We love our Star Wars villains. The Empire, in particular, has some great ones.
There’s Tarkin, who is coolly able to destroy populations and entire planets as a show of military might to promote fear. Vader, a physically intimidating, enforcer and Sith. The Emperor, powerful and hidden, cloaked pure evil who runs the Empire.
Then there’s the Grand Admiral Thrawn. And on the eve of his big showdown with the rebels on tomorrow’s season finale of Star Wars Rebels, I think this is a good time to examine what makes him such a unique threat.
To be fair, Thrawn does share similarities with other Star Wars cutthroats. He has red eyes, chiseled cheeks, he schemes in shadows.
But hear me out on what puts Thrawn in a league of his own.
Thrawn has no need for adornments. He wears the uniform of his rank without the theatricality of a cloak or other accessories, unlike Krennic, Vader, or even the Emperor.
Thrawn is cut. Sure, Vader fights his enemies hand to hand, but he’s got the Force and a lightsaber — not to mention a great deal of mechanical augmentation. We’ve see Thrawn sparring with two assassin droids. Later, he fights and destroys the droids single handedly. He may be high up on the admin chain, but Thrawn shows us he’s a badass capable of getting the job done on his own. Could Tarkin have done the same?
Thrawn is deliberate. At the speeder factory manufacturing faulty speeders, instead of sending all the factory workers Imperial labor camps, he puts one on a faulty speeder until it explodes. Then he tells the workers they will be personally testing all speeders going forward. Brutal, but efficient. He’s aware that Agent Kallus is the rebel spy, Fulcrum. Vader probably would have Force choked him or tortured him; Tarkin would have blown up some cities or planets to discover what he knows. Thrawn, instead, decides to use him as his own pawn.
Thrawn doesn’t underestimate his enemies. He takes his time, letting the rebels win minor victories so he can understand their motivations and patterns. He is able to easily plot where Hera may go to try to escape the Imperials hunting Mon Mothma. Had Thrawn been in charge of the Death Star, he may not have discounted the ability of the rebels to exploit a small weakness.
Thrawn has a strategy. He is always at least three steps ahead with his calculations. From the beginning of this season of Rebels, we see him secretly building a new type of TIE fighter, and his ruthless efficiency in its production. Later in the season, we see him deploy the same TIEs effectively. Similarly, he studies the rebels and the galaxy, novelly, through art. By doing so, he deduces, with uncanny accuracy, their behavior. If his underlings had the same flexible thinking, the rebels would be toast. And now we know for the Season Three finale, all his analysis of the rebels is culminating into one grand plan.
Tomorrow, we’ll see if Thrawn maintains his role as a villain like no other…and then we’ll learn more about him in Timothy Zahn’s upcoming novel, Thrawn, coming April 11. As a Thrawn devotee, I’ll be studying both. (And as a fan of analysis, I’m sure Thrawn would appreciate it.)
Linda is a physician who loves writing, yoga, horses, Star Wars, and style. She’s a contributor at FANgirlblog.com and has been a panelist at Star Wars Celebration and GeekGirlCon. Follow Linda on Twitter and Instagram.