Who is Thrawn, and why is he such a big deal?
The writer Timothy Zahn created the grand admiral for his 1991 Star Wars novel “Heir to the Empire” and has written multiple books featuring Thrawn since. The character debuted on-screen on the animated series “Star Wars: Rebels” in 2016, matching his reputation from the books as a brilliant military strategist.
“Ahsoka” has doubled as a sort of “Rebels” reunion, with characters such as Sabine Wren (Natasha Liu Bordizzo) and Hera Syndulla (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) prominently featured. It only made sense Thrawn would show up too.
In “Ahsoka” Thrawn is played by actor Lars Mikkelsen, who also voiced the blue-skin, red-eyed character on “Rebels” — a pleasant surprise for Star Wars fans who hoped he might reprise the role.
Thrawn’s appearance in ‘Ahsoka’
Thrawn made his highly anticipated debut on the planet of Peridea, where Morgan Elsbeth (Diana Lee Inosanto), her Dark Jedi mercenaries Baylan Skoll (Ray Stevenson) and Shin Hati (Ivanna Sakhno) and their willing prisoner Sabine Wren met him after an impossibly long trip across galaxies.
The strategizing begins immediately. Thrawn demands to know why Baylan Skoll, whose name he instantly recognizes as a former general in the Jedi Order, and Shin Hati have brought a prisoner with them. But when he learns that prisoner is none other than his frequent foe Sabine Wren, he changes tune, encouraging those who have brought Sabine to him to let her out into the wilds of Peridea in hopes she’ll draw out the one pawn he has yet to account for: Ezra Bridger. The thinking being, if Sabine can find Ezra, Thrawn can kill them both.
Just as surprising as Thrawn’s introductory moment into live action is the discovery that Ezra has been hiding from him on Peridea the entire time he’s been stuck on the planet. Sabine finds him quickly, but when Ezra asks her how she did it, she doesn’t have the heart to tell him she made a deal that will likely unleash Thrawn on the rest of the galaxy.
When Thrawn gets word that Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson) is a space whale trip away from joining the party on Peridea, he shows his first signs of annoyance. No sooner is he on his way to take his place as the galaxy’s new authority than he’s got rebels coming at him from every corner. Thrawn commands his forces to be ready for her.
What Thrawn’s appearance could mean for Star Wars
With two episodes remaining, there are only a few major events that this first season of “Ahsoka” has to offer. Thrawn and his forces now have a means to escape Peridea and wreak havoc on the universe, but he must do it knowing a clash with Ahsoka is all but certain. And Ezra and Sabine still have a potential rebels’ reunion with Ahsoka.
Thrawn’s arrival could signal the beginning of the end. Earlier this year Disney announced that all of the current Star Wars streaming series on Disney Plus will wrap up in a movie directed by Dave Filoni. That film’s major villain is likely already here.