Chapter 23 heralds the long-awaited return of a certain antagonist in the penultimate episode as The Mandalorian winds down its third season.
Spoilers follow for Chapter 23 of The Mandalorian.
It was only a matter of time. Grand Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) had to show his face sooner than later. It was either going to be in Chapter 23 or 24. Let’s face it–making his appearance in the season finale would have made no sense. By having him appear in the penultimate episode, they’re able to set up the finale. After watching the epsiode, I have some thoughts and I’ll dive into them shortly.
When Elia Kane (Katy M. O’Brian) made her first appearance this season and sabotaged a mind-wipe, one could assume that someone else was pulling the strings. That she wasn’t fully on board with the New Republic and her loyalty remained with the remnants of the Empire. Lo and behold, the opening minutes of Chapter 23 saw the return of Grand Moff Gideon. Their conversation segued into a holographic conversation with the Shadow Council, which will presumably lead into what’s happening during Ahsoka and the upcoming Dave Filoni film just announced during Star Wars Celebration. We learn that “there are citizens loyal to the Empire on every planet” in the galaxy. Perhaps it also helps to explain why the First Order was able to rise up out of its ashes.
The episode delivers the first live-action appearance of the Shadow Council. In doing so, Grand Admiral Thrawn’s right-hand man, Captain Pellaeon (Xandler Berkley), makes his first live-action appearance. Another character appearing as a member of the council and making their live-action appearance is none other than Brendol Hux (Brian Gleeson). The fact that he’s portrayed by Domhnall Gleeson’s brother keeps it all in the family. In any event, I expect the Shadow Council to play a role going forward. Unfortunately, only two members are credited with a name during the end credits. Everyone else is just listed as warlords. Those portraying the other council members are:
- Jonny Coyne
- Jodi Long
- Hemky Madera
- Ron Bottitta
- Marco Khan
- Imelda Corcoran
Could other Imperial leaders be making their way over from Legends and becoming Canon? It is possible that some of these members already in canon novels taking place after the Empire fell. For instance, we know that Fleet Admiral Gallius Rax formed the group a year after the Battle of Endor. Rax fell during the Battle of Jakku so we can rule out his being on screen in the episode. If we’re talking Legends players transitioning into canon, a number of people played a role in keeping the Empire alive in Legends material. It’s not unlike Dave Filoni to do this. He is the same person who brought Grand Admiral Thrawn back into canon during Star Wars Rebels. Filoni also brought Pellaeon back in the closing episode of the same series.
Interestingly, Hux’s appearance is not the only thing tying in The Mandalorian to the sequel trilogy. The Shadow Council conversation puts Project Necromancer under Commandant Hux’s control. Necromancy is a term that refers to communicating with or resurrecting the dead. Moff Gideon’s comments suggest that Hux has an obsession with the creation of clones. My guess is that he’s working on the Snoke clones or Emperor Palpatine’s clone in The Rise of Skywalker? Chapter 23 marks the first time the project has any mention in any Star Wars medium so all possible theories are on the table until we get more details. We’re at least five years post-Return of the Jedi so there’s still plenty of time before Snoke enters the picture prior to The Force Awakens. Anything can happen.
Moff Gideon has his own agenda: destroying the Mandalorian survivors. He does note that while Captain Pellaeon speaks with much authority, Grand Admiral Thawn is nowhere to be found. Gideon suggests new leadership since Thrawn is still MIA. If you’re a newcomer to Star Wars, I suggest watching Star Wars Rebels, especially season 4. The same goes for anyone planning to watch Ahsoka. In seeking to destroy Mandalore once more, Gideon needs three Praetorian Guards. These are the same guards that we see in The Last Jedi. They are similar in look to the Emperor’s Royal Guard, which dates back to the Clone Wars. Anyway, the fact that Gideon also wants TIE Interceptor reinforcements leads me to believe he is also behind the bombing of Bo-Katan Kryze’s (Katee Sackhoff) Kalevala home.
Whatever is going on with the Shadow Council, they are afraid of Mandalore growing in strength. It leads me to wonder if they are going to be successful in the longer term. Chapter 23’s end does not bode well for The Mandalorian. It sees Gideon’s troopers capture Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) while Paz Vizsla (Tait Fletcher) sacrifices himself so the others can get away. I trust Dave Filoni and Jon Favreau in their storytelling. We know that a film is coming to tie up everything behind told in this era. The other thing is that Favreau has said as long as everyone is having fun, they’ll keep doing the series. Even though Din is captured, things could change during the next episode. One way or another, I expect a season four.
On the Mandalorian side of the picture, Bo-Katan and Din Djarin return to Nevarro with a larger fleet. Axes Woves’ (Simon Kassianides) light cruiser did lead some to question of an Imperial attack. However, Greef Karga (Carl Weathers) quickly realizes that it was Mandalorian mercenaries. He also gives a restored IG-12 (Taika Waititi) to Din and Grogu before the Mandalorians embark on a recon mission. The droid’s memory system is gone so there’s a place for Grogu to control the droid, which doesn’t bode well for any time they’re walking through the market.
After arriving on Mandalore, they quickly run into another group of survivors, who are still loyal to Bo-Katan. It’s here when we officially learn how Gideon got his hands on the Darksaber. We learn that she surrendered to Gideon during the Great Purge, hoping to spare the rest of her people. Unfortunately, Gideon went ahead with the Great Purge. Anyone watching Star Wars Rebels will know that Sabine Wren got it from Gar Saxon and then handed it off to Bo-Katan. It’s been a question dating back to Moff Gideon’s first appearance on the show.
After having some inconsistent run times during the season’s first half, The Mandalorian is running episodes around 43 minutes or longer. I’m hoping that future seasons start becoming more consistent with their run time. The first season was more or less consistent with a longer run time for the season finale. I get that some episodes need more time and less time for their storytelling but it’s nice to have some consistency. Going into the season finale, I’m expecting a longer episode once again. Maybe a surprise or two but we’ll see what happens.
The Mandalorian nears the season’s end with brilliant direction from Rick Famuyiwa and solid writing from both Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni for the penultimate episode. Will we get any surprises like Luke Skywalker’s appearance at the end of season 2? We’ll find out next week.
DIRECTOR: Rick Famuyiwa
SCREENWRITERS: Jon Favreau & Dave Filoni
CAST: Pedro Pascal, Katee Sackhoff, Katy M. O’Brian, Giancarlo Esposito, Carl Weathers, Emily Swallow, Tate Fletcher, Simon Kassianides, Mercedes Varnado, Brendan Wayne, Lateef Crowder
Chapter 23 of The Mandalorian is now streaming on Disney+. Grade: 4/5
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