Review: Chapter 23 of "The Mandalorian"

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This entire season has been far too slow and decentralized for my taste, but thankfully that changes with Chapter 23 of “The Mandalorian.” There’s a lot to unpack here, and the third act in particular really raises the stakes.

We open on Coruscant, but in the lower levels where there is more crime and less light; this is reminiscent of Level 1313. Elia Kane, who was one of Moff Gideon’s Imperials last season (and appeared earlier this season), meets with an Imperial Probe Droid. This droid projects Moff Gideon, who is clearly not on trial. Per the cliffhanger last episode, he was indeed rescued. I’ll mention a small spoiler from later in the episode now: his rescuers DID indeed have beskar equipment. However, they are not true Mandalorians. We’ll come back to that.

Earlier in the season, Din Djarin and his comrades from Children of the Watch thwarted an attack by pirates on the planet Nevarro. Initially this seemed like an isolated raid by the pirates. However, per the conversation between Elia Kane and Gideon, it looks like the pirates were working for him as well. Perhaps Gideon wants to retake Nevarro. After all, as seen in Season 2, he had substantial resources invested there, including what seemed to be a laboratory for cloning and similar experiments.

Moff Gideon is surprised to learn that Din Djarin and Bo Katan worked together to save Nevarro. He was counting on their respective factions to remain divided in order for them to be easier to defeat. According to Gideon, the factions are sworn enemies. You can infer that they are both fragments of Death Watch, the Mandalorian faction from Clone Wars.

As Gideon ends the transmission, we see that he is surrounded by troopers in white armor. But these aren’t your typical stormtroopers. Rather, there are elements in their armor’s design that seem… Mandalorian. They seem partially based on the white prototype armor seen on an earlier version of Boba Fett, before his armor was modified to the final product and covered in color.

Gideon also walks past what appear to be copies of Supreme Leader Snoke in clone vats. It is kind of hard to tell but that’s what the silhouettes appear to be. It also seems a bit premature to me to have copies of Snoke around so many years before the Sequel Trilogy.

Gideon steps before a council meeting, being conducted through hologram. This kind of reminds me of the meetings the Jedi Council had during the Clone Wars, where members who were not physically on Coruscant would still be in the meeting. Nowadays we call that Microsoft Teams or Zoom.

We learn much from the Imperials gathered here. For starters, they aren’t really ragtag warlords. Rather, they are an organized collective trying to stay off the radar of the New Republic.

I don’t think most of these Imperials are anything special, save for maybe two. The first is Pellaeon, who was a valuable ally to Grand Admiral Thrawn in the old Legends/Expanded Universe. He actually mentions the return of Thrawn himself. Now, Thrawn is well known to most Star Wars fans but I feel obligated to explain to more casual viewers/readers, so bear with me.

Thrawn is a brilliant mastermind. He is of the Chiss race, who in turn are organized into the Chiss Ascendancy hidden deep in space. Despite not being human, he rose through the Imperial ranks swiftly due to his brilliant strategic mind. This trait is present in both Legends and Canon.

In more recent history, he was a major antagonist in Star Wars Rebels and seems to be confirmed to return in the Ahsoka series. His last appearance in Rebels ended with him being sent deep into hyperspace after a brave sacrifice by Jabba- I mean, Ezra Bridger, a protagonist of the show.

These Imperials seem eager, or impatient, or both, for Thrawn’s return. And when he does, I hope he heralds a new epic conflict for our familiar and beloved characters, because anything less would not be worthy of either him or them.

Less impressive is Brendol Hux, who is the father of General Armitage Hux from the sequel trilogy. What’s more important about his inclusion is the fact that he is working on “Project Necromancer.” Details are not given, so I am going to assume that this is the secret project to resurrect Palpatine.

In an exchange between Hux and Gideon, Gideon denies creating his own clones, and we learn he has requested TIE Interceptors, Bombers, and 3 Praetorian Guards. That last detail is particularly relevant…

I wonder if Gideon and Thrawn will be at odds for leadership? Gideon seems to be the only Imperial bold enough — and smart enough — to challenge Thrawn. I suppose we’ll find out… not this episode though.

