*** Be warned that SPOILERS ARE AHEAD, so if you haven’t watched the most recent episode of The Mandalorian, don’t read this article. Trust me, you want to go into this one without spoilers. ***
As has been the case in the last few episodes of The Mandalorian, some questions were answered, while others were raised.
The most recent episode, Chapter 13, was a thrilling moment for Star Wars fans, and while obviously that was about the beloved character who was in the show (Ahsoka Tano), it was also in part because of a beloved character who didn’t appear – but whose name was mentioned.
Right near the end of the episode, as Ahsoka interrogates the magistrate, Morgan Elsbeth. “Now tell me,” Ahsoka demands. “Where is your master? Where is Grand Admiral Thrawn?”
And here’s what Ahsoka had to say about her, when talking with Din Djarin:
“During the Clone Wars her people were massacred. She survived, and let her anger fuel an industry which helped build the Imperial starfleet. She plundered worlds, destroying them in the process.”
So the first question is this: why is Morgan Elsbeth working for Thrawn? Some eagle-eyed viewers noticed that the HK assassin droids bore the markings of the Seventh Fleet, which was under Thrawn’s command. So obviously this allegiance seems more than just in name only, so what’s going on? I’m not sure, but I find it very interesting that Elsbeth helped to fuel the Imperial starfleet. Remember, Thrawn is maybe the best military strategist and fleet admiral the Empire had, so it makes sense that he’d be connected to Elsbeth. But Thrawn also wanted his TIE Defender project put through, which ultimately was tabled in favor of the Death Star project, so maybe the two were connected that way also.
But the more pertinent question I think is this: what does Ahsoka want with Thrawn? Why is she searching for him?
For this, I think we need a refresher on what happened at the end of Rebels. Thrawn, in command of the Seventh Fleet, drove Phoenix Squadron from their base on Atollon, and then laid siege to Lothal in an effort to quell the rebel uprising there. Ezra Bridger, a Jedi aligned with Phoenix Squadron, voluntarily surrendered to Thrawn, who took him before the hologram of the Emperor aboard the Chimaera, Thrawn’s flagship. Ezra resisted this temptation and confronted Thrawn on the bridge. There, Bridger’s plan was revealed, as reinforcements arrived in the form of purrgil (space whales that can travel through hyperspace), which enveloped the Chimaera and took it through hyperspace to an unknown location, with Thrawn and Ezra still on board.
The very last scene of the series, then, is a flash-forward to some point after the Battle of Endor, where Ahsoka arrives on Lothal to recruit Sabine Wren, the Mandalorian who was part of Phoenix Squadron and was particularly close with Bridger, to go find Ezra and bring him home.
So really all we know is that at some point following the Civil War, Ahsoka and Sabine went searching for Ezra. And while the epilogue of Rebels seems to imply that it happened not long after the fall of the Empire, it is very important to remember that no time frame was ever given aside from the post-Endor part. Whether it is immediately after or years later is not entirely clear.
All of this then brings us back to the discussion at hand: what does Ahsoka want with Thrawn? My best guess is that she is still searching for Ezra Bridger and has not found him yet. This show is set approximately five years following the Battle of Endor, and my guess is that she hasn’t found Ezra by that point. So, presumably, this is a large part of why she wants Thrawn.
One other point here is that, at the end of the episode, Ahsoka sends Din Djarin and Grogu to an ancient Jedi Temple on Tython, where she instructs Grogu to reach out with the Force. She says that a Jedi may come looking for him, but that there aren’t too many of them left. Obviously, far and away the most logical Jedi is Luke Skywalker, who during this period truly is the last Jedi. Leia Organa would be another option. But here’s another thought to consider: what if Ahsoka wants Grogu to do this in the off chance it might draw out Ezra Bridger?
Anyway, my guess here is also that Thrawn has re-emerged, at least somewhat. No one in the Empire seemed to know where Thrawn went, just like no one in the Rebellion knew where Ezra went. So it would be strange for this magistrate to know Thrawn’s location unless he had been found or returned. In other words: I think that somehow, Thrawn returned. And that gets me really excited to think about the possibility that it might be Thrawn who is actually pulling the strings behind these Imperial remnants; that Moff Gideon actually works for Thrawn; that there really is something more going on in the Outer Rim than the New Republic realizes. All of this would open a MASSIVE door for future Star Wars storytelling in a number of ways and directions.
For Ahsoka’s purposes, however, I’m guessing that if she heard rumors that Thrawn survived and has returned, that she would want to know if Ezra survived and where he would be. Is he still with Thrawn? Does Thrawn know where Ezra is? I’m not sure. And I’m also not sure that The Mandalorian will pick up on these things, as this could help us lead right in to the long-rumored Rebels sequel. What if Ahsoka, through this episode, got word of where Thrawn is, which sets in motion her and Sabine’s journey to go find Ezra?
I recognize that all of this is speculation, but this just makes a ton of sense to me: Thrawn has returned, Ahsoka has heard about it, and Ahsoka is now searching for Thrawn to try to find a lead to Ezra. Maybe it’s after she does figure out a lead that she heads to Lothal to team up with Sabine. And there are so many different storytelling directions that Star Wars can branch off of from that.