"Chapter 23: The Spies"
Air date: 4/12/2023
Written by Jon Favreau & Dave Filoni
Directed by Rick Famuyiwa
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
"The Spies" is easily the best episode so far of The Mandalorian's rocky third season. It tackles a meaty story and pursues it with focus and momentum, a decent amount of world building, some solid action, appropriately heightened stakes, reasonable comic relief, and a decent cliffhanger that sets up next week's season finale. I don't understand why they chose the title they did, seeing as the episode has no spies, but that goes for many of this series' laconic and often vaguely puzzling titles.
The episode opens with Elia Kane contacting Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito makes his first appearance of the season, after some whispers in previous episodes) to inform him that the pirates who tried to seize Nevarro (which Gideon was behind) were defeated by Mandalorians, who are now the biggest obstacle in his plans to undermine the New Republic. Gideon contacts the others in the Shadow Council and asks for reinforcements to crush the resurgent Mandalorians. The council also talks of their plans to quietly rebuild the Empire, without calling too much attention to themselves. They speak of the general dissatisfaction ordinary people have with the bureaucratic New Republic and their rules, and how there are supporters of the fallen Empire on every world. (This rings true; every fascist movement has a certain amount of public support, or it wouldn't gain traction.)
There are even mentions of something called "Project Necromancer," which I can only assume is the plan to raise Emperor Palpatine from the dead. (A character in the Shadow Council named Brendol Hux — father of General Hux in the sequels — apparently has a long history in ancillary Star Wars materials that lie far outside the scope of this review. Another council member alleges the imminent return of Grand Admiral Thrawn, which is greeted with skepticism. The Star Wars Extended Universe continues to sprawl.) This is all clearly paving the road for the rise of the First Order — and, if anything, it might be paving it too quickly, since we still have decades to go until The Force Awakens.
Back on Nevarro, Bo-Katan's fleet arrives to reunite the two clans (which are basically the helmets versus the non-helmets) in her effort to resettle on Mandalore. She makes a speech about this plan which might be called "rousing" in another universe, but notably lacks punch in this one, and feels like something that would be at home in the arid prequels. Both Katee Sackhoff and Giancarlo Esposito deliver far less than their best work here, with wooden, overly formal line readings and weird, halting deliveries. If the creators want us to believe this stuff, it might help if their actors tried to believe it, too.
On the comic relief front, Greef Karga offers up IG-12, a hollowed-out shell built from IG-11, which has no brain and isn't a droid so much as a vehicular body, which Grogu sits in and pilots with joysticks and buttons. It's brilliant. IGrogu-12 is by far the most inspired use of Grogu all season, who presses the controls that make the droid say "Yes" or "No" repeatedly to express his desires and opinions, like a kid who has found a new toy (which is exactly what this is). It's cute and hilarious without being cloying and relying on the same Force-jump move over and over.
Bo-Katan takes the fleet to Mandalore, where she leads a scout team to the surface to ensure it's safe and seek out the legendary Great Forge. (I was a little confused, given their tactical posture, what exactly they expected to find down here. Resistance?) What they find is yet another clan of surviving Mandalorians, who have been here since before the Imperial bombing devastated the planet.
All the clans board the native clan's sailing ship to cross the sea to the Great Forge. Here, we get some backstory that fills in some blanks about Bo-Katan and how she lost the Darksaber to Gideon. She actually had made a deal with Gideon in order to spare the lives of the survivors of the bombings, but Gideon betrayed her and killed everyone anyway in the Purge. Bo and Din reach a level of understanding they previously hadn't, and it feels like the progress of building something larger.
On the other hand, we also get the inevitable in-fighting between clans, as Paz Vizsla and Axe Woves have a battle on the deck of the ship over a board game, which provides the excuse for distrust to boil over. (I guess non-helmeted Mandalorians are just as dogmatic as helmeted ones; Axe doesn't put on his helmet during the knife fight, which seems like a pointless disadvantage to place upon himself just to make a point. The helmet stuff continues to be lame, and that likely won't change.) Fortunately, we also have Baby Yoda, armed with his new robot suit and non-Mandalorian attitudes, to step in and say "NO!" Bo is also right: "Division will destroy us." Fortunately, the Mandalorians find more common ground here than division. Good thing, too, because right after the Mandos have patched things up, a huge sea creature destroys their ship. (There's always a huge creature that does something terrible.)
