The trailer for Star Wars Rebels’ third season was released this weekend at Star Wars Celebration in London, and it has revealed an interesting and unexpected big bad who will be facing off against the crew of the Ghost while simultaneously rejoining the series’ new canon: Grand Admiral Thrawn.
Star Wars fans know that the novels and expanded universe media created before Disney purchased the franchise have been largely relegated to Star Wars Legends, a series of non-canonical stories. Included among those are Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy, three novels released between 1991 and 1993 that originally introduced the Grand Admiral as their main antagonist while simultaneously reigniting fan interest in Star Wars and setting off a boom of novels, video games, and associated content.
— Empire Magazine (@empiremagazine) July 17, 2016
Although one of the most popular villains in the expanded universe, the blue-skinned Thrawn was apparently disposed of by Disney along with the rest of the Legends series. Now, however, with the release of the Star Wars Rebels Season 3 trailer, it has been revealed that not only will Grand Admiral Thrawn serve as a main antagonist for the season, he will also be rejoining the accepted Star Wars canon, of which Rebels is considered a key part.
— The Bear Cave Radio (@Dimabearcave) July 17, 2016
Thrawn’s appearance in this season of Rebels will be the character’s first time on screen, but it won’t serve as his only new canon adventure, as Making Star Wars points out. During the Star Wars Rebels panel, no less a luminary than Timothy Zahn himself, Thrawn’s creator, revealed that he is working on a new novel, to be titled Star Wars: Thrawn, which will be released in 2017. This novel will serve as Thrawn’s first canon introduction outside of Rebels and features a cover that highlights the character’s classic look.
— Star Wars Books (@DelReyStarWars) July 16, 2016
In Rebels, Grand Admiral Thrawn will be voiced by Lars Mikkelsen, older brother of Rogue One star Mads Mikkelsen. Earlier this year, when the first trailer for Rogue One was released, it revealed a heretofore unseen villain dressed in the uniform of an Imperial Grand Admiral (the first time someone of that rank had appeared onscreen). As Thrawn has always been a fan favorite character, some observers speculated that the Grand Admiral in the trailer was none other than Thrawn himself, albeit without the character’s signature blue skin. Ben Mendelsohn is now known to be playing a character named Director Krennic, as the Inquisitr previously reported, but the speculation surrounding whether he would portray Thrawn serves to highlight the degree to which fans are attached to the Admiral.
According to Dave Filoni, the director of Star Wars Rebels, it was only a matter of time before Thrawn rejoined the accepted Star Wars canon.
“You couldn’t have grown up as a Star Wars fan without encountering Admiral Thrawn… It was significant. I have to say it was always on a lot of our minds… We have a lot of like-minded things we wanted to see in Star Wars and one of them was always Thrawn. We strategise on when best to bring him in, but it was important to do it right.”
As io9 points out, Thrawn is referred to directly by name in the Rebels trailer and also addressed as Grand Admiral. While it is unclear how much of Thrawn’s backstory will be canonized, certain elements from Heir to the Empire and its sequels may also be making their way into Rebels, as eagle-eyed fans quickly spotted what appear to be two ysalamiri (creatures with Force-blocking abilities) behind the Grand Admiral during his introduction. Based on the brief glimpses afforded to fans in the trailer, it also appears that Thrawn’s penchant for studying his opponents’ art and psychology will remain largely intact.
Whether or not the character ever makes his way to a live-action film remains to be seen, but fans of the expanded universe can no doubt rejoice, as Grand Admiral Thrawn appears to be back in action for the foreseeable future in the Star Wars universe.