Zero Hour shows us the Thrawn we wanted.
After cornering Agent Kallus, Thrawn finds the rebel base at Atollon and launches a full-on assault. The rebels are forced to flee, but are contained by two interdictor cruisers (the ones that pull ships out of hyperspace). Commander Sato sacrafices himself so that Ezra can get through in a single ship to go get help. Kanan goes to Bendu in hopes that he will help them escape. Instead, he gets angry with Kanan and turns into a giant storm. Ezra manages to convince Sabine to bring a few fighters to help with the escape. They manage to destroy the second interdictor ship (after some foolish decisions by Governor price) while Thrawn mounts a ground assault. On the ground, Thrawn corners the rebel leadership, but is foiled by Bendu’s attack on the station. Thrawn manages to subdue Bendu, but, in the moments before he vanishes, he gives Thrawn an omen – that he can see his pending defeat “like many arms surrounding you in a cold embrace”. Thrawn one the day; the Rebels took heavy casualties. They did manage to pick up Kallus along the way.
Kanan and Ezra
The most touching moment was the interaction between Ezra and Kanan, where they express how proud they are of each other. It’s perhaps the first time we’ve heard Ezra say, with some level of perspective, that he appreciates what Kanan has taught him – about life as much as Jedi training. It seems to be a milestone in their character arcs – usually one that implicates that things may not get better from here.
We finally get the Thrawn we know from Timothy Zahn’s novels. The key to this finale was Thrawn taking seemingly unrelated pieces of information and overlaying it with some deeper knowledge driven by his love of art. It was his study of art from an ancient civilization that showed the existence of Atollon when crossed referenced from his observations of Kallus.
We also see that his observations of the Rebel leadership played to his ability to defend against their attacks. His use of two interdictor cruisers to prevent the rebels from escaping made the difference in the battle. It was only the foolishness of his officers (along with some brash behavior from Konstantine and Governor Price) and the unexpected presence of Bendu that weakened the Imperial defenses and allowed the escape.
This Thrawn is the master strategist that we know from the Zahn novels. It is also this same Thrawn that showed a limited understanding of the things that he studied. In the novels, Thrawn was killed by his protectors – the Noghri – because he misunderstood where his loyalties were kept. Similarly, while he found that ancient civilizations knew of Atollon, he didn’t ask enough questions why the Empire (or other modern civilizations didn’t). We don’t know either, but the reason perhaps had to do with Bendu and his influence. His influence also led to the Rebels’ escape.
Bendu Was PIIIISSSED!
Bendu may be the one in the middle, but he certainly has an emotional state about things. Bendu is still a mystery. He is infinitely patient, but was rather quick to anger. While he seems to be “above” the banality of galactic conflict, his real motivations are unknown. While he states that death is a natural part of life Kanan’s confrontation of him was rooted in the notion that it isn’t the only part of life. Life is complex. Life begats other life. But Bendu’s existence seems in conflict with this. A bigger enigma.