When I was a teenage The X-Files fanatic, one of my absolute favorite episodes was season four’s “Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man,” which zoomed in on the private life of the series’ main villain. We don’t quite get that in this week’s new episode of The Mandalorian– as Moff Gideon is only briefly mentioned and nowhere to be seen– but we do get to know Dr. Pershing (played by Brothers’ Omid Abtahi, returning from seasons one and two) a whole lot better, thanks to spending the bulk of this installment with him on Coruscant.
But first we check in on Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) and Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff) on Mandalore, where the latter is still reeling from having gotten a peek at a living Mythosaur in the Living Waters.
But Bo-Katan opts to keep this information from Din, who is cool with taking off now that he’s been “redeemed” by bathing in the underground lake. But on the way back to Kalevala, they’re ambushed by a squadron of Imperial TIE interceptors, who chase them down to the planet’s surface, where a big dogfight sequence ensues. This ends with our two Mandalorian protagonists (along with Grogu and the trusty droid R5-D4) escaping unscathed, but with Bo-Katan’s castle having been leveled by TIE bombers. Then we cut to Coruscant, where the above-mentioned Dr. Penn Pershing is giving a speech about how thankful he is to have been accepted into the New Republic’s Amnesty program for ex-Imperials– think of this as sort of like the Star Wars version of the real-life Operation Paperclip (speaking of ties to The X-Files), but slightly less insidious– for now, anyway. At first Pershing seems content with his new life and genuinely thankful to have been given a second chance, but he soon finds himself under the influence of Elia Kane (Katy M. O’Brian from Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania), a former officer on Moff Gideon’s light cruiser– first seen in several episodes of The Mandalorian’s second season. Pershing, Kane, and their fellow Amnesty project participants are given numbers by the New Republic to go by in their housing sector and drone-like office space– shades of Syril Karn’s humdrum life in Star Wars: Andor– the first sign that this freshly installed galactic government may be making the mistake of being just a tamer version of the previous one.
But Kane tempts Dr. Pershing with something more: the chance to continue pursuing his research into advanced cloning technologies, which he seems to honestly believe might help the New Republic in some way– far better than being in the “wrong hands” of the Imperial remnant. Eventually Pershing is worn down enough by his stifling existence to take Elia up on her offer, and they venture to the other side of the city, illegally entering a decommissioned Imperial Star Destroyer to retrieve some of its scientific equipment. And that’s where the other shoe drops, with Pershing getting arrested by the New Republic police and hooked up to a “Mind Flayer” for backsliding into his old ways, and Kane revealed as an Amnesty agent who entrapped her friend. But this government only keeps the Mind Flayer’s setting on low, says the not-so-reassuring Mon Calamari who straps him in. This whole scene gave me dystopian sci-fi vibes, with perhaps intentional allusions to films like A Clockwork Orange and George Lucas’s own THX 1138, but there’s also a bit of Andor in there as well. Then we learn that Elia Kane may in face be a double-double-agent, as she cranks up the dial on the Mind Flayer to 11, theoretically erasing any existing knowledge of Gideon’s cloning program from Pershing's brain.
Then we cut back to Bo-Katan Kryze and company, who fly the Gauntlet and Din Djarin’s N-1 starfighter back to the Mandalorian covert we saw at the beginning of this season. There, the Armorer (Emily Swallow) tests the water that Din took from the Living Waters earlier, and declares both him and Bo-Katan redeemed– yes, even Kryze gets the opportunity to join the Children of the Watch, considering she hasn’t removed her helmet since leaving Mandalore. It’s an interesting turn of events for this character who only last episode dismissed the traditions and beliefs of these people as children’s stories, but such is the effect of seeing a Mythosaur, I suppose. I thought this was a solid installment of The Mandalorian, with Bo-Katan’s arc paralleling the Dr. Pershing story nicely (I think the title “The Convert” could and is likely intended to apply to them both). It was directed by Minari’s Lee Isaac Chung, who brought with him a plausible gravitas to the proceedings, and gave the story some room to breathe in an above-average-length episode. There are some fun Easter Eggs around Coruscant, especially for those of us who try to keep up with the Star Wars publishing world, and I think I just really like that this show is being permitted to stretch its legs and explore other aspects of this universe outside of simply being about the ongoing adventures of Din and Grogu. Now that Jon Favreau has made it known that this series has no end in sight, I actually hope we get a lot more of this kind of thing. It’s a big galaxy, after all.
New episodes of The Mandalorian are released Wednesdays, exclusively via Disney+.