Some of the biggest news coming out of Celebration Europe concerned Rebels. Dave Filoni, Tiya Sicar, and Sam Witwer took the stage at Celebration to discuss many of the developments for the upcoming season of the Disney XD show. Sabine, Tiya Sicar’s character, is armed with many new gadgets. Chief among them is a jetpack. Darth Maul, voiced by Sam Witwer, continues to pursue Ezra Bridger as he searches for direction in the galaxy. Many other developments were revealed, but perhaps the biggest announcement was saved for the season three trailer. Grand Admiral Thrawn is coming to Rebels. Everyone is excited. Well, almost everyone. I’m ambivalent. Let me explain why.
If you are unfamiliar with Thrawn, or you haven’t seen the season three trailer, let me introduce you to him. Thrawn is a Chiss, which is a race of blue skinned beings with glowing red eyes. He was originally introduced to the Star Wars universe in Timothy Zahn’s novel Heir to the Empire. Thrawn commanded the Imperial Fleets against the forces of the New Republic after the events of Return of the Jedi in the Legends timeline. He drove the New Republic to the brink of collapse before being defeated himself. His cunning, developed through studying his enemy’s art and philosophy, allowed him to conquer his enemies. He was very impressive, and a really cool villain.
So, why then am I not really excited to see him in Rebels?
There are a couple of reasons why I have mixed feeling about Thrawn’s inclusion in Rebels. First, Thrawn was introduced at a time when Star Wars did not have a rich expanded universe. He was the enemy that filled the void of Star Wars content in the early nineties. The trilogy in which he was introduced was the sequel to Return of the Jedi. He had emerged from the “Unknown Regions” to combat the Republic and its heroes, Luke, Han, and Leia. He was the new face of the Empire for a short time. So, his addition to Rebels makes him a man out of time.
That alone isn’t such a terrible thing. A good villain is a good thing in any time period. That brings me to my second point. I am a little concerned that Thrawn in the pre-original trilogy era will diminish other characters. So far, the Rebels have combated the Grand Inquisitor. They have withstood the traps laid for them by Grand Moff Tarkin. They have even survived the onslaught from Darth Vader. Governor Pryce, who will also be debuting next season, requests from Tarkin that she be given assistance in dealing with the Rebels. That request suggests to me that Tarkin and Darth Vader were inadequate for the task. However, Thrawn is now supposed to handle these Rebels? Does this not suggest that his abilities are to be considered superior to Tarkin and Vader’s?
Thrawn’s brilliance was not an issue in his own trilogy. Vader, Tarkin, and the Emperor were all dead at that point. He couldn’t upstage them. Furthermore, his brilliance was somewhat hampered by the fact that he led a diminished Empire. In Legends, one of his initial goals was to acquire more soldiers and a larger fleet. Thrawn in the Rebels time period potentially has the full weight of the Empire behind him. The crew of the Ghost should have an incredibly difficult challenge on their hands.
Approaching this from another angle brings me to my third point. As fond as I am of the crew of the Ghost, and as much as I admire their skills, I don’t believe they match up favorably with the skills of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, and Chewbacca. These are the heroes that defeated Darth Vader and the Emperor. Rebels has already demonstrated that Ezra and Kanan were no match for Lord Vader. Thrawn and his schemes, plus the aid of some allies, were nearly all that Luke and his friends could handle. Therefore, Thrawn seems a little out of the crew of the Ghost’s league.
Villains like Darth Vader, the Emperor, Grand Moff Tarkin, the Grand Inquisitor, and Thrawn comprise an elite club of Star Wars villains. Furthermore, the more of these elite villains with that swell the ranks of the Empire, the less likely and believable it is the Rebellion could have actually defeated the Empire. The heroes that make up the crew of the Ghost are not untalented. However, they aren’t armies unto themselves either.
I don’t mean to be a downer about this. Like many others, I suspected Thrawn was headed to Rebels when Dave Filoni teased audiences with a portion of a Legends book cover on Twitter. However, I don’t think we will be seeing the same Thrawn that so many of us came to enjoy in Heir to the Empire. Be prepared for changes. I have great faith in Dave Filoni, the Lucasfilm story group, and the other creators of Rebels. I cannot imagine that they would bring Thrawn into Rebels carelessly. Therefore, while I suspect we will be seeing a character that looks and acts like Thrawn, I doubt we will see a character that is the exact same guy from Legends. Adjust your expectations accordingly.
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