The Mandalorian era playing out over several Disney+ shows could be used for telling a story of an Imperial civil war between Grand Admiral Thrawn and Emperor Palpatine.
For Disney and Lucasfilm, The Mandalorian was a runaway success that helped them recover from the slump of the Sequel Trilogy. The House of Mouse has rewarded Mandalorian’s success by launching two spinoff shows- The Book of Boba Fett and Ahsoka.
These are both based on characters who made their Star Wars return during season 2 of the show. Right now, the rumour is that there is going to be one overarching narrative running through all these shows. And it will supposedly feature Grand Admiral Thrawn.
Now, Thrawn was last seen in the finale of Star Wars Rebels. There Ezra Bridger outsmarted Thrawn over Lothal and summoned the Purrgils or the “Space Whales.” These Purrgils thrashed the Chiss strategist’s fleet before seizing up his flagship and then jumping into hyperspace with the two enemies still on board. Since then, there has been no word of Thrawn.
However, it seems like he has come back to the Outer Rim about half a decade after the events of Return of the Jedi. After all, his name has popped up concerning the Imperial resurgence in that space sector. Right now, the casual assumption is that Lucasfilm is adapting Timothy Zahn’s acclaimed “Thrawn Trilogy,” in their way. These books kickstarted the old expanded universe back during 1991. But now that’s all non-canon. However, there is another possibility- that Lucasfilm might be telling a way more complicated story where the Empire is Thrawn’s threat.
Lucasfilm and Disney have a pick-and-choose approach with the Legends part of the Star Wars franchise. They have always tried to bring back the best parts of the old EU into the canon. In regards to Thrawn, they did exactly that. But that’s not all. They also brought back Zahn, and now he is revealing the story of the Chiss strategist. Zahn’s latest Star Wars book titled Thrawn Ascendancy: Lesser Evil has finally confirmed what fans have suspected for quite some time.
This is the fact that Thrawn might not be an Imperial loyalist at all. The whole story where he exclaimed how he joined the Empire might just be a lie. This might shock some. But it can indeed be true. After all, Thrawn has always claimed that he was exiled from his race after committing a major political mishap. Now, the Chiss originate from the Unknown Regions. This place is best described as:
“unexplored infinity… closed off by a labyrinth of solar storms, rogue magnetospheres, black holes, gravity wells, and things far stranger.”
Now, Thrawn’s race does possess pretty phenomenally advanced technology especially when it comes to the Unknown Regions. This is because the scientific process has been slower there compared to other parts of the galaxy.
However, they are not warmongers. Instead, they have a code. They never make the first move. So the opening attack is never carried out by them. But Thrawn is different. He trusts his instincts more than a military rule. So it has always seemed like he was at odds with his kind over this. Previously, the general assumption was that one day he didn’t control himself and went too far spouting his beliefs. And this got him exiled.
However, he must have caught Emperor Palpatine’s attention and found himself with the Empire. The book Thrawn Ascendancy: Lesser Evil reveals that this whole assumption is just half true. Thrawn’s commanding officers knew that the Chiss faced several terrifying threats in the Unknown Regions. They were also curious about whether the Empire could be an ally.
Therefore, they manipulated the Chiss politicians into deliberately exiling Thrawn, who was secretly told to infiltrate the Empire. So as was ordered, Thrawn tried to use the Empire as a tool to help the Chiss. So presumably he went back to his people after his ship got blasted into the Unknown Regions in Rebels. However, this raises the one question that you must have as well- why has Thrawn returned?
This makes it clear that Grand Admiral Thrawn isn’t loyal to the Empire. Instead, he was doing it all for his people. So fundamentally, this means that he wouldn’t have returned to help the Empire. Instead, he would have come back to help his people.
He may think of the New Republic as a threat that needs to be neutralized. But, we don’t think that this is the case. After all, The Republic is still growing, and there’s no interest in exploration when it comes to them. The more probable scenario is that Thrawn believes that his people are facing another threat. He might think that Chiss will need reinforcements for it.
So if this is the case, then his presence in the Outer Rim, especially along Mount Tantiss’ cloning vats on Wayland, would make sense. After all, he could be trying to create an Imperial force capable of strengthening the numbers of the Chiss in a conflict. But the question is- who are threatening the Chiss?
The most probable threat is the Emperor himself. Think about it. Palpatine used Thrawn’s knowledge of the Unknown Regions to ready a contingency plan that was supposed to be activated in the event of his death. This caused huge upheavals across the galaxy after the Return of the Jedi. Now, the Empire used its loyal agents to launch horrific genocidal attacks all over the galaxy.
And this came to a head in the Battle of Jakku. The Republic believed that the Empire was finally defeated at Jakku. But the reality might be quite different. The Emperor’s most cunning and dangerous agents might have fled into the Unknown Regions after following the coordinates that the Emperor had made for them.
There they could have learned that the Emperor had made massive armouries and vast shipyards to reinforce their numbers. Thus, the Empire had transformed into the First Order. Also, Palpatine’s spirit was brought back on Exegol, the ancient Sith world. Now, located in a box system present in the depths of the Unknown Region that’s pretty much unnavigable, Exegol is a place where the line between death and life is thin.
The Emperor had placed cultists there to draw his spirit back from beyond that line and then place it into a clone. The experiment wasn’t fully successful since the Clone body failed to contain the Emperor. It was overwhelmed by the dark side of energy, and this resulted in accelerated decay. All of this meant that Palpatine was still trapped in Exegol till he found a suitable host body.
But this doesn’t mean that he was sitting still waiting for a clone body. He was still manipulating events over the galaxy through proxies and commanding the First Order through Supreme Leader Snoke. This overall imperial presence in the Unknown Regions would have been immensely helpful for the Chiss. Now, the Empire wasn’t potential allies against other threats.
They were the threats themselves- an invading power trying to expand their force. However, the worst part was the Emperor’s knowledge of the Chiss. And he knew about it all from Grand Admiral Thrawn himself. And this would have made it easy for him to manipulate them. As such, the growing First Order was a huge problem for Thrawn.
This means that The Mandalorian era could be about exploring this Imperial Chiss war. The Chiss could have sent Thrawn to the Outer Rim to make an army that would reinforce them against the growing First Order. So the experiments on Grogu could have been a means to create Force-sensitives who could help fight against the Emperor himself. So if this is indeed the case, then Thrawn will lose.
We know now that the First Order stayed in the Unknown Regions and even dominated it. Also, by the time the Sequel Trilogy came about, there was no hint of the Chiss surviving. What’s more, the genetic experiments made on Grogu looked like the sort of cloning or genetic engineering that Palpatine would be curious about. So maybe the Emperor absorbed these projects into his plans just like he used Sifo-Dyas’ clone army to put the plans regarding Order 66 in motion.
Overall, this theory works well with the new revelations we have had regarding Grand Admiral Thrawn’s origin. It also sets up some interesting plot points. However, it’s still just a theory right now. However, if Lucasfilm wants to carry out something more creative than just adapting the Thrawn Trilogy for their Mandalorian era, then this theory should come true in the larger scheme of things.
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