The fictional world of Star Wars has had its fair share of big bosses who struck fear into the hearts of the heroes. But while we know that guys like Darth Vader and Palpatine have powers beyond imagination, we also know that one other villain stands out without needing to have any of those powers. We are talking about Grand Admiral Thrawn, now the biggest threat to the galaxy during the New Republic era.
Thrawn excels as a superb military commander with a mind that knows strategy better than anyone. He was blessed with the uncanny ability to get into his enemy’s mind so that he would know how they would react and move. As such, he has been incredibly dangerous in all his canon show appearances. So, with that said, let’s look at all of the different canon appearances of Grand Admiral Thrawn.
When does Thrawn appear in ‘Star Wars: Rebels’?
Fans of the old-school 90s Star Wars would be very familiar with Grand Admiral Thrawn because he was basically the villain who launched the extended universe of Star Wars after the end of the original trilogy.
He appeared in Timothy Zahn’s ‘Heir to the Empire’ novel, wherein he returned to the known galaxy after spending years on a secret mission in the Unknown Regions. Upon returning, he gave Luke and the other Rebel heroes trouble because he sparked an entire war, almost destroying the New Republic.
However, since the Disney acquisition of Lucasfilm, Thrawn’s story in the pre-Disney novels was no longer canon. Many people were disappointed because they loved Thrawn as he brought a different kind of villain into the Star Wars world. Unlike Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine, Thrawn’s biggest asset was his mind because his gift for strategy was unparalleled. And that was why he remains one of the most unique villains in Star Wars.
The good news, however, was that Thrawn was finally introduced as a canon character in Star Wars. This happened in ‘Star Wars: Rebels,’ a canon Star Wars series released in 2014. The storyline of ‘Rebels’ takes place just years before the events of ‘Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.’ In that regard, putting Thrawn in this series works perfectly fine regarding the character’s timeline.
In the series premiere of season 3, Thrawn was finally introduced as a canon character in Star Wars. Entitled ‘Steps into Shadow,’ this two-part season premiere was released on September 24, 2016. As such, Thrawn was now officially part of the Disney canon of Star Wars when he was introduced as the man that Palpatine trusted to hunt down the Rebels who have been giving the Empire trouble since season 1.
Of course, after Thrawn’s appearance in ‘Rebels,’ Timothy Zahn wrote more books about the character so that his backstory would be fleshed out as far as the canon is concerned. As such, the original books that he released in the 90s were no longer canon. Nevertheless, Lucasfilm trusted him well enough with his own creation to release new books detailing Thrawn’s history before he joined the Empire and his story before he appeared in ‘Rebels.’ And since he was made canon, he appeared in a few more Star Wars shows.
Thrawn in ‘Star Wars: Rebels’
As mentioned, Grand Admiral Thrawn first appeared in the current Star Wars canon in ‘Star Wars: Rebels.’ He appeared as the next big villain that the Spectres had to face during the events of the entire series. Before Thrawn, the Spectres faced Force-sensitive opponents strong in the dark side. This included the likes of the Grand Inquisitor, three other Inquisitors, Darth Maul, and even Darth Vader.
But after the deaths of all of the known Inquisitors and the incident between Ahsoka Tano and Darth Vader on Malachor V, someone big had to fill in the shoes left behind by the black-clad Sith Lord himself. And that was when Dave Filoni, the creator of ‘Rebels,’ started working with Zahn to bring in the legendary Grand Admiral Thrawn out of the Legends storyline and into the Star Wars canon.
In ‘Rebels,’ Emperor Palpatine gave Grand Admiral Thrawn the task of handling the Rebels who have given the Empire problems over the past few years. Thrawn took the mission without hesitation and tried to get as much information about his enemies as possible. So, during the earlier part of his ‘Rebels’ storyline, Thrawn used every opportunity to try to learn more about his enemies, as that has always been his modus operandi.
Thrawn proved how dangerous he was by putting the Rebels on the defensive every encounter they had. He even destroyed Chopper Base on Atollon. And he forced the Rebels into a defensive position once more in the season 4 finale.
But thanks to the quick thinking and heroic efforts of Ezra Bridger and his allies, they were finally able to outsmart Thrawn. Ezra’s heroic nature as a true Jedi was something that Thrawn couldn’t figure out, and that was how he was eventually defeated as Ezra sacrificed himself to banish Thrawn away from the galaxy using the power of the Purrgil.
Thrawn in ‘Ahsoka’
After his disappearance at the end of ‘Rebels,’ Grand Admiral Thrawn makes his live-action debut in ‘Ahsoka,’ which focuses on the storyline of Ahsoka Tano as she is trying to stop the Imperial remnants from starting a new war, with Thrawn leading them.
Morgan Elsbeth and those loyal to the Empire worked their tails off to find out where Thrawn was banished around ten years before the events of ‘Ahsoka.’ This takes them to an entirely different galaxy that only the Purrgil can reach under normal circumstances. As such, Thrawn and Ezra were taken there after the ending of the events of ‘Rebels.’
Thrawn, of course, is set to usher in a new era for the Imperial remnants as he will be the one who will bridge the gap between the fall of the Empire and the time of the First Order. The Imperial remnants know that he is the only one capable of uniting all of the different remnants all over the galaxy because he is the last Imperial warlord with the blessing and trust of none other than Emperor Palpatine himself.
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