The Mandalorian: Who is Grand Admiral Thrawn?


The most recent episode of The Mandalorian gave us a clue about Ahsoka Tano’s goals. She’s looking for Grand Admiral Thrawn…but who’s that?

The most recent episode of The Mandalorian, “The Jedi,” has many excited Star Wars fans talking. Baby Yoda got a name, Rosario Dawson made her debut as ex-Jedi Ahsoka Tano, and at the end of the episode, she even mentioned another major figure from Star Wars mythology, after she defeated Morgan Elsbeth, aka the Magistrate, in single combat. “Where is your master?” she asked. “Where is Grand Admiral Thrawn?”

If you’re familiar with the Star Wars animated shows, you know exactly who Ahsoka is searching for and why. If not, then we’ve got you covered.

Image: Star Wars Rebels/Disney

Grand Admiral Thrawn is a dangerous and cunning antagonist who has made his mark in animated Star Wars shows and in the expanded lore. The character was initially introduced in Timothy Zahn’s 1991 novel Heir to the Empire, the first act in a trilogy of books that would focus on him as the main villain. This blue-skinned, red-eyed Chiss was one of the Empire’s top strategists, and took it upon himself to restore the Empire to its former glory after the destruction of the second Death Star in Return of the Jedi.

However, after Disney acquired the rights to Star Wars in 2012, it pretty much tossed all the expanded universe books, comics, and video games out the window; they are no longer considered canon. But Dave Filoni, the producer behind animated series like Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels, saved this character from scrap heap of history by making him a big antagonist on Rebels.

In the last two seasons of Star Wars Rebels, freedom fighter Ezra Bridger and company encounter Thrawn as he’s trying to carry out his mission to stomp out the Rebellion. Rebels takes place between the events of Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, which is different than the timeline from Zahn’s novels.

Thrawn’s history got a rewrite when he was incorporated into Rebels. This version of the character was born on Rentor in the Unknown Regions of the galaxy and became an officer of the Chiss Ascendancy. He quickly rose among the ranks due to his ruthlessness and flair for strategy. Thrawn left his homeworld while the Clone Wars were raging to explore other parts of the galaxy, and at one point met and fought alongside Anakin Skywalker.

After this encounter, Chancellor Palpatine took an interest in Thrawn and asked him to join the Republic. To everyone’s surprise, the Chiss refused because he was unimpressed with the Republic and thought democracy was an ineffective way to run a government, since it meant everyone had a voice and that nothing would get done. Thrawn eventually joined Sidious once the Empire was formed, as Imperial rule aligned better with the Chiss’ philosophy.

While Thrawn’s background went through some changes, his personality was pretty much the same. His calm demeanor makes him an intimidating foe. He’s someone who’s main weapon is his mind. One of the more interesting aspects of his character is his appreciation of the art of other alien races and cultures. He believed studying the art of his enemies would help him understand them, thus giving him an advantage over them in battle.

Ezra and the crew of the Ghost had to get creative to defeat Thrawn. In the last episode of Rebels, during the battle to liberate Lothal, Ezra traps Thrawn and his fleet using a creature called the Purrgil, which can naturally jump into hyperspace. It warps Thrawn’s fleet away, but takes Ezra with it, meaning he’s now in an unknown part of the galaxy. At the very end of the series, Ahsoka Tano leaves with Mandalorian warrior Sabine Wren to search for him.

Which brings us back to The Mandalorian. Now that we know Ahsoka is on the hunt for Thrawn, does this mean we will be seeing the blue-skinned, red-eyed alien in the flesh? And if so, will we learn what he’s been up to in the meantime? Is he taking after his book counterpart and trying to reform the Empire, possibly in the form of First Order? We know that he is trying to regain power in the galaxy if he has people like the Magistrate working under him.

Maybe he’s already operating from the shadows and uses other Imperials like Moff Gideon to do his dirty work for him. Perhaps he’s the one who’s really looking for Baby Yoda, with Gideon as one of his many proxies.

In any case, bringing in Thrawn also gives The Mandalorian an opportunity to introduce Ezra and Sabine.

Who should play these iconic characters? While Ezra and Sabine are still up in the air, I think Lars Mikkelsen, the voice of Thrawn in Rebels, should be brought back to play the character. He would know the character better than anyone else, and he can deliver a thrilling and menacing performance. After all, Katie Sackoff played Mandalorian warrior Bo-Katan in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and she got to reprise her role on The Mandalorian. There’s precedent.

We don’t know what Thrawn has planned, but maybe we’ll get more hints as this season progresses.

The next episode of The Mandalorian drops this Friday, December 4, on Disney+. This is the way.

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