Even as the action takes more of a backseat in today’s episode of The Mandalorian, a new story trajectory begins to emerge in some interesting ways.
Chapter 19 of The Mandalorian, titled The Convert and directed by Lee Isaac Chung, hit Disney+ this morning and opened the door to a host of new possibilities for the season. Even as the bulk of the episode focuses on two non-Mandalorian characters, there’s a whole bunch of things to discuss.
To be clear and upfront…I’m currently at home on “vacation” for Spring Break to watch my youngest child. So today’s recap will be a whole lot LESS recap of the episode’s events and more my thoughts on what we see, the implications of it all, and where things might be going.
As always, I’ll be diving headfirst into spoilers for the episode, so if you haven’t watched just yet, I suggest coming back a little bit later on. Catch up with my previous recaps here: Chapter 17, Chapter 18.
The Convert picks up pretty much where The Mines of Mandalore ended, as Din recovers after being rescued once again by Bo-Katan. The return to Kalevala, however, isn’t exactly a smooth one. Audiences are treated to one hell of an aerial battle, as a wing of TIE Interceptors (always a personal favorite of mine) drop out of nowhere and begin to attack.
There’s a lot to love about this sequence. It manages to capture the thrill and fun of classic Star Wars “space” battles while adding in fun new stuff to gawk at as well. For one, seeing Din flinging himself out of Bo-Katan’s Gauntlet at high speed, dropping through the middle of the Interceptors in order to get to his ship is just all kinds of cool.
Combine that with some fancy flying on Bo’s part (that wing trick is just swanky), and other nifty maneuvers, and this is easily one of the coolest dogfights we’ve seen in Star Wars live-action in a while. Considering this early sequence constitutes the only action in the lengthy episode, it was beautiful to see how well done it was. Gives me hope for even more space battle/dog fighting action in these Star Wars shows down the road.
The victory is short-lived, however, as a wing of TIE Bombers lay waste to Bo-Katan’s castle, while a ridiculous amount of Interceptors appear to chase the pair of Mandalorians away…It’s a lot. As mentioned, those are far too many fighters, and too well organized, to be a simple rogue Imperial Warlord out and about. It’s a hint of a different threat beginning to rear it’s head; the first of many sprinkled throughout the episode.
The bulk of The Convert takes place on Coruscant! Holy shit, we finally get to go back to Coruscant in live-action and see what’s been going on after the Empire fell. For the most part, fans have been left in the dark about what happened to Coruscant post-Return of the Jedi, and even the novels set in the time period have only touched on it sparingly. So seeing it make a full return here in The Mandalorian was something I was thrilled to see.
By and large, it looks much like we all remembered from the Prequel days. While the ecumenopolis may no longer serve as the center of galactic politics (the New Republic has set up shop on Chandrila for now), it’s still an important location for the denizens of the galaxy.
It also, apparently, serves as an important step in the New Republic’s Amnesty Program. We’ve seen hints of this in other Star Wars media, but it’s nice to see it more fully explained/fleshed out in live-action. It’s a program designed to allow former Imperials the chance to “reintegrate” under the new regime. To both atone for their deeds under the Empire, while finding new purpose going forward.
It’s an interesting concept, and as pointed out during the episode, certainly not something that would ever happen under the Empire (traitors/enemies were simply executed no matter their level of involvement). It’s a great way of showing how different things are under the New Republic, even if it’s not an entirely perfect system.
For the most part, Dr. Penn Pershing seems genuinely interested in putting the days of the Empire behind him. Hell, it was clear from the previous Mandalorian seasons that Pershing never really seemed like a willing participant in working for the Empire. Omid Abtahi does an excellent job of showcasing this within the character between his subtle movements and overall demeanor. You get the sense he’s trying the best he can, and wants to help, even as he feels…listless doing more menial tasks.
Pershing was a definitely highlight of the episode, and it was great learning more about him as a character, beyond what we’ve seen in the past. Learning about the reason he got into science and cloning technology highlights the cruelty of the Empire and how willing they are to twist even the most altruistic of ideas into some terrible purpose.
As the episode goes on and we see how Pershing becomes more disheartened and willing to take risks to continue his previous research (rules be damned!), the theme of the episode takes on another important aspect. The idea that even the best intentions, from people who mean well, can lead to something terrible.
