While the second-to-last episode of The Mandalorian’s third season concerned itself with bringing the protagonists to one of their lowest moments ever, it also established a great deal about the wider world and a key tie to this summer’s Ahsoka. And while we ponder the future for Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal), Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff), Grogu, and the others, it is also worth considering what it means to be the heir to the Empire and how much of the old Expanded Universe we can expect in the years to come. Let’s dive into what chapter 23, “The Spies,” offers us besides a potential Mandalore charge of the Light Brigade.
Spoiler alert: The following reveals details from the seventh episode of The Mandalorian season 3, “Chapter 23: The Spies.” Stop reading here if you have not watched the episode and wish to avoid spoilers.
(Photo by Lucasfilm Ltd.)
But before we delve too deeply into the future of The Mandalorian’s part in the Star Wars timeline, let’s pay our respects to Paz Vizsla (Tait Fletcher, voiced by Jon Favreau). All season, we’re put him under a microscope because he was just so inscrutable. Introduced as a potential foil for Din in the program’s second episode, he moved toward a rival status in The Book of Boba Fett as he vocally expressed a desire for Clan Vizsla to reclaim the Darksaber.
Then, the third season put him in a different light as his devotion to the Way clearly proved stronger than any individual ambition. His opinion of both Din and Bo-Katan evolved as he saw them in action. Their willingness to save his foundling son proved to be a pivotal moment. He openly advocated for the defense of Nevarro and the opportunity for the covert to have a proper home. He also proved to be an invaluable asset in that fight and this first attempt to retake Mandalore.
Sure, he and Axe Woves (Simon Kassianides) tussled — that was inevitable as he always needs to grapple with someone. Nevertheless, his willingness to lay down his life for the others proved a certain nobility that, we think, may not have been seen amongst his clan since the days of Tarre Vizsla, the Mandalorian Jedi who forged the Darksaber. Of course, the centuries always allow for another to prove their merit as Paz did this week.
Either way, it makes it all the sadder that we should lose him on another dark Mandalore day. His sacrifice was for the safety of the others, and we can’t help but noticed he made it to the end without ever removing his helmet. There was always the suspicion Favreau might find a way to affix his face to the character’s larger, built frame — see the special edition Hasbro Star Wars Black Series action figure of Paz that does just that — but for the sacrifice to have the impact that it needed, there could never be a chance to see the executive producer’s face even in a reflection of Paz’s helmet.
All that said, it is possible he somehow survived his tussle with the Praetorian Guard and may make one last stand next week.
In terms of the season’s exploration of a Mandalorian religion, Paz also underscores just how persuasive the Way can be. He set aside all other personal things, like his ambitions and his own son, to protect sworn brethren and sistren. It also stands as an example of why Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) views the warrior culture as such a threat to the Imperial Remnant’s goals.
(Photo by Lucasfilm Ltd.)
The episode also made clear just what became of Gideon since his capture in the season 2 finale. He was rescued by a “next generation” of Dark Trooper who emerged from his belief that the best of all worlds should be mixed into an elite soldier who will bring order to the galaxy. Beyond the depravity of the original troopers, they also utilize Beskar armor and Mando-style jet packs.
We also think Gideon’s true intent with Grogu was to somehow add the Force to his new troops. But more on that in a moment.
The new Death Troopers clearly sprung Gideon from the Republic shuttle and ferried him back to Mandalore, where he’s been all this time. That really should’ve been everyone’s first guess as the Moff was stationed there as its governor in the wake of the purge. And, as we learned this week, Bo-Katan literally gave him the Darksaber and the planet in the hopes that further loss of life could be avoided.
He lied, of course.
(Photo by Lucasfilm Ltd.)
Lying is second nature to him, though. Look at the way he lied to other members of the clandestine Remnant Shadow Council regarding Doctor Pershing (Omid Abtahi, pictured above) and the resources he swore to provide to Project Necromancer. It seems clear his recovery of the child was meant to serve that purpose even as he always intended to extract midi-chlorians from Grogu for his new Dark Troopers.
His actions to date prove he is formidable among the Remnant leadership and it is clear some on the Shadow Council would welcome him as Sheev Palpatine’s (Ian McDiarmid) successor. Indeed, he proved to be a good tactician in setting back the Mandalorian cause this week.
That said, we find it interesting that both he and the council view a liberated Mandalore as a genuine threat to their plans. Presumably, they all believe Mandalorians would fight any attempt to restore the Empire on a galactic scale. Even Gideon would find it difficult to produce Dark Troopers on the scale required to challenge a united Mandalorian fight. The season finale will prove a crucial moment for him and Bo-Katan as the future of the conflict will be decided on what happens next.
Also, Gideon just enjoys keeping Mandos down. The cruelty is always the point, after all.
(Photo by ©Disney XD / courtesy Everett Collection)
The Dark Troopers are also probably part of Gideon’s plan to set himself up as Palpatine’s replacement. But, as revealed in this episode, a true heir to the Empire emerges in the form of Grand Admiral Thrawn (Lars Mikkelsen).
