloane be responsible for Snoke’s scars? We know that Rax’s Super Star Destroyer, the Ravager, crashes in the Battle of Jakku (it is the ship Rey flies through while fleeing TIE fighters in the Falcon). If Rax is Snoke, he could have received his wounds in the crash.
Yupe Tashu (Palpatine’s fanatical adviser from the prologue) is freed from a Republic prison by a traitorous guard who tells Tashu that Rax is their “new emperor.” Tashu is disturbed by this.
“I only serve Palpatine.”
“Emperor Rax serves Palpatine, too. Now go.”
Tashu nods. “Yes. Yes. It makes sense. It’s part of a plan, isn’t it? A plan I couldn’t see? Sidious always had a plan…”
What does Tashu have that Rax needs? Tashu was on the ship that Rax stowed away on thirty years before, and in Aftermath it was Tashu’s plan to find “salvation” by seeking out the source of the dark side in the Unknown Regions, as Palpatine himself was planning before his death (part of the Contingency?), and we know that the Imperial remnant flees to the Unknown Regions after the Battle of Jakku.
Sloane finds out that Rax came from Jakku and travels there with one of the brainwashed prisoners who also wants revenge. When the man asks Sloane who was really responsible, she isn’t sure if Rax is his real name: “A man named Gallius Rax. At least, that’s the name he gives.” There is also another hologram reference:
“I can’t just push one of these buttons and make him appear. He’s not a hologram.” Though really, he might as well be.
Rax commands the hidden fleet to move to Jakku.
“We will test ourselves on Jakku. And we will do so far from the eyes of the galaxy… And when the time is right, when we have whetted ourselves to a vicious point, we will strike once again. The Senate is injured. The Republic is wounded. We will go in for the kill, but it is too soon and we are too weak.”
Though the traitorous guard referred to him as Emperor, Rax tells the Council that he is taking the temporary title of “Counselor to the Empire” acting as an interstitial leader until Grand Admiral Sloane can be “rescued.” One of the Council members asks if his title is as temporary as the Emperor’s title was supposed to be. Rax smirks and admits, “Perhaps.” Counselor to the Empire could evolve into Supreme Leader as the Empire becomes the First Order.
Of all the Shadow Council members, Rax knows he only needs Hux in the long run. It is Hux who will help him build the forces of what will become the First Order. “He needs them only so long. All of them but Hux. Hux will be necessary.”
The main story of Life Debt ends with Sloane on Jakku seeking more information on Rax as the Imperial fleet suddenly appears in the sky.
She came to Jakku looking for Gallius Rax.
It looks like Rax has come home. And he has brought the whole Empire—her Empire, and her ship—with him.
If Rax isn’t Snoke, then why create a mystery spanning three books as to who he “really” is? It seems unnecessary to create such a mysterious character who is so closely connected to Palpatine only to have Snoke be yet another character behind his actions, and there is nothing in Rax’s point-of-view scenes indicating that there is anyone above him. Ultimately, Rax would become pointless in retrospect. He would be nothing more than a distraction to mislead fans away from the real backstory of Snoke.
For me, the answer to “is Rax Snoke” may determine my interest in future “Expanded Universe” canon material.
If Rax is nothing more than a one-off villain designed to mislead people into thinking they are getting Snoke’s history, then there is little reason for me, personally, to read this material to fill in the blanks between films. Frankly, it would be better to not write stories in this time period until the films answer these questions so the authors don’t have to tap dance around the material.
If Rax is Snoke, then I find this an interesting way to build up his backstory. If the connection is made explicit, perhaps not until after The Last Jedi, it would give the Aftermath series a second life, as Lucasfilm would be able to point to an existing series where people can immediately begin exploring his backstory rather than waiting for a new book to explain why he wasn’t there already. This would be a sign to fans that all canon material really is connected and relevant.
Unfortunately, I am not fully convinced that Rax isn’t just a red herring. Hopefully we will get more answers than questions with Empire’s End.
Until next time. May the Force be with you, alwaysPowered by Sidelines