This may not be the main point of “The Convert,” the third episode of The Mandalorian’s third season, but it’s worth noting that this installment does something we haven’t really seen elsewhere in the Star Wars universe (or at least its live-action depictions): It makes Coruscant look kind of cool. We usually only see the palace intrigue (and occasional kid-Jedi slaughter), parliamentary procedures, and bustling traffic of the galaxy’s planet-spanning city. “The Convert,” by contrast, makes it look like a nice place to live or at least vacation. We see everyday New Republic residents walking around while eating glowing popsicles. You can bump into cool landmarks like Umate, the highest point in Coruscant, just wandering around. Even the Amnesty Program seems pretty chill. It’s not action and drama all the time everywhere on Coruscant.
Of course, Coruscant might actually have a chance to relax at this moment in history. The Empire has been defeated, leaving a little more time for strolls through the park. But, of course, the galaxy far, far away is not such a simple place and dangers lurk both near and far.
“The Convert” mostly concentrates on Coruscant’s perils close to home, but it’s bookended by action on the Outer Rim that’s likely to have far-reaching consequences. Picking up where the previous episode left off, it opens on Din Djarin and Bo-Katan on the edges of the mines of Mandalore, where Din is still recovering from a near-death experience and Bo-Katan’s going through a different sort of recovery. After coming to, Din is immediately celebratory (in his stoic, Mandalorian way), saying, “I am redeemed.” Bo-Katan confirms that, yes, she witnessed this redemption; then, troubled by her experience underwater, she asks if he saw anything when he was beneath the Living Waters’ surface. He didn’t, and she doesn’t reveal to him that she saw a Mythosaur (if she’s even sure that’s what it was).
They head back to the abandoned castle Bo-Katan calls home but meet trouble, first in the form of some TIE Interceptors. They take care of them via an intense dogfight only to witness some bombers taking out the castle, leaving Bo-Katan homeless (and pissed). Outmanned and outgunned — suspiciously outmanned and outgunned since this is a lot of leftover Imperial hardware for a mere warlord to command — they have no choice but to flee.
When we return to them at the end of the episode, they’ve made their way to the remote planet that’s become the hideout for Din’s covert. After a skeptical reception, Din visits the Armorer and proves he’s been to the Living Waters, which means (a) Mandalore isn’t an uninhabitable wasteland after all, and (b) Din’s now a full-fledged Mandalorian again. And, whether she wants to be or not, so is Bo-Katan since she too has immersed herself in the Living Waters and hasn’t yet removed her helmet. Bo-Katan didn’t ask for this, but — for now, at least — she’s sticking with it, and her meaningful glance at the Mythosaur skull hanging on the Armorer’s wall suggests this might not just be a matter of convenience.
If that is the case, and Bo-Katan is sincere in exploring a more traditional Mandalorian way of life, the title of the episode could have a double meaning. But it most obviously refers to Dr. Pershing (Omid Abtahi), the scientist with a specialist in cloning technology who once worked closely with Moff Gideon. Now, like Henry Hill at the end of Goodfellas, he leads a quieter existence in the straight world. But, unlike Henry, he’s not bitter about it. Speaking to the New Republic Senate, he expresses sincere gratitude for being able to join the New Republic’s Amnesty Program and for earning a shot at redemption. What’s more, he wants to use his abilities to help the New Republic, and while it’s easy be suspicious of his motives — we have seen him involved in some pretty awful stuff, after all — the episode confirms his sincerity. He’s a true, if impatient, convert.
That means leading a humble, sometimes nervous existence in Amnesty Housing with other members of the program, where he has mostly kept to himself. Even talking to the droid who returns him to his quarters makes him uncomfortable, a discomfort compounded when he spots the woman we’ll later learn is named Elia Kane (Katy O’Brian). But for now she’s just G68, as Pershing is just L52. They keep it simple and anonymous at Amnesty Housing, but Pershing knows her from their time together serving Moff Gideon. She’s a reminder of the past he’s trying to escape.
