Grand Admiral Thrawn in the animated series 'Star Wars Rebels'

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

Grand Admiral Thrawn is officially returning to the Star Wars universe in Ahsoka. While Thrawn has yet to make his first onscreen appearance in the show, he was spotted in the first official trailer for Ahsoka when it 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.

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Thrawn’s face was initially not shown in the Ahsoka trailer, leaving the actor who played him a mystery. However, Star Wars Rebels fans could recognize that white admiral coat, dark hair, and Chiss blue skin anywhere. Additionally, the trailer insinuated that Thrawn would be the main villain in Ahsoka and 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.

Spoilers for Ahsoka ahead!

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Who is Grand Admiral Thrawn in Ahsoka?

Lars Mikkelsen as Grand Admiral Thrawn in Ahsoka

After Ahsoka‘s trailer confirmed Thrawn’s appearance, it was subsequently revealed that he would be portrayed by his original Star Wars Rebels voice actor, Mikkelsen. Unfortunately, Thrawn did not physically appear in Ahsoka’s two-episode premiere on August 22, but viewers did hear of him. The show confirmed that Tano, Hera Syndulla (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and Wren now believe what viewers already know—that Thrawn survived the Battle of Lothal. Additionally, it revealed where Thrawn has been since Star Wars Rebels.

In the first episode, Tano gets her hands on a star map that holds the key to Thrawn’s location. However, Tano isn’t the only one searching for Thrawn. Former Jedi Baylan Skoll (Ray Stevenson) and his apprentice Shin Hati (Ivanna Sakhno) are also seeking Thrawn and liberate his supporter (and Tano’s prisoner) Elsbeth to search for him. After stealing the map from Wren, Elsbeth deciphers it and reveals that Thrawn was carried to an entirely different galaxy called Peridea by the purgill, where he (and presumably Ezra Bridger) has been trapped since Star Wars Rebels. This reveal was quite startling, as Star Wars has never ventured to another galaxy before.

Now, Elsbeth is preparing to make the trip between galaxies through the Pathway to Peridea. She and her followers are building a ship called Eye of Sion that will be capable of extragalactic travel. While Thrawn is in Peridea, viewers have no idea what is beyond the main Star Wars galaxy and who or what he has found in this galaxy over the years. Given that it is insinuated that the Nightsisters of Dathomir knew of Peridea, though, there’s already one connection that the galaxy has to dark magic.

What’s most concerning is that Elsbeth claimed to hear Thrawn calling to her from across galaxies. Thrawn is no Jedi or Force-user, raising the question of how he could’ve possibly been communicating with Elsbeth across space and time. Perhaps Thrawn has found something or someone more powerful than himself on Peridea that he’s using to communicate with Elsbeth and plan his return.

Grand Admiral Thrawn’s Star Wars history

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 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 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 the premiere of Ahsoka, Thrawn’s return to the Star Wars universe is drawing closer. Considering that he has had years and an entirely new galaxy to build and explore resources and power, there’s no telling what his return might hold.

(featured image: Disney+)

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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is a Staff Writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, literature, and celebrity news. She has over three years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant, JustWatch, 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.