The Mandalorian force comprised of mostly Nite Owls descend upon Nevarro. The most impressive part of this sequence is when one of their Imperial light cruisers (which they acquired in Season 2) proudly shows an enormous Mythosaur skull painted under the hull of the ship. It’s bold, eye catching, and patriotic. To think that this was originally “just” a symbol on the armor of the best bounty hunter in the galaxy… and now it looms several meters long over an entire city. I hope the creators of the Mythosaur symbol are proud of this display and how far the symbol has come over time. It’s certainly an inspiring sight.

Before the Mandalorian factions formally meet, Greef Karga presents a gift to Din Djarin… IG-12. This is IG-11 but only as a shell/vehicle controlled by a pilot. One of the Anzellan mechanics demonstrates and then keeps his distance from Grogu as they walk by each other (“bad baby, NO squeezee!”). I can’t properly explain how cute and hilarious that is.

Anyway, to my great delight, Grogu can now communicate in “yes” or “no” with the control panel on IG-12. This is a welcome upgrade because Grogu has gone for over 2 Seasons without “saying” much. It is also hilarious how he abuses the system (yes… yes… yes… yes… NO).

An additional plus is that this will improve Grogu’s combat abilties. With this IG shell/suit under his command, he will be better able to defend himself. I am straight up stoked to see what Grogu does with the IG-12 upgrade.

Next, we get to the beginning of the end. Bo-Katan rallies a strike force comprised on members from BOTH Mandalorian groups. They will scout a way to “The Great Forge” on the planet Mandalore, and then the other Mandalorians will follow when a safe perimeter is secured. Of course, we get familiar faces from each faction — The Armorer and Paz Vizsla, who we met in Season 1, and Axe Woves and Koska Reeves, who we met in Season 2 alongside Bo-Katan. I like all 4 of them, and of course the Mandalorians that the viewers know are going to be in the strike force. But for the sake of strength we also get additional random Mandalorians. This is the way.

The strike force descends on the barren surface, which we as the audience already knew is, well, barren. But to many Mandalorians, this is an unfortunate shock. My first thought when they landed was that I hope they brought rations, because this wasteland is not exactly abundant on sources of protein. In that way, it is similar to the Dune Sea.

Not long into their exploration, the group comes across three very ragtag Mandalorians. They look hungry; who knows how long they have struggled on the planet? They could use some delicious MREs. Bo-Katan asks them about the Great Forge, and they say that they can take the group there. In retrospect, this seems a tad suspicious… I don’t mean to postpone the speculations but I don’t want to spoil the climax just yet. Just bear in mind this is potentially a bit suspicious — that they HAPPEN to come across Bo Katan’s strike team, and they HAPPEN to be willing and able to lead them to where they want to go.

Later that night, Bo-Katan confesses to the group what truly happened between her and Moff Gideon. To make a long story short: after the Mandalorians were mostly annihilated in the Night of a Thousand Tears, she met with Moff Gideon. In exchange for surrendering to the Empire and disarming, the remaining Mandalorian survivors would be spared. THAT is the reason why Moff Gideon had the Darksaber. Some had speculated that Moff Gideon had defeated Bo Katan in a duel somehow, but I always found this unlikely. Bo-Katan has a superior skillset and more combat experience than Gideon. Moff Gideon isn’t bad in a fight per say — he did ok against Din Djarin for a bit in Season 2 — but he isn’t anything particularly special. Certainly, he is not at the level of prowess needed to defeat Bo-Katan. The Darksaber was surrendered in an attempt to save Mandalorian lives, but this was ultimately in vain. Gideon maliciously did not keep his word and continued attacking as many Mandalorians as he could. Funny enough, this viciousness and treachery makes him similar to his “Breaking Bad” counterpart, Gus Fring; both characters are played by Giancarlo Esposito.

Din Djarin and Bo-Katan talk alone after this. He reassures her doubts and poetically professes support for her. The major takeaway of this conversation is that his covert cares nothing for the Darksaber, and what they really care about his honor, loyalty, and character. This is akin to the values Karen Traviss wrote for Mandalorians in Legends, so I’m glad that at least some of those ideas have survived into Canon.

I was especially pleased to hear Din Djarin say that the Darksaber meant nothing to him and his covert. For starters, I always despised Pre Vizsla, so despised his weapon by association. He used it to slay innocents who couldn’t fight back during the Clone Wars — I find this both pathetic and distasteful. (He thankfully got what he deserved at the hands of Maul during the Clone Wars.)

