Lars Mikkelsen's Grand Admiral Thrawn was told that Anakin Skywalker was Ahsoka Tano's master in Episode 7 of Disney+'s Ahsoka, which caused him to react in a mysterious way. Did Thrawn actually know Anakin when he was still alive, or had he just heard stories of the former Jedi Knight?
Many fans instantly questioned Thrawn's reaction when he looked at the datapad and saw Anakin's name.
In short, they not only knew each other but even worked side-by-side on multiple occasions.
Luckily, the page-turning side of Star Wars canon is able to provide some answers on just what kind of relationship the two figures had at one point in time.
How Did Anakin Meet Thrawn
Timothy Zahn published three extremely popular Star Wars novels in the 1990s, now known as the Heir to the Empire trilogy.
However, Zahn was officially brought on by Disney and Lucasfilm to pen more novels in the late 2010s. These books are all a part of the Star Wars canon, and the first three books consisted of Thrawn, Thrawn: Alliances, and Thrawn: Treason.
These novels all provided a lot of unknown backstories on Thrawn's character, but Thrawn: Alliances in particular also featured a lot of Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader.
During the flashback chapters in Alliances, it was revealed that Thrawn and Anakin actually met one another near the planet Batuu (yes, the same place that Disney's Galaxy's Edge is based on).
At this point in time, Thrawn was not a member of the Empire simply because there obviously wasn't an Empire.
Instead, Thrawn, who is known as a Chiss, was still a huge part of the Chiss Ascendancy in the Unknown Regions at this point and secretly ventured to Batuu in search of allies for the coming war on his people.
After Thrawn ran into Anakin, who was going to Batuu to find his missing wife, Padme Amidala, the two agreed to help one another. If Thrawn would help Anakin find Padme, Anakin would give Thrawn information about the Clone Wars and the Republic as a whole.
The two ended up working together for a greater portion of the book, and ultimately found Padme. Anakin held up his end of the deal as well, which allowed Thrawn to return to the Chiss Ascendancy with the new knowledge he gained from Anakin.
Were Thrawn and Anakin Friends?
It is also important to note that their meeting during the Clone Wars caused both Anakin and Thrawn to develop a great respect for one another.
They wouldn't be necessarily categorized as friends, but both of them could have failed their respective missions if they hadn't helped each other.
However, Anakin's relationship with Thrawn did eventually pay off in a major way, as it ended up becoming the main reason that Emperor Palpatine let Thrawn serve as a ranking officer once the Empire was established.
The Chiss Ascendancy eventually sent away Thrawn once the Imperial reign started, but in actuality, it was all part of a greater plan by the Chiss to learn more about the galaxy under the Empire's fist.
Thrawn was eventually captured by the Empire but remembered Anakin from their meeting on Batuu.
After mentioning Anakin's name to Palpatine himself, the Emperor was immediately interested in Thrawn's knowledge of the former Jedi Knight. He told Thrawn that Anakin was dead, which actually saddened the eventual Grand Admiral, but Palpatine noted Thrawn's respect for his now-apprentice.
Thrawn and Palpatine eventually came to an agreement. Thrawn would give Palpatine any knowledge he had on the Unknown Regions and in return Palpatine would let him into the Imperial Navy as one of the only aliens in the entire Empire, and the sole one to ever be in Palpatine's inner circle.
After Thrawn continued to prove his loyalty to Palpatine and the Empire, he finally became the Grand Admiral that fans know on-screen.
After Thrawn was named Grand Admiral, Palpatine even took advantage of Thrawn and Anakin's past relationship.
He actually sent the two of them (at this point Anakin is now Darth Vader) on a mission together, and the planet that the mission took place on was none other than Batuu, where the two characters first met during the Clone Wars.
This only furthered (and arguably complicated) the relationship between the two characters since Anakin was truly no more and was, at that time, fully Darth Vader.
Did Thrawn Know Darth Vader was Anakin?
Very few people ever knew or figured out that Darth Vader and Anakin Skywalker were one and the same.
However, given Thrawn's incredible knowledge and intuition, he was able to be one of the handful that figured it out.
Thrawn made this discovery fairly early on in Thrawn: Alliances after seeing Vader's tactics, but thought that it would be best if he kept it to himself.
However, Thrawn did push Vader's buttons in a sense by making small remarks to see how Vader would react.
Vader ultimately got fairly upset at Thrawn for continuing to pry, and finally told the Grand Admiral that "Anakin Skywalker [was] dead."
Thrawn, who finally realized that they might be in the same body, but they weren't the same person, told Vader that he knew Anakin was dead.
Vader then instructed that "[they would] not speak of him again," and specifically Thrawn wouldn't talk about the firmer Jedi Knight ever again.
Realizing that it was for the best, Thrawn obeyed, but he did get the final word in when he said that "[he] will always honor his legacy."
This at the very least confirmed the great respect that Thrawn had for Anakin. He knew that Anakin and Vader were the same person, but elected to remember Anakin as a completely different person, one he would always hold in high regard since he helped Thrawn all those years before.
Did Thrawn Already Know that Ahsoka was Anakin's Apprentice?
In Episode 7 of Ahsoka, it appeared as though Thrawn learned that Anakin was Ahsoka's master for the first time, but the Grand Admiral was actually told about her in Thrawn: Alliances.
After Padme was rescued by Anakin and Thrawn in the flashback sequences, she talked to Thrawn about a Marg Sabl maneuver, which was a battle tactic that Ahsoka invented.
This is also interestingly a maneuver that Thrawn continued to utilize time and time again both in canon and in Star Wars Legends, so it shows just how receptive Thrawn is to be able to remember a maneuver that Padme told him about 30 years prior to when Ahsoka takes place.
As Padme was telling Thrawn about the Marg Sabl in the book, he immediately took an interest in it and agreed that it could work well in certain situations.
Padme even mentioned Ahsoka's name in one quote:
"It worked pretty well against the droid fighters Ahsoka was up against at the time, too."
This would make it seem as though Thrawn would remember that Anakin had a Padawan named Ahsoka, which makes it a little odd that he was thrown off-guard when he saw that he was her master in Episode 7 of Ahsoka.
However, Thrawn was seemingly more interested in the Marg Sabl maneuver itself rather than Ahsoka, and since her name was only mentioned once, and it was so long ago, it is understandable that he wouldn't remember her.
Episode 7 of Ahsoka is available to stream on Disney+.