The Inside Man is really our first real glimpse into Thrawn’s machinations.
Kanan and Ezra infilrate the manufacturing facility on Lothal where Rebels have infiltrated their manufacturing lines. During their trip, Thrawn arrives conducting an investigation and exposes the rebel saboteurs, including Ezra’s family friend from Season 1. During their escape, Ezra and Kanan managed to steal plans for a new secret fighter project that Governor Price and Grand Admiral Thrawn have introduced to the facility. While looking for a way out, they encounter Agent Kallus where he reveals that he is Fulcrum (or at least knows Fulcrum’s password). Grand Admiral Thrawn, however, surmises that they had help from an Imperial.
This was the type of episode that we were hoping to get from Thrawn. We see him essentially execute a civilian – who he (rightly) suspects is a rebel infiltrator – in front of the other manufacturing workers. He, presumably, has a second one executed. He nearly catches Kanan and Ezra. There’s very little here that he doesn’t have his hand in.
In this sense, Thrawn is a bit unbelievable. He just seems to know what is going on rather than deduce it. If there’s anything wrong in this episode, it is this. Thrawn is not omnipotent, he’s just keenly observant. And we didn’t get to see that per se. Not to be completely lost, we did get a great scene of him analyzing the Ghost crew’s related artwork. He even has a Jedi temple guard mask in his office. He seems to derive some level of insight into the ghost crew that is certainly not omnipotent, but quite accurate nonetheless.
This new fighter being made on Lothal is also quite interesting. It has shields and is far more powerful than typical TIE. It could certainly be a difference maker in their ability to control local systems. It’s reminiscent of a counter-response to the emergence of the Rebels’ B-Wing. I’m reminded of the quote from Episode IV, the Rebels are “dangerous to your starfleet commander, not to this battlestation.” This new fighter might have been the difference. It begs the question whether this new fighter is the secret that Minister Tua was willing to share with the Rebels in order to help her defect.
It’s also interesting to see how our Rebel cell has inspired others. Vader flushed our Rebel crew off Lothal and they have not returned in a big way since. In their absense, other Rebels have emerged to resist the Empire’s spread.