Who doesn’t love a land skiff pirate-y ship thing on a mostly crystalized planet?
Elia Kane arrives at an alleyway on Coruscant where she meets with an Imperial probe droid in order to contact Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito). She informs him that according to reports, Nevarro was defended from the pirates not by the New Republic, but by Mandalorians, and tells Gideon that she assumes that they mean to retake their world. Gideon ends the transmission and arrives at a gathering of holographic figures—the Shadow Council, a group of believed-to-be disparate Imperial warlords who are, in fact, all working together to bring back the Empire. Among them is Captain Pellaeon (Xander Berkeley), who keeps touting the imminent return of Grand Admiral Thrawn as the revival they need, but Gideon is skeptical of this and thinks they require new leadership. He points out that Pellaeon and Brendol Hux (Brian Gleeson) often use this as a way of commandeering more and more resources when others need them; he himself has put in a request for three Praetorian guards and support to help him deal with the Mandalorian resurgence. Everyone is very nervous to hear about their possible revival and grant his requests.
Bo-Katan and Din arrive on Nevarro with the Mandalorian fleet and unite the clans. Greef Karga arrives to bring Din some welcome booze, and also a gift; Babu Frick has pulled out IG-11’s memory circuit to create “IG-12,” a pilotable skeleton that Grogu can drive around. Din doesn’t think the kid should be operating heavy machinery, but Grogu is thrilled and refuses to leave the thing. In the evening, Bo tells the group that she means to return to retake Mandalore, bringing the fleet to the planet and then having a scouting party search for the Great Forge in order to establish a perimeter. She gets a group of volunteers for the scouts from both clans, and they arrive above the planet, sending the party down to search out the forge on foot.
Once they have started their trek, they come upon a surface skiff housing several Night Owl Mandalorians from Bo-Katan’s clan. They apologize for forsaking her, but she is glad to find them alive and keeping watch on the surface. At dinner that night, the group relay everything that was done to the world for refusing to surrender, and Bo-Katan finally reveals the truth: She did surrender. Gideon was meant to break off the Empire’s attacks and allow who was left to survive, but he broke his word, took the Darksaber and continued to bombard the planet. There are wounded on the skiff and the Armorer suggests that they head back to their ship so she can bring them to the fleet for medical attention while everyone else continues the scouting mission. Bo agrees, and the people from the surface promise they can bring the group to the Forge.
Later on, Bo admits that she doesn’t think she should lead their people, and that bringing the clans together was always going to be a near-impossible task. Din tells her that he has faith in her abilities, and follows her because she has all the qualities he respects in a leader. The next morning, Axe and Paz are playing a game, Axe insists that the Watch makes up rules, and a fight breaks out between them. No one is allowed to interfere, and the blows continue on for some time until Grogu steps in using the IG-12 skeleton and slapping the “NO” button over and over at them until they desist.
The skiff is destroyed by a beast on the surface and the group quickly escapes and retreats underground. There, they find the remnants of the Great Forge, but no sooner have they come upon it than a squad of Dark Troopers with jetpacks arrive to destroy them. Axe escapes to try and call for reinforcements while the rest of the scouting party fight and pursue. They come upon an Imperial facility and Moff Gideon himself, wearing Mandalorian armor, while Din is captured by his soldiers. He explains that he’s been using this planet for his operations for some time now and creating an army that combines all the best DNA (himself included, it seems) to create a superior fighting force encased in beskar. While sending his TIE Interceptor fleet to engage the Mandalorian one above the planet, he demands that Bo give him back the Darksaber, but she refuses. The group makes to retreat while fighting Gideon’s forces off, and all manage to escape while Paz Vizsla continues fighting. He closes the blast door behind him so that Bo-Katan cannot aid him and continues to kill Gideon’s soldiers, but once they’re all defeated, the Praetorian guard emerge and murder Vizsla.
Given the information we’ve been given about the plot of Ahsoka following the Star Wars Celebration, things are starting to come clear here.
By which I mean, everyone say thank you to Timothy Zahn for writing the Heir to the Empire trilogy, where a lot of this stuff is being lifted and combined with the sequel trilogy from. That’s right, if you want to hear a lot about cloning being used to mess everyone about, and Grand Admiral Thrawn being the only hope for the scattered Empire, it all came from this trilogy. They even unearthed the “Watson” to Thrawn’s “Holmes” from those books; soon as Mr. Mustache spoke up, I was like aw look, it’s our boy Gilad Pellaeon, been waiting for you, buddy. Let’s get Admiral Daala in here and have a whole reunion.
