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The Mandalorian recap: Evil schemes come together, and our real hero takes charge

The Mandalorian from The Mandalorian explicitly hands over control, and Grogu gets a "yes" button

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The Mandalorian
The Mandalorian
Photo: Lucasfilm

This season of The Mandalorian has been divisive for various reasons (I would wager re-centering the focus on Bo-Katan is one of them, whether people will admit that or not), and while I’ve generally enjoyed the ride, I will concede that the show’s reluctance to land on a specific Point for the season has been an issue. The season started with Din Djarin wanting to visit Mandalore and fix IG-11, and he accomplished one of those and abandoned the other right away. Things have been somewhat directionless since then, dropping in plot threads and then ignoring them or immediately resolving them, until the Armorer decided to task Bo-Katan—not Din Djarin—with reuniting the disparate Mandalorian factions and reclaiming their homeworld.

Now we get to a point that seems to insist that Everything Mattered, and it was all connected as part of a grand, wicked scheme, but it still doesn’t all totally make sense or feel completely satisfying. But I’ll stop dancing around it: Giancarlo Esposito’s Moff Gideon is back, and he’s been responsible for pretty much every bad thing that has happened to everyone this season. This may be hard to convey in text, but boy am I shocked. Totally stunned. The show doesn’t play it up like a twist, necessarily, but it does treat his reveal in the cold open like a big moment. He ain’t Darth Vader, guys. Even if he wishes he were.


Gideon has been hiding out in a secret cave lair, and as he marches to a hologram meeting room, the show makes a point to show him strolling past new kinds of Mandalorian-inspired Stormtroopers and what look like cloning pods. The meeting features a group of people calling themselves the “Shadow Council,” which is to say that they’re the leaders of the surviving Imperial remnant factions.


Even though there are a bunch of people in this meeting, only two of them matter other than Gideon: One is Captain Pellaeon, who insists that the Imperials just have to wait until Grand Admiral Thrawn returns to mark the “grand return” of the Imperial military. The other is Brendol Hux, who says they just have to wait until he can complete something called Project Necromancer. Neither of them is happy that Gideon is diverting resources away from their schemes and not really telling anyone why.

Pellaeon is a guy from the pre-Disney Star Wars universe who was reintroduced in Rebels, and he’s here to tease that Thrawn—a fan-favorite villain from the pre-Disney days who was also reintroduced in Rebels—is coming back as the bad guy in Ahsoka. (She mentioned him earlier on this show as well.) Hux, of course, is the father of Domhnall Gleeson’s character in the Sequel Trilogy, General Armitage Hux, and while that familial connection seems like a dead giveaway for what Project Necromancer is, all we know is that it involves cloning and ensuring that there will be someone to lead the Empire in the future. Again, it seems pretty obvious.

But I’ve spent too much time talking about the first five minutes of the episode, and there’s other stuff worth talking about. Namely: GROGU GETS A FREAKIN’ MECH. Hammer that “yes” button, old man baby! The mech, actually the repurposed corpse of IG-11 (now IG-12), is presented to Din as a gift from Greef Karga when they return to Nevarro with the Mandalorian fleet (along with a single bottle of Coruscant booze), but despite his magnanimity (or maybe because of it, since Din immediately hates Grogu’s robot and ability to say “yes” and “no”), the Mandalorians immediately decide to go scope out Mandalore and get ready to reclaim it. Weren’t they supposed to stay on Nevarro to help keep bad guys away? And to live on a big patch of land that Karga gave them? Gideon clearly has interests there, so this just seems very poorly planned.

Anyway, I’m not calling the shots, Bo-Katan is, and they all fly off to Mandalore. The ships stay in orbit around the planet, and all of the named characters (another bad idea, guys) decide to go scope out the surface. They meet a small crew of surviving members of Bo-Katan’s old Nite Owls clan, who proudly declare that they’ve been living terrible lives on the planet’s surface, refusing to surrender just like Bo-Katan taught them.


Then we get a big reveal about Mandalorian history: Bo says she did surrender. When the Imperials came to conquer Mandalore, she surrendered to Moff Gideon on the grounds that he stop bombing the planet and murdering its people. That’s why he had the Darksaber way back in season one of this show—as per Mandalorian rules, she had to give it to him when he defeated her. But Moff Gideon being Moff Gideon, he betrayed Bo-Katan and obliterated the planet anyway. In her mind, it’s her fault the planet was bombed to hell, and it’s her fault that her people are mostly wiped out.

And, all due respect, she’s pretty right right about that. Bo confides in Din that she doesn’t think she’s fit to lead the Mandalorians, because they only follow her because she has the Darksaber. But in a nicely touching little speech from Pedro Pascal, Din explains that he and his tribe don’t know anything about the Darksaber and they don’t care about it at all. They follow her because she’s her. Din even hands over the reigns of the series to her by emphatically noting “I serve you,” adding, “Your song is not yet written. I will serve you until it is.” I like that line. That’s some cool shit, especially coming from an explicitly badass-coded male hero.


