When you start looking beyond the movies, the Star Wars fictional universe spans decades of extended media. Right from A New Hope, Lucasfilm commissioned authors to write novels that were encompassed by the official canon, and this soon rippled out in ways George Lucas never could have imagined in his wildest dreams. These extended tales were dubbed the Expanded Universe by fans, and perhaps one of the most important book series in the EU was the Thrawn Trilogy.
Written by Timothy Zahn, these novels continued the Star Wars story from Return of the Jedi, forming the foundation of the entire story arc after the movies ended, introducing Luke Skywalker's wife and kicking off a chain of events that would lead to an intergalactic war.
But of course, when Disney merged with Lucasfilm these tales were de-canonized, to the chagrin of many fans, who bemoaned the loss of beloved characters like Mara Jade (Luke's wife) and the villainous Grand Admiral Thrawn. Now, after years in the limbo between canon and Legends (the new name for the EU), one of these characters will finally be reintroduced to the official continuity.
Thrawn Returns In Star Wars: Rebels
Today was the second day of Star Wars Celebration, a convention held by Lucasfilm to, well, celebrate Star Wars. Yesterday we heard some very exciting news about Ahsoka Tano's appearance in Star Wars: Rebels Season 3 (but we still don't know if she's alive), and the Rebels panel today was full to the brim of intriguing hints, crafty teasers, and official announcements.
Oh, and they screened the double-length premiere episode of Season 3, which is honestly one of the best episodes in the entire show. You can catch a glimpse of that, along with Grand Admiral Thrawn, in the trailer below.
So yes, Thrawn is back, and he's badder than ever. The blue-skinned villain became a fast favorite among fans thanks to his unparalleled strategic skill and downright ruthlessness. To say that fans have been baying for Thrawn's return for years really isn't an exaggeration, and there was much excitement when the white robes of Rogue One's Director Krennic seemed to hint that Thrawn might still exist somewhere in the official Star Wars canon.
Quashing The Rebel Alliance
Well, Rebels will finally see Thrawn rejoin the ranks of Star Wars villains, as he sets his sights on the budding Rebel Alliance, which will really start to come together in Season 3. But they have a vicious adversary to face, as Thrawn (voiced by Lars Mikkelsen) has a grand plan in mind for the Rebellion, and he knows exactly how to curb their enthusiasm.
Once we were treated to our first look at Thrawn in the trailer, showrunner Dave Feloni expanded on why he chose Thrawn to be one of Season 3's main antagonists.
"You couldn't have grown up as a Star Wars fan without encountering Admiral Thrawn... He was very significant. We have a lot of things we wanted to see in Star Wars Rebels and one of them was always Thrawn. We strategized on when best to bring him in, but it was important to do it right."
Of course, there will be a few differences to Thrawn's role in the original novels — in response to a question from the audience, Feloni revealed that Thrawn's Force sensitive pets won't be accompanying the Grand Admiral on his mission to stop the Rebellion. Shame.
But the announcements didn't stop there, as a video message from Timothy Zahn, the mastermind behind Thrawn, played on the big screen.
Zahn had been consulted about how best to portray Thrawn in Rebels, and he gave his full support to the creative team. He also revealed a new book he's been working on — entitled Thrawn, this novel will give a vital insight into the terrifying villain.
So there you have it folks! Just when you think we'll never see characters from the EU put back into the canon, they turn up in good old Rebels. And personally, I've got my fingers crossed for Mara Jade...