As fans of the novel trilogy by Timothy Zahn and Star Wars Rebels (Thrawn pictured center above) knows, the Chiss tactician is the most formidable opponent anyone could face. Consider that he is an alien who rose to one of the highest ranks in the otherwise xenophobic Imperial navy and that most of the Shadow Council defers to his representative, Captain Pellaeon (Xander Berkely), at any mention of his name.
The presence of Pellaeon is interesting in its own right. The character also originates from Zahn’s first Star Wars novel, Heir to the Empire. There, he served as Thrawn’s chief lieutenant and is an acknowledged co-founder of the Imperial Remnant even as he also signed the treaty with the New Republic that ended the war in the old Expanded Universe.
In current Star Wars continuity, Pellaeon served as a captain in Thrawn’s Seventh Fleet. He took part in the blockade of Lothal (seen in Rebels) and was there when Thrawn and Ezra Bridger disappeared shortly before the Galactic Civil War became an open conflict. And if the episode had streamed before Star Wars Celebration last week, we’d be questioning if Pellaeon’s use of Thrawn’s name was a gambit of his own to seize complete control of the Remnant.
(Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images for Disney)
From the scene, it’s clear the Imperial forces are more organized than we suspected and Pellaeon, acting as Thrawn’s representative, wields authority even among the other command figures on the council. Gideon has to convince him to send extra resources to Mandalore, for example. But with the knowledge that Mikkelsen (pictured above) will be playing Thrawn in August’s Ahsoka, it is possible he will make his presence known next week whether or not Gideon is successful in his attempt to end the Mando threat. And we bet he will be none-to-pleased to discover what the Moff has been up to with Imperial equipment and research.
Of course, that’s presuming Pellaeon is in contact with the admiral and not just presuming to know his wishes. Thrawn may still be missing even as the first episodes of Ahsoka start to stream.
Nevertheless, it is interesting to learn that the Imperial Remnant is organized at all. Up until now, they have appeared to be broken into factions — a cover possibly ordered by Thrawn to allay the Republic. It was a pretty convincing tactic, as even we hedged our bets on the Remnant being disconnected fleets acting as warlords and pirates. The council’s efforts create a straighter line to the First Order than we suspected.
That said, it’s pretty clear Gideon means to behave like a warlord and if Bo-Katan, Grogu, and the others don’t deal with him while rescuing Din, Thrawn will be his next opponent.
But outside of all the Remnant machinations, the bulk of the episode concerned bringing the Mandalore reclamation effort to its knees. Bo-Katan was once again chastened, Din was captured, and we presume the Armorer (Emily Swallow) will find a fleet of Star Destroyers awaiting her and the Mando floatilla.
Putting the heroes into that amount of peril is good storytelling, though, as it gives them a dark place to crawl out of it. Surviving it is a worry for next week’s season finale. To an extent, holding Mandalore seems like a dream Bo-Katan and the others should give up in favor of the land on Nevarro. At the same time, it is possible we’re nearing the end of this story with the Mandos getting wiped out. They are conspicuously absent from the Sequel Trilogy, after all. But Star Wars is also about hope, and it always springs eternal.
Consider that this time, Din was captured and not Grogu. That could really change the outcome of things.
(Photo by David James/Lucasfilm Ltd.)
• Commandant Hux is played by Brian Gleeson, brother of actor Domhnall Gleeson (pictured above), who played First Order General Hux in the Sequel Trilogy. Presumably, the two Gleesons play father and son decades apart. But if that’s the case, why didn’t the younger Hux know about what was happening on Exegol? At least, we’re presuming the elder Hux’s “Project Necromancer” is directly related to giving Palpatine a new body and, maybe, a proxy Supreme Leader with which to control what becomes of the Remnant.
• As noted by the Armorer when asked by the veteran Mandos who remained planetside, the Death Watch splintered into factions and annihilated each other. This may be why her Children of the Watch covert is so dedicated to The Way. It potentially saved the few who remained and may yet be the means to unite any remaining Mandalorians in the galaxy. Well, presuming anyone survives next week’s finale.
• Gideon’s spiked Dark Trooper helmet resembles one worn by Maul’s (voiced by Sam Witwer) super commandos during his time ruling Mandalore at the end of the Clone Wars. Is it possible Gideon’s true allegiance is to his memory? If that’s the case, is he also a Mandalorian despite his seemingly alien regard for their culture? If that’s the case, his attempts to create a Remnant counter to Thrawn’s or Palpatine’s wishes also starts to make sense.
(Photo by Walt Disney Studios)
• The Praetorian Guard serve as another precursor to the First Order. While clearly still resembling Palpatine’s Royal Guard, they’ve already adopted the name and the weapons they will use in the service of Snoke (pictured, Andy Serkis) 25 years later. Invoking the name of the Praetorian Guard is another hint that the Remnant will evolve into the First Order by the time The Mandalorian and Ahsoka are done with this story.
• IG-12, Grogu’s new vehicle/weapon system, echoes the notion of mobile suits as popularized in the Japanese television series Mobile Suit Gundam and the earlier super robot tradition of 1960 and 70s Japanese animation. The reference makes a certain sense as Star Wars owes a major debt to director Akira Kurosawa and The Mandalorian began with a heavily influence from the legendary manga series Lone Wolf & Cub. But considering most of those influences end on down notes, is it possible The Mandalorian itself is heading for a darker climax?