Spoilers for Thrawn: Alliances and minor spoilers for Rebels Season 4.
It appears there’s been an awakening in the Star Wars Canon. Timothy Zahn recently released Thrawn: Alliances, which chronicles the exploits of both Anakin and Darth Vader and their fragile alliances with the master tactician Grand Admiral Thrawn in during The Clone Wars and pre-Rogue One. While the novel showcased its main story, it seemingly set up a major conflict to come.
The origin of this conflict dates back to the Aftermath trilogy, set in the year after Return of the Jedi. Through flashbacks, we learned that Emperor Palpatine had sensed something out in the Unknown Regions of space and was trying to communicate with this powerful force sensitive entity. From the third book, Empire’s End:
“The Emperor was convinced that something waited for him out there — some origin of the Force, some dark presence formed of malevolent substance. He said he could feel the waves of it radiating out now that the way was clear. The Emperor called it a signal — conveniently one that only he could hear.”
Everyone and their moms thought this was Snoke, the not-so-big bad from The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. Theories continued to fly when Thrawn stated threats to the Empire exist in the Unknown Regions of space years prior to this signal. Now at the start of Thrawn: Alliances, Palpatine senses a disturbance in the Force from the same region of space that caused him to send Thrawn and Vader to investigate. He would later used Thrawn to set up an outpost on Jakku to map out this part of space, a region so hostile and unnavigable that no one had charted it. Thrawn, being from the Unknown Regions, offered to help the Empire, knowing that helping them would ultimately help his own people in that region. Now it looks like that threat is finally becoming clear and it’s definitely not Snoke.
But first, some background info. Most Star Wars fans get their enjoyment from the films, but there is a large set of fans who love exploring the expanded material in the books, comics and video games. Before Disney purchased Lucasfilm, there was an expansive set of stories set within the confines of a galaxy far, far away. With the Disney acquisition, those tales were wiped from the canon, being relabelled as “Legends”. Going forward, all material would have the same level of canon (which wasn’t the case before). In the late 90s, the Star Wars print moved to Del Rey and they wanted something a bit more intense for their next project. What happened was a 19 book saga was conceived about an alien invasion. That series is considered to be the darkest stuff ever in the entire history of Star Wars. And now, it seems like we may be getting a canonical version of that.
Originally, that alien species was known as the Yuuzhan Vong, a race of religious fanatics from the Unknown Regions who just so happened to be immune to the Force. Now, it seems Thrawn has let us in on a new species that seems to be filling the same role. In Alliances, Vader and Thrawn encounter the Grysk, a hostile alien race from the Unknown Regions who have been quietly monitoring both the Republic and the Empire from a distance for decades and silently influencing some decisions via infiltration. They also manipulate other species by taking precious items from them in order to get the upper hand. They were initially going to invade the Republic during the Clone Wars after setting up the Separatists to win, but they didn’t realize that Palpatine, working as the Republic, was also pulling the Separatist strings. This confused the Grysk and forced them to hold off. But Thrawn adamantly believes that the Grysk are finally set to invade.
The Yuuzhan Vong [Credit: Lucasfilm]
Now, the book establishes that the Grysk are some pretty intense dudes and a serious threat to be considered as they are masters of infiltration and manipulation. Even more interesting is that some of the Chiss, the same species as Thrawn, have sided with the Gryk. My theory suggests that if the presence Palpatine felt in Aftermath is in fact still the Grysk (and it certainly looks that way, although it’s also more likely the Force-sensitive Chiss children-which still ties back to the Grysk as they were prisoners of the Grysk), then perhaps we’ll start seeing them a lot more in the years between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, which has a thirty-year gap. After the Empire fell at Jakku, it’s not unlikely that the Grysk began manipulating events again, perhaps even establishing the First Order themselves, who interestingly enough, hail from the Unknown Regions of space as well. Could this be the beginning of the canonical version of the Yuuzhan Vong war and the New Jedi Order? Is Lucasfilm setting up a multimedia story arc that will span years in-universe? While there’s no concrete proof yet, it does seem that something big is coming and that the Grysk are a part of this new riddle. Now, of course, this could all be a set up for the third Thrawn book, which Zahn is contracted to do, but there’s just too much going on to set up the third Thrawn book. If we only had the Thrawn books, I’d say this would remain a Thrawn issue, but Aftermath brought this up as well, the First Order hails from that part of space and Ezra and Thrawn were sent away to the Unknown Regions in the Rebels finale leads me to believe that the connective tissue through the canon is working together to set something up.
The New Jedi Order [Credit: Lucasfilm/Del Rey]
Post-Return of the Jedi seems like the likely place to tell this potential tale. If the Grysk did pull off an invasion, you’d think there would be records of it in the film. Thrawn: Alliances takes place well before Rogue One so the talk of a massive alien invasion would be the topic on everyone’s mind. Since it wasn’t, and the period between Jedi and Awakens is largely empty at present, a small handful of novels and comics so far, leads me to believe that this will be the playground for the writers of this particular tale. Interestingly enough, Jon Favreau’s TV series, set to premiere on the Disney streaming service, is also going to be set in this time period so perhaps his story will link into this invasion? It’s much too early to speculate, but I don’t think we’ve seen the last of the Grysk.
What are your thoughts on this revelation though? Do you think we’ll see more of the Grysk or is this all just set up for Thrawn 3? As you ponder, check out our work on Ghidorah and Godzilla and our review of Mission: Impossible Fallout.