The Star Wars franchise has included Luke Skywalker in its recent live-action TV shows, and he may return once more to fight against the dreaded Grand Admiral Thrawn in a future property. Grand Admiral Thrawn was a major Star Wars villain in the Legends continuity, being introduced in Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire and becoming a fan-favorite antagonist, eventually gaining a canon counterpart, thanks to Star Wars Rebels. Luke was brought back to the franchise in his prime at the end of The Mandalorian season 2, and appeared again in The Book of Boba Fett, highlighting his continued importance after Return of the Jedi. The two iconic characters will likely clash in what may be canon’s version of the Thrawn Trilogy.
Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy is considered by many to be an essential trio of novels from the Star Wars Expanded Universe, which was initially the official timeline of the Star Wars franchise. The Expanded Universe was rebranded as Legends and made into an alternate timeline in 2014, but the continuity still serves as an inspiration for many new canon properties. Grand Admiral Thrawn himself was brought into the post-2014 canon timeline by Rebels, and though the brilliant leader’s whereabouts are unknown, The Mandalorian season 2 teased his return to the Star Wars franchise, with Ahsoka Tano searching for him and likely Ezra Bridger as well.
As one of the Star Wars franchise’s main heroes, Luke Skywalker’s surprise appearances in The Mandalorian season 2 and The Book of Boba Fett delighted fans, but his appearances may be setting up more than just his doomed new generation of Jedi Knights. As one of the galaxy’s most powerful Force users at the time, Skywalker would be an invaluable ally to both the New Republic and individuals like Ahsoka Tano and Din Djarin when Thrawn inevitably returns to menace the galaxy. While the canon version of Thrawn’s major post-original trilogy storyline will likely have numerous differences from the Legends version, it will almost certainly feature a clash between Thrawn and Luke Skywalker.
Grand Admiral Thrawn Is Star Wars’ Big Post-OT Villain
Grand Admiral Thrawn is one of the most intelligent beings in the Star Wars galaxy, perhaps being one of the few who can rival Emperor Palpatine in this regard, and is certainly the galaxy’s greatest military mind. Thrawn’s trademark is studying the artwork of a species or culture and extrapolating their tactics from it, adjusting his strategies accordingly and exploiting their weaknesses. In canon, Thrawn was last seen in the series finale of Rebels, where he and Ezra Bridger were pulled into the galaxy’s Unknown Regions by purrgil (giant space whales), resulting in both of their absences during the Galactic Civil War.
Ahsoka Tano is searching for Thrawn in The Mandalorian season 2, but Thrawn may simply be a means of finding Ezra Bridger, who was also dragged into the Unknown Regions. Nevertheless, with Thrawn back from his defeat in the years following Return of the Jedi, he’s all but certain to be the Star Wars franchise’s next big villain. The First Order is still years away from spreading across the galaxy and Palpatine is recuperating from his resurrection on Exegol. With Thrawn discovering that the Galactic Empire fell in the years following his defeat, he’ll likely take similar actions to his Legends-era counterpart. By attempting to unify the Imperial remnant factions and topple the New Republic, Thrawn will likely seek to reestablish Imperial rule, even with Palpatine seemingly dead.
Luke Skywalker & Thrawn’s Story In Star Wars Legends
In the Legends continuity, the Empire fractured upon Palpatine’s first death, with the faction’s most powerful regional governors and military leaders carving out portions of the galaxy and becoming warlords. Grand Admiral Thrawn united numerous warlord factions, forming a confederation that threatened the New Republic. In the Thrawn book Trilogy, Thrawn worked alongside the insane Jedi clone Joruus C’baoth who inevitably came into conflict with Luke Skywalker. During the climactic Battle of Bilbringi, Thrawn’s bodyguard Rukh killed Thrawn upon learning of the Empire’s role in the Noghri’s persecution. With Thrawn dead, the Imperial forces retreated and soon fractured into warlord factions once again.
Luke Skywalker, meanwhile, defeated Joruus C’baoth on Wayland with the help of Mara Jade, the adopted daughter of Emperor Palpatine and a former Sith assassin who rejected the dark side and took her first steps toward becoming a Jedi. By killing a mindless clone of Luke Skywalker, Mara Jade cleverly followed a suggestion placed in her mind by Palpatine to kill the Jedi Knight without harming the real Luke Skywalker. While Imperial warlords were unified once more a year later by the resurrected Emperor Palpatine, Thrawn’s defeat removed one of the New Republic’s greatest threats.
Theory: Luke Skywalker Returns To Face Grand Admiral Thrawn
Thrawn will most likely be the main antagonist of Star Wars: Ahsoka, where the former padawan will continue her search for Ezra Bridger, coming into conflict with Thrawn in the process. Since Thrawn would naturally become a major threat to both the New Republic and the next generation of Jedi, Luke Skywalker joining the fight against the Grand Admiral would be expected. There will likely be significant differences between the canon and Legends versions of Thrawn’s story arc, however. A new version of Joruus C’baoth is possible, but given the canon version of Palpatine’s history, it’s highly unlikely that he raised Mara Jade in Disney’s modern canon. Luke will likely work alongside Ahsoka, fighting Thrawn and his forces while searching for the missing Ezra Bridger.
What Luke’s Return Would Mean For Star Wars
As one of the main heroes of the original Star Wars trilogy, Luke Skywalker is one of the franchise’s most beloved heroes. In whatever capacity that Luke helps defeat Thrawn, his characterization must be handled tastefully. The Star Wars sequel trilogy was extremely divisive in its portrayal of Luke Skywalker, with many viewers and fans pointing out the incompatibility of Luke’s characterization with his original trilogy-era character trajectory, especially when compared to how he progressed in the Legends timeline. While undeniably powerful, Luke Skywalker’s true appeal is that he’s an earnest and emotionally sincere character, and while Legends understood this, canon often becomes too swept up in meta-commentary. Since Thrawn’s canon storyline will likely take place in Ahsoka, Luke will probably take a supporting role in the Star Wars conflict, helping Ahsoka Tano defeat Thrawn and find Ezra Bridger.