Last week’s Chapter 18 slowed The Mandalorian down after a shaky return that juggled a lot of different bits and pieces of the bigger puzzle, and the third episode of season 3 is arguably the calmest of the entire show by far. And it’s anything but filler, presenting a diversion which is the exact opposite of the external hijacking we saw in The Book of Boba Fett despite feeling similar at first.
‘The Convert’ picks the New Republic and Imperial Remnant plot back up without fully cutting away from Din and Bo-Katan’s ongoing adventure, and continues to tease a big chunk of the series’ narrative is moving towards sequel trilogy territory. It’s also an excellent answer by Jon Favreau (alongside co-writer Noah Kloor) to viewers who have claimed he’s not capable of stepping out of the “Kenner toys sandbox” with this show. In fact, the episode lands closer to Andor than The Mandalorian, though the galaxy is much more colorful and filled with aliens here.
Spoilers ahead for The Mandalorian Chapter 19: ‘The Convert’
Chapter 19 kicks off exactly where the previous episode cut to black, with Bo-Katan reeling from her unexpected encounter with the legendary mythosaur. Din wakes up and doesn’t look very wet, so we have to guess she’s been sitting there for a while trying to process what just happened.
As established by Chapter 18, she’s re-evaluating her beliefs after she’s been left with only a castle following her failure to recover the Darksaber. Orthodox traditions still put some weight on even the most progressive Mandalorians, and her mythosaur encounter only makes things worse… or actually better, as she could use that to her advantage. Regardless, it appears she’ll be returning (at least partially) to tradition to achieve her objectives. We’ll come back to this later.
A pit stop on Kalevala is obligatory for the titular Mandalorian in order to recover his N-1, but things spin out of control as soon as they return to the planet, with a squadron of TIE Interceptors shooting to kill at Bo’s starfighter. What follows is yet another reminder of Disney and Lucasfilm’s commitment to The Mandalorian as their flagship Disney Plus series; the budget shines once again, and the ILM folks get to flex their muscles, and so does Oscar-nominated director Lee Isaac Chung (Minari).
As Bo tries to evade the furious attacks of the Imperials, Din jumps out of the ship and into his parked N-1 to even the odds. Once again, we see how capable he is as a pilot, and the Kryze heir also gets to show off some sick dogfight moves. It’s all cool until a group of TIE Bombers turn her castle to rubble and a small Imperial army shows up to finish the job. “That’s a lot of ships for an Imperial warlord.” Indeed, and we’re about to find out that Moff Gideon’s Imperial Remnant is very much still active.
As Din and Bo jump to hyperspace, Chapter 19 changes the POV and we’re off to Coruscant. More importantly, we return to the opera house we first saw in Revenge of the Sith. No one recites the Tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise this time around though. Instead, we witness an “Amnesty Program” conference in which our old pal Dr. Pershing (Omid Abtahi) is talking about getting a second chance after being forced to work for the Empire. He focuses on the cloning-related research he was doing for Moff Gideon and how important the work done by the Kaminoans was. Clearly, he still hasn’t moved on from his experiments, since they’re related to the death of his mother, who could’ve been saved with “simple organ cloning” from a heart failure.
The Imperial officer played by Katy O’Brian, who also worked for Gideon, is there, and a reunion is sure to follow. Before that, though, we get a good look at ex-Imperials who are trying to move on thanks to the New Republic’s reinsertion program. This “modern age” of Star Wars has spent a decent amount of time humanizing the working class of the Empire and the First Order, and it’s great to see The Mandalorian also trying to portray their foot soldiers and low-ranking officers as more than nameless, disposable goons.
Much like Pershing, these guys appear to be genuinely sorry, though one has to wonder whether they signed up voluntarily back in the glory days of the Empire, unlike him. Katy O’Brian’s character, who joins the conversation, is harder to read, and we can’t help but suspect she’s not done with Gideon’s long-term plans.