Once they reach the buried city at the Great Forge, they discover a newly built hangar of Imperial ships — and in the immortal words of Admiral Ackbar, IT'S A TRAP! Gideon's new and improved stormtroopers, clad in suits of beskar, ambush the Mandalorians and give us our requisite Big Action Sequence. It's a good one, although nothing groundbreaking. Lots of blasters and chaos. Gideon definitely has the upper hand. He's able to capture Din Djarin, repel the Mandalorian forces, and announce his intention to wipe out Bo-Katan's entire fleet. Paz Vizsla, holding the line, goes out in a blaze of selfless glory. Perhaps most surprising here is Joseph Shirley's uninspired score. (Shirley has scored all of season three as well as The Book of Boba Fett — aside from its main themes, which Ludwig Göransson wrote prior to his departure.)
This episode has a little bit of everything a good episode of The Mandalorian should have. It's a refreshing return to form, although it feels like it's rushing all the meaty stuff through after a season with so much meandering. And while the Mandalorians' solidarity is nice, I wish this series would've explored what it is that actually makes these people substantially different — stupid helmet-wearing aside — in walking the Way versus not doing so. Both sides seem to believe they are so different from each other, but there's very little that's defined about any of them, which is the real thematic problem here. Hopefully, they can send this lackluster season out on a high note next week.
Previous episode: Chapter 22: Guns for Hire
Next episode: Chapter 24: The Return
Like this site? Support it by buying Jammer a coffee.
44 comments on this post
Wed, Apr 12, 2023, 4:22am (UTC -5)
Meanwhile, Grogu gets his "new clothes"... as usual, he just seems to be the counterpoint to all the seriousness with his cuteness and silliness, although he did get his moment in the spotlight when coming between the two Mandalorian tribes to hold off conflict. I guess this is the best they can do with him.
While the score has been generally excellent in this series through and through, am I the only one who thought it seemed a little cheesy and cornball during the final scenes when Moff Gideon was making his grand speech?
Is there more coming after this episode? I'm assuming this isn't the end...
Wed, Apr 12, 2023, 4:34am (UTC -5)
There's one more episode. Agree about the music, I found it jarring over the end credits, it started off far too 'chirpy' considering what we'd just seen.
I'm still digesting that one but thought it a huge improvement. Grogu using IG-12 as a kind of exoskeleton was cute but it's also a really good solution to giving him more movement and agency. All he needs now is a Stephen Hawking style voice box! His actions in separating the two Mandalorians were quite powerful, he's definitely more 'grown up' and wiser than everyone around him realised.
Wed, Apr 12, 2023, 5:54am (UTC -5)
Come to think of it, that kind of using IG-12 as an exoskeleton is kind of a take-off from Aliens II, and later from The Matrix II and III... among others, I surmise.
Glad that there is one more episode, but I just don't see how they can wrap this up all in one fell swoop. I've liked The Mandalorian since it began and thought it was a fresh spin-off and a new direction for the Star Wars family of shows and movies, much as The Book of Boba Fett was. It's gotten a bit slow and stale here and there, as the writers might have lost some steam, but I think the power of the main characters and the whole concept of a helmeted civilization that values honor and loyalty carries the series well enough. Amazing how Disney can still keep cranking out movie-like shows at a scale like this, even though the story writing hasn't always been consistent.
Wed, Apr 12, 2023, 5:55am (UTC -5)
Still, Grogu keeps feeling like a character that is useless to the plot, and they keep inventing things to do with him only because he is there and little else. Feels forced.
Wed, Apr 12, 2023, 6:35am (UTC -5)
A focused episode that actually managed to pull all elements of the previous S3 eps together.
It helps, of course, to finally have our antagonist front and center!
Really looking forward, now, to next week’s Season Finale’.
