Grand Admiral Thrawn: The Real Reason to Be Disappointed About Star Wars: Episode VII
That sounds very Vader, but not long afterwards Thrawn and Skywalker are in the exact same situation, and Skywalker again gets away. This time, when Thrawn confronts his new tractor beam operator, the young ensign humbly laid out a creative solution he had attempted to overcome the trick, while lamenting his failure and waiting for death.
Thrawn spared the ensign, happily, and promoted him to lieutenant for both his desire to attempt a novel solution to a known-tactic and his willingness to recognize a mistake and learn from it.
"Several methods have been suggested over the past few decades for counteracting the covert shroud gambit, none of which has ever been made practical," said Thrawn. "Yours was one of the more innovative attempts, particularly given how little time you had to come up with it. The fact that it failed does not in any way diminish that."
That was the mark of Thrawn, the ability to actually lead, which no other Star Wars villain at that time was ever shown to be in any way capable of. In many ways, he was at the time of his writing the only truly nuanced character in the entirety of the Star Wars universe.
Amazing plotlines and development just sprang up around Thrawn. There was the time he told the Emperor he refused to take a force into a battle he couldn't win. Stripped of his command, his replacement was subsequently massacred exactly as Thrawn predicted, and he was reinstated.
Or there was the way he finally found a use for a cloaking device. Since anything cloaked is double blind, meaning a ship can't see out any more than another ship can see in, the technology was deemed useless. Not to Thrawn. He just attached it to 20 asteroids that could level a planet, made the Republic believe he had done it to several hundred, and essentially laid a siege to Coruscant that he didn't have to lift a finger to maintain and kept them isolated for months.
Did I mention he did all of this by doing little more than studying different species' art in order to exploit psychological fears and blindspots?
In many ways, Thrawn would be problematic, and there is no real room for an epic showdown as there was between Skywalker and Vader, or between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin. Hell, in the books Thrawn never directly confronts Skywalker, or the Solos face-to-face at all. But he was a magnificent creation that still stands alone in vision and execution in Star Wars. What a shame for him to never be given a chance to show it on the screen.