The MandoVerse continues to expand, with The Mandalorian Season 3 airing now, Ahsoka on the way in August, and Skeleton Crew coming later this year. Creators Filoni and Jon Favreau are using all of these shows and stories to lay the groundwork for a huge crossover movie that was just confirmed for development.
One of the main antagonists of the MandoVerse, making his live-action debut in Ahsoka, is the iconic Thrawn, who will be played by Rebels actor Lars Mikkelsen.
Does The Mandalorian Season 3 Set Up Disney+'s Ahsoka?
During an interview with IGN at Star Wars Celebration, Ahsoka director Dave Filoni was asked whether the finale of The Mandalorian Season 3 will lead right into the upcoming Jedi spin-off series, making specific reference to the mention of Grand Admiral Thrawn in Chapter 23, "The Spies."
Lars Mikkelsen's Thrawn, who will serve as the main villain of Ahsoka, was referenced in "The Spies" in a conversation between Moff Gideon and other Empire leaders, teasing his imminent return to the forefront.
Filoni shut down the notion of The Mandalorian leading directly into Ahsoka with a definitive "no," but then seemed to imply some potential connection in revealing he "wouldn't look at it that way:"
"No, I would say no, I don't think so, I wouldn't look at it that way. I think that as much as these shows are tangential to one another and in the same time period, I think it's important that you can watch them on their own."
After noting how the MandoVerse shows are "tangential to one another" while still being viewable as standalone, Filoni teased how those who have seen the other projects may "get a little bonus:"
"But they build if you know, so in the same way that if you've seen the episode 'The Jedi' in 'The Mandalorian' then 'Ahsoka''s gonna make... You're gonna get a little bonus, like 'Oh, I understand what's going on from the get-go. But you're still gonna understand what's going on."
The Star Wars veteran went on to note Star Wars' history of picking up a story mid-way dating back to its origins, and in the same way, he promises he does "dive right into the story" in Ahsoka:
"We picked up 'A New Hope' at Episode 4 right? So, Star Wars, to us, we came in the middle of it. So there is a history in Star Wars of just diving right into the story. So I really do dive right into the story with 'Ahsoka' but I know more about it because of the work of 'The Mandalorian.'"
Filoni continued to share his desire to ensure viewers are never "missing out" by not watching other Star Wars projects, but also notes how they can help the audience "know more and understand more:"
"And it's the same with 'Skeleton Crew,' we never wanna create a situation where you feel like you have to have seen these things because then you're missing out. I don't know how fans feel, but like, do you have to have seen 'The Clone Wars' to understand 'Ahsoka'? No, you don't have to have seen that. Does it help you know more and understand more? Sure..."
Why Thrawn Might Appear in The Mandalorian Season 3 Finale
The Mandalorian's reference to Grand Admiral Thrawn in Season 2 amounted to just a singular line to reveal Ahsoka remains on the hunt for him. But in Season 3's latest episode, Moff Gideon and his peers more directly alluded to his imminent return as the one who will bring the Empire back to its former glory.
Of course, Filoni and Favreau may have just been trying to get fans excited and plant the seeds for the MandoVerse's next entry, Ahsoka. But this conversation seemed to be setting the course for a rivalry between Gideon and Thrawn, with the former having even proposed the need for new leadership.
Perhaps Thrawn's return could come as soon as The Mandalorian finale, with the Chiss villain entering the fray to quash any leadership challenge from Gideon. With Giancarlo Esposito's villain having posed a major threat for several seasons now, Thrawn arriving to shut him down would quickly mark him as a huge menace.
There's every chance Gideon's Thrawn reference may be the last of Season 3's Ahsoka teases. But Filoni's indecisive wording of "I wouldn't look at it that way" seems to hint toward some setup, even if the spin-off ends up recapping any of that storyline for new viewers jumping into the Jedi story.
Perhaps fans could see a post-credits scene that may feature Ahsoka or Thrawn to get Mandalorian fans excited for the August spin-off. This could be similar to how Season 2 included a stinger to set up Boba Fett's new crime boss era and formally announce The Book of Boba Fett for the following year.
Filoni put plenty of emphasis in the IGN interview on his desire to ensure all his Star Wars projects can work as standalone, while still having their connection. But, in contrast, The Book of Boba Fett dedicated much of its three final episodes to directly following up on The Mandalorian Season 2 and its characters.
For now, fans will have to wait and see just how next week's Mandalorian finale could set up Ahsoka, will Thrawn make an appearance? The Star Wars show does have a history of hiding surprise cameos, just look at Season 2's Luke Skywalker shock or Din Djarin's Book of Boba Fett role, clearly, anything could happen.
The Mandalorian Season 3 finale will premiere on Wednesday, April 19. Ahsoka will later come to Disney+ in August.