Who Is Thrawn in The Mandalorian? Season 3’s Thrawn Connection Explained

THIS WEEKEND, ahead of The Mandalorian Episode 7, Star Wars fans caught their first glimpse of the franchise’s next live-action villain. During this year’s Star Wars Celebration in London, Lucasfilm announced that Lars Mikkelsen will play the blue-face Grand Admiral Thrawn in the upcoming Disney+ series Ahsoka. The news was accompanied by a leaked photo of Mikkelsen in blue face, posted on Reddit—an image, likely unfinished, showing the next grand Star Wars antagonist as a cross somewhere between Handsome Squidward and Elon Musk.

Thrawn’s role in current Star Wars canon is a bit confusing.

Fans first encountered the character in 1991 in Heir to the Empire, the start of a trilogy piggybacking on the original film series, which at that time concluded with 1983’s Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. The Thrawn book trilogy, written by Timothy Zahn, takes place after events of Episode VI; Luke Skywalker has defeated Vader and the Empire, signaling victory for the Rebel Alliance. Thrawn then mounts a counterattack with remnants of the Imperial fleet. The original Thrawn trilogy builds toward a collision between the Thrawn and the original heroes, Luke, Leia, Han, and Lando.

But none of this is canon.

The Thrawn book series continues into the late 1990s, wrapping up the Thrawn conflict.

Heir to the Empire

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In 2012, the Empire of Disney acquired Lucasfilm with plans to build a new franchise—which would take place after events of Episode VI, and so conflict with the Zahn’s character arcs for the original heroes. Disney shut all that down, cleaning the narrative slate by declaring anything that took the Star Wars story beyond Episode VI not canon. Novels published before 2014 would become Legends—stand-alone property that were also no longer narrative canon.

Zahn, however, would keep writing Thrawn’s character, this time in line with the new Disney vision—or rather, not conflicting with it. These two trilogies, Star Wars: Thrawn Trilogy (2017-2019) and Thrawn Ascendency (2020-2021), serve as prequel series of sorts, following Thrawn in the lead up to the events of A New Hope—and, therefore, not competing with Disney’s post Return of the Jedi timeline.

Confused? Us, too.

For a reading guide of all things Thrawn, check out this Star Wars fan’s recommended order.


Now Thrawn is back. He showed up in the (canon) animated series Star Wars: Rebels in 2016—his first appearance in the new order of Disney. The events of Rebels occur 5 years before A New Hope, so we still haven’t yet seen Thrawn in the post Episode VI world, his original timeline.

Thrawn’s original no-longer-canon book series occurs four years after Episode VI—that’s 9 ABY in the Star Wars timeline. You know what’s also taking place in 9 ABY in the Star Wars timeline? The Mandalorian.

Which finally brings us to The Mandalorian, Season 3, Episode 7, titled “The Spies.”

We have entered the moment Thrawn can appear in the live-action Disney cannon, the same moment he did in his own no-longer-canon series. This time, however, he’ll be facing off against the Mandalorians instead of Luke and Han.

What’s in store for his character is really anyone’s guess since the Disney takeover. Most likely, he will appear next week to set up a later role in the Ahsoka series—which takes place concurrently with The Mandalorian; in her first live-action appearance (Season 2’s “The Jedi,” played by Rosario Dawson), she mentioned Thrawn as someone she was hunting down, already beginning to set up an epic rivalry.

The upshot of all this: Thrawn will likely be around for a while in the new Disney universe. For fans of his character since the original book trilogy, it’s about damn time.

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Joshua St Clair is an Assistant Editor at Men’s Health Magazine. 

This article was originally posted here.

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