Wed, Apr 12, 2023, 7:24am (UTC -5)
Wed, Apr 12, 2023, 8:54am (UTC -5)
Anyway, a step up for sure. Predictable, a little dull, yep still. But the origins of the first order stuff is, as I've said before, not what I'm looking for in this series.
Seems inevitable that they're going to carry on with this tripe, showing no positive outcomes for all the rebellion's struggles during the OT (and Andor), since F and F are making the next batch of movies.
Wed, Apr 12, 2023, 10:32am (UTC -5)
The Mandalorian seems intent in constantly telling rather than showing. Here we have three tribes uniting to retake Mandalore, but we have no idea why they are fine uniting when they weren't before. Sure, there is The Armorer's design to crown Bo Katan as sole leader, but why now? Bo Katan already used to be the leader. The rifts between the tribes aren't related to any actual political rifts that happened during the Fall of Mandalore, even though in this episode we are told many ways in which those rifts could have feasibly happened. Also, the power of the darksaber as a unifying symbol is suddenly completely omitted here.
There are two egregious examples in this episode of a low-hanging narrative fruit that the writers somehow miss. First we have Bo Katan explaining how she made the wrong decision in trusting Moff Gideon in the past by surrendering to him and handing over the darksaber. The situation is then mirrored later in the episode when Gideon captures the mandalorians and asks Bo Katan to hand over the weapon again... yet he makes no offer of clemency that leads to Bo Katan facing the same decision again. Nor do we know how Bo Katan has grown as a leader to avoid the mistakes of the past. We get some exposition by Din about how the darksaber is meaningless and he only follows her because she has honor, but we have seen no apparent change in the character. This season is structured as a redemption arc for Bo Katan without any actual redemption happening. We don't see any evolution in Din either that exemplifies how he comes to believe in her, beyond her saving him from a cave monster. Everything is solved simply by the plot going from A to B.
Then there is the sacrifice of Paz Vizsla to allow Bo Katan to escape, which somehow happens without any reference to the fact that the Vizla family are historical sworn enemies of the Kryze family in the struggle for the leadership of Mandalore (this is all lore established by Filoni himself!). It seemed obvious to me that this character existed as a foil for Bo Katan, in order to show how she managed to turn even the historic enemies of her clan to her side. Yet none of this is shown this season. Paz puts his trust behind Bo Katan simply because she saved his son from a pterodactyl or something (being saved from a monster is all the character drama this show understands).
It is maddening, because the plot being told here is fine and the overall design of the characters is fine. But Favreau and Filoni simply have no ability to write even the most obvious character drama, and thus everything ends up being a hollow exercise of "things happen."
Wed, Apr 12, 2023, 10:43am (UTC -5)
Despite it all, I didn't FEEL anything. The fact that season was so sloppy getting to this point (this could have the third episode of the season if they were trying to actually tell a story) that I almost didn't care. Mandi was still so sidelined, with nothing to do except for vocalize how much he trusts Bo Katan.
They finally gave Grogu some agency. I liked that.
But, I didn't feel anything. I had no emotions. I didn't feel like I was in the hands of great filmmakers.
With Andor I definitely FELT something. The whole spectrum of emotions. Characters with only 5 minutes if screentime on that show had more life than a lot of the characters here.
So wait a minute. Thay lady calls Gideon and he was able to build an imperial base on Mandalore within days without anyone knowing??
Wed, Apr 12, 2023, 11:14am (UTC -5)
Great ep. Packed full of things, too much to talk about. Grogu's first words (heh), Mandalorian scavengers, Thrawn set ups, Coruscant looking even better than earlier in the season (was that the lower levels? I don't think we were on the surface- there seemed to be a "ceiling"). Mando politics and comradery in general was great, the director this week (Famuyiwa) is one of the best the show uses, etc.
Only lame thing is the continued sequel references.
Why would Gideon think the "give me the darksaber and i'll spare you" trick would work twice?
