When Disney declared the Star Wars expanded universe to be noncanon, they eliminated a lot of cruft, storytelling dead ends, and characters that were ludicrous even for a space opera. But there was one genuine loss: Grand Admiral Thrawn, created by Timothy Zahn for the novel Heir to the Empire and its two sequels. Thrawn, a blue-skinned alien who managed to rise through the ranks of the human-chauvinist Imperial Navy based on tactical genius alone, was a rare exception to the Empire’s usual policy of promoting the clumsy and stupid, then murdering them. What’s more, he was genuinely interesting. So it’s great that Thrawn is now returning to Star Wars canon in the third season of Disney XD series Star Wars Rebels.
The news broke in a trailer revealed at Star Wars Celebration, which builds to a reveal that the new “swift, precise” attacks the Star Wars Rebels heroes of the early Rebellion are facing are being orchestrated by the Grand Admiral. Thrawn is voiced by Lars Mikkelsen; his brother Mads will be appearing in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Honestly, it seems like Mikkelsen is checking in from a different league here—the contrast between his mellifluous delivery of “I will pull the rebels apart piece by piece” and Taylor Gray’s bog-standard “I must become more powerful!” couldn’t be greater. But then Thrawn always was a standout. Star Wars Rebels Season 3 premieres this fall.