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‘Ahsoka’s Shadowy Villain Is a ‘Star Wars’ Legend

Lars Mikkelsen as Grand Admiral Thrawn in Star Wars Rebels

Grand Admiral Thrawn is officially returning to the Star Wars universe in the upcoming live-action Ahsoka series. The first official trailer for Ahsoka was released on April 7, 2023 as part of this year’s Star Wars Celebration. While the trailer offered exciting glimpses of Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson) and Sabine Wren (Natasha Liu Bordizzo), and teased the return of Mon Mothma (Genevieve Reilly) and Morgan Elsbeth (Diana Lee Inosanto), it was Thrawn’s reveal that particularly excited fans.

Thrawn’s face is not shown in the Ahsoka trailer, leaving the actor who plays him a mystery. However, fans of Star Wars Rebels could recognize that white admiral coat, dark hair, and Chiss blue skin anywhere. Additionally, the trailer insinuates that Thrawn is the main villain in Ahsoka and has been reunited with one of his most loyal allies, Elsbeth. Tano refers to Thrawn as the “Heir to the Empire” and seems deeply unsettled by his return. More casual fans may wonder who Thrawn is and where he has been, considering he hasn’t appeared in a Star Wars project since 2018—aside from a mention in The Mandalorian. Here’s everything you need to know about Thrawn.

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Who is Grand Admiral Thrawn?

Grand Admiral Thrawn in the Ahsoka trailer

Thrawn’s full name is actually Mitth’raw’nuruodo, and he belongs to the Chiss, a Near-Human species in the Star Wars universe. Chiss have characteristic blue hair, red eyes, and dark bluish-black hair. Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about learning how to pronounce Mitth’raw’nuruodo because he goes by his core Chiss name, Thrawn. The reason why it’s so exciting to hear Ahsoka call him “Heir to the Empire” is because Thrawn was first introduced in the Legends canon in 1991 in the Heir to the Empire trilogy by Timothy Zahn. That story takes place in the same timeline as Ahsoka (five years after Return of the Jedi) and follows the diabolic and brilliant military strategist Thrawn as he rallies the Imperial remnants in a bid to take down the New Republic.

Over two decades later, the Star Wars franchise made Thrawn canon by debuting him in Star Wars Rebels, in which he was voiced by Lars Mikkelsen. In the series, it is revealed that Thrawn pledged his allegiance to the Empire shortly after the fall of the Republic. He quickly launched a successful military career in the Imperial Navy and rose to the rank of Grand Admiral. Thrawn didn’t have many friends, but his ruthlessness and skills as a military strategist made him an asset to the Empire: He was assigned command of the 7th Fleet, which was sent to the Lothal sector on a special assignment to crush the rising rebellion.

However, in 0 BBY, during a battle on Lothal between Thrawn’s fleet and Hera Syndulla (Vanessa Marshall)’s rebel forces, Thrawn was defeated and Lothal was liberated. During the conflict, both Thrawn and Ezra Bridger (Taylor Gray) were carried into hyperspace by a purrgil and subsequently disappeared. It was confirmed shortly after Star Wars Rebels‘ conclusion that both characters were alive, and fans have been patiently waiting for Thrawn’s return ever since.

With Ahsoka featuring Star Wars Rebels characters Bridger (Eman Esfandi), Wren, and Syndulla (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), it really was just a matter of time before Thrawn resurfaced. It’s very exciting, though, that Ahsoka seems prepared to delve into the Legends canon and retell the story in which Thrawn nearly inherited the Empire by attempting to take down the New Republic.

(featured image: Disney XD)

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Rachel Ulatowski is an SEO writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, YA literature, celebrity news, and coming-of-age films. She has over two years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.