This article contains spoilers for The Mandalorian.
Thrawn (or Grand Admiral Thrawn) has become a standout antagonist in the Star Wars universe, appearing across multiple books, comics, and TV shows.
He embodies a new form of villainous mastermind, one not propelled by brute force or space magic.
Instead Thrawn is very much a tactician, a master strategist capable of eliminating any undesirable freedom fighters with an efficiency that rivals a Force-powered Sith Lord.
And now it looks like he’s set to make the jump to live-action television, with an important name-drop in The Mandalorian Season 2.
Before his predicted appearance in all his blue-skinned and red-eyed glory, let’s take a step back and have a look at the character’s long history in Star Wars…
The Thrawn Trilogy
Thrawn was first introduced into the mythology on the pages of Timothy Zahn’s Heir To The Empire, a full-length novelisation which was released in 1991 as part of the Star Wars Expanded Universe.
Taking place five years after the events of Return Of The Jedi, the book depicts Thrawn as an Imperial military commander, taking control of the last remnants of the Galactic Empire, following the ‘death’ of Emperor Palpatine.
Heir To The Empire would expand into what is known as the Thrawn Trilogy, with two sequels titled Dark Force Rising and The Last Command.
The villain became an instant hit with fans, and the book series is regarded as an integral part of Star Wars lore — introducing beloved characters such as Mara Jade and providing the first mention of Coruscant (a planet which featured prominently in the prequel films).
However, following the 2014 ‘Legends’ rebrand by Disney, the Thrawn Trilogy is now considered non-canon.
Star Wars: Rebels
Thanks to his popularity, Thrawn was brought back into Star Wars canon during the third season of Star Wars: Rebels, an animated show set between Revenge Of The Sith and A New Hope.
He was voiced by Lars Mikkelsen, who imbued the Grand Admiral with a compounded confidence and intimidating presence.
Over the course of Rebels, Thrawn capably managed to dismantle the Rebel Alliance, using his military tactics and knowledge of alien culture to outwit and overcome their attempts at destabilising the ruling Empire.
During the occupation of the planet Lothal, the native home of the Force-powered hero Ezra Bridger, the Rebels managed to resist the overwhelming numbers of Thrawn’s starship armada.
The Grand Admiral was last seen cascading into the unknown regions of space alongside Ezra, aboard his flagship the Chimaera.
They were transported by a whale-like species (known as the purrgil), who are capable of naturally propelling themselves into hyperspace.
The fourth season’s climactic episode wrapped up Rebels, leaving the fate of both Thrawn and the young Jedi ambiguous.
A New Thrawn Trilogy
Following the successful revival of the character in Rebels, Zahn began developing a new trilogy of books based around Thrawn.
Fitting in with his recently revised history, the first novel (simply titled Star Wars: Thrawn) chronicled the character’s induction into the Galactic Empire.
Starting off as a supposedly exiled Chiss warrior, Thrawn is rescued by the Imperial military. Joining their forces, he quickly proves his ingenuity as a master tactician, ascending through the ranks and even drawing the attention of Emperor Palpatine himself.
The series concluded in 2019 after two more instalments, Thrawn: Alliances and Thrawn: Treason.
A third trilogy by Zahn, Thrawn Ascendancy, was announced in 2019 and would focus more on the Grand Admiral’s backstory prior to joining the Empire.
The first new entry, Chaos Rising, was subsequently released in 2020 and is set to be followed by Greater Good in 2021.
The Clone Wars
Prior to the establishment of the Empire, Thrawn was intimately involved in the events of the Clone Wars. Even before his ascension to the rank of Grand Admiral, Thrawn was making calculated moves.
Encountering the Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker on a mission to Batuu, he was enlisted in the search for Padme Amidala. This made him privy to the knowledge of their forbidden love, a relationship few were aware of.
This intel allowed Thrawn to deduce Darth Vader’s identity after Anakin’s fall from grace, an unspoken truth which made their brief moments working together a tense experience.
Rosario Dawson’s Ahsoka Tano made her live-action debut in The Mandalorian Chapter 13 (or Season 2 Episode 5 – titled The Jedi).
In the episode, it is revealed that she is attempting to track down Thrawn.
Remembering back to the series ending of Rebels, Ahsoka and ally Sabine Wren (a Mandalorian warrior) set out to find their missing friend, Ezra.
Dave Filoni (a key figure in the development of The Clone Wars and Rebels) is heavily involved in The Mandalorian and directed this episode.
He previously expressed interest in bringing his characters and stories to live-action, so it makes sense that this plot thread would continue in the Disney+ series.
This begs the question: will Ezra also be making the transition to live-action? Rumours have been circulating for years, and with Thrawn’s sudden involvement, it seems much more likely. And will this be in The Mandalorian or the new Ahsoka live-action show?
We will have to wait and find out…
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