There are near-countless beloved characters in the Star Wars galaxy, many of whom have never made it to the world of live-action. But few characters are so beloved as Grand Admiral Thrawn, who has been a fixture of the franchise for nearly 30 years. But many fans of the franchise, specifically viewers of The Mandalorian are only recently hearing of the mysterious figure. So, who is Grand Admiral Thrawn?
It seems that the character is poised to finally make his debut in live-action, which will introduce an entirely different section of the fanbase to Thrawn. For those who haven't kept up with the expanded universe over the years, or for those who have just watched the movies, he is going to be a fresh concept. For those who would like to learn a little more about Thrawn, we are here to explain everything you need to know about the figure who has emerged as a person of interest in a galaxy far, far away.
Who created Grand Admiral Thrawn?
Thrawn was introduced to the Star Wars universe by author Timothy Zahn in a trilogy of novels beginning in 1991. The trilogy is now referred to as the "Thrawn trilogy" or the "Heir to the Empire trilogy," taking its name from the first book in the series. Heir to the Empire was published at a time when little was happening with the franchise, several years after the release of Return of the Jedi. The book takes place after the events of the original trilogy. Thrawn is introduced as the new leader of the Empire. The sequels, Dark Force Rising and The Last Command, were published in 1992 and 1993, respectively.
Grand Admiral Thrawn is a member of a mysterious alien race known as the Chiss. His native name is Mitth'raw'nuruodo. He has blue skin and has an unparalleled level of brilliance within the ranks of the Empire. He led the Empire following the death of Palpatine. As a brilliant strategist, Thrawn was able to ascend the ranks of the Imperial Navy, ultimately filling the power vacuum left behind by Palpatine and Darth Vader. Thrawn is able to deduce much about his enemies using art and other artifacts from their culture.
Where has Thrawn Appeared in Star Wars?
Disney reset the Star Wars canon after purchasing Lucasfilm in 2012. So the Heir to the Empire trilogy, as well as other novels, now known as Legends stories, were removed from the official canon. While those books are still available to read, they are not necessarily a reflection of what has happened or will happen in the current iteration of the franchise. So we are mostly going to focus on canon appearances. But for completists, here is a slightly more comprehensive list of other Star Wars projects he has appeared in.
- Specter of the Past
- Vision of the Future
- Outbound Flight
- Mist Encounter - Star Wars Adventure Journal 7
- Dark Forces: Soldier for the Empire
- Star Wars: Rebellion
- Star Wars Battlefront: Renegade Squadron
- Star Wars: Empire at War: Forces of Corruption
- Rebel Force: Target
- Choices of One
- Galaxy of Fear: The Swarm
- Star Wars Galaxies: An Empire Divided
- Command Decision - Star Wars Adventure Journal 11}
- Star Wars: TIE Fighter
- Crisis of Faith
- A Grand Admiral Returns - Heir to the Empire Sourcebook
- Tatooine Ghost
As mentioned, when Disney wiped out all of the Legends stories from canon, Thrawn went with it. But fans were treated to a big surprise when the blue-skinned alien appeared in the Star Wars Rebels season 3 trailer. The character was brought in as the main adversary for season 3 and season 4 of the animated series, which centers on the formation of the Rebellion and takes place before the events of A New Hope.
Aside from that show, Timothy Zahn returned to author a new series of canon novels, detailing Thrawn's rise through the ranks of the Imperial Navy. The first book, titled Star Wars: Thrawn was released in 2017. It was followed by Thrawn: Alliances in 2018 and Thrawn: Treason in 2019. The books all take place before the events of the Rebels finale and focus on his various exploits aiding the Empire, serving to provide a window into his brilliant strategic mind in practice.
Zahn is now working on a new Thrawn: The Ascendency Trilogy that will dive into the character's time with the Chiss Ascendency. Book I: Chaos Rising was released in September 2020. The sequel, titled Greater Good, is set to arrive in 2021.
What Happened to Thrawn in Star Wars Rebels?
Thrawn was introduced in Star Wars Rebels as a new villain in season 3. The show focuses on the early days of the formation of the Rebellion and follows the crew of the Ghost. He was brought to the system of Lothal by the Imperial Governor Pryce to help extinguish the emerging rebel threat. A rivalry emerged with Hera Syndulla and her crew, which includes Kanan Jarrus, Zeb Orrelios, Sabine Wren and Jedi padawan Ezra Bridger. As Wren was an artist, Thrawn was able to study her work to help win his war against the group.
Thrawn was last seen in the Star Wars Rebels series finale. In the end, he blasted off into space with Ezra Bridger, thanks to the help of the space whales known as Purrgil. Ezra and Thrawn's whereabouts in the aftermath of Rebels has become one of the biggest lingering questions within the franchise.
What we know for sure is that Thrawn is out there somewhere in the galaxy. The finale included an epilogue, in which, it is revealed that Ahsoka Tano and Sabine Wren, after the events of Return of the Jedi, set out on a journey to find out what happened to Ezra. So, officially, it hasn't been revealed what happened to Thrawn but it appears those answers are coming, probably in live-action form, sooner or later.
How Does Thrawn Connect to The Mandalorian?
The Mandalorian Chapter 13, titled The Jedi, officially brings Thrown into the fold. Not in the flesh though. Rosario Dawson's Ahsoka Tano is seeking information throughout the episode from an Imperial ally named Morgan Elsbeth. For most of the episode, it is entirely mysterious what she is seeking. But after Ahsoka and Mando best Morgan and her guards, it is revealed that she knows the whereabouts of Grand Admiral Thrawn. This is of great interest to Ahsoka.
This firmly connects the narrative in The Mandalorian season 2 to the Star Wars Rebels series finale. As of this writing, it is unclear how those narratives will ultimately connect but it is clear that they are building to something involving the blue Chiss in question.
Who is Playing Thrawn in The Mandalorian?
As of this writing, it has not been confirmed who will be playing the role of Thrawn in The Mandalorian, or in any live-action Star Wars project for that matter. Up to this point, the character has only existed in books, comics and animation. There are plenty of suggestions floating around but Lucasfilm has yet to confirm any casting on this front.
That said, Lars Mikkelsen voiced Thrawn in Star Wars Rebels. Since Katee Sackhoff already played Bo Katan in live-action after voicing her in animation, it seems conceivable that Mikkelsen could make a similar jump. But Ahsoka, who was voiced by Ashley Eckstein in The Clone Wars and Rebels, was replaced for live-action by Rosario Dawson. So it could go either way in this case.