Secondly, and more importantly in terms of lore, the weapon has simply been given too much importance. I blame this on nepotism on the part of both Filoni and Favreau — the weapon they created out of the blue just happens to be so important, right? If you recall the technicality mentioned in the last episode, the weird critter from the second episode — which I also reviewed — had “defeated” Din Djarin and disarmed him of the Darksaber. This “technically” made the Grievous-like fellow “Mandalore” for like an hour or two. I find this changing of the guard to be absurd. Why? Because under the right circumstances, some random nerf herder — like that critter — can become Mandalore. Such an important position shouldn’t be decided by mere possession of an artifact. Rather, a warrior culture like the Mandalorians should base it on merit. Who is the most fearless Mandalorian? The most honorable? The most strategically competent? The most resilient? Who is truly WORTHY of leading the greatest warrior culture in the Star Wars galaxy?

The Armorer departs with the wounded Mandalorians in Bo-Katan’s starfighter. Again, this will be important later. In the meantime, a fight breaks out between Axe Woves and Paz Vizsla over a board game dispute. It’s funny and, although this disagreement seems benign, it ignites the grudge that the two factions hold with one another. The fight between Axe and Paz is decent, but what I really liked is that Grogu stops them using IG-12, saying “no,” over and over. This works, and I think the scene symbolizes part of Grogu’s ultimate purpose — he has the potential to help unite the Mandalorians and smooth out their differences. Mark my words, one day Foundling Grogu will be Mandalore Grogu. It is also touching how Grogu values non-violent solutions. I will grudgingly admit that this a good value from the Jedi, one which Grogu has retained after all these years and can use to benefit the Mandalorians in delicate situations like these. Grogu’s compassion for his fellow Mandalorians is touching and admirable. It also feels funny to refer to what is essentially a “baby Yoda” as a Mandalorian. Imagine watching “The Empire Strikes Back” knowing that, one day, the archetypes of Boba Fett and Yoda will mesh into quite a curveball of a character.

A large dinosaur-like creature attacks the group — it isn’t the Mythosaur. This forces the group to take shelter underground, and they come across ruins of the Great Forge. And, finally… we have reached the epic climax to this episode.

The group hears jetpacks and initially think they are more Mandalorian survivors. But remember the white troopers from earlier with Moff Gideon? This is who they are. They attack the group, and as the carnage starts, the group quickly realizes that these Imperials are wearing BESKAR ARMOR. Their skills might be inferior to Mandalorians, but nonethless armor is still a factor in combat and they will be harder to kill. The harder you are to kill… the more of a chance you have of taking out your enemy. In other words, this showdown ends up being far more even than the Mandalorians would have liked. Casualties are suffered on both sides.

Suddenly, the Imperials start retreating, and it’s here that the Mandalorians make an obvious and horrible mistake. They are led down a large hallway that looks Imperial in design — why, oh why, didn’t it occur to them how suspicious and ominous this was? This was supposed to be an isolated and ruined area- structures indicate that someone has established base here.

Predictably, this is an ambush. The Mandalorians are locked into blast doors… and Din Djarin ends up alone. The Imperial “Mandalorians” use whipcords to subdue Din Djarin in a sequence that is difficult to watch. Why is it difficult? I’m not the biggest Din Djarin fan, but I respect the character’s honor and I despise the cowardly act of several inferior enemies ganging up on one individual. I have always valued quality over quantity and these imperials are roaches that are only strong by uniting. It is tempting to crack them like the fragile white eggs that they truly are.

Suddenly, a figure clad in monotone black Mandalorian style armor and a jetpack descends, and is revealed to be Moff Gideon himself. He brags about combining elements from the Jedi, Mandalorians, and cloners to make the ultimate fighting force, a new generation of “Dark Troopers” that will bring “order” (read: tyranny) to the galaxy. I find it curious that his helmet, if I’m not mistaken, seems to have horns… similar to the Armorer. Coincidence…?

Bo-Katan uses the Darksaber to try to cut a way out for the group. This mostly works, but it leads to the most admirable and tragic scene of the episode. Paz Vizsla wants to stay behind and cover the escape of the group. Bo-Katan doesn’t want to leave him behind, but he closes the blast door and thus forces her to leave. With a final “this is the way,” Paz Vizsla faces numerous Imperial Mandos alone. This is a strong visual example of quality versus quantity. Like I said, the Imperials are cowardly weaklings and only a threat when in numbers.

