When Grand Admiral Thrawn was announced at Star Wars Celebration Europe 2016 as coming into canon via Star Wars Rebels, the audience (I was there) went absolutely nuts. The moment the blue-skinned master of strategy turned around and revealed his head, you couldn't hear a thing other than the screams and applause, and even some tears of joy.
"Kiri Hart and I had played with the idea of putting Thrawn in Star Wars Rebels for awhile," EP Dave Filoni says on the new Season 3 Blu-ray featurette about the Chiss. The featurette includes Timothy Zahn, the character's creator, visiting the offices - and every person working there nerding out about him and his character. Amy Beth Christensen and Killian Plunkett took care with the creation of his look, and seeing Zahn smile approvingly is just fun.
"I like the way you've made him near-human, but not human, I like the facial structure," Zahn says.
"He's a different kind of opponent for our Rebels to face," Hart, head of the Star Wars Story Group, says of Thrawn. "The best kind of villain is someone who actually understands his opponent, and actually can think like them," adds Carrie Beck, "can inhabit them."
"Where Vader was a danger primarily to our Jedi characters, Thrawn is a danger to everyone," Filoni says. That led to them developing a unique fighting style, based on old martial arts films and "even Jason Bourne," Keith Kellog says.
With Thrawn's series of victories against the Rebels in Season 3, even with one that's only about half a victory at the very end, there was clearly more story to tell. So when the fan-favorite character actually made it out alive at the end of Star Wars Rebels Season 3, it was a pleasant surprise. He'll be joined in Season 4 by Rukh, his associate from the original Legends appearances of Thrawn. He's an alien character that moves more like a "creature" than a human, Kellog explains.
"Rukh's gonna play a major part in Thrawn's drive to destroy the Rebellion. You can expect a lot more Thrawn in Season 4," writer and co-EP Henry Gilroy promises.
"One of the things that makes him so wise, is I think he actually sees the value of our team, sees how clever they are, and really wants to best them," Beck teases. "There's a little Moriarty and Sherlock in there."
Filoni notes, as well, that this is the first time the primary antagonist will carry over from season to season - and there's a reason Thrawn gets that honor.
"For the main villain to actually carry over from season to season, Thrawn's the first one. So where do we go from here? You'll find out!" he teases.
"Breaking the stories for Season 4 is one of the most satisfying story experiences I've ever had. The whole team has done really well setting up all these stories we're going to pay off at the end of the series," Beck offers as a final tease.
Star Wars Rebels Season 3 is available now on Blu-ray and DVD, and Season 4, the final season of the series, returns this fall.