For those following the Ahsoka TV show, you’ll have seen that legendary Grand Admiral Thrawn has returned to mainline Star Wars. This comes after a 9-14 (numbers vary) year exile in the universe and a 5-year disappearance in the real world after the Star Wars: Rebels finale. With his return, what does this mean for the Star Wars galaxy?
Extended Leave of Absence
While we’ll undoubtedly learn more about his exile in the coming episodes, here’s what we know or can safely infer thus far. When Thrawn and his Seventh Fleet were whisked away by the Pergil, the Rebellion had yet to officially begin. However, in Ahsoka, the Civil War has been over for some time now. During this time, it would seem he and the Chimera have been stranded on the planet Peridia. It is unknown if more of his fleet also made this journey.
Whilst you would assume at least a few vessels were also transported, we’ve seen no sign of them. Something to note is that there is only one hyperspace ring which seems to only be able to carry a single Star Destroyer. It is also worth noting that Captain Pellaeon, one of Thrawn’s subordinates and part of his lost fleet, seems to be in the main Galaxy maintaining relations with other members of the Shadow Council. It would seem unlikely that this could be done if he were trapped with Thrawn. Alternatively, ship crews could have been consolidated as casualties mounted and ships could have been salvaged for parts.
For those who did make the journey with the Grand Admiral, it seems that this exile has not been kind to them. In the show, you can see a Stormtrooper Legion assembled in the Hanger but, something is off about them. The show calls them Nighttroopers and their armor is dirty and in disrepair. Most have red wrapping somewhere on their armor. This would all point to something happening to them as a result of Nightsister’s magic. The predominant theory is that these brave Troopers are actually undead or reanimated such as we saw with Marrok earlier in the show.
This theory is also suggested by Thrawn himself when he asks the Nightmothers once more for their dark magics. Many speculate that bringing back his crew was the first instance. We have not yet seen the capabilities of these soldiers, it is up in the air whether they are cannon fodder or in fact hardened warriors.
It is unknown how far we’ll get in the remaining two episodes of Ahsoka, but Thrawn’s plan of action is pretty straightforward. Once he makes it back to the Star Wars galaxy, he will take charge of the Shadow Council. We know this from season three of The Mandalorian. In it we see Moff Gideon attempt to take the leadership position for himself, preemptively subverting Thrawn. When Thrawn does take charge, we can expect a rehash of the last war but this time with the roles reversed. The New Republic has been dramatically downsizing its Navy and intends to delegate defense obligations to planetary defense forces. They’re doing this to prevent future tyranny by the Government. But for all of the good intentions behind this decision, it would be a crippling weakness in this war to come.
Thrawn is a military genius. He is capable of analyzing the tactics employed by both sides of the Civil War and seeing what did and did not work. And if he is about to fight a spread-out and weak New Republic, all he has to do is steal from their playbook. This will involve taking his limited but still powerful Imperial Forces and engaging in hit-and-run assaults. Once the small garrison is neutralized, he can take what he needs and disappear before reinforcements can arrive. Let’s not overstate the odds, Thrawn and his Imperial Remnant are still grossly outgunned. What makes this impending conflict so even-sided however is a combination of enemy incompetence and cunning.
Will Thrawn Succeed?
That is to say, if Thrawn gets that far. In Legends, Thrawn is assassinated before he can fully enact his plans. It is not difficult to believe that the show’s writers will take a similar approach. But until we see things play out, we shall simply have to wait and see.
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