I got some big Dr. Wu from Jurassic Park/World vibes out of this episode and Pershing’s drive. It’s a nuanced issue, to be sure, and makes clear that not everything in the galaxy can be black and white. As Elia Kane (more an her later) tempts Pershing by saying how blindly following the rules led them to trouble with the Empire, we’re confronted with a struggle between doing what is right and what is “right.”
Is it more important for former Imperials to successfully be “rehabilitated” to the point of suppressing their abilities? Or should personal rebellion in the name of trying to do something for the greater good be acceptable. It’s an interesting concept, and I love how it’s introduced through Pershing’s character, who had so much to do with Grogu in earlier seasons.
There’s a lot of gray area that could be explored here. Based on the fact Pershing is subsequently caught and strapped to a *checks notes* Mind-Flayer, likely means the deeper ramifications won’t be examined in the show. This might be for the best, to be honest. Much as I LOVE The Mandalorian, high-concept storytelling isn’t exactly it’s thing. I’m not entirely convinced the script-writing (which had some clunky moments even in today’s episode) could handle such a topic in a satisfying way. Even so, I like how it at least presents the idea while giving us our best look yet at how the galaxy is moving on during this period of time.
Looming Threats and Kane’s Allegiance
Pershing isn’t the only familiar Imperial we see in the episode. Katy O’Brian’s Elia Kane (though she didn’t have a name when she was introduced in season two) makes a return and seems to befriend Pershing as he adjusts to life on Coruscant. Through her, a lot of the exposition on what’s been happening is laid bare, though her friendly intentions only make the betrayal at the end more devastating.
She lures Pershing to the decommissioned Star Destroyer only to turn him over to New Republic authorities. After he’s hooked up to the mind-flaying device, she manages to stay behind and crank up the machine when no one is looking. As explained by the Mon Calamari earlier, the device is meant to “soothe” a person on lower voltages and help with their rehab. They don’t explicitly say what happens when it’s turned up higher, but the term “mind-flay” doesn’t sound exactly pleasant.
So we’re kinda left with a mystery here. Did Kane’s interference kill Pershing, or does it merely scramble his brain, leaving him alive but…not without any lights on so to speak? I’m not sure which would be better in this instance. Either way, it leaves us wondering what, exactly, Elia Kane is up to.
From where I see it, there are a pair of options in deciphering Kane’s behavior:
1. She’s so fully gung-ho on the idea of the New Republic, that she genuinely believes she’s doing the right thing by entrapping other Imperials and seeing if they’ll “relapse.” It’s not totally out of the question, and her demeanor during some scenes (especially the park/Umate scene) makes it feel like she’s genuinely happy to be free of the Empire. I mean, it’s still wrong, and she’s using the more ruthless Imperial tactics to achieve her ends…but it’s possible.
Or—and this is the theory I’m going with…
2. Kane is still working for Moff Gideon.
At one point in the episode, there are mentions of Moff Gideon’s fate. While Greef Carga told Din Djarin in the first episode that Gideon was facing a war tribunal, the scuttlebutt among the Amnesty Program people is that he managed to escape before that happened. Sure, it’s just rumor, as is the one about him being secretly mind-flayed, but knowing the devious nature of the Moff, it’s reasonable to think he escaped and is once again out in the wider galaxy.
This ties into what was mentioned at the start of the episode. Someone far more organized sent those TIEs after Bo-Katan and her home. That they specifically distracted Bo and Din with the Interceptors while the Bombers went after her castle, makes the attack feel a bit more personal in nature. Gideon and Bo-Katan already had bad blood between them (somehow he got the Darksaber from her), and her helping out Din in the season two finale likely didn’t help things.
Perhaps the attack we witnessed is Gideon, having had time to regather himself (and his forces), striking out for some personal revenge. It’s the kind of petty thing he would do as he begins to make his presence felt once more.
As for Elia Kane, it would make sense for Gideon to want to have someone on the “inside” of the New Republic to help him out. Considering Pershing’s work and all he knows, he would certainly be a sort of “loose end” they’d want to tie up.
It’s also important to remember that those who followed Gideon weren’t just leftover Imperials. They were fanatical in their devotion to the Empire and Gideon himself. In Chapter 11, The Heiress (where Bo-Katan is re-introduced), we see how Gideon orders the Imperial Captain to sacrifice the ship and themselves in order to prevent Bo and Din from gathering any information. When caught, the Captain doesn’t hesitate to kill himself rather than be questioned.
