The Mandalorian Season 2, episode 5 was full of references, jokes, and recurring characters. But while fans were expecting one of them, almost everyone was surprised when a beloved character mentioned Grand Admiral Thrawn.
In case you’re not into the broader Star Wars canon, here’s a quick introduction to Thrawn and everything you need to know about one of the most popular Star Wars villains.
[Ed. note: this post contains spoilers for The Mandalorian season 2 episode 5, as well as Star Wars: Rebels and the Thrawn novels]
Grand Admiral Thrawn is an Imperial officer who was first introduced to the Star Wars universe in Timothy Zahn’s novel, Legacy of the Empire. The novel and its two sequels, later known as the Thrawn Trilogy, took place shortly thereafter Return of the Jediand informed readers of what happened to the Galactic Empire in the years following the deaths of Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine. It turns out that happened to Thrawn.
While that original trilogy of novels was deconstructed when Disney bought the Star Wars franchise, Thrawn was reintroduced in Star Wars: Rebelsand given a number of new novels, also written by Zahn. These new novels reintroduce the blue-skinned Chiss as a brilliant tactician and a worthy, more strategically adept successor to Emperor Palpatine.
Zahn’s latest Thrawn books not only tell the same story as his original trilogy, which took place in a time now covered by Disney’s sequel trilogy, but also tell how Thrawn joined the Empire and how it meteorically developed through its ranks .
While Thrawn’s Imperial career is impressive, it is the aftermath of his days as a cadet that matters most to this final mention The Mandalorian. Thrawn’s first official reintroduction to Disney came in Star Wars: Rebels There he became one of the show’s main antagonists for the last two seasons, trying to quell the rebellion in its infancy.
In the finale of the show Thrawn competes Rebels Protagonist Ezra Bridger. While Ezra is aboard Thrawn’s command ship Chimaera, he catches Thrawn off guard by attacking his ship fleet purr, giant creatures with tentacles capable of hyperspace travel. In the final moments of the show, Thrawn and Bridger are both aboard the Chimaera when the mustache whisks them into space. Although both apparently survive the trip, we come to Thrawn’s precise mention in The Mandalorian.
In the latest episode called “The Jedi”, Mando and The Child (who now have a real name) go to the planet Corvus and meet former Jedi Ahsoka Tano. The last time we saw Tano on a Star Wars series was the end Rebelswhen she and the Mandalorian warrior Sabine Wren went in search of Ezra after jumping into hyperspace with the Purr.
It seems that the search is still ongoing, as Tano’s target is someone named Morgan Elsbeth, who has placed himself under the wing of Thrawn. Elsbeth was apparently an important figure in building the Imperial Navy fleet in the days of the Galactic Empire, which would surely explain why Thrawn loved her. Tano and Elsbeth compete against each other at the end of the episode, and when Tano wins, their only question is the whereabouts of Grand Admiral Thrawn.
While this doesn’t show exactly what Thrawn has been up to since our last visit, it does appear that he’s alive and possibly an important part of the Empire in its dwindling days. What’s more, given the time after the Jedi returned from The MandalorianIt seems entirely possible that, if Thrawn is still active, he could have been a key figure in the Empire’s transition to the First Order.
No matter what he’s involved in, there is no doubt that it matters. And based on The MandalorianIn recent history, which only mentions characters for them to show up a few episodes later, it seems possible that Grand Admiral Thrawn will soon make his live-action debut and return to the Star Wars universe.