This week’s episode of The Mandalorian was all about setting the stage, and the stakes, for an explosive end to a very mixed season three. But it also looked to Star Wars’ future with the presence of a face very familiar to fans of the old Expanded Universe.
Spoilers of the Week: July 1st
The opening of “The Spies” sees a returned Moff Gideon, freed from New Republic custody, address his fellow Imperial Remnant commanders as part of the Shadow Council, the mishmash of Imperial officers, warlords, and spymasters that tries to keep what’s left of the Empire’s crumbling presence together in the wake of Return of the Jedi. There’s a few familiar names among the council’s members, but one in particular immediately stands out: Captain Gilad Pellaeon, making his live-action debut, as an ardent supporter of the return of Grand Admiral Thrawn as the leader the Empire needs to be reborn.
Who Is Captain Pellaeon?
Gilad Pellaeon was first introduced in Timothy Zahn’s 1991 novel Heir to the Empire. It’s the first book in the iconic “Thrawn Trilogy” that formally kicked off what would come to be known as the Star Wars Expanded Universe, the transmedia exploration of events beyond the original and prequel trilogies that was retired as “Star Wars Legends” when Disney acquired Lucasfilm and continuity was rebooted in 2012.
A captain in the Imperial Navy, Pellaeon was Thrawn’s second-in-command in his campaign to defeat the nascent New Republic and restore the Empire to galactic prominence. But although Thrawn would perish at the climax of the final book in the trilogy, The Last Command, Pellaeon went on to have a much longer and vital role in the future of what would become known as the Imperial Remnant, throughout the EU’s history.
Has Captain Pellaeon Appeared in Current Canon Before?
While Xander Berkeley’s portrayal in “The Spies” is the first time that Pellaeon has appeared in live-action Star Wars material, it is not the first time the character has appeared in the rebooted Star Wars canon. In the final episode of Star Wars Rebels, Pellaeon makes a brief audio-only cameo appearance, as Thrawn requests to speak with him before contact is cut off by the arrival of the Purrgil (who we briefly saw in this season’s premiere). Voiced there by Jim Cummings, Pellaeon’s history in the new canon would eventually be fleshed out by Thrawn and Pellaeon’s creator, author Zahn, in the trilogy of Thrawn novels he wrote depicting the Chiss’ rise to prominence before the events of Rebels.
“I just wanted to mention the name so it gets in there, so it’s something people can use,” Dave Filoni told io9 exclusively in 2018. “And sometimes that’s what I can do for things that come out of Legends. I could create just another captain with some name there or I could put someone like Pellaeon in play. And then maybe he gets picked up in comics or novels, I don’t know. But I think that would be kind of fun to do, and it’s a way to get that idea rolling.”
Turns out, he was just waiting for himself to get that idea rolling.
What Happened to Captain Pellaeon in the Old Expanded Universe?
After Thrawn’s assassination at the Battle of Bilbringi—killed by his Noghri bodyguard, Rukh, also already re-introduced into Star Wars canon in Rebels—Pellaeon becomes the de facto leader of his forces, commanding a retreat to the edges of the Unknown Regions. Not wanting to descend into the infighting of the Imperial Warlords that rose to prominence in the wake of the Empire’s downfall, and torn on avenging his commander in one final stand, Pellaeon eventually returned Thrawn’s forces to the re-established Imperial Ruling Council.
Things descended into chaos once again when the Empire broke into civil war after a surprise re-taking of Coruscant from the New Republic. With the return, and second death, of Emperor Palpatine during the events of Dark Empire, Pellaeon watched as the promise of Imperial unity seemingly dissolved before his eyes—until fellow Imperial Navy officer Admiral Natasi Daala executed a swath of prominent warlords attending a meeting arranged by herself and Pellaeon in an attempt to reform the Empire, only to see it threaten to be destroyed entirely by the warlords’ greed. Together, Daala and now Vice Admiral Pellaeon consolidated the warlords’ forces into a singular power, destroying those who didn’t submit to their new vision for the Empire. Eventually choosing to begin their campaign against the New Republic by assaulting the reborn Jedi Academy on Yavin 4, Pellaeon and Daala found themselves stunningly defeated by the Jedi based there, Daala resigned her leadership role and turned to Pellaeon as the new leader of the Empire.
Pellaeon drew his forces from the core of the galaxy into the Mid and Outer Rim, and the remaining Grand Moffs formed a new ruling council to create the next government of the Empire, now formally the Imperial Remnant, liaising with Pellaeon as the Supreme Commander of the Empire’s military forces. Pellaeon pushed the remnant to step away from some of the cruel excesses of Palpatine’s Empire, abolishing slavery and continuing Daala’s campaign to recruit non-human and non-male beings into its service. After years of campaigns against the New Republic, it was Pellaeon that sued for peace, believing that if the Remnant just remained in its current power balance it could bide its time for the New Republic to fall through other means, and be best prepared to take its place. Signing the Bastion Accords after a lengthy negotiation with Leia Organa-Solo, Pellaeon ushered in the formal end of the Galactic Civil War 19 years after the Battle of Yavin.
The Remnant, with Pellaeon at its head, helped the New Republic battle against the invasion of the Yuuzahn Vong, and eventually after the end of the Vong invasion—and the decline of both the New Republic and the Remnant as entities, reformed into the Galactic Federation of Free Alliances—he retired from service. Pellaeon eventually exited retirement to become supreme commander of the Alliance’s Defense Force, but as the Swarm Crisis and the second Galactic Civil War upended the Galactic Alliance, decades after his former commander had suffered a similar fate, Pellaeon was assassinated by the Sith apprentice Tahiri Veila, at the behest of Darth Caedus—the fallen Jedi son of Han and Leia, Jacen Solo—after Pellaeon refused to support Caedus’ attempt to take over the Galactic Alliance.
What Does Captain Pellaeon Mean for Star Wars’ Future?
The obvious thing, of course, is that Pellaeon is a herald: as we can already see from his brief appearance here, where Pellaeon goes, he’s damn well hoping Thrawn will follow to take the lead. That means whatever is planned for Thrawn in Ahsoka, and likely the Imperial Remnant vs. New Republic movie Dave Filoni is cooking up, Pellaeon will likely be a part of it, side-by-side with his trusted comrade.
But is there a possibility that Pellaeon is more than the current canon’s pre-Thrawn appetizer, and could share a familiar fate to his EU predecessor—tasked with leading a post-Thrawn remnant as it grows and evolves to fit the galaxy’s changing landscape? It’s hard to say. The almost immediate arrival of the First Order, in the grand temporal scheme of things, makes it difficult for the Imperial Remnant to persist in the kind of way it did in the EU before it’s essentially absorbed into it. And given that Pellaeon was nowhere to be found in what we’ve seen of the First Order in the sequel trilogy, then perhaps he’ll meet the same fate as his commander soon enough.
But doing what the Expanded Universe did, eventually having to grow Pellaeon beyond his direct association with Thrawn, could be fertile ground for Star Wars to take—and give us a chance to see the entanglement of the Empire’s past, and the First Order’s future, through the eyes of one of the old EU’s most intriguing characters.
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