REVIEW: ‘The Mandalorian’ Puts Din and Grogu in the Backseat for a Look at the Not-So-New Republic

Chapter 18 of The Mandalorian, The Mines of Mandalore, wrapped up Din Djarin’s quest to end his apostasy well enough that it didn’t need to be revisited; however, the book ends of Chapter 19, The Convert, do indeed revisit the events of the previous episode and, to some extent, cleverly revise them. Returning to Kalevala to find it under attack by Imperial remnants, Bo-Katan, Din and Grogu hotfoot it to a safe space one hyperspace away. Where they go and what happens there are left for the show’s closing moments, though an attentive audience surely guessed where they’d land. As interesting as those closing moments–and the moments they surely set up for the future–are, the episode spends 80% of its runtime (the longest of any chapter of The Mandalorian to date) putting Din and Grogu’s ongoing journey in the back seat so Doctor Pershing can take the wheel.

Last seen on Moff Gideon’s light cruiser in the Season 2 finale, Doctor Penn Pershing’s reemergence served as a reminder of where Din and Grogu’s journey began, provided a look at the Reconstruction Era of the galaxy and seemed to put the pieces in place for Gideon’s next move. Part of the New Republic’s Reintegration Program, Doctor Pershing’s arc in The Convert serves up a heaping helping of The Who’s We Won’t Get Fooled Again. Co-writers Jon Favreau and Noah Kloor deftly take advantage of years of conditioning of the Star Wars audience to subtly say an awful lot about the New Republic without saying anything at all. Like the other members of the Reintegration Program, Pershing is now a number and not a name, ironically finding himself given the same cold, impersonal identification assigned to the Clone Troopers by the “evil Empire.” An entirely different article could be written on the episode’s commentary on the inefficiency of the New Republic’s handling of old Imperial and Alliance resources, but their handling of a resource as valuable as Pershing as nothing more than a mundane cog in the machine set the gears of his “regression” at the behest of Elia Kane, who is likely working with Gideon. Pershing’s final fate, having his brilliant mind wiped by the “good guys” of the New Republic using an Imperial Mind Flayer, might as well have been done with Roger Daltrey screaming “meet the news boss; same as the old boss” in the background. The hypnotized never lie.

(L-R): Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff) and R5-D4 in Lucasfilm’s THE MANDALORIAN, season three, exclusively on Disney+. ©2023 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

Whatever Gideon wanted Pershing to do with Grogu’s blood, it looks as though Kane will now help see it through putting Mando and The Child back in the sights of the former Imperials. However, if the closing moments of the episode are any indication, Kane, Gideon and whoever else they assemble may not like what they find the next time they cross paths. As Din returns to the Mandalorian covert to prove he’s come back to the faith, the full measure of his rescue from the Living Waters of Mandalore by Bo-Katan. Though she has never walked the Way of the Mandalore, by bathing in the Living Waters herself, Bo-Katan has been “redeemed” and may now live among the Children of the Watch. The details of Din and Bo-Katan’s experience on Mandalore (Bo-Katan is keeping one tiny detail to herself for the time being) are sure to encourage The Tribe to consider returning to Mandalore and begin the culture’s prophesied return to glory. Bo-Katan’s no dummy and these new brothers and sisters in “faith” provide her with an army of warriors who will certainly do everything they can to protect one of their own, as they’ve demonstrated in the past.

So while the “Big Three” of the first few episodes only get a small fraction of The Convert’s runtime, the detour to the Coruscant of the New Republic is by no means a waste of minutes. The events on Coruscant serve as a reminder that while you can take the solider out of the Empire, you can’t always take the Empire out of the soldier: the threat of Gideon, in this case in the form of Kane’s ongoing loyalty to his “plan”, still looms large. Additionally, the time spent exploring the ins-and-outs of the New Republic is long overdue. Through two seasons of The Mandalorian, only bits and pieces of what was going on at the center of the galaxy could be gleaned when Mando’s Outer Rim adventures attracted their attention. The New Republic is still new story telling territory and with the rise of Mandalore drawing nearer with every episode, it’s safe to say that the hypocrisy of the New Republic will come into play. There’s nothing in the street looks any different to me…

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