I think I’ve mentioned before that I wasn’t an enormous Clone Wars fan, but Bo-Katan has fully won me over this season. Katee Sackhoff’s performance has had more interesting shades than what we see from the other Mandalorians, even the ones who don’t wear helmets (there’s a little smirk she gives when they land on Mandalore that looks involuntary, like she doesn’t want to let on how happy she is to be in charge), and it even comes through in her fight choreography. While Din Djarin just charges into fights or sits behind cover, Bo does all of these cool little jetpack jumps and kicks that visually underline why she’s the boss of a clan of honor-obsessed warriors.

Back to Mandalore, the now three Mandalorian factions get chased underground by a big monster and end up walking into a trap. Gideon’s new trooper variants—which aren’t called out by name, so I’ll call them White Guys until I see an action figure with something better, as is the standard Star Wars practice—ambush the Mandalorians and do a significant amount of damage. They have jetpacks and Mandalorian-style Beskar armor (presumably meaning it was these guys who freed Gideon from prison, not actual Mandalorians, so that was a bizarre misdirect a few episodes ago), and they lead the Mandalorians into a hallway where they can get boxed in by none other than Moff Gideon, who drops in with Mandalorian armor of his own.


I’d have to rewatch the previous seasons to see if this is a new angle on Esposito’s performance, but he seems extremely cartoonish here. That’s not necessarily a criticism for Star Wars, but him dropping bad guy quips and talking about how his new armor’s best innovation “is that it has me in it” is silly. It makes him seem like much less of a threat, since he’s so overconfident, which makes the whole overarching story this season pretty limp.

Gideon lays out his whole plan to the trapped Mandalorians, which is to use cloning technology to create a super-army with the best bits of the Jedi (which is why he wanted Grogu) and the Mandalorians. We don’t really know why he has to keep that a secret from the other members of the Shadow Council, but I would assume it’s because he wants to be in charge someday instead of Thrawn or…whatever will be the result of Project Necromancer.


Bo refuses to surrender, Din gets captured and taken away to “the debriefing room,” and then our big buddy Paz Vizsla decides to make a final stand so the other Mandalorians can escape. He manages to kill a ton of White Guys, but then a trio of Praetorian Guards—an early version of the dudes guarding Snoke’s red room in The Last Jedi—creep out of the shadows and pretty easily execute him. A noble sacrifice, even if they had just established that he has a son. Sorry kid, this is the way.

Stray observations

  • This episode was called “The Spies,” and since they make a big show of the title every week, I assumed it would be important…but at no point where there any spies this episode, right? I assumed we would learn at some point that one of the Mandalorians was double-crossing everyone and informing on them to Gideon, but no, he was already on Mandalore waiting for them. It was very distracting, waiting for a rug-pull that never came.
  • We get a brief visit back to Elia Kane on Coruscant. She has indeed been working with Gideon this whole time, which most likely means that she brain-melted Dr. Pershing so he wouldn’t give up his cloning secrets to anyone else.
  • Gideon’s spiked Mandalorian helmet seems like an explicit callback to when Darth Maul briefly led a rogue Mandalorian faction on Clone Wars. By the way, when’s he going to come back? He died on Rebels, but he’s died so many times before.
  • I’ve been wondering how they would eventually get Grogu into a helmet, and I think this IG-12 mech suit is the answer. As a noted mecha enjoyer, I’m disappointed in myself for never considering that. They’re going to have to teach him not to steal food and take away those “yes” and “no” buttons before that, though. As far as mech dads go, he’s at least doing a better job than Tem Ray and Gendo Ikari already. (Here’s a tip for new fathers: Don’t force your kid into a robot, and don’t love the robot more than him!)
  • The Project Necromancer stuff seems so obvious, but the reason I’m not willing to specifically say it’s about cloning Palpatine is that Wookiepedia says this is the first time that name has ever been used in Star Wars. Ergo, it has not been established as the specific name for what they were doing in The Rise Of Skywalker, so there’s still a chance it means something else.
  • We still haven’t seen more from Grogu’s flashbacks with Kelleran Beq during Order 66, which ended on a cliffhanger. I hope they resolve that storyline here and don’t leave it for a book or comic or whatever.
  • But speaking of not resolving things here, this past weekend at Star Wars Celebration, Lucasfilm announced that Dave Filoni will make his feature directorial debut with a movie that ties together the events of The Mandalorian, The Book Of Boba Fett, and Ahsoka. I…will need to be convinced that that’s a good idea. Seems unnecessarily bold, considering that these Disney+ shows have largely worked because of the lower stakes and greater breathing room afforded by television.
  • Next week is the finale. Blame it on the heightened emotions of COVID quarantines, but season two’s finale made me cry. The bar is high for this one.