But, of course, it’s a lot funnier because unlike the original version of this story when Thrawn was supposed to have just been hanging around when the Emperor was killed, perfectly poised to take the reins as the Empire fell apart, in this version of the canon he was thrown to the ass end of their galaxy via Ezra Bridger in the finale of Rebels, many years ago at this point. Which makes Gideon’s complaints to Pellaeon not only entirely fair, but hilarious—genuinely, how does Pellaeon know Thrawn is returning? Do they have magic mirrors or promise bracelets or space carrier pigeons that send little missives back and forth? It’s like a sending stone in D&D, and Thrawn can only contact him for twenty-five words at a time, once a day?
“Sorry to be out of touch. Getting closer to the edge of Wild Space now, I think? Bridger being very annoying, might kill him if—”
Sorry, I’m just amusing myself now, I’ll stop.
Additionally, this is going far in explaining how many aborted plans the Imperial cohort tried for, and how they largely failed due to a lack of cohesion. Gideon’s idea isn’t a bad one at all—if the entire First Order army had been a new generation of clones, bred for loyalty to their cause and wearing beskar… yeah, there’s no way. That would have been extremely bad. So the point is that the Mandalorians don’t need to reconnect and unite only for the sake of preserving their way of life; if they don’t do this, the entire galaxy is at risk.
Of course, this doesn’t bring up how gorgeously extra Gideon is as a villain—the man basically took a moodboard full of popular buzzwords (“clones,” “beskar,” “me,” “Mandalorians,” “maybe Force powers, can we get those? kidnap a baby for it”) to create a super soldier army, which is ridiculous and I love him for it. Esposito is always spectacular at playing villains who are fun to hate, and his panache is undeniable.
It seems likely that this arc of shows and films (because Ahsoka is the next step, and its show runner/creator Dave Filoni has been announced as the director of one-or-more new movies that will handle these intertwined plots) will show audiences how the Empire kept trying to get back up after being knocked down, paving the way for the rise of the First Order. The only thing that’s going to be a little silly about that is making sense of what the OG trilogy gang are up to in all of this; obviously Leia has a political career between the Rebellion and the Resistance, but Leia, Luke, and Han were always front and center in these stories back in the day, and it’s a little weird to not suggest that they’d at least be curious about what’s happening here?
Then again, the alternative would leveraging more uncanny CGI, which they will hopefully stay away from. No thank you.
We finally have a better sense of why Bo-Katan is feeling such deep shame at the loss of their planet, but I’m glad that Din point-blank tells her that he in no way thinks this impacts her ability to lead them and pledges to her without hesitation. It’s a good role for someone like Din, the sort of guy who has deep faith and needs places to put it. Bo-Katan and Grogu are both worthy of that, and I’m enjoying watch the way Sackhoff builds Bo’s skills and shows how she’s changed from a far brasher young person into someone who values thoughtfulness and taking a measured approach to her sometimes very volatile people.
That said, I have some questions about the armor Gideon is outfitting his people with, namely, uh… why is it so easy to kill his troopers if everyone is wearing beskar? I suppose some of this can be accounted for by the Mandalorians knowing how to fight each other so well, but it doesn’t come off that way on-screen—it looks like they’re being mowed down similarly to people in stormtrooper armor, while the Mandalorians themselves weather multiple shots from blasters with ease.
Also, while I did die at Grogu getting his own mecha suit, I am still pretty pissed that the inability to easily find a memory circuit meant that they just… let IG-11 die when they didn’t have to. Moreover, Babu Frick and Karga are like “no, this is IG-12 now!” which is not how droid names work? They get their designations as they’re produced, which means that IG-12 does exist out there somewhere and giving a repurposed IG-11 the same designation is nonsensical at best. Anyway, this is not important, I’m just bemused.
And we end the episode with an impressive final showing from Paz “the Problem” Vizsla, who finally got the heavy artillery send-off he was always aiming for at the hands of not one, but three whole Praetorian guards. Good for you, Paz. Kinda crappy to leave your kid behind, though.
Bits and Beskar
- Yes, the Hux on the Shadow Council is indeed the shitty dad of Armitage Hux from the sequel trilogy; Brendol Hux (played by Brendan Gleeson’s brother here in a nice casting touch) was featured in the Aftermath trilogy by Chuck Wendig, and is largely responsible for the program to resurrect the Emperor as well as the stormtrooper kidnapping program that the First Order uses. It’s also regularly intimated that he’s a pretty abusive parent, which clearly had no effect on Armitage at all.
- Similarly to Brendan Wayne and Lateef Crowder finally getting top billing for their body double performances as Din, the body double performer for Paz Vizsla—Tait Fletcher—has also been getting billed for his work, which was obviously substantial in this episode in particular.
- I dunno, after all the giant beasts we’ve seen the Mandalorian’s kill, it seemed more than fair to have their skiff destroyed by a big angry buddy.
Next week we end the season! How are we feeling?