As more details and trailers begin shedding light on the upcoming Disney+ Star Wars entries, fans are understandably hyped for The Mandalorian Season 3 and the first season of Ahsoka. Billed as a continuation of the storyline from the popular animated series Star Wars Rebels, Ahsoka figures to induce many nostalgic-laden moments as actors have already been cast, filling the roles of Ezra Bridger, Sabine Wren, and Grand Admiral Thrawn.
Fan favorite Thrawn would make his grand entrance in Rebels Season 3, filling out his timeline and syncing it with the second Thrawn trilogy book series. Celebrating his 30th anniversary this past year, Thrawn’s impact on Star Wars continuity and fandom only continues to grow as the live-action universe of Star Wars is fleshed out on Disney+. Finally, as the foremost expert on art and war in Star Wars, even the Grand Admiral can appreciate the creative expression utilized by fans in the form of memes.
Strategic Genius, Political Noob
Recognized by many as the greatest strategic genius in the Star Wars universe, Grand Admiral Thrawn has constantly snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. Whether that is when he engages a superior force at Primea, only to come out the victor, or his methodical dismantling of the Phoenix cell in Rebels, Thrawn has demonstrated few can match his tactical superiority.
Sadly the magnificence of his strategic acumen is matched only by his complete ignorance regarding the politics that permeate the Ascendancy and Empire. As a result, while Thrawn can elevate the effectiveness of nearly any unit, he shows an almost troglodyte naïveté regarding the political machinations that often undermine his missions and efficiency.
The Chiss All Others Aspire To Be
First appearing in the Heir to the Empire (1991) by Timothy Zahn, Grand Admiral Thrawn represented the first encounter for many fans with the mysterious, militaristic Chiss species. Truly realized in the more recent Thrawn trilogies, these red-eyed, azure-hued alien humanoids have been well received across the definitive intergalactic melting pot of Star Wars.
Truthfully, Zahn could not have created a better introductory character for a species than the legendary Thrawn, who represents many of the finest qualities found in the species and few of the drawbacks that plague the Ascendancy.
Ice-cold Grand Admiral
Undoubtedly making an impact when he appeared in Rebels Season 3, Thrawn gave fans many notable memories and scenes in his two seasons. Among those scenes are the rebels’ infiltration and theft of the prototype Tie Defender, a rare fighter capable of bettering the best Rebel Alliance ships.
At the climax of the encounter, Thrawn displays the utmost assuredness and confidence in his knowledge of the Tie Defender specs. However, while many critics will maintain that Rebels Thrawn pails compared to Legends Thrawn, this scene gave new fans a solid idea of Thrawn’s character and elicited many smiles.
Since Disney acquired the rights to Lucasfilm and Star Wars, much has been made regarding notable differences in the previously understood timeline following the Return of the Jedi and their current Disney iterations. For example, such primary characters as the Skywalker twins, Luke and Leia, have been portrayed in contrast to Legends variations that much of the Star Wars community had come to know and love.
Thankfully, lessons were gleaned from the fans’ reactions, leading to the promotion of characters with advantageous consistency. So often, these are the characters whose creators still exercise creative control over them. The supremely respected Grand Admiral embodies texture in nature and portrayal, maintaining the same art-appreciating likable Chad in canon and Legends.
Much to the delight of Thrawn fans and Star Wars fans worldwide, Rebels officially brought Grand Admiral Thrawn from the Legends universe into the official canon. Thrawn would show new fans why he enjoyed such reverence within the Legends community by becoming the primary series antagonist in seasons three and four.
Following resounding success with The Clone Wars, Rebels, and The Mandalorian, director-producer screenwriter Dave Filoni has thoroughly understood the property, its fans, and its history. Indeed, there is great hope and optimism throughout the community that Dave Filoni and Co. will continue doing the franchise and fans justice, producing quality rewatchable content on Disney+ and guiding Star Wars into a bright new era.
To many fans of the Grand Admiral, Phoenix squadron would prove a surprisingly formidable opponent given his previous track record of unrivaled efficiency. Previously dispatching formidable smugglers, warlords, and would-be conquerors, the ragtag rebels from Phoenix challenged Thrawn even though they were noticeably outmatched.
Ultimately, Thrawn would discern that the Empire had an imposter in their ranks. This rebel asset, code-named Fulcrum, would expend great liberties to sabotage Thrawn’s efforts from within. But while Fulcrum’s efforts would aid Phoenix in their game of cat and mouse with their dangerous foe, it was only a matter of time before the fiercely intelligent Thrawn would ascertain the traitor and spring his trap.
While well received by most fans, Rebels was not without drawbacks. Interesting choices in the direction Rebels took the animation led to critics citing Rebels as a regression from the animation used in The Clone Wars.
Never was this change in animation apparent more than when Grand Admiral Thrawn was introduced in season three. The decision to go with a lighter complexion than he had in Legends and give him what looked aesthetically akin to lip balm prompted many fans to turn to humor, seeking a reprieve from a character visually looking more at home on SpongeBob SquarePants than Rebels.
Main Ahsoka Villain
After the events of ‘Chapter 13: The Jedi’ in The Mandalorian Season 2, the Star Wars community was abuzz with excitement. Deftly woven into The Mandalorian series proved the ideal spot to re-introduce Ahsoka into the Star Wars live-action roster and tease potential antagonists.
The upcoming series, aptly named Ahsoka, is shaping up to be a banger as all signs to the series being a follow-up to Rebels. Finally, fans can see how the Rebels’ story continues as many live-action versions of their favorite characters, like the mimetically inclined Sabine Wren or the beloved Grand Admiral, are brought to the small screen.
If nothing else, fans can agree that Rebels poignantly illustrated the noted direction driven by the plot and its impact on character story arcs. For example, while meticulously combating the rebel Phoenix cell and orchestrating the systematic destruction of the Rebel resistance on Lothal, Thrawn goes for the coup de grâce on the rebel base, hidden on Atollon.
Fortunately, the intervention by the ‘One in the Middle’ Bendu and his mystical Force abilities proved the only variable Thrawn had not accounted for, felled by Force trickery and Bendu’s armada of space whales. Ultimately, this witchcraft would lead to the rebels’ victory and Thrawn to the Unknown Regions again.
Grand Admiral Thrawnos
Unequivocally representing the Empire’s best chance for survival post the Battle of Endor, Grand Admiral Thrawn will establish the imperial remnant as a clear and present threat to the newly formed New Republic. Marshaling the remaining Empire factions and other more unconventional assets, like smuggler Niles Ferrier and dark Jedi Joruus C’baoth, Thrawn would push the New Republic to the precipice of defeat.
The Heir to the Empire trilogy introduced fans to a unique antagonist in Star Wars profiling akin to a blue-skinned space Sun Tzu. Unfortunately, Thrawn’s inability to combat the desire for power among his allies would prove the most significant detriment to his military career.