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Who is Grand Admiral Thrawn? Everything you need to know about Ahsoka’s Star Wars villain

The major Imperial villain made his long-awaited return in this week’s episode of Ahsoka and Andy Silva dives deep into his history.

Disney XD’s “Star Wars Rebels” - Season Four

Ahsoka had dark premonitions about the return of Grand Admiral Thrawn. Despite the New Republic’s complacency and all of Ahsoka’s best efforts, “Far, Far Away,” the sixth episode of Ahsoka, indeed saw Thrawn’s grand return.

Forming an alliance with a group of Nightsisters he called Great Mothers paid dividends as Morgan Elsbeth, Baylan Skoll and Shin Hati, with Sabine Wren in tow as a prisoner, found Thrawn and his star destroyer complete with stormtroopers on Peridea. And that’s bad news for the galaxy.

But who is Grand Admiral Thrawn?

Initially introduced in Timothy Zahn’s 1991 novel Heir To The Empire, Grand Admiral Thrawn is a Chiss from the planet Rentor. He is a master strategist and his mind is considered a weapon almost equivalent to a Jedi’s ability to wield the Force. Unlike other Imperials, he actually studied his opponents’ histories, cultures and art, using them as a means to develop strategies and counterstrategies to eventually defeat them.

Upon Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm, Thrawn was de-canonized and relegated to non-official “Legends” status. But, Thrawn was a fan favorite and Dave Filoni re-introduced Thrawn into canon with the third season of Rebels, envisioning Thrawn as the big bad and part of the show’s endgame. According to IGN, Filoni said of Thrawn, “We want to treat him like a big time villain, as much as Darth Vader, but on the strategic, military side of things.”

Thrawn was a thorn in the Rebels side, including overseeing Imperial operations on the planets of Ryloth and Lothal as well as the pursuit of Mon Mothma, who was being spirted away by the Ghost after publicly speaking out against the Emperor. He uncovered Agent Kallus’ secret role as Fulcrum, a spy feeding intel to the Rebellion from inside the Empire, and also helped devise an upgrade to the Tie Defender, although that program stalled when the Empire’s fuel depot on Lothal was destroyed by Governor Pryce in an attempt to thwart the rescue of Hera Syndulla. Ultimately, Thrawn was sent into unknown space aboard his star destroyer the Chimaera when Ezra Bridger summoned purrgil and Thrawn was caught in their tentacles.

As it turns out, Ezra, Thrawn and the star destroyer were brought to Peridea by the purrgil. Thrawn may have been gone, but he was not forgotten, as he was name-dropped by Ahsoka in her appearance in the second-season episode of The Mandalorian, “The Jedi.” Ahsoka demands information regarding Thrawn’s whereabouts after defeating Elsbeth in a duel, which led directly into Ahsoka seeking out a mysterious star map and Elsbeth being broken out of New Republic incarceration at the beginning of this series.

Much like Anakin’s extended appearance last week, we knew in advance that Thrawn would be seen in this series, as Lars Mikkelsen was revealed as returning to the role earlier this year at Star Wars Celebration. However, that didn’t negate how cool it was to see him in live action and to hear his deliberate and unnervingly calm timbre once again.

With two episodes left, it remains to be seen whether or not Thrawn is indeed as dangerous a threat as Ahsoka feared and whether he will be defeated before this series wraps up or will go on to be a primary antagonist in Filoni’s announced Star Wars live-action movie that is in development.

Hit me on up on X at @ByAndySilva to let me know how excited you are to see Thrawn in live-action and what role you think he will play in the rest of this series and beyond!