Warning! This article contains spoilers for Ahsoka episode 7
- Thrawn and Anakin Skywalker crossed paths during the Clone Wars, both of them being kindred spirits with unconventional tactics as commanders.
- Thrawn learned that Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader were the same person during a mission with Vader, but kept the secret to himself.
- Thrawn's knowledge of Anakin's history explains his surprised reaction to hearing his name in Ahsoka episode 7 and likely gives him an advantage against Ahsoka Tano.
Ahsoka episode 7 references the unique history between Grand Admiral Thrawn (Lars Mikkelsen) and Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen). Having been located by his agents, Thrawn's exile is nearing its end in a completely separate galaxy as he prepares to return to the known Star Wars galaxy to lead the Imperial Remnant as "Heir to the Empire". However, Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson) and her own allies pose a threat to his escape, hence his desire to learn everything he can about his new opponent.
In Ahsoka episode 7, Thrawn's Nightsister agent Morgan Elsbeth provides the Grand Admiral with all the data available on Ahsoka Tano. As seen at the end of the previous episode, Thrawn had requested every bit of information on the Jedi, such as her background and history, including the identity of her master. However, it seems as though Thrawn was not expecting Tano's master to be Anakin Skywalker, someone he knew personally. With that in mind, here is Grand Admiral Thrawn's past history with both Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader explained.
Thrawn Met Anakin Skywalker During The Clone Wars
Near the end of the Clone Wars and after Ahsoka Tano had left the Jedi Order, Anakin Skywalker and Thrawn met each other on the planet Batuu in the novel Thrawn: Alliances by Timothy Zahn. A captain among his people known as the Chiss Ascendancy located in the Unknown Regions, Thrawn ventured to the known galaxy to seek allies and new technology, a mission that wasn't sanctioned by his commanders. He soon met Anakin Skywalker, a Jedi Knight who himself was on an unsanctioned mission to rescue his wife whom the Republic had lost contact with.
After Thrawn agrees to help Anakin rescue Padmé Amidala, Skywalker promises Thrawn information about the Clone Wars and its ongoing galactic politics. Joining forces, Anakin and Thrawn discovered that they were kindred spirits, each of them often employing unconventional tactics as warriors and commanders to achieve victory. Following their mission, which ended with finding Padmé and the destruction of a Separatist droid factory, Thrawn also procured a deflector shield generator for his people. As such, Thrawn and Skywalker parted ways, the first time in the Star Wars canon that the Republic had ever interacted with a member of the Chiss Ascendancy.
Thrawn Was One Of The Few To Know Anakin Was Darth Vader
Years later, Thrawn would return to the known galaxy, having been exiled by his people (in actuality a ruse to placate aristocrats while he sought allies). Thrawn was then taken into Imperial custody and granted an audience with Emperor Palpatine himself. Invoking the name of Anakin Skywalker as a Jedi who would vouch for him, Thrawn was saddened to learn of Skywalker's supposed death, but had nonetheless piqued Palpatine's interest. Thrawn was then caught up to speed about the end of the Clone Wars and the rise of the Empire.
Gaining the Emperor's trust and favor by swearing his allegiance and offering knowledge of the Unknown Regions, Thrawn was recruited into the Imperial Navy as one of the only aliens in the entire Empire. Thrawn quickly rose through the ranks to become Grand Admiral of the Seventh Fleet, where he was tasked with eliminating cells of Rebellion as seen in Star Wars Rebels. However, Thrawn: Alliances also jumps ahead to this time period. Sensing a disturbance in the Force, Palpatine had Thrawn join forces with Darth Vader to investigate the world of Batuu, a clear mirror to their shared past. In Palpatine's mind, Thrawn and Vader were his two most useful servants.
During their shared mission to protect supply lines to the Death Star under attack from the Chiss Ascendancy's rivals known as the Grysk Hegemony, Thrawn accurately deduced that Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader were one and the same, recognizing the tactics he once saw in action during the Clone Wars. While he did infer that he knew the truth, Thrawn had enough presence of mind to keep the closely guarded secret to himself, lest he incur Vader's wrath. However, he did invoke their shared history to gain Vader's help in extending their mission parameters beyond the Empire's best interests (to help his own people).
Following the demise of the Empire and the defeat of both Palpatine and Vader during the Battle of Endor, Thrawn now stands as the best military leader to take over the Imperial Remnant and bring the Empire back to power. However, his exile in another galaxy since the Liberation of Lothal has prevented his rise as "Heir to the Empire". This is why his return is so crucial for the Imperial Remnant.
Thrawn's Knowledge Of Anakin Explains His Reaction To Ahsoka
Grand Admiral Thrawn was one of the few people who knew Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader was the same person. However, he's also among an even smaller list of Star Wars characters who fought beside both Skywalker and Vader. Ultimately, Thrawn had an abundance of respect for Anakin Skywalker following their time together, both during the Clone Wars and the reign of the Empire. They were both brilliant and creative military commanders, each of them employing unconventional tactics with penchants for bending the rules in the name of victory. Now, Thrawn is set to continue Darth Vader's legacy as "Heir to the Empire," while Ahsoka embodies Anakin's.
Because of Thrawn's unique history with Anakin Skywalker (and Darth Vader), it makes sense that he would be surprised to hear his name in Ahsoka episode 7. Likewise, this revelation also gives Thrawn a very good idea of what to expect from Tano. One of Grand Admiral Thrawn's key strengths has always been his dedication to his opponents' history and culture, specifically their art. Truly knowing his enemy allows him to defeat them by exploiting their weaknesses. Despite never facing Ahsoka Tano directly up until now in Ahsoka, it's very likely that Thrawn has the advantage with the discovery that Ahsoka's master was Anakin Skywalker.
Ahsoka releases new episodes Tuesdays at 6 pm PT / 9 pm ET on Disney+.