This Star Wars: Ahsoka article contains spoilers.
Ahsoka sets up a whole a new arc of Star Wars storytelling, both on the big and small screens, with the return of Grand Admiral Thrawn (Lars Mikkelsen) to the galaxy far, far away. After all, the Heir to the Empire is not only the big bad of the Mandoverse shows on Disney+ but will also very likely play into the film Ahsoka showrunner Dave Filoni is set to direct for Lucasfilm.
But before the Grand Admiral was ever even mentioned in the Mandoverse, he was the main villain of the last two seasons of Rebels, the animated series Ahsoka is basically a sequel to. As you may have learned by now after several episodes of it being recapped on Ahsoka, Thrawn disappeared alongside Jedi Rebel hero Ezra Bridger at the end of Rebels. In order to stop the Grand Admiral from destroying the Rebel forces trying to liberate Ezra’s home planet of Lothal, the young Jedi used a pod of purrgil to zap Thrawn’s Imperial fleet to parts unknown, sacrificing himself in the process.
When Ahsoka begins, it seems like the heroes believe that Thrawn and Ezra died during that maneuver, but in episode six, we learn that couldn’t be further from the truth. Both hero and villain survived the trip to Peridia. Thrawn has been busy rebuilding his war machine with the help of the Nightsisters’ dark magick, while Ezra has become best pals with the adorable little Noti who live on the planet.
Of course, both characters are a bit older since we last saw them. Ezra, as played by a charming Eman Esfandi, even has a beard! So, how many in-universe years have passed since we last saw these characters on Rebels?
The Liberation of Lothal is the very last episode of Rebels, and is also when Ezra and Thrawn disappeared, so it’s a pretty simple calculation. That battle and series finale took place in 1 BBY (or 1 year before A New Hope). Meanwhile, Ahsoka takes place in 9 ABY (9 years after A New Hope), which means about 10 years have passed between the two shows. That’s a long time to be trapped in another galaxy you can only find via star map or purrgil.
Plenty has happened since the last time they were in the galaxy far, far away, too. As all the Mandoverse shows make clear, the Galactic Civil War may be over, the Emperor and Darth Vader may have been defeated, but the threat of the Imperial Remnant remains in the Outer Rim of the galaxy where the fledgling New Republic is still struggling to gain a foothold. The New Republic is stretched very thin on resources, wrapped up in its own bureaucracy and questionable intelligence methods, and at this point in the timeline, Chancellor Mon Mothma’s government is largely dedicated to demilitarizing and governing as a much more pacifist body than its predecessors. Assuming Thrawn does make it back to the galaxy by the end of Ahsoka, he’ll find a galaxy largely unprepared for another war with the Empire.
Star Wars: Ahsoka is streaming now on Disney+.