Friday, April 14, 2023

Recap: Mandalorian Episode 23 — Spies

The penultimate episode starts masterfully weaving together all the plot threads from this season and beyond — including ties to the sequel trilogy. 

Also, before this recap begins, I'd like to hold a moment of silence for the Satine Kryze erasure that continues to dominate season 3. 

Let's begin!

We start with a very cyber-punky cold open on the lower streets of Coruscant following Elia Kane — AKA Imperial Amnesty Officer G-68 — as she swaggers in her best Rick Deckard trench coat to meet an Imperial probe droid. She makes contact with Moff Gideon, her old boss, and FINALLY! 100% direct proof she’s a spy (mindflaying aside).

The Galaxy’s Most Evil Zoom Call

It’s important to talk about context again, for folks who may have forgotten. The Mandalorian takes place 9 years ABY (after the battle of Yavin, where the first Death Star was destroyed) or, as my brain makes sense of it, 5 years after the events of Return of the Jedi. After the Empire’s defeat, the New Republic moves in to take over, but there are still lots of systems loyal to the Empire. Roving bands of Imperial Warlords are jockeying for power.

Moff Gideon walks into a room featuring a meeting of the Shadow Council, a collection of these warlords. A LOT happens here — so buckle up. 

They’re discussing how to collaborate and prepare for the return of Grand Admiral Thrawn, who is the firm leadership they definitely need right now. Then, almost in passing, they discuss Project Necromancer. They don’t get into details, but word on the street is that this may have to do with the reappearance of Palpatine in Rise of Skywalker. Or maybe it’s the creation of Snoke — it remains to be seen. Either way, it’s thought that this will tie current Star Wars properties into the lore of the sequel trilogy, which it definitely needs. Dave Filoni is really doin’ the lord’s work on this one. Honestly, anything they come up with will be better than just "Somehow...Palpatine came back."

We also meet Captain Pellaeon in the flesh, and it’s a fantastic portrayal. A fan favorite like his boss Thrawn, he’s another EU legends-turned-canon character. Also present on the council is Brendol Hux — General Armitage Hux’s dad. 

Fun fact: Brian Gleeson plays Brendol, who is the real-life brother of Domhnall Gleeson, who portrayed Armitage in the sequels. You love to see this kind of continuity.

Gideon expresses his concerns about the Mandalorians retaking their home planet, and receives reinforcements from the council— including Chekhov’s Praetorian guards. 

Jets & Sharks: The Mandalorian Campsite

Bo-Katan returns to the Children of the Watch with her fleet and army, and it’s not an instant party. The two clans are wary of each other at first, but a relatively easy detente occurs as the Armorer welcomes them and plans a feast. Bo has a lot of work to do to get these two camps on the same page. 

IG-11 Is Dead. Long Live IG-12!

You may have forgotten that IG-11 was in the process of trying to be restored by the Anzellians. I know I did! But they did their job — kind of. They created a new version that’s essentially a mobile exoskeleton a la Krang’s android body.

IG-12 is to be driven by you guessed it — Grogu, in an adorable scene that gives us a little language from him. He can press a button and exclaim “yes” or “no” in ways that are almost entirely comedic. Man, just thinking about how Grogu can combine extra-human mechanical prowess with Force ability gets me real excited about what’s to come.

Mandalorians Returning to Mandalore

Bo rallies a strike team to begin the first reconnaissance of their home planet as the entire fleet leaves Nevarro. As they search for the Great Forge on the devastated Mandalore, they encounter a roving landship (Locomotion with no electronics or technology! Actual sails and winches and ropes! Seeing this kind of archaic technology in Star Wars is stellar, and I'm 100% here for it.) with surviving Mandalorians, its inhabitants still loyal to Kryze.

She explains how she surrendered after the Night of a Thousand Tears and negotiated a ceasefire with Gideon — but he betrayed her and purged Mandalore, the Darksaber in his possession. 

Many of the survivors are ill, from what I can only assume is scurvy, as they've been at-land for what appears to be a while, and their first question to Bo and company is "Do you have food?"

A Knight in Shining Beskar

We get a touching moment between Bo and Dinn as he finally understands what led to the purge. He reaffirms his belief in her leadership — as well as her loyalty and character. “Your song is not yet written, I will serve you until it is.” Man, what a guy!

Meanwhile, Paz Viszla and Axe Woves are bored and decide to let their egos take the wheel and battle it out on the landship as they speed toward the former capital. Grogu steps in to stop them, his cuteness overpowering their rage. Here, we see the Jedi in him coming out — and not the rigid honor-bound Mandalorian — and honestly, often toxic — behavior he’s been exposed to. He really may turn out to be the best of both worlds. 

Ambush on Mandalore

Our heroes are attacked by a huge dragon creature (but sadly not a mythosaur) and abandon the landship, taking to the ruins of the Great Forge. Then, another ambush — this time by those flying stormtrooper-type soldiers we saw earlier in the season. An epic ground fight ensues, reminiscent of Battlefront sorties. Turns out that Moff Gideon has made this part of Mandalore into his secret Imperial base. 

A VERY Intense Conclusion

As they get surrounded, Din is separated and captured — and we see Gideon appear in his own Mandalorian-type armor. He plans to mine the planet for its beskar to make new, more powerful Darktrooper suits. He also speaks of combining Jedi, cloning, and Mandalorians to create an unstoppable fighting force — which ties together why he wanted Grogu in the first place back in season one. Maybe he wants to make a Jedi clone army? Is that even possible? What type of balance would THAT bring to the force? I have so many questions. 

As Din is carried off, the remaining Mandalorians get to work trying to escape — and our boy Paz Visla makes a final stand so everyone can escape, his machine gun overheating in a molten glow. He takes on three Praetorian guards — the Chekhov's ones mentioned in the opening! — sacrificing himself in the process. Say what you will about The Last Jedi, but the Snoke throne room battle scene with these red boys was absolutely incredible. It's great to see them again.

As is common with a lot of penultimate episodes, it appears everything is all but lost, our heroes in an impossible situation. It'll be interesting to see how much happens in the finale.

Next week, we may not get our long-awaited Thrawn episode, as he's been teased in the recent Ahsoka trailer, but we are inching close towards his appearance, it's going to be a game-changer. 

The Math

Baseline score: 7/10

Bonuses: + 3 Pellaeon! Baby Yoda in a Krang bodysuit! More Anzellian screen time! Incredible battle scenes!

Penalties: - 1 A LOT happens in this episode, but it also flies by. It’s over before you can barely blink.

Nerd coefficient: +4 Effortlessly tying together EU-Legends lore with sequel trilogy plot lines and characters is fantastic.

Gonk droid count: 0. Sadly, not a single gonk droid in this installment.

POSTED BY: Haley Zapal, new NoaF contributor and lawyer-turned-copywriter living in Atlanta, Georgia. A co-host of Hugo-nominated podcast Hugo, Girl!, she posts on Instagram as @cestlahaley. She loves nautical fiction, Vidalia onions, and growing corn and giving them pun names like Anacorn Skywalker.