'Rise of Skywalker' Sith Fleet Leaks Could Hint at Thrawn's Return

Don't call it a Deus ex machina, this rumor is straight from vintage nineties Star Wars novels. 

Will Kylo Ren have something in common with Grand Admiral Thrawn in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker? If one new rumor is to be believed, Kylo will pull something in the next Star Wars movie that is very similar to a huge plot point in Timothy Zahn’s famous Thrawn trilogy of novels. And, if all of this does go down, it seems to leave the blast doors wide open for some expanded universe retcon.

Spoilers ahead for unverified rumors about The Rise of Skywalker Also speculative spoilers ahead and some mild spoilers for novels published in the nineties.

The Rumor

First off, last week, the fairly reliable (read: not Mike Zeroh) Star Wars fansite, Making Star Wars reported the rumor that the origin of the mysterious Sith Troopers is connected to a lost fleet of ships that have been lost in the far reaches of the galaxy. Here’s a snippet from the Making Star Wars article:

The Sith Stormtroopers have been hidden away in the unknown regions. It is apparently hellish in those areas. The universe is “not entirely stable.” The area is dangerous and full of peril. Since Emperor Palpatine’s death, the fleet has been dodging gravity wells and surviving in the wilderness of space in the unknown regions waiting to be found and to finish their mission.

The rumor goes on to state the Kylo Ren needs to find this fleet of ships to get his mojo going again. Does that make sense? Maybe.

The Background

Minus a few scenes in Solo: A Star Wars Story, we rarely see spaceships being constructed Star Wars movies. In some senses — at least in the classic films — it feels like all spaceships are super-old, kind of like a dystopian economy where everyone drives a used car from twenty years prior, except for the evil dudes who work for the man. The Empire and the First Order have new and shiny ships, but the Rebellion and the Resistance have to kind of get by on what they can cobble together.

Then again, unlike the Empire, the First Order isn’t exactly a government at all. In fact, the primary difference between the First Order and the Empire is that is resources are a little less explicable in the new films, mostly because it functions as a military junta rather than a real government. During the Empire’s reign, the galaxy-spanning government — the Republic — morphed into the Empire, meaning, that for a little while, you had an Imperial Senate. The First Order isn’t like that. It’s pretty much only an army, which means, if they run out resources, it stands to reason they’ll need to steal from somewhere else.

Original covers for the 'The Thrawn Trilogy'
Original covers for the 'The Thrawn Trilogy' 

The Expanded Universe Connection

Now, the idea that a serious Dark Side Badass needs a fleet of long-forgotten ships in order to do some serious damage is pretty much half the plot of the book Dark Force Rising, which is the second of three books in the Thrawn trilogy of novels written by Timothy Zahn.

These books are famous because they basically created everything nineties Star Wars fans thought they knew about the continuing adventures of Luke, Han, Leia, Lando and the New Republic after the events of Return of the Jedi. Briefly, the books are mostly about the fledgling New Republic dealing with remnants of the Empire, led by Grand Admiral Thrawn, trying to take over the galaxy. And, one way Thrawn was going to get the necessary firepower to do it was by hijacking a fleet lost ships called “The Katana Fleet.” 

Obviously, if this rumor about Kylo needing a similar secret fleet is true, it’s already feels very, very similar. Now, in the Zahn books, the Katana Fleet didn’t come with special, secret Sith Troopers, but still, there’s something very interesting about this.

Grand Admiral Thrawn as he appears in 'Rebels'Grand Admiral Thrawn as he appears in 'Rebels'
Grand Admiral Thrawn as he appears in 'Rebels'

The Thrawn Connection With Canon

So, even though everything Thrawn did in the old books is no longer canon, the character of Thrawn has been retroactively made canon by the TV show Rebels and a series of new in-canon prequel novels, also written by Timothy Zahn. So, when’s the last time we saw Thrawn in real-deal canon then?

Well, in the series finale of Rebels a giant space whale jumped Thrawn’s spaceship into hyperspace taking both Thrawn and Ezra Bridger with it. And yes, it has been confirmed by Rebels creator Dave Filoni that Thrawn survived the weird jump into hyperspace in that finale saying in 2018:

“I have a lot of theories about it and what I think happens and where they are. I’ll say this much, they’re not dead. Both of them survive, both Ezra and Thrawn I would say survive it.”

Okay. So, Thrawn — the guy who in old canon was looking for a lost fleet of ships —is now, himself, a guy who is kind of lost in space. And, now, there’s a rumor that Kylo Ren is looking for a lost fleet of badass Sith Ships. Could Kylo Ren find … Thrawn?

Kylo Ren shirtless.
We never thought Kylo Ren would go shirtless, so anything is possible, right?

Wait. Is this Rumor Full of Sith?

The idea that Kylo Ren would be looking for a secret fleet of Sith ships seems a little wild when you consider it would be a new element thrown in at the last second of the trilogy. But, if true, it would neatly explain where the nifty Sith Troopers have come from and possibly why Palpatine is back in the mix.

Because the notion of a lost fleet is so similar to the Thrawn stuff from the old books, it feels like something Abrams and company might do as a little nod to the Star Wars fandom at large. They wouldn’t need to make a big deal out of it for this to work, and Thrawn wouldn’t even need to be a major character. Hell, Kylo Ren could kill him in like 30 seconds before even getting the dude’s name and stealing his ships. The point is, if there is a secret clutch of lost warships in The Rise of Skywalker, then not mentioning Thrawn feels like a huge missed opportunity.


Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is out everywhere on December 20, 2019.

Media via Random House/Del Rey, Lucasfilm/Disney, Lucasfilm/Dinsey, Lucasfilm, Penguin Random House/Del Rey