Lost Legends

'Mandalorian' Season 3 could turn this minor sidekick into a major villain

“If one is remembered by a friend, one is never truly gone.”

The Mandalorian Season 3 needs to tie up some loose ends.

Din Djarin is down a ship and a son, and he has reason to question everything about his Mandalorian identity. Now at odds with Bo-Katan Kryze, Din must also reckon with being the rightful bearer of the Darksaber.

In a previous Mandalorian episode, Ahsoka sets up a still-unresolved plot thread that could tie together a huge Rebels mystery — using a character from the Star Wars novels and comics. Here’s how one unsung character could become the galaxy far, far away’s next Big Bad.

Eli Vanto was a human male who first served as a translator for Grand Admiral Thrawn when he was conscripted into the Imperial army. Eli was soon embraced by Thrawn’s society, that of the blue-skinned Chiss Ascendancy. Though Eli later studied at Thrawn’s feet, the future villain was once working alongside Eli — that is, before his strategical skills fast-tracked him for the admiralty.

Eli was first introduced in the 2017 canon novel Thrawn, which provided the backstory for its eponymous villain. Thrawn was a known quantity at that point: a star of the Legends canon and the ultimate antagonist in Star Wars: Rebels. But because Eli played only a small part in Thrawn’s rise, not many Star Wars fans know about this potentially pivotal character.

Lost Legends is an Inverse series about the forgotten lore of our favorite stories.

Eli Vanto in an art insert for Thrawn: Treason.Del Rey Books

Fans of Rebels know that that series ended with Thrawn and Ezra Bridger lost in space. Years later, in the era of The Mandalorian, Ahsoka duels an Imperial magistrate demanding to know the whereabouts of Grand Admiral Thrawn. Does this mean the Empire has rescued him — and possibly Ezra too?

Thrawn might have prepared Eli for a few contingencies, including one that involved him being lost in space, suggests Redditor HerSoulIsBooks. Eli could have possibly pored through records in order to locate and rescue Thrawn. Were The Mandalorian to explore the dynamic between Eli and Thrawn in this way, it would bring together Star Wars novels while introducing a much-needed live-action sidekick for Thrawn.

Thrawn advocates for Eli to be promoted in Thrawn #4, published in 2018.Marvel Comics

Will Eli Vanto appear in The Mandalorian Season 3? That depends on if Grand Admiral Thrawn shows up. Many fans are operating under the assumption that Thrawn being mentioned by Ahsoka means that the villain is more likely to appear in the upcoming Disney+ spinoff Ahsoka.

But Thrawn is a big enough deal — both to fans of Legends and of previous TV series — that him appearing on The Mandalorian seems like a no-brainer. Why not bring Thrawn back into the spotlight while using a new right-hand man to explain his return? It could even be Eli, not Thrawn, who becomes the series’ latest Big Bad.

The Mandalorian is now streaming on Disney+.