Wed, Apr 12, 2023, 11:20am (UTC -5)
There was almost no role for Din in this
Wed, Apr 12, 2023, 2:12pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Apr 12, 2023, 2:25pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Apr 12, 2023, 2:52pm (UTC -5)
I’m sure this all builds on the mysterious clone experiments headed up by Dr Hemlock in The Bad Batch animated series, and will all tie together to explain Snoke & the return of Palpatine in the sequel movies.
Wed, Apr 12, 2023, 3:51pm (UTC -5)
It wasn't a parallel, he just wants the dark saber. How are the characters cyphers? Din has a clear character, so does Gideon. Bo is more up in the air right now, but not because she is a cypher in a pejorative sense... but because it is her character who is undergoing the most changes right now, and the questions surrounding how she will react to issues make for good drama.
Wed, Apr 12, 2023, 4:05pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Apr 12, 2023, 5:24pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Apr 12, 2023, 9:08pm (UTC -5)
There was no palpable sense of conviction or danger, just a bunch of boring people nodding at each other, saying "I Will Go," and sometimes fighting. I agree with @MercerCreate above, there's no feeling at all attached to the events shown...it's just so dry! I'm sorry the Big Gun Guy died, and the red dudes from Last Jedi were neat, and oh no Mando is captured, but none of this resonates like Grogu getting kidnapped last season did.
And one more time, broken record, at this point Grogu adds nothing to the story and I maintain they should have embraced the idea of him leaving the show with Luke instead of bringing him back just to see him eat more candy. Even though his mech-suit is mech-cute, I will continue to declare that the reset in Boba Fett has basically ruined The Mandalorian.
At least Taika Waititi got a nice paycheck for saying "yes" and "no" which is fun, and Skinny Pete from Breaking Bad shows up too, which drove me nuts trying to place that actor the whole time.
Anyways even if next week's finale is absolutely incredible, this season was basically a big waste of time. As much as I loved the first two seasons, Mando S3 has to be the biggest and most sudden decline in quality I've seen since the crazy times of S2 of Friday Night Lights way back when. I can only hope this show bounces back as amazingly well as FNL did in its later seasons.
P.S. Why didn't Bo Katan use the Darksaber during all the blaster fights? It can only cut through walls now? (Yet another two-faced complaint from me, after saying earlier this season that we've seen lightsabers vs blasters a million times...hey, it's all about the execution!)
P.S. The music isn't NEARLY as good with Ludwig G supervising instead of actively composing. Oh well.
Wed, Apr 12, 2023, 10:54pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Apr 12, 2023, 11:05pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Apr 12, 2023, 11:34pm (UTC -5)
It wasn’t Mandalorians that rescued Gideon, it was Dark Troopers outfitted in beskar that was mined on Mandalore by Gideon. That’s why there were traces of beskar.
Not sure if it was a mythosaur or not. If it wasn’t, I think it was an odd choice to use a creature that could be so easily confused with the mythosaur. Still can’t get over the name mythosaur…
Thu, Apr 13, 2023, 1:18am (UTC -5)
Thu, Apr 13, 2023, 2:11am (UTC -5)
No it wasn't the Mythosaur that attacked them, it was a sea creature. The Mythosaur has tusks. I'm sure we'll see it next week.
Thu, Apr 13, 2023, 4:17am (UTC -5)
I wondered about that too. I had seen people complain that Sackhoff's acting was bad in past episodes and didn't notice it but this time I really did.
I also agree with you though that this was the best episode of the season. I still bump on the attempts to rehabilitate and pave the way for the sequel trilogy, but it's clearly what they are doing so I just need to accept that.
I've mentioned several times that I'm more immune than most to Grogu cuteness, but I absolutely loved his use of the hollowed-out robot here. "Yes! Yes! Yes!" As Jammer says, it's "brilliant" and "by far the most inspired use of Grogu all season".
"Axe doesn't put on his helmet during the knife fight, which seems like a pointless disadvantage to place upon himself"
For sure. I thought the meta-reason was for the audience to be able to tell which "team" was which.
@Leif: " Why do you think the story writing hasn't been consistent? In what way or respect...it seems to be for me.."
