Who is Grand Admiral Thrawn in Star Wars? The Ahsoka villain explained

(Image credit: Lucasfilm/Disney)

Grand Admiral Thrawn is back. The menacing Star Wars villain made the jump to live-action in Ahsoka episode 6 after plenty of build up, but, if you haven't seen Star Wars Rebels, you might be sketchy on his backstory – and just what makes him such a formidable threat. That's where we come in. 

We've got everything you need to know about Grand Admiral Thrawn below, so you can get up to speed now that all episodes of Ahsoka are streaming on Disney Plus. Naturally, that means you'll find Ahsoka and Rebels spoilers ahead. 

If you want to catch up on the animated Star Wars shows in earnest, though, then look no further than our complete guide on everything you need to know about Star Wars Rebels. There's also our roundup of what to watch before Ahsoka and how to watch The Clone Wars in order

Who is Grand Admiral Thrawn?

Grand Admiral Thrawn

(Image credit: Lucasfilm/Disney)

The blue-skinned Imperial made his first appearance in the old Legends continuity of Star Wars, which was made non-canon after Disney bought Lucasfilm and started its own continuity. However, Thrawn wasn't gone long, soon making a reappearance in novels written by his original creator Timothy Zahn.

Real name Mitth'raw'nuruodo, Thrawn was in charge of taking out the Rebels in Lothal in Star Wars Rebels. He's personally met the Emperor and has worked with Darth Vader – and, before that, he encountered Anakin Skywalker during the Clone Wars. He's famous for his strategic brilliance and is a calm and surprisingly collected villain, which only makes him all the more chilling. 

Who is playing Grand Admiral Thrawn in Ahsoka?

Lars Mikkelsen at Star Wars Celebration

(Image credit: Getty Images for Disney)

It was revealed at Star Wars Celebration 2023 that Thrawn will be played by none other than Lars Mikkelsen, who voiced the character in Rebels. The first Ahsoka teaser featured only a glimpse of the back of Thrawn's head, but the second trailer finally unveiled a front-facing look at the Imperial in all his glory. 

Where have we seen Grand Admiral Thrawn in Star Wars before?

Grand Admiral Thrawn in Star Wars Rebels

(Image credit: Disney)

Thrawn's entrance to the new Star Wars canon comes in Zahn's trilogy of novels, the first of which was published in 2017. They chart the Grand Admiral's past, including how he was found in the Outer Rim, and his rise to power through the ranks of the Imperial Navy.

The character then reappears in the animated Rebels series, going up against the young Jedi Ezra Bridger and his friends multiple times. This includes a run-in with Hera Syndulla on her home planet of Ryloth, as well as getting involved (via hologram) when Sabine Wren returns to Mandalore and fights the Imperial presence there. Thrawn, Chiss of culture that he is, also has a collection of Sabine's artwork, weirdly enough. 

Thrawn has been mentioned twice in The Mandalorian – once in season 2 episode 5, when Ahsoka demands to know where he is, and again in season 3 episode 7, when a group of Imperials discusses his apparently imminent return. How's that for ominous?

In the Legends continuity, which is no longer part of the Star Wars lore, Thrawn had the same tactical skill as his canon counterpart. Interestingly, he had a plan to return after his death through a clone, just like Palpatine in the sequel trilogy – though the Grand Admiral's double was destroyed.

What happens to Grand Admiral Thrawn in Star Wars Rebels?

Thrawn in Star Wars Rebels

(Image credit: Disney)

Eventually, in the Star Wars Rebels season 4 finale, Ezra is able to stop Thrawn from destroying Lothal by sending the two of them, who were on the same ship together, to locations unknown via purrgils (giant, space whale-style creatures that can travel through hyperspace). They weren't found until Ahsoka episode 6. 

What happens to Thrawn in Ahsoka?

Morgan Elsbeth in Ahsoka

(Image credit: Disney/Lucasfilm)

Well, it took a bit of time before we actually met him, but Thrawn made his triumphant return in Ahsoka episode 6. The blue-skinned Imperial was located by Morgan Elsbeth, after her ancestors, the Nightsisters of Dathomir, called to her across multiple galaxies. We've not seen too much of his plan yet, as he's mostly preoccupied with getting off the planet he's been stuck on, but given his army of Dark Troopers, we have to admit we're a little worried about what he has in store for the galaxy. 

In Ahsoka episode 7, he showcases his tactical prowess by attacking the purgills (and Ahsoka), and he also discovers that Anakin was Ahsoka's master, which elicits a shocked reaction from the Grand Admiral. In Ahsoka episode 8, the worst comes to pass and Thrawn makes it off of Peridea and back to the main galaxy – while Ahsoka and Sabine are left stranded. Luckily, Ezra makes it back, too, though. 

We'll most likely see Thrawn again in either a potential Ahsoka season 2 or Dave Filoni's Star Wars movie. 

All episodes of Ahsoka are streaming now on Disney Plus

For everything coming soon to the galaxy far, far away, check out our guide to the upcoming Star Wars movies and Disney Plus TV shows through the link. You can also see our deep dives on the World Between Worlds and the history between Anakin and Ahsoka for even more on the new show. 

Molly Edwards
Entertainment Writer

I'm an Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, covering all things film and TV for the site's Total Film and SFX sections. I previously worked on the Disney magazines team at Immediate Media, and also wrote on the CBeebies, MEGA!, and Star Wars Galaxy titles after graduating with a BA in English.