The episode then spends around 20 minutes following Pershing around, who has a new boring desk job similar (if not identical) to Syril Karn’s in Andor. He also must attend obligatory check-ups with a New Republic droid that keeps track of his progress. It’s all rather cold, showing us the day-to-day of the system hasn’t changed much despite the positive ideological shift.
Individualism appears to be nearly as repressed as before, and the New Republic machine marches forward without taking advantage of some of the Empire’s technological innovations. This greatly frustrates Pershing, who’s just taking care of old files while he could be saving lives by putting his knowledge and previous work to good use.
We’d also like to take a small moment to freak out about the “infinity stone popsicles” that he and the shady officer enjoy during a Coruscanti fair. Chapter 19 is full of delicious universe-building, and it’s great to explore more of Coruscant in these shows.
Back to the plot, the officer convinces Pershing to continue his research, but the needed equipment can only be found inside an abandoned Imperial star destroyer that is going to be scrapped. The following scene aboard a flying train might be the episode’s dullest and most awkward, with two droid ticket inspectors chasing the duo until they have to jump off the train as it slows down near their forbidden destination. It’s not tense nor fun to watch, and it feels out-of-place within an otherwise very competent piece of TV.
Things go back to being interesting as the ex-Imperials get inside the star destroyer and find the equipment they were looking for. Finally, we learn the officer’s name: Elia Kane. And our favorite doctor’s full name is Penn Pershing.
If all the prequel love in this episode wasn’t enough to rile up Star Wars extremists, a riff on Supreme Leader Snoke’s musical theme – already used in Chapter 12 – makes an even more transparent return here. All this cloning subplot is clearly leading to the underexplained “Palpatine has returned” business, something that was already quite obvious with all the focus on Grogu and his M-count (midi-chlorians aren’t going anywhere).
There’s nothing more natural to Star Wars than retroactively fixing undercooked chunks of lore and key narrative beats. Dave Filoni excels at that, and Jon Favreau is swimming in the same direction along his new favorite creative partner.
The logical assumption at this point was that Elia had baited Pershing into picking up the material to abduct him and bring him back to Gideon, who’s rumored to have escaped captivity. But there’s a twist: she had baited him under New Republic orders, who had him under surveillance because of his dangerous knowledge. If he’s willing to break the law to return to his previous job (no matter his intentions), he’s a threat.
Now, the New Republic doctors will try to suppress “Imperial indoctrination” with a mind flayer, which looks anything but pleasant and ethical. But wait, there’s a twist within the twist! Elia, who’s quickly earning the new government’s trust, ups the intensity of the process; this could either completely erase his knowledge of everything that has transpired and his previous research, or… turn him back to the Empire. She exits the episode biting on an Imperial biscuit ration, confirming she’s indeed still faithful to Gideon and his vision. No matter what happens with Pershing next, she now has recovered much of the stuff required to restart his troubling experiments.
With the Imperial Remnant now fully back in the picture and responsible for the total destruction of Bo-Katan’s castle, the stakes are kicked up a notch and the main two narrative fronts are moving full steam ahead. This isn’t the last we’ve seen of the New Republic this season either, as the season 3 trailers included footage of Paul Sun-Hyung Lee’s Carson Teva, who’s absent from Chapter 19.
Unsurprisingly, the episode is bookended by a return to Din and Bo-Katan as they seek shelter with the Tribe. Paz Vizsla continues to be a jerk and questions whether Din actually redeemed himself, but a sample of the Living Waters quickly proves he’s telling the truth – its unique mineral qualities seem to exhibit a unique glow almost instantly.
The side effect of Din atoning for his sins and Bo-Katan rescuing him from drowning is that the Kryze heir has been accepted into the clan as well despite her more unorthodox views. This is the perfect opportunity to regain lost power and seek the mythosaur that could put her back in a high position. But will she revert to the old ways in the process? The recent posters didn’t lie: Katee Sackhoff is now the co-star of The Mandalorian, and we're here for it.