After being sidelined last week to give space to Ahsoka’s reunion with her old master, the baddies were back in a big way this week in “Far, Far Away.” And that includes Grand Admiral Thrawn making his long-awaited return on Peridea.
What does that grand return mean for the galaxy and the remainder of this series? Let’s dive in and find out.
Thrawn’s Grand return
Just like last week, let’s get right to it — Grand Admiral Thrawn is back. For those who are unfamiliar, Thrawn is unlike any other villain in Star Wars — one whose greatest weapon is not the Force or a lightsaber or a blaster, but rather his mind. Upon the character’s return to canon in the third season of the Rebels animated series, Dave Filoni told IGN 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.” And it appears that mental acuity has not diminished in his time in exile.
We discover that Thrawn has entered into an alliance with the Great Mothers, a group of Nightsisters remaining on their ancestral home of Peridea, in an attempt for both groups to get out of this exile. It was the Great Mothers who called out to their sister Morgan Elsbeth to guide her across the stars to find Thrawn.
Shortly after arriving, Thrawn’s star destroyer looks a bit worse for wear, and that is mirorred by the state of his battalion of men. Led by his captain Enoch, there is a real cult-like vibe going on, with the men chanting Thrawn’s name as he walks through them in a way that is evocative of the Emperor walking among Imperials on the second Death Star (the way the troopers are lined up itself also is reminiscent of the way the clones were lined up at the end of Attack of the Clones). There’s something very disquieting about the way these troopers seem so devoted to Thrawn, even after all their years in exile, almost as if they are treating him as some type of God. Not to mention the golden face plate on Enoch’s helmet. That was just creepy. It will bear watching just how devoted and what lengths Enoch and Thrawn’s men will go to in his name.
Thrawn is the same as ever, smoothly thanking the Great Mothers for their role in his impending return from exile, although there is always that undercurrent just beneath the surface where you are wondering what game Thrawn is playing with them. Similarly, Thrawn is not getting this help for nothing and is in fact helping the Great Mothers transport something back to his galaxy, although what that is remains to be seen. Similarly, Thrawn seems to be playing a game of chess with Baylan and Shin, immediately pointing out that Baylan was once General Baylan Skoll of the Jedi Order. Baylan notes that he left the Jedi Order a long time ago, but the tension seems to be there between these “allies” and it seems to be only a matter of time before each side looks to burn the other (indeed, later in this very episode both sides indicate their greater plans don’t necessarily involve the other).
Thrawn had long used his opponents as pawns in his game, and that didn’t change here with Sabine as he agrees with Baylan that she could be of use. He nominally agrees to honor Baylan’s agreement from the fourth episode of the series and is willing to let her walk away and pursue her goal of finding her long-lost friend Ezra Bridger (in fact, he is even willing to give her provisions, a mount and whatever intel he has). He plays mind games with her, noting that he has her to thank for his impending return from exile and that Sabine’s singular focus on finding Ezra will reshape the galaxy. Clearly, he is going back to his old playbook of allowing his enemies to do his dirty work, as he wants to use Sabine to find Ezra so he can destroy them both, or at the very least strand them on Peridea forever. As Thrawn reminds Morgan later on, their primary objective is to leave Peridea and it doesn’t matter to him whether Ezra and Sabine are killed or just stranded ... and he’s not concerned about bring back Baylan and Shin either, for that matter.
A Jedi, but not
Speaking of Baylan, we got more insight this week into what Baylan’s motives and characteristics are.
Throughout the episode, Baylan talks about the Jedi Order of his youth. In describing Peridea as a land of dreams and madness, children’s stories come to life, Baylan almost wistfully notes that Shin isn’t affected because she didn’t hear those stories growing up in the Jedi Temple. He tells her that when he was barely older than her he watched everything he knew burn (the purge of the Jedi Temple following Order 66) and at the time he couldn’t make sense of it, but as he’s gotten older and studied history more, he has come to find that the fall of the Jedi and rise of the Empire was inevitable and is bound to repeat again and again. Shin, once again seeming closer to the dark side than Baylan, asks if their alliance with Thrawn will finally bring them into power, but Baylan points out that kind of power is fleeting and he is instead seeking the beginning so he can bring this cycle to an end. This calls back to the way he described his motives to Ahsoka as being necessary for a greater purpose, although they also show once again that although he may still hold true to some of his old Jedi teachings he also has strayed from them as well and has been tainted by some elements traditionally attributed to the Sith.
Later in the episode, Shin asks Baylan if he knew Ezra, but no he did not as he was too young and raised by Kanan Jarrus as a bokken Jedi raised in the wild during the age of the Empire. Shin attempts to draw a parallel between herself and Ezra, but Baylan shoots that down quickly noting that Ezra was trained as a Jedi, while he trained her to be something more. When asked by Shin if he misses the Jedi Order, Baylan initially scoffs, but admits he misses the idea of it, but not the weakness. He believes there was no future in it, and when almost questioned by Shin on the future he is seeing on Peridea given that the Great Mothers seem so eager to leave, he tells her that perhaps they are fleeing a power greater than their own and something is calling to him and stirring here. Can’t she see and hear it? In these comments, and in his subsequent move to suggest temporarily allying with raiders who had previously attacked Sabine under the tenet of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” Baylan is displaying his own lust for power that goes against the Jedi teachings he was brought up on and that will likely be his downfall.
