[Edit: we’ve released a new video to accompany this article.]
If you haven’t already read the latest Star Wars novel, the final book in the Aftermath trilogy, I wouldn’t blame you. It just came out. That said, Empire’s End continues the story of a Galaxy in turmoil after the events of Return of the Jedi. This article will contain some [potentially] huge spoilers for the book, so if you want to check it out you can grab it for free on Audible by clicking this link and getting a free trial (worth any two books), and then come right back here because we have a lot to discuss.
You good? Because we’re going deep into spoiler territory from here on out.
While listening to the book at work earlier, I was struck by the odd inclusion of Jar Jar Binks in one of the novel’s many interludes. The series is well known for it’s wide range of interlude chapters detailing how the events of the Empire’s fall after RotJ have shaped different people in the Galaxy. So it’s no wonder that Jar Jar finally gets a minor mention in a one-off chapter. The clumsy Gungan has somehow survived all these years, after literally setting up Palpatine as Supreme Chancellor and eventual Emperor, to become somewhat of a clown to orphan children back on his home planet of Naboo. It’s a bit sad to hear he’s literally getting his life’s worth out of making children smile, as nobody appears to like him due to his, y’know, having started the “uh-oh Empire.” However, this interlude we’re also introduced to a disfigured boy named Mapo who wishes to train under him and become a clown himself.
Now, why he wishes to become a clown I don’t really know – the boy admits he makes people uncomfortable, that he’s so ugly nobody would adopt him, and he’s pessimistic all around. But that demeanor takes a sharp turn when he meets Jar Jar and begins talking to him. It’s kind of sweet. The interlude ends by them becoming pals and Jar Jar saying that they’re going to make the whole Galaxy smile.
When I told my wife about this inclusion she seemed disheartened that there was no nod to Sith Jar Jar, the popular fan theory based on actual evidence from the films that suggest Jar Jar was pulling the strings behind the curtain all along. I thought about it, and then remembered the strange boy again, Mapo; particularly how they described him. “One ear gone, half his face looking like the business end of a woodworking rasp. The scar tissue, like bad ground, runs up from his jaw, over the hole that used to be his ear, and to his scalp.”
Did they… did he? Chuck Wendig totally just described the gruesome features of Supreme Leader Snoke. But this is a boy. A 10 year old boy. Can it be? Are we to believe that he and, more significantly, the Lucasfilm Story Group are giving further credence to the theory that Jar Jar is indeed a Sith, or some kind of Dark Side wielder? Is Jar Jar responsible for not only the Empire, but also the First Order?
More likely than not, this is a deliberate misdirection, but notably one that went under many readers noses. Mapo’s appearance shares an uncanny resemblance to Supreme Leader Snoke, who was introduced to us for the first time in 2015’s The Force Awakens, so it begs the question as to whether or not this is a relevant plot detail or just a glorified nod to fandom. The novelization for the Force Awakens muddies the water a bit, but doesn’t discredit it entirely. Speaking to Kyle Ren, Snoke says, “I watched the Empire rise, and then fall.” This means several things. While it’s no indication of his age, Snoke wasn’t a part of the Empire the first time around. Having watched it rise, however, doesn’t necessarily mean that he saw the entirety of the Empire’s life cycle play out – it could mean that he saw it reach its peak, when the first Death Star was completed perhaps.
But can Snoke be no more than 40 years of age by the time The Force Awakens plays out? Well, sure. Palpatine aged about 30 years in a matter of seconds from his usage of the Dark Side. And Mapo seems like the shut-in type, not getting much Vitamin C. So it’s quite possible, even plausible. But man, the audacity to potentially drop Darth Jar Jar into canon is a gutsy move.
There are other hints at a possible Snoke origin in Empire’s End, including Dark Side visions from deep within the unknown regions of the Galaxy that even Palpatine doesn’t understand. But nothing is as concrete or in-your-face as the inclusion of Mapo alongside Jar Jar Binks. Had Mapo been featured alongside any other character, I wouldn’t bat an eye, but something about how Jar Jar says, “My teachin yousa, pallo. Wesa maken the whole galaxy smilin, huh?” Sinister. Truly sinister.