Ever since December 2020, Lucasfilm has been using its Star Wars Disney+ series as a springboard towards a major crossover event, one that could pit Grand Admiral Thrawn against Luke Skywalker.
Lucasfilm first teased plans for a MandoVerse crossover during Disney Investor Day in December 2020, just eight days before young Luke Skywalker’s cameo in The Mandalorianits season 2 finale.
But that wasn’t the only odd timing.
Ahsoka Tano, played by Rosario Dawson, had just made the leap into live-action The Mandalorian when the crossover was announced; and in the Chapter 13 debut, she wasted no time in letting the audience know who her own series antagonist would be – Star Wars Rebels evil, Grand Admiral Thrawn.
Two characters from two solo series have brought back two major Star Wars personalities: one a hero, the other a villain.
Here’s how the Star Wars Disney+ show has, and will continue to, set the stage for a Luke and Thrawn showdown.
Star Wars MandoVerse so far
After Luke Skywalker’s triumphant return, fans discovered that Dave Filoni and Jon Favreau had a spin-off series on the show, The Book of Boba Fett.
Set at the same time as The Mandalorian, The Book of Boba Fett focused on Boba’s personal post-Sarlacc pit experiences while educating the audience about Star Wars crime lords.
Although the show itself was not well received, fans loved the live-action introduction of Cad Bane and the episodes involving Mando, especially episode 6.
This was because many at the time assumed The MandalorianLuke Skywalker Luke’s cameo was a one-off.
Not only did his return suggest otherwise, but his episode 6 exchange with Ahsoka set the stage for him to appear in her solo series and beyond.
The upcoming Star Wars MandoVerse
While it’s been more than two years since that MandoVerse crossover tease and The Mandaloriansecond season, fans expect everything to change in 2023.
Only in the coming year, season 3 of The Mandalorian comes finally, followed by Ahsoka whose supporting cast largely consists of a live-action cast of Star Wars Rebels.
And that of course includes Grand Admiral Thrawn, played by Lars Mikkelsen.
But Ahsoka and Mando aren’t the only shows on the horizon that are both connected and set to premiere in 2023.
A brand new Star Wars series, Skeleton crew, expected to premiere sometime in 2023; and if reports are to be believed, it is set in a new region of space that will first be explored in Ahsoka, and where Ezra Bridger and Grand Admiral Thrawn will finally be found.
The same reports also claim that Ahsoka will have a cameo in Skeleton crewand the events of the new show will affect season 4 of the The Mandalorian.
Why Luke Skywalker & Thrawn are on a collision course
As Favreau and Filoni’s grand interconnected plan continues to unfold, it’s important to note that the two characters they keep bringing up are already connected.
Long before the MandoVerse and Disney’s definition of the Star Wars canon, Thrawn was a key villain in Star Wars’ first post-Return of the Jedi era where he opposed original trilogy characters, including Luke Skywalker.
Timothy Zahn’s Threw trilogy books were made non-canon (aka Legends material) in 2014, but Filoni made the character canon again through Star Wars Rebels.
But even without Zahn’s books, an exchange between Thrawn and Luke seems inevitable.
This is because at this point in the Star Wars timeline, Luke wants to rebuild the Jedi Order. And thanks The Book of Boba Fetthe now knows that he is not the only one with training and connection to the Force.
That number will only grow when Ahsoka debuts the live-action version of Ezra Bridger, leading him to cross paths with Thrawn.
It’s also worth noting that Thrawn has a history with both Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader, and no doubt the Imperial leader will hold a grudge against Luke for bringing down the Empire.
But what would a canon conflict between the son of Skywalker and the Chiss genius look like?
What to expect from Luke vs. Thrawn
In the original Threw books, the Grand Admiral was rebuilding the Imperial fleet in a far corner of the galaxy in an attempt to destroy the New Republic and restore the Empire.
It wouldn’t be surprising if Filoni has Thrawn do the same, especially since The Mandalorian has already introduced Imperial remnants and loyalists, such as Moff Gideon.
The original books also explored more of the Dark Side and cloning, a major theme in recent Star Wars projects such as The Mandalorian, Star Wars: The Bad Batchand Disney’s Star Wars sequel trilogy.
Something else to consider is World Between Worlds which was first introduced in Star Wars Rebels and whose images are incorporated into the title card design for Ahsoka.
A big question is whether “The New Beyond” – or wherever Ezra and Thrawn have been – is somehow connected to the World Between Worlds and Skeleton crew.
If so, imagine if Thrawn found a way to weaponize the World Between Worlds as a means to bring back the Empire and the Sith, including Darth Vader himself.
The threat of an Imperial revival is reason enough for Luke to get involved, not to mention the personal stakes of the World Between Worlds and his father.
But if Lucasfilm is building toward a showdown between Thrawn and Luke, audiences shouldn’t expect an action-packed duel.
While Luke will certainly have to use his saber against a clone or assassin – thanks to Dark Side alchemy and decades of clone experimentation – a fight with Thrawn himself will likely be more of a long game of words and wits with MandoVerse characters in the mix.
Grogu in particular is guaranteed to be at the heart of the conflict, given his connection to the Force and how the Imperial Remnant would want him for cloning.
Maybe fans will get to see him ignite the lightsaber with Luke after all?
With Mando Season 3, Ahsokaand Skeleton crew all expected to debut in 2023, Star Wars fans should have a better idea of where the MandoVerse storyline is headed and how Luke and Thrawn are involved in the coming months.
The real question now is whether Lucasfilm intends to introduce Thrawn The Mandalorian in front of Ahsoka; and how many other seasons and shows stand between fans and this highly anticipated crossover event.
The Mandalorian Season 3 debuts March 3 on Disney+.