Sabine is paying the price for her decision to place her loyalty to Ezra above the greater needs of the galaxy as the episode begins. She is dismayed that she is being held in a cell, and she reminds Baylan continuously that they had a deal and he promised that she would get to see Ezra again. It seems naive that she would truly believe that Baylan would be 100 percent true to his word, but that seems to be the case here.
When questioned by Morgan about Sabine, Baylan says her focus on finding Ezra blinds her and that she will still be of some use to them — either foreshadowing Thrawn’s thinking or previewing his argument in favor of bringing Sabine with them in an attempt to defend himself.
Eventually after being given what she was promised by Thrawn, and being told to die well by Enoch (reminiscent of the way Maul told his Mandalorian commandos to die well in The Clone Wars during the Siege of Mandalorian), Sabine begins to trevail the wastelands of Peridea. Shin points out that Sabine is on a fool’s errand, and Thrawn agrees and tells her and Baylan to pursue her at their own pace. Shin is surprised that Baylan is going along with this, but Thrawn points out that he is honoring the deal and that Sabine will have the opportunity to find Ezra, but if she does they will destroy them both (betraying Thrawn’s true endgame in letting Sabine simply walk away).
Indeed, Sabine is attacked quickly by bandits, but fights them off thanks to her Mandalorian armor, weapons and most importantly, Ezra’s Jedi lightsaber. She is angry with her howler that it abandoned her in the fight, but the howler follows her like a little lost puppy and it makes the most of the second chance she gives it by sniffing out a little space turtle, using its shell to hide in plain sight as a rock.
The space turtle, seemingly described in closed captioning as a Noti, is initially afraid of her, but she coaxes it out and it recognizes the Rebellion/New Republic symbol on her shoulder pauldron as it has the same symbol on a necklace. That gives her hope that the Noti knows Ezra and can lead her to him. After more of the Noti pop up and have a brief meeting, she convinces them to take her to Ezra as she is his friend. The Noti are somewhat reminiscent of the Ewoks from Return of the Jedi, although it should be noted that the Noti don’t seem to be planning on sacrificing their new friends to their golden god.
The Noti, true heroes in a half shell, bring Sabine to their encampment and there she is finally reunited with Ezra, who says he knew he could count on her, although he jokes that it took her long enough. They get back into their well-worn banter, with her jokingly chastising that he always had a plan but never a good one. He points out it worked didn’t it? ... Didn’t it? She confirms that it did, in fact, work, and they emotionally embrace. Of course, their joyful reunion is short-lived before Sabine is faced with the consequences of her choice to allow the bad guys to find Thrawn so she could find Ezra. She deflects when he asks how she found him and the knife is further twisted in her gut when he thanks her for coming and tells her that he can’t wait to go home. She better come up with a plan to get them home quick, or she’ll just be a familar face in a permanently strange place.
The episode ends with the Great Mothers summoning Thrawn and revealing some most unwelcome news — another is approaching, a Jedi.
Thrawn is clipped in response, immediately recognizing that Morgan and her minions did not kill Ahsoka as they have claimed to. Morgan says this is impossible, as Baylan assured her that Ahsoka was dead, but Thrawn chastises her that he thought it was beyond her to underestimate a Jedi — especially considering that death and resurrection are common deceptions, he says, among Nightsister and Jedi both. Thrawn points out that Baylan was once a Jedi, and thus they have to consider him flawed and presume Ahsoka is alive until they have evidence suggesting otherwise.
Thrawn demands all the information he can get on Ahsoka — her background, her history, her homeworld, her master, everything. Oh, and if a purrgil approaches, go ahead and destroy it with prejudice. And Thrawn closes the episode ominously noting to the Great Mothers that he will require the aid of their dark magick once again. A showdown is coming.
- Given that seemingly everyone else is aware of the fact, how is it that the great genius Thrawn does not already know all about Ahsoka’s apprenticeship under Anakin Skywalker? And how will he utilize her relationship with Anakin/Vader in his mind games and will it work now that she seemingly has found peace with it all following her time in the World Between Worlds.
- Ezra very much resembles his father as he was seen in flashbacks and dreams in Rebels.
- I understand Sabine was upset with her howler for abandoning her at the first sign of trouble, but if it were me I would not be so eager to send away my only form of transportation on a foreign planet in an entirely different galaxy. Just sayin’.
- Shin seems to have an unusual amount of animosity toward Sabine. I recognize that they’ve dueled and that Sabine bested her, but she is seemingly always glowering at the Mandalorian woman and eager to see her suffer.
- We saw very little of Ahsoka this week, which was to be expected after an episode almost entirely focused on her last week. After being more buoyant after her experience with Anakin, she seemed more introspective this week, clearly troubled by the decision Sabine made. She laments not having more time to prepare Sabine to make the right choice, and seemingly doesn’t want to hear it when Huyang suggests that for Sabine that might have been the only choice.
- It was cool to have the episode open with Huyang delivering the “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away” line. A nice little wink and a nod.
Well, that’s it. Was Thrawn’s return worth the wait? Hit me up on X at @ByAndySilva to let me know what you thought of “Far, Far Away” and how you’re feeling as we enter the homestretch for this series.