For me the writing in the previous episode was atrocious. Much better in this one, and the Dr. Pershing ep. Not that any of them are "Andor" level, but that's an unfair standard to hold the show to.
Thu, Apr 13, 2023, 7:51am (UTC -5)
Why is that an unfair standard? It's literally the same studio and the same franchise and in the same timeline?
Thu, Apr 13, 2023, 10:00am (UTC -5)
Thu, Apr 13, 2023, 10:42am (UTC -5)
But they can eat least write tighter scripts that don't meander.
Thu, Apr 13, 2023, 11:24am (UTC -5)
... is it the Armorer? .... please say it isn't so...
... but it lines up pretty well... the horns on her helmet, she encourages Bo to break tradition and remove her helmet... she works to tell Bo to reunite the Mandalorian then she flies out of the atmosphere while all the other Mandalorians are being crushed/trapped etc...
Much better effort this time. I enjoyed this whole viewing.
I wasn't very impressed with Moff after he showed up all gizzied up in his new beskar. I blame the directing as he normally delivers.
The 3 red guys that killed Paz Vizsla (BOOOOO!!!!!) were light-years better than Snoke's protectors that got in 'The Last Jedi' What kind of sword were they wielding?
Is this enough to "save" this season? ... I don't know. While I haven't enjoyed it as much as the first 2 seasons (by a long shot), I still enjoy my 'Mandalorian' time.
Not sure what to think of Grogu in his AG-12...
I heard on the interweb that that very large creature was not the Mythasour... what was it then?
OH, AND PUT THE DAMN THEME BACK TO WHAT IT WAS AND LEAVE IT ALONE...
3 stars seems about right.
Thu, Apr 13, 2023, 11:40am (UTC -5)
And, yes, the regular theme is better.
Thu, Apr 13, 2023, 11:40am (UTC -5)
Thu, Apr 13, 2023, 9:42pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Apr 13, 2023, 11:09pm (UTC -5)
I'm satisfied when this show can achieve B-minus or even C-plus. It's when they drop lower that I get annoyed.
Thu, Apr 13, 2023, 11:16pm (UTC -5)
Star wars used to be inspired by many things, including history. But in tying Mando, book of Boba Fett, Rebels, Ahsoka, and others to bring in Thrawn, the only inspiration is Star Wars itself and the need to make the plot work rather than telling story that will make me feel anything .
I felt something when Syrill knew he'd blown it. I felt something when that heist happened. I felt something when Kino rallied the prisoners I FELT something when that bomb went off at the funeral.
I liked the recent Mando episode but I FELT nothing
Fri, Apr 14, 2023, 1:15am (UTC -5)
Wow, getting pretty far afield from my name there, LOL.
Fri, Apr 14, 2023, 2:31am (UTC -5)
Andor is not just imo the best SW tv series, it's one of the best TV shows for me. Great show, every single line of dialogue has a purpose, every scene, every plot thread (barring him searching for his sister). Though Maarva did tell him to stop searching.
My problem with this season of Mando is that if they were going to open the story up here and pull a Marvel on us with interconnecting shows, they could have handled the pacing much better. Bring Gideon into the show much quicker. The whole season we've been without an antagonist and taken bloody 6 episodes to get to a point the story actually moves.
Very frustrating, and it's a shame to see Din sidelined. However, yet again, if they'd given us chapter 23 as the first two episodes of the season it might have made more sense.
Casual viewers must be frustrated beyond belief as if they haven't watched the Clone Wars or Rebels they won't have a clue who Death Watch, Katan etc are.....
Back to Andor. You didn't need to really watch much of anything else. Gilroy gave us all we needed to know with exposition.
Still. This last chapter was excellent and it's just a shame for me most of this season has been a write off.
