Grand Admiral Thrawn is one of the most interesting and intriguing characters in the whole Star Wars franchise. Although he initially lost his canon status after Disney‘s acquisition of George Lucas’ franchise, he was quickly ‘re-canonized’ and made part of the new continuity, which was an expected move, seeing how popular he was among the fans. So let us see is Grand Admiral Thrawn good or bad?
Grand Admiral Thrawn is still a bad guy and there really is no other way to describe his actions with the Imperial Navy, despite being different in his pragmatism from his closest allies like Darth Vader or Palpatine.
Let’s get into his moral principles (if he has any) a little bit more in the following article.
Is Grand Admiral Thrawn a good guy?
Now that we’ve gone over his biography, we can discuss whether Thrawn is a good guy or a bad guy. Superficially, a Grand Admiral of the Galactic Empire and a close collaborator of both Darth Vader and the Emperor is certainly to be labeled as a villain (i.e., a bad guy), but the label definitely needs further explanation. The explanation won’t really change much regarding his essence, but it will certainly shed some light on how different he is from the other villains he collaborates with.
By modern moral standards, Thrawn is definitely a villain (or a bad guy, whichever you prefer). He will do anything he deems necessary to achieve his goal, despite the casualties, and he strongly supports a villainous regime (the Empire), whose leaders are known as genocidal maniacs.
And while he doesn’t really share their megalomaniac, genocidal visions, the mere fact that he strongly supports this regime overlooking these villainous traits is enough for us to consider him a villain and everyone who states otherwise is just rationalizing the fact. Those who do not rebel against villainy are destined to become villains themselves. Or something like that.
But, as we’ve said, Thrawn is different in his villainous ways than Darth Vader, Grand Moff Tarkin or the Emperor. In what way, you might ask? Well, unlike them – who enjoy their power and demonstrate it quite often simply because they can – Thrawn is a pragmatic commander who does things only if they serve his purpose, and his purpose is to restore the Imperial order.
In Thrawn’s worldview, there is no classical ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, there’s just ‘useful’ or ‘not useful’. He has consistently adhered to these values throughout his appearances in the Legends stories, showing that he was willing to do anything, but only if it served a higher goal. He never demonstrated his power simply because he could. He manipulated people, he used them for his own goals and he would destroy his enemies, but only if he considered it necessary.
Thrawn wouldn’t actually kill someone just for the sake of killing, but he would kill someone if he deemed it necessary. As Princess Leia once said, “he would smile, he would speak politely, and he would take her children away.”
Thrawn wasn’t really bothered with the Force and the balance of the Light and the Dark side as Palpatine was, which is why he had a more grounded perspective on Imperial business. He viewed Luke and Leia as enemies, not because they were on the “other side” of the Force, but because they were a threat to the Empire. In that aspect, Thrawn’s main sin is his pragmatic nature, but in the context of his actions, he can be considered a villain (or a bad guy) without much debate.