It’s a level of devotion that certainly goes above and beyond. Considering Kane served on Gideon’s flagship directly, one could imagine the man would only keep his most loyal followers that close to him.
Again, who knows? Regardless, Kane seems to be doing this for reasons beyond herself, and only continues to fuel the idea of some threat looming in the shadows waiting to reek havoc for the rest of the season. Sure, we know Thrawn is coming at some point, but I still think they’re building up to him and Gideon has a personal interest with all the characters shown so far…
Lastly, there’s Bo-Katan. Now homeless, she seeks refuge with Din at the hidden covert. As they prove to have visited the Living Waters, both are accepted as “redeemed” and able to seek shelter there. Bo has been very vocal about how she views Din’s people as a Cult; a splinter faction that only weakened the Mandalorians when they needed strength. So how well can she really mesh, here?
In this, we also see a couple paths that could be taken. She might very well be using them for her own ends (I mean, at the very least she needs a place to rest!) and is only going to adhere to the Creed until it no longer suits her. Or perhaps she’s having a general change of heart. It can’t escape her notice that a Child of the Watch (Din) is the one who managed to reclaim the Darksaber AND find a way to return to Mandalore. Not to mention the Mythosaur, which supposedly heralds a new age for their people.
In some ways, it feels like her own faith has been shaken (notice how she never took her helmet off after seeing the Mythosaur, even though she regularly does inside her ship). Maybe she’s seeing that the old ways might be the key to their survival. Could she be the “Convert” mentioned in the episode’s title?
Frankly, I think we’ll see a blend of these two things. I’m still a firm believer that Din Djarin himself will come to understand the Children of the Watch aren’t the ONLY way to live as a Mandalorian. I feel his larger quest in uniting various Mandalorian clans will lead him to a deeper understanding of the Creed, and that the Armorer may very well end up being the ultimate antagonist of his personal journey.
Perhaps this sojourn is what Bo-Katan needs to reconnect with herself and her people, even if she doesn’t end up adhering to the stricter dictates of the Creed. Either way she is keeping the Mythosaur sighting to herself for the moment. She purposefully held the information back from Din after rescuing him, and made no mention of it to the Armorer when they discussed visiting the Living Waters. I’m curious what her plan is with such information and how it will play into the rest of the season.
With a return to Coruscant, there’s a host of Easter eggs for Star Wars fans to gawk at. Below I’ve detailed some of the more overt ones I noticed (but again, I’m working quickly here, so I’m sure I missed some):
Peak of Umate – The mountaintop on Coruscant is something dating WAY back into the early days of the Expanded Universe and first named in Heir to the Empire. The specific name of Umate was finally canonized thanks to the Light of the Jedi novel. We got to see Monument Plaza in today’s episode, which has popped up in the background of The Clone Wars episodes, and it’s neat to see it in live-action.
Opera House – Have you heard the tragedy of Dr. Pershing? Yes, the site of Pershing’s big talk is the same Opera House shown in Revenge of the Sith.
Skydome Botanical Gardens – The droid driving Pershing back to Amnesty Housing makes mention of a number of touristy things to do on Coruscant. Among them is the Skydome Botanical Gardens, which was first mentioned in Jedi Search, the first novel in the Jedi Academy Trilogy by Kevin J. Anderson (still among my favorites in Legends).
Mantabog of Malastare -Another creature mentioned by the droid driver has roots in the old RPG sourcebook: Coruscant and the Core Worlds.
It’s a Trap – This is more a cheeky nod than an Easter egg, but it got a chuckle out of me nonetheless. As Pershing is strapped down to the mind-flayer, he says “It’s a trap!” and the camera immediately cuts to the Mon Calamarian in the room. It’s a clear reference to Admiral Ackbar’s iconic/meme-able line from Return of the Jedi.
Benduday and Taungsday – We have official names for (at least a couple) days of the week in Star Wars now. Both have connections to familiar names, though I’m not sure if it’s a meaningful connection or not. The “Bendu” was introduced in Star Wars Rebels as an ancient Force-creature. The Taung has roots in the old Legends material as a humanoid race of travelers who ended up becoming the FIRST Mandalorians…
All in all, I’m eager to see what comes next. Personally, I enjoyed today’s episode and how it slowed things down. I like seeing the state of the New Republic in this era and getting more details on the things that happened after the Empire fell. Considering the many plot threads it also tees up, Chapter 19 lays down a lot of groundwork for where this season could be heading (none of which I was expecting).