Fri, Apr 14, 2023, 5:50am (UTC -5)
Agreed on all points
And I did like the latest episode of Mando
Bit I feel all the emotion of watching a Thundercats episode
Fri, Apr 14, 2023, 11:49am (UTC -5)
Sorry my phone hates me
Fri, Apr 14, 2023, 4:57pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Apr 14, 2023, 6:01pm (UTC -5)
Honestly, the villain is part of the problem - Moff Gideon is simply miscast. Giancarlo Esposito is most well known now for playing Gus Fring, a soft-spoken but menacing drug lord whose greatest weapon was patience and fastidious attention to detail. He was a subtle villain. Moff Gideon, on the other hand, is a showboating moustache twirling drama queen, the opposite of subtle. Or he is some of the time, but at other times he reverts to subtle menace. It's jarring, and unfortunately, Esposito's performance is just all over the place. The sight of him in Beskar armor like some kind of low rent Darth Vader (he even has some of those lights reminiscent of Vader's suit) is laughable.
Meanwhile, Katie Sackoff is just a dud as Bo Katan. I mean I can understand why Mando would follow her (she did save his and Grogu's life multiple times) but I have no idea why the others would. That story about her surrendering the Dark Saber to Gideon and her betrayal didn't really establish in my mind some redemption arc, it just made her seem kind of pathetic, like a washed up has-been with delusions of grandeur.
I also, incidentally, have no Earthly clue why the Imperials would care about Mandalore or Bo Katan's ragtag half-assed attempt to settle it with a few dozen refugees and mercenaries. The place is a wreck. What possible threat could they be to the Imperial remnants and their plans? Now yes, I know now that Mandalore was important to Gideon's personal plans (he seem to have built a secret base there) but would the other Imperials even know about this? It seems probably not. And even if they knew about it, would they be really that invested so as to send elite troops to help him? Ugggh, none of it really rings true.
And oh ya, I just love how despite their "ambush" and Beskar armor, these elite stormtroopers fail to kill this *one guy* who just kills them all single handedly before finally dying at the hands of those red guard guys, the ones I think Rey and Kylo took out like chumps. Haha, even they could barely kill the Mandalorian with their purple tazers.
Sat, Apr 15, 2023, 12:08am (UTC -5)
Tue, Apr 18, 2023, 10:52pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Apr 12, 2023, 9:08pm (UTC -5)
"P.S. Why didn't Bo Katan use the Darksaber during all the blaster fights? It can only cut through walls now? (Yet another two-faced complaint from me, after saying earlier this season that we've seen lightsabers vs blasters a million times...hey, it's all about the execution!)"
Bo Katan isn't a Jedi. She can't continuously block blaster fire reliably with the Darksaber. It would be ridiculous if she could. Only people we've seen repeatedly do that are Jedi or Sith with the force, and droids with computer programming.
Mon, Apr 24, 2023, 4:00pm (UTC -5)
Such a dumb element. How do you build a society in which you not only see the people's faces in it, but you can never eat and drink with them?
Sat, May 13, 2023, 8:33pm (UTC -5)
Clearly Bo-Katan has a ton of respect -- Din Djarin talks about honor/loyalty etc. as reasons to serve her and the Mandalorians who stayed behind say they failed her and pledge service. So there must be some real reverence for "royalty" amongst Mandalorians.
Plenty of fight scenes and some needless stuff like the giant monster that destroys the ship of the Mandalorians that stayed on the planet.
Just a question about the timing of events -- Moff requests stuff in his council meeting and yet he has already established his ambush base on Mandalore by the time the 2 Mandalorian clans come by. Wouldn't the Mandalorians who survived the purge have been able to warn Bo-Katan & co. not to head toward the Great Forge and the ambush?
This chapter found something a bit more useful for Grogu to do -- inside the IG-12 now. Some initial silliness results but I'd expect Grogu to play a more prominent role in the season finale.
3 stars for "Chapter 23: The Spies" -- finally the greater story for the season comes together - it's typical Star Wars fare. So now Moff has these red dark troopers -- next gen! Overall a pretty good adventure with a bit of depth, context to the story.
Sun, May 14, 2023, 8:36am (UTC -5)
My inference is that Gideon already had a secret base on Mandalore - it is the only logical explanation why he or the Imperial remnant would give two flying figs about a handful of cultists returning to their blasted wasteland of a homeworld.
Submit a comment
◄ Season Index