Paz Vizsla’s heavy blaster overheats, but he’s able to take out the Imperials nonetheless. But now, remember the 3 Praetorian Guards from earlier? They are here. They are the same type of guards that Rey and Kylo Ren fight in “The Last Jedi,” in Snoke’s throne room. That fight was one of the few scenes in that movie that rocked, because the guards have unique and deadly combat styles. They were skilled enough to give Kylo Ren and Rey a lot of trouble.

Sadly, they are of course too much for a fatigued Paz Vizsla. They use their energy weapons to precisely lacerate and stab Paz Vizsla in between his armor plates. The warrior falls, having given everything he could for his people.

He may not have been a main character, but we as the audience have “known” this character since 2019. That was 3 years ago and enough time has passed that I consider his debut in Season 1 nostalgic at this point.

I am also touched and inspired by the selfless sacrifice he made. He is perhaps related to Pre Vizsla — they have the same last name and Mandalorians are not exactly numerous in the galaxy. But Pre Vizsla lived in a way that was far less honorable than the way Paz Vizsla died. Paz might not have anything as exotic or as fancy as the Darksaber. But he has a warrior ethos similar to the Mandalorians I admired in Legends. For that, I would choose Paz Vizsla over Pre Vizsla as an ally any day of the week. Paz is worthy of the Mythosaur skull on his armor. It saddens me that his boy Ragnar is now a son who will never see his father again. This echoes faintly of Boba Fett, but unlike Boba, Ragnar has a tribe that will defend him and hopefully avenge Paz Vizsla’s death next episode.

This ends the episode on a sad cliffhanger. Gideon had mentioned wiping out their fleet, and we didn’t get to confirm the escape of the strike force. So what will happen now?

For starters, I suspect this was a setup. The title of this episode was “The Spies.” The first spy is obviously Elia Kane. But who are the others? Do the Mandalorians have a traitor in their midst? That will determine the next sequence of events, and whether or not the Mandalorians are close to being “in the clear” or not. I don’t have concrete evidence on any particular Mandalorian, only circumstantial evidence and hunches. So I won’t make a prediction for the time being.

This cliffhanger is also the opposite of the one late in Season 2. Back then, Grogu was kidnapped and Mando had to save him. Now, it’s the other way around. But who will come aid the Mandalorians?

Out of the potential allies that could show up, there is one, both literally and symbolically, that the Imperials are hopefully not aware of — the Mythosaur. From the literal side: the actual Mythosaur is still somewhere deep within Mandalore, where the Living Waters are. Perhaps the Mythosaur will somehow be compelled to fight for the people it once shared the planet with. Or perhaps the Imperials will foolishly disturb it and pay the price. Or, perhaps, the Mandalorians will somehow tame it like their ancestors did, and use it to turn the tables.

I also use the Mythosaur to refer to someone symbolically — Boba Fett, the character who started all of this. Boba Fett has built a strong alliance with Din Djarin. I am not sure how far Tatooine is from Mandalore, but I am guessing it is closer than Coruscant and the New Republic. If Boba Fett somehow finds out about this situation, he might feel honor bound and personally compelled to intervene. I highly doubt he would leave Din Djarin in the clutches of Gideon.

The one piece of tangible evidence that compelled me to speculate Boba’s return is the fact that the official Star Wars Facebook Page for Hong Kong posted about Boba’s appearance in Season 3 a while back… then deleted the post. So I assume they jumped the gun.

If Boba Fett does get involved somehow — fingers crossed — I hope he wrecks the Praetorian guards in particular. At least one or two; I suppose Din Djarin can wreck the third guy. I want Team Foundling to defeat worthy opponents and, like I said, avenge Paz Vizsla. I am actually now considering getting his Vintage Collection figure.

This season took too long to wind up to the good stuff. Why couldn’t this have been closer to the middle? But I digress. The Season finale will clearly have an epic showdown, and I hope the wait will be worth it. If there’s any advice I’d give to the Mandalorians… I’d tell them Gideon is too dangerous to be left alive.

Rating

4 / 5
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2 Comments

  1. K5211 says:

    Great review, fingers crossed for an old school Boba return

  2. Sinllantas says:

    We should be asking, Can a juvenile rancor fit in the cargo hold of Slave 1, sorry I mean Boba Fett’s starfighter

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