Who is Grand Admiral Thrawn? Star Wars villain explained

Grand Admiral Thrawn.Marvel Comics

The following is everything we know about Grand Admiral Thrawn, who was mentioned in today’s episode of The Mandalorian, and is soon to appear in forthcoming Star Wars series Ahsoka.

Grand Admiral Thrawn is one of the most popular characters in all of Star Wars. Yet the villain is yet to appear in any of the live-action movies or shows.

That’s about to change thanks to a conversation in today’s episode of The Mandalorian. As well as the recent Ahsoka trailer, where Thrawn (very briefly) made his live-action debut.

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Here’s everything we know about the character, from his various appearances in the larger Star Wars universe, to his rise through the ranks of the Empire.

Who is Grand Admiral Thrawn?

Thrawn is a member of the Chiss race who was born on the Planet Rentor in the Unknown Regions.

The official Star Wars site describes him as the Moriarty of the SW universe, “a villain who uses his powers of observation to control and manipulate his enemies. He uses his interest in the art and culture of varied species to his own advantage, pinpointing weaknesses based on his deductions.”

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Grand Admiral Thrawn in Star WarsLucasfilm

Thrawn’s journey is intertwined with Anakin Skywalker’s, which is why Emperor Palpatine allowed him to join the Empire, where he quickly rose through the ranks.

“His cruel efficiency and ruthless observations were exactly the sort of traits an Imperial officer needed,” says StarWars.com. “His first assignment was as a weapons officer, where his creative problem-solving left him under the threat of a court martial. But he could talk and think his way out of almost any trouble, and his illustrious and well-connected career led him to the Grand Admiral title before the first Death Star was even completed.”

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When did Thrawn make his Star Wars debut?

Grand Admiral Thrawn first appeared in a trilogy of novels written by Timothy Zahn in the early 1990s – ‘Heir to the Empire’ (1991), ‘Dark Force Rising’ (1992), and ‘The Last Command’ (1993).

He then popped up in multiple novels, short stories, comics, and video games throughout that decade and on into the 2000s. In September 2016, Thrawn debuted in the Star Wars Rebels animated series, where he was voiced by Lars Mikkelsen.

More recently, Zahn has written more novels dedicated to the character, via the ‘Thrawn Trilogy’ from 2017-2019, and the ‘Thrawn Ascendancy Trilogy’ from 2020-2021.

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Thrawn in The Mandalorian

Thrawn was first mentioned by Ahsoka Tano in Season 2 Episode 5 of The Mandalorian. While during a meeting with the Shadow Council in Episode 7 of Season 3 – which dropped today – we learned that he has gone missing.

“Grand Admiral Thrawn’s return will herald the reemergence of our military,” says Captain Pellaeon. “And provide Commandant Hux enough time to deliver on Project Nercromancer.”

Moff Gideon points out that Grand Admiral Thrawn is once again missing from Pallaeon’s delegation. “Any word on when he will be able to participate in the Shadow Council,” Gideon asks sarcastically.

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Pallaeon responds by claiming “Our one hope for success relies upon the secrecy of his return.” To which Gideon responds “I hear whispers from one end of the galaxy to the other, and never a word of Thrawn. You have spoken of his imminent return. Perhaps it’s time we look to new leadership.”

That’s the last we hear of Grand Admiral Thrawn in the episode, but this is just the beginning for the live-action iteration of the beloved character.

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Thanks to Star Wars Celebration over the weekend, we now know that as well as showing up in The Mandalorian, Thrawn will appear in the forthcoming Ahsoka series. He will be played by Lars Mikkelsen, who also voiced the character in Rebels.

Meaning there’s lots of Thrawn to look forward to in the near future. In the meantime, you can check out the rest of our Star Wars coverage here.