She might be all right, though. Everyone at Amnesty Housing seems to be committed to their new lives, including Elia. Sure, they might miss some of the elements of their own lives — Pershing has a fondness for the yellow travel biscuits that used to be staples of the Empire’s ration packs — but they don’t miss them more than they enjoy being on the side of the good guys. (And, for that matter, alive.) So it’s kind of ominous when Pershing finds a whole case of the biscuits he craves on his doorstep. Who wants him to look back when he should be looking forward?
Could it be Elia? That doesn’t seem likely. As they stroll the streets of Coruscant, they both talk about how good it feels to be working on a cause they know to be good after deluding themselves into thinking the Empire was on the side of righteousness. Pershing’s happy, but something does nag him: He was making breakthroughs with his research that could benefit the New Republic (which, maybe significantly, Elia describes as “struggling”). Now saddled to a boring clerk job, all his potential is going to waste, just like the Imperial hardware they send to the scrap heap.
Maybe, Elia suggests, there’s a work-around. Following orders is what got them in trouble the first time around, after all. Close to the peak of Umate, she suggests she might know a way for him to get the equipment he needs to further his studies … for the New Republic, of course. When Pershing speaks to the Amnesty Program’s droid counselor and probation officer, however, he’s told this would be forbidden. So what’s to be done? He seeks answers by speaking to Elia, who, she implies, has got the hookup when it comes to getting his own mobile lab setup.
There’s only one problem: This involves bending the rules a little bit by going places Amnesty participants aren’t allowed to go. After sleeping on it — and experiencing yet another grinding day at work filled with bureaucratic roadblocks and another session with his counselor droid — Pershing decides to go for it. He tells Elia, gives himself a little pep talk to reassure himself he’s helping the New Republic, and heads off into the night with Elia.
Things don’t go quite according to plan despite Elia’s constant reassurance. Pershing is nervous as they ride the train to the scrapyard and, understandably, even more nervous when they have to flee some droids who suspect they’re up to no good. Pershing does his best to blend in, even attempting to joke with a fellow passenger (“Taungsdays, am I right?”), but eventually a full-on chase breaks out that forces Pershing and Elia to leap from a moving train.
Phew! They make it, which seems to inspire Elia to reveal her real name. When they get to the lab, it’s even better than Pershing imagined. But there’s a problem: As they make their way to a downed Star Destroyer, security forces show up to arrest, well, only one of them. It turns out this was all a setup. Elia’s tricked him into breaking the law and takes the side of the security officers as they arrest him.
Later, Elia’s on hand as Pershing is interrogated and, however gently, forced to submit to a machine that will help “soothe, select traumatic memories” (it’s not a Mind Flayer, though). And as the machine does that work, she takes a nibble on a travel biscuit, having seemingly not lost her taste for everything the Empire produced.
• Big name director this week: Lee Isaac Chung. This is Chung’s first directing credit since the great Minari.
• So what’s Elia’s game here? Was it simply a matter of using Pershing to get some supplies she needed or is there something more? (It might be significant that Pershing ends the episode alive, if not entirely intact.) And could it have something to do with Moff Gideon’s unknown fate? There are rumors he escaped. There are also rumors he’s been subjected to a Mind Flayer. So which is true? Or is there some other possibility?
• Apparently there’s room enough for two different types of Mind Flayers on premium streaming series.
• A burning unanswered question: What became of Bo-Katan’s loyal medical droid?
• After the opening dogfight, the episode is more about intrigue than action, but it’s a pretty terrific dogfight.
• The clueless aristocrats in the opening Coruscant scenes are a nice touch. “Empire, Rebels, New Republic — I can’t keep track,” one says, before his wife adds, “We try not to get involved.” Wealth can apparently provide protection from the troubles of the galaxy, at least up to a point. This is a class of people that lets the struggles for freedom play out at a remove. It’s reminiscent of The Last Jedi, in which the carefree privileged gamblers of Canto Bight are described as the “worst people in the galaxy” and a certain class of arms dealer doesn’t really care who ends up with its weaponry. The Mandalorian might not have as much interest in moral ambiguity as, say, Andor, but its universe isn’t entirely black and white.
• It didn’t seem like a significant detail at the time, but we should probably wonder who Elia was sitting next to in the Senate.
• When asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, Elia replies, “I didn’t really have a chance to think about it.” It seems likely there’s a story there.
• See you next Benduday.