Who is Thrawn in Star Wars: “heir to the Empire”?

Thrawn is formally making a comeback to the Star Wars world and making his first-ever live-action appearance. The alien admiral is one of the most well-known and adored extended universe and book characters in Star Wars history, and after being mentioned in The Mandalorian, it appears he’ll play a significant part as the major antagonist in Ahsoka Tano’s new Disney Plus series.

Even in the series’ first teaser, which Disney and Lucasfilm debuted at Star Wars Celebration 2023, he makes a brief appearance. This is a quick introduction to Thrawn and everything you need to know about one of Star Wars’ most infamous villains in case you aren’t up to speed on the larger, non-movie Star Wars mythology.

Who is Thrawn in Star Wars: “heir to the Empire”?

Why is Thrawn the “heir to the Empire”?

In Timothy Zahn’s 1991 book Heir to the Empire, Grand Admiral Thrawn—an Imperial officer—was first presented to the Star Wars world. The Thrawn trilogy, which later included the novel and its two sequels, is set not long after the events of Return of the Jedi. Readers were informed about what occurred to the Galactic Empire in the years following Darth Vader’s and Emperor Palpatine’s purported deaths by Zahn’s books. Thrawn, as it turned out, did occur.

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When Disney acquired the Star Wars brand, the original trilogy of books was declared canon no more, but Thrawn was brought back in Star Wars: Rebels and given a new set of novels written by Zahn. The blue-skinned Chiss, a humanoid alien species from the planet Csilla, were once again introduced in these books as a cunning tactician and a deserving, more capable successor to Emperor Palpatine.

Zahn’s most recent Thrawn books chronicle the tale of how Thrawn joined the Empire and his quick ascent through its ranks rather than rehashing his original trilogy, which was set within a time period now covered by Disney’s sequel trilogy. Thrawn made his first appearance after leaving Disney in Star Wars: Rebels, where he went on to serve as the series’ main antagonist for the final two seasons while trying to put an end to the rebellion.

Thrawn squares up against Ezra Bridger, the main character of Rebels, in the show’s climax. Ezra surprises Thrawn by assaulting his fleet of ships with purrgil, enormous tentacled creatures capable of traveling through hyperspace, while aboard Thrawn’s command ship, the Chimaera.

Thrawn and Bridger are both on board the Chimaera when the purrgil zaps it into outer space in the last moments of the show. It appears that both of them make it through the expedition, which is most likely how Thrawn is mentioned in The Mandalorian.

What Part Does Thrawn Play in the Ahsoka and Mandalorian?

Din Djarin and Grogu visit the planet Corvus in “The Jedi,” episode five of The Mandalorian’s second season, where they meet Ahsoka Tano, a former Jedi. In the episode, Tano states that she is trying to find the Grand Admiral’s current whereabouts by locating a person Thrawn took under his wing.

She doesn’t specifically state why she wants to locate Thrawn, but it’s presumably related to the whereabouts of Ezra Bridger. Before now, Tano had only made a cameo towards the conclusion of Rebels, when she and the Mandalorian warrior Sabine Wren were on their way to find Bridger.

Whatever the cause, it appears that Ahsoka’s search for Thrawn will be crucial to the storyline of her Disney Plus series. This is made much clearer in the first Ahsoka teaser, which reveals that Thrawn is returning and attempting to resuscitate Palpatine and restore the Empire.

Who Will Take the Role of Grand Admiral Thrawn?

The main unanswered query regarding Thrawn’s position in the Star Wars universe created by Disney is certainly this one. Although actors have lied about their roles in blockbuster movies previously, the fact that Thrawn voice actor Lars Mikkelsen has stated that he is not playing the character in live-action opens the door for a variety of options.

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Disney might choose a well-liked character actor for the part, or it could use stunt casting and choose a well-known celebrity. But for the time being, we’ll simply have to wait and see which way Disney decides to turn.

Though it’s still unclear how Thrawn’s plot will fit into the larger narrative and how it will relate to the Empire, the First Order, or even the stories of Ezra and Sabine, the good news is that we won’t have to wait long to find out. The time is drawing near for Thrawn’s return to Star Wars and his live-action debut. This summer, Ahsoka will debut on Disney Plus.


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