At Star Wars Celebration, it was confirmed that The Mandalorian’s seventh episode of its third season would feature a major namedrop for Grand Admiral Thrawn. Now that the episode is out there for the world, the rest of the show’s audience witnessed the pivotal moment unfold.
Technically speaking, fans got their first glimpse of the big bad in the Ahsoka trailer via the back of his very blue neck. Those in attendance at Star Wars Celebration were able to see Lars Mikkelsen in all his blue make-up, thanks to an extended teaser screen at the panel for Rosario Dawson’s show.
Moff Gideon is Tired of Waiting on Thrawn
In The Mandalorian's second to last episode of the season, fans were finally given another big Thrawn moment in the opening minutes.
It begins with Katy O’Brian’s Elia Kane on Coruscant. As she walks down an alley, she arrives at a probe droid that brings up a hologram of Giancarlo Esposito’s Moff Gideon.
Kane informs her boss that The Mandalorians thwarted the pirates’ attempt against Nevarro. As one might expect, Gideon isn’t too pleased.
The Moff hangs up his call and eventually enters the Shadow Council, which is filled with Imperial warlords. This includes General Hux’s (the officer from the Sequel Trilogy) father and Captain Gilad Pellaeon (Thrawn’s right-hand man in his original debut books).
Pellaeon is seen reassuring the group about the nefarious plot, telling them "Grand Admiral Thrawn's return will herald in the re-emergence of our military" —a moment and name-drop that undoubtedly made countless fans giddy with excitement.
Gideon is quick to criticize Thrawn's continued absence, to which Pellaeon notes that the Council's success relies on the secrecy of the Grand Admiral's return. The Moff points out that Thrawn's imminent return has been teased continuously, further critiquing the group for constantly waiting for a grand plan to take place and Hux and Pellaeon's harvesting of resources.
Moff Gideon also mentions how Commandant Hux has had a specific focus on, or more like an obsession with, cloning. Project Necromancer is specifically mentioned to allow for the Empire to gain new leadership, which seems to be what's responsible for bringing Emperor Palpatine back in The Rise of Skywalker.
Gideon declares that he will deal with the Mandalorian threat, while also impltying that he should take leadership over the Council. Before the scene ends, Gideon leads a chant, “Long live the Empire,” with the group seemingly quick to forget all about Thrawn.
Thrawn, Heir to the Empire
This isn’t the first time Thrawn’s name has been casually mentioned. Back in “Chapter 13: The Jedi”, Ahsoka pointedly asks Diana Lee Inosanto’s Morgan Elsbeth where the infamous Grand Admiral is while the two duel.
While fans didn’t get an answer then, it looks like one is soon to arrive.
But why is Thrawn absent from the meeting? It’s likely that, at this time, the Grand Admiral is still stuck wherever the purrgils took him and Ezra Bridger at the end of Star Wars Rebels. Thrawn may have missed the meeting, because he’s just too busy trying to find his way back from being flung through hyperspace.
Is the stage being set for Thrawn to play a part in The Mandalorian by next week’s installment?
It’s unlikely. Many of the rumors coming out of Ahsoka suggest that Thrawn is off in a new section of space, where he’ll probably remain until Rosario Dawson’s show or later.
With Lars Mikkelsen’s already confirmed to appear in Ahsoka, how the Grand Admiral was able to return will likely be explored there. Or, perhaps there is a chance Thrawn could even debut in live-action through a post-credits scene in The Mandalorian Season 3 finale, similar to how Season 2 teased the arrival of The Book of Boba Fett.
With Moff Gideon's increase in power level in the episode, both within the Council and through his shiny new Mandalorian armor, too, it appears that Thrawn's mention has simply been used to springboard the Moff as the season's big bad once again.
Perhaps he’ll show up in The Mandalorian’s fourth season. It also seems like preparations are being made for Thrawn to also be the key threat for the recently announced Mandoverse event film from Dave Filoni, so an additional appearance before then would make perfect sense.
With Gideon now topping the ranks of the Shadow Council, Thrawn will undoubtedly not be too pleased to see another former Imperial cramping on his style. Though the Chiss general will have beef with likely enemies in the form of Ahsoka upon his return, Gideon's dismissal of Thrawn may lead to some in-fighting within the remnants of the Empire.
What‘s even better, is how Thrawn’s storyline in his upcoming Star Wars appearances certainly looks an awful lot like Heir to the Empire, the classic book trilogy where the big bad was first created. That exact phrase even made it into Ahsoka’s first teaser.
For all intents and purposes, that trio of books, starting in 1991, was the original sequel trilogy. It involved Thrawn attempting to pull together what was left of the Imperial forces to bring back the Empire.
However, all of that went out the window when Disney shelved all the former canon (now labeled as “Legends”) in favor of starting fresh.
Ironic now that Lucasfilms’ most successful projects are leading them right back down the road first written by Timothy Zahn over three decades ago.
The Mandalorian is now streaming on Disney+, while Ahsoka debuts in August.