Who is Grand Admiral Thrawn?

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[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for the latest episode of The Mandalorian Season 2, titled “The Jedi.”]

One of the wildest developments of The Mandalorian Season 2—besides the reveal of our beloved egg-destroyer Baby Yoda’s real name—is how the show is slowly but surely being integrated into the storylines of Star Wars animated series The Clone Wars and Rebels. (Both developed by Mandalorian co-creator, Dave Filoni.) This is apparent in obvious ways, like the live-action debuts of Bo-Katan, played by the character’s voice actor, Katee Sackhoff, and Jedi master Ahsoka Tano, brought to life here by Rosario Dawson. But the tail-end of “The Jedi”, written and directed by Filoni, hinted at another major animated favorite, one who would have massive repercussions for The Mandalorian‘s future. Ahsoka, lightsaber to the throat of former Imperial Navy engineer Morgan Elsbeth (Diana Lee Inosanto), makes a demand: “Now, tell me. Where is your Master? Where is Grand Admiral Thrawn?”

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Image via Lucasfilm

If you’re a studied student of Star Wars lore, that name probably brought about a nerd-gasm felt across the galaxy. If not…we got you. Thrawn is a fan-favorite antagonist as much for what he’s done in-story as what he means for the franchise, overall. The character was introduced in Timothy Zahn‘s 1991 novel Heir to the Empire, which debuted during a now-unrecognizable time when new Star Wars wasn’t a thought in anyone’s heads. “It was a dark time when there weren’t any more movies, and it blew our minds that there could be more,” Filoni himself said at Star Wars Celebration in 2016.

Thrawn is an uber-calm, blue-skinned Chiss from the Unknown Regions of the galaxy who rose through the ranks of the Imperial Navy to become the Empire’s best strategic military mind. In his original incarnation, Thrawn basically inherited command of the Empire after Darth Vader tossed Emperor Palpatine down an elevator shaft. Of course, Star Wars’ move under the Disney umbrella erased much of the canon established by the massive Expanded Universe, but Filoni himself saved Thrawn from obscurity.

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Image via Disney XD

The writer/director set Thrawn (now voiced by Lars Mikkelsen) as the main antagonist of Rebels seasons 3 and 4, set before A New Hope in the earliest days of the Rebel Alliance. As commander of the Seventh Fleet, Thrawn made it his mission to stomp out the spark of rebellion, bringing him up against Rebels’ rag-tag main crew: Jedi trainee Ezra Bridger, his master, Kanan Jarrus, Twi’lek pilot Hera Syndulla, Mandalorian warrior Sabine Wren, and Lasat heavy Zeb Orrelios.

[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for Rebels.]

The last we saw of Thrawn was the end of a battle to liberate the planet Lothal. Ezra, now a full-blown Jedi, traps Thrawn in the clutches of a creature called a purrgil and—after a goodbye to his crew—hyperspaces them both off to parts unknown to ensure Thrawn is out of commission for good. Five years later, after the downfall of the Empire, Sabine and Ahsoka head off to discover where in the heck Ezra ended up.

Which brings us right back to The Mandalorian. Ahsoka’s name-drop of Thrawn suggests that the Disney+ series is not only picking up the story threads left behind by Rebels, but it opens the door to even more of Filoni’s animated creations making the jump to live-action. (The Haunting of Bly Manor breakout Rahul Kohli set rumors aflame with a tweet about getting into Ezra Bridger shape, but later said he was just having a laugh. A likely story.)

The Mandalorian Season 2 is now available to stream on Disney+. New episodes will be released every Friday through December 18. For more on The Mandalorian, here is our interview with Bo-Katan herself, Katee Sackhoff, and our breakdown of Ahsoka Tano’s history in the Star Wars universe.

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