Where was that all season? The Mandalodrian’s third season has been a little inconsistent to say the least, with a muddled overall narrative, a change of protagonist and vastly different tones from earlier seasons. Chapter 23, directed by now executive producer and series regular Rick Famuyiwa miraculously not only ties the season together but delivers the strongest episode of the season to date by a long shot.
The episode opens with Coruscant doing its best Blade Runner 2049 impression, with Kane meeting in secret with her Imperial contact, who turns out to be, surprise, Moff Gideon. After their meeting, we then cut away to Gideon, hidden away in what’s later revealed to be Mandalore, where he conducts a secret meeting with various Imperial warlords over hologram. All this is not only set up for the sequel trilogy and the First Order, but also for Ahsoka and Dave Filoni’s upcoming theatrical debut, which will conclude this narrative arc. Apart from General Hux’s father, also in attendance is Captain Palleon, making his live-action debut. Palleon is best known from the novels as a senior advisor to Grand Admiral Thrawn, who is spoken of quite extensively in this scene. Tired of standing on ceremony for the still absent Thrawn, Gideon opts for new leadership and to stop the Mandalorian incursion once and for all upon learning that Din and Bo are working together to retake the planet, something the Shadow Council eventually agree upon. How will this change in leadership affect Thrawn and his plans and the current whereabouts of the Admiral remains a secret for now, but it’s fun to speculate since we know he’s coming. Great scene, as was the return of Giancarlo Esposito as Gideon, who just looks like he’s having a blast playing the overly confident villain.
Cutting away from the Imperials, we then see the two Mandalorian sects come together and it’s amazing a knife isn’t pulled until much later in the episode. Both tribes don’t trust and don’t like one another but are dependent on each other to take the planet back and set up a base. Helping them set aside their difference is Grogu, who now has the husk of IG-11 as his own walking, talking mech. Now called IG-12, Grogu can pilot the droid from a control unit while also using button prompts for “yes” and “no” in the voice of Taika Watiti. The scene where Grogu takes the droid for a test run is hysterical and his newfound power of strength and mobility irks Din like there’s no tomorrow. But despite Grogu being a little reckless with his new toy, he’s also able to keep the Mandalorians from gutting one another, with the help of a well-timed “no”. United they stand.
This paragraph will have some theorizing in it and also have some content from The Clone Wars, just as a heads-up. I just want to reemphasize my distrust of the Armorer. I said it a few episodes that something seemed fishy and my Spidey-senses are tingling again. Upon finding Mandalorian survivors on the planet, some too wounded to offer help in combat, the Armorer shuttles them back up to the fleet in orbit above the planet, away from harm’s way. Her scenes are short and we frequently cut back to her ascension to orbit. But there’s something in the editing that seems wrong tonally. Couple that with the fact that the episode is called “The Spies”, as in plural, and we know we have to keep our guard up. Kane is one of the spies, but who else is acting as a double agent? Considering Gideon reveals himself later to have Mandalorian armor that also sports horns on the helmet, I can’t help but wonder if these two are in league with each other. Gideon’s personal stormtroopers in his assault on the Mandalorians reminded me a lot of the Super Commandos Maul used, complete with jetpacks and those loyal to the former Sith apprentice. Those under Maul’s command would sometimes have spikes on their helmets too. IF the Armorer, who proclaims Death Watch is no more, is in fact Rook Kast, then she’d be loyal to Maul and the Super Commandos. After the Siege of Mandalore, Gar Saxon, a high-level member of the Commandos, would take what was left of the unit and join them with the Empire, becoming Imperial Super Commandos. So it’s quite possible the Armorer is actually Imperial with loyalties to Maul’s faction of Death Watch.
Anyway, Din is captured by Gideon and his troops and orders Bo and her landing party to death. Thanks to the Darksaber, she’s able to cut an escape, with Paz Vizla providing cover. His battling gun makes easy work of the Imperial Commandos, but tells Bo that there’s too many and stays behind to buy them time. This is the way. But despite his weapon overheating, he’s able to make quick work of the units, thanks to his armor and brute strength. But then three freakin’ Praetorian Guards show up. These are an earlier rendition of the red-cloaked figures who would guard Snoke in The Last Jedi and they mean business here. Gideon requested them, along with more TIEs for this assault and the guards quickly and easily took down Paz. This is the way, but man, that actually was brutal. I’ve come to like Paz’s frenemy relationship with Din and it sucks to see him go, especially after we thought he was in the clear. I predict a showdown between them and Bo next week in the finale.
This episode was great. It had laughs, action that felt meaningful to the narrative, some big revelations that pushed the plot forward and set up further conflicts and important character moments. The Mandalorian needs more content like this and less of whatever happened last week. This is the way.
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