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Grand Admiral Thrawn Mandalorian Ahsoka
Grand Admiral Thrawn Mandalorian Ahsoka
Disney XD / courtesy Everett Collection

The first trailer for Disney+’s Ahsoka series confirmed what we hoped — and suspected — it would: Grand Admiral Thrawn is coming, and he’s gathering every Imperial remnant he can find.

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But who/what is a Thrawn? What makes him tick? And why did his appearance in the Ahsoka trailer cause such a stir at Star Wars Celebration?

Obviously, Thrawn is a huge deal, but only fans of animated Star Wars fare will have any reference for him as he appears in the current canon. Here, we quickly catch you up to speed on his wicked wheelings and dealings, ahead of his live-action debut (played again by Rebels voice cast member Lars Mikkelsen).

First, the basics: Thrawn (full name Mitth’raw’nuruodo) was born to the Chiss race before climbing the Imperial ladder. Cold, calculating, and terrifyingly strategic, Thrawn quickly gained a reputation for having an indispensable military mind. The character’s origins stretch back to Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire trilogy of novels, which pitted Luke Skywalker and friends against Thrawn years after Return of the Jedi.

First appearing in Star Wars Legends continuity before Disney acquired Lucasfilm, Thrawn (as voiced by Mikkelsen) didn’t enter official canon until the third season of Dave Filoni’s beloved animated series Star Wars Rebels, which aired on Disney XD from 2014 to 2018. Thrawn consistently outclassed his enemies with an effective mix of superior strategy, unmatched ruthlessness, and a haunting disregard for collateral damage.

We last saw Thrawn in the Star Wars Rebels series finale, “Family Reunion — and Farewell,” a packed two-parter that ended with young Ezra Bridger and Thrawn whisked away to parts unknown by hyperspace-traveling whales called purrgil (which were glimpsed again in Episode 2 of The Mandalorian Season 3).

The intervening years between his temporary defeat in the Rebels finale and his name drop in The Mandalorian Season 2 saw little to no mention of Thrawn. The bottom line? Thrawn has been missing but is very much alive. Ezra, too, remains at large, and will be played by Eman Esfandi.

Now that the Empire has crumbled and its surviving leaders, including Moff Gideon, are scrambling for power, Thrawn is perfectly poised to assume ultimate control. Put very simply: Not counting Palpatine and Vader, he’s the scariest Star Wars villain by a wide margin.

Want scoop on any Star Wars TV show? Email InsideLine@tvline.com and your question may be answered via Matt’s Inside Line.

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