And now for something completely different.
First, let's cover the stuff that's the same.
After leaving the mines on Mandalore (no follow-up to the Mythosaur or whatever was in the water), Din and Bo-Katan return to Bo's palace, which is currently being attacked by Imperial fighters and bombers, who destroy the palace. After an exciting, rip-roaring chase and dogfight through the skies of Kalevala, Din and Bo escape to the world where the Children of the Watch are holed up. Din announces he has bathed in the waters of the mines on Mandalore. The Armorer confirms this, and announces he has been redeemed. Furthermore, because Bo-Katan has also bathed in the waters, she is also welcomed into the tribe (presumably making her the titular "convert"), provided she does not remove her helmet from this point forward.
The arbitrary nature of all this strikes me as silly. That removing your helmet gets you automatically kicked out of the Watch is probably the dumbest thing for the writers to cling to for telling a story about straying from the duty of a faith. That bathing in these waters (which everyone somehow thinks are unreachable on an uninhabitable world but are actually right there; all you need is a ship and you can go there yourself!) gets you automatically reinstated is just too easy a reversal. What's to stop a member of the Watch from straying from the rules as often as they want and then taking a quick jaunt to Mandalore so they can wash themselves clean of dishonor and be reinstated? The Armorer is just following instructions from the Watch rule book, with no principled opinion on Din's awful "disgrace" whatsoever.
And, yes, I realize that these sorts of goofy rules exist in real-world religions. But the casual technicality of it all here just cheapens, from a dramatic standpoint, the whole idea of the Creed, and makes all the Mandalorians look like mindless rule-followers who don't question why they believe things or why forgiveness for breaking their rules is so bureaucratically easy. And now Bo-Katan is (for now) brought into the fold rather than her convincing Din Djarin to leave. How very tidy and non-dramatic.
Anyway, the scenes I've described above are merely brief bookends to a show that otherwise takes a sharp swerve into territory completely unlike anything previously done on this series, making you wonder what it means. We find ourselves dropped into the city-world of Coruscant, capital of the New Republic, formerly capital of the Empire, formerly capital of the Old Republic. These scenes are intriguing — albeit entirely inconclusive — and are completely separated from the rest of the show in every possible way. It's a whole other thing happening way over here, and it's very clear this is going to go somewhere and matter at some point, but we're not sure how yet. It's essentially a post-Empire take on those great scenes on Coruscant in Andor, although the stakes are very different because we're dealing with a post-fascist wind-down of the Empire rather than the very ominous rise of that fascism.
What's most striking and interesting is how Coruscant itself seems relatively untouched from all the turmoil that happens in the galaxy around it. Before, during, and after the wars and the Empire, it's essentially the same seat of productivity and decadence. This is highlighted in the scene where we overhear someone trying not to do a deep delve into all the annoying politics. I mean, Imperial fascists? Rebels? Who can keep track? It's all the same to me! It's a dangerously detached sensibility for those not directly affected, and it rings very true.
These scenes follow "L52" (formerly the cloning expert Dr. Penn Pershing working under Moff Gideon) and "G68" (formerly Elia Kane, an officer on Gideon's ship) as they are reintegrated into society under the New Republic's Amnesty Program. (Meanwhile, rumors float that Gideon himself escaped during a prison transfer.) There are some interesting notions here, like the idea that the New Republic itself has its own Orwellian-lite tendencies, at least for those who used to be allied with the Empire. They use oppressive tactics — mind control machines, identity stripping, state-supplied jobs, lack of choice — without quite calling it prison; it's the "Amnesty Program." There's already this sense that the New Republic is going to be undone by its own bureaucracy and short-sightedness regarding those who are walking about discontented, and may soon face its own rebellion.
The plot is very simple. It follows Pershing — who wants to use his knowledge of cloning for good, but is stymied by the New Republic, which has outlawed it — trying to find usefulness in a society that has no use for his skills and instead sticks him in a cubicle to do soul-crushing busywork. Kane, meanwhile, slowly and gradually grooms him to break the rules. She lures him into thinking it will be okay if he steals some cloning supplies from an old Empire ship that's about to be scrapped. They are caught, and it turns out she orchestrated the entire situation to entrap him.
The New Republic puts Pershing in a device that is absolutely not a "mind flayer," they assure him, but a similar device with a lower setting that can ease his destructive desires for recidivism. But Kane, clearly up to something so she can use Pershing for her own (or Gideon's) purposes, manipulates the situation so she can turn the machine to a much higher setting, which I assume will allow her to take agency over his mind in some way. We just don't know yet.
There's some impressive material and world-building here, but it all has an arid lack of tension in the way it's performed and executed, as if it's going out of its way to be the anti-Mandalorian with its aesthetic. And, yes, it's very unclear where this is going. This is an intriguing off-format show, which hints that The Mandalorian has some other ambitions in store for us, and may be our best hope for exploring how the First Order rose up, since the Empire, while defeated, never completely went away. But for now, especially with the incongruous bookend scenes, put me on the fence.
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