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Who is Grand Admiral Thrawn? The Mandalorian villain explained

An old Star Wars foe may be making a shock return in the Disney+ series.

Lars Mikkelsen's Grand Admiral Thrawn in Star Wars Rebels (Disney)

If the return of Ahsoka Tano and the reveal of Baby Yoda’s real name weren’t enough excitement for Star Wars fans, the latest episode of Disney+’s The Mandalorian also adds another intriguing piece of information to the action that’s sure to have viewers scratching their heads.

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Towards the end of the episode, as Ahsoka (Rosario Dawson) took on the Magistrate, we found out exactly what information the ex-Jedi had been looking for on Corvus – the location of a certain Grand Admiral Thrawn.

To fans of Star Wars spin-off media (specifically the books and animated series) the name will have enormous significance – but who is Thrawn? Why is Ahsoka looking for him, and why is he important in Star Wars?

Find out everything you need to know below…

Who is Grand Admiral Thrawn?

Admiral Thrawn

In the world of Star Wars, Grand Admiral Thrawn (real name Mitth’raw’nuruodo, so eat your heart out ‘Grogu’) is an alien (from a species called the Chiss) who serves as a senior officer within the Empire.

Noted for his ruthlessness and tactical acumen, Thrawn makes a point of “knowing his enemy” to the extent that he spends considerable time researching a species’ philosophy, art and culture, turning this information to his advantage in a storied military career.

“Most of the Imperial leaders we see in the movies rule through a combination of fear and manipulation,” Thrawn creator Timothy Zahn said in a 2017 interview. “I wanted to create something different: a commander who could lead through loyalty.

“The result was Thrawn, a tactical genius whose troops follow him willingly, and who will fight for him whether or not he’s watching over their shoulders.”

However, exactly when Thrawn’s battles take place is a little confusing – because there are (sort of) two Thrawns.

The character was originally invented by Zahn in his official Star Wars novel Heir to the Empire, the first of his “Thrawn trilogy” which chronicled events after 1983 movie Return of the Jedi.

In short, Thrawn was the big threat faced by Luke, Leia and Han after they defeated Vader and the Emperor, picking up the pieces of the Empire and organising them into a significant new threat before eventually being defeated.

However, that storyline (and indeed all the Expanded Universe Star Wars books) has since been de-canonised. When Disney bought LucasFilm, all the official Star Wars books set after Return of the Jedi were wiped from the slate, rechristened “Star Wars Legends” as they planned their own film sequel trilogy.

Thrawn – like Jacen and Jaina Solo, Ben Skywalker, Lowie and the rest – no longer existed officially. At least, to begin with – because as many Star Wars heroes have learned, Thrawn is pretty hard to kill.

Admiral Thrawn in Star Wars Rebels

You see, due to his popularity with fans Thrawn was revived in the “official” continuity within animated series Star Wars Rebels, hunting down Hera Syndulla, Ezra Bridger and the other characters across space while voiced by Sherlock’s Lars Mikkelsen.

Thrawn was also brought back in a new series of books by his original creator Timothy Zahn, meaning he was firmly ensconced within Star Wars lore once more – albeit quite a few years earlier in stories set before 1977’s A New Hope, rather than after Return of the Jedi as in his earlier appearances.

In his final Star Wars Rebels appearance, Thrawn apparently vanished after young Jedi Ezra turned the Force-sensitive space whales the Purrgil against his Star Destroyer, dragging both Thrawn and Ezra through hyperspace to places unknown.

However, it now seems that Thrawn may have survived after all…

Will Grand Admiral Thrawn appear in The Mandalorian?

Rosario Dawson
Rosario Dawson as Ahsoka Tano in The Mandalorian (Disney)

“Now tell me…where is your master? Where is Grand Admiral Thrawn?”

It’s certainly possible Thrawn could make his way to Disney+. Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels characters have already been translated from animation to the live-action series this year (most notably Katee Sackhoff’s Bo-Katan and Dawson as Ahsoka Tano), and given Thrawn’s popularity and mysterious fate he’d be ripe for a new storyline.

Maybe they could even get Lars Mikkelsen back to play Thrawn – or, as with Dawson, they could find a different actor to play the live-action version. Either way, we’re sure fans would be happy.

But what could happen if he does turn up? Well, when last we saw Ahsoka in Star Wars Rebels she was on the hunt for the missing Ezra, so maybe her search for Thrawn ties into this quest. Given that they disappeared together, wouldn’t they be found together? And in that case, could that mean we’ll be getting a live-action Ezra Bridger as well?

Alternatively, is Ahsoka after Thrawn for some other reason – and if he is out there, does he have any connection to Moff Gideon and his Empire loyalists? Or does he have another plan of his own?

To find out, we’ll have to keep watching The Mandalorian, and who knows? Maybe Ahsoka is just the first of many Star Wars returns.

Check out our latest The Mandalorian review now. Want to know more about The Mandalorian castThe Mandalorian release schedule or when is The Mandalorian set? Check out our suite of content on RadioTimes.com.

New episodes of The Mandalorian are available on Disney+ on Fridays – sign up to Disney+ for £5.99 a month or save 15% with the annual plan for £59.99 (savings based on 12 mo. of monthly subscription). T&Cs apply.

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