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The Mandalorian

The Convert (The Mandalorian - S03E03) - Live Action Series

Series: The Mandalorian

Title: Chapter 19 - The Convert

Season: Three

Episode: 3

Original Air Date: March 15th, 2022

Runtime: 55 minutes

Credits: Review & Text: Thomas; Page layout & Design: Chuck Paskovics

Discuss the latest Chapter! (Discussion)

"Then you may join our covert and live as your ancestors once did!" SPOILERS.

A good old Star Wars dogfight

"The Convert" is a very odd episode. For one, it's the first The Mandalorian episode that barely features the titular character at all, instead roughly 40 minutes of its 55 minute runtime are dedicated to a character that, at best, was a bit player before, not an entirely unimportant bit player, but still a tertiary character: Dr. Pershing. His stand alone episode is bookended by two scenes with Din Djarin and his future wife Bo-Katan, one is an action packed dog fight with TIE fighters belonging to some Imperial warlord, the other scene shows us how Din Djarin brings his new girlfriend Bo-Katan to his cult hideout, since Bo's palace was blown to bits and pieces by TIE bombers. And before Bo can even say anything the Armorer welcomes her to their cult. Since she too has bathed in the Living Waters and incidentally (because the script probably demanded it) hasn't had the time or opportunity to take off her helmet yet.

No more lounging on her throne for Bo-Katan

Otherwise we learn very little in the scenes with Din Djarin. We learn that Mando was not pulled underwater by the Mythosaur, instead he just didn't anticipate the sudden drop. Also, Din never saw the Mythosaur and has no idea what is lurking in the underground lake. And Bo-Katan does not reveal that tidbit to Din when he comes to. On their way home Bo-Katan quips that she'd like to invite Din over for dinner, but with him never removing his helmet this would be a bit awkward, so she does make a bit of fun of Din, but it's good natured. All fun stops when back on Bo's moon they are attacked by an entire squadron of TIE Interceptors.

That's why you never accompany your new cult boyfriend back to his home....

In a really fast paced action sequence Bo and Din manage to destroy all the TIEs, but they can't prevent yet another squadron of TIE bombers from laying waste to Bo's palace, which is utterly destroyed. Apparently a local warlord Bo stole equipment from (for her failed Mandalore campaign) didn't like her stealing stuff from him. Homeless, Din offers Bo-Katan to come with him, which she does. And of course Din returns to the cult hideout, people there are skeptical, but Din brought a sample of the Living Waters with him, proving to the Armorer that he is indeed redeemed. And the Armorer, the good cult leader that she is, immediately recruits Bo-Katan as well, you have to grow your numbers after all. At least the Armorer is leading a "nice" cult, since she tells Bo that she can leave anytime, but that as long as she won't remove her helmet she's welcome as their newest member. And that's it.

A space TED talk at the good old Coruscant opera house

But the episode is really about Dr. Pershing. And while his part has some really good worldbuilding it's also yet another very jarring and actually really weird segue. Almost as weird as the sudden transition in The Book of Boba Fett that mutated into The Mandalorian season 2.5 for two full episodes. I am not sure why Pershing's part was needed the way it was implemented here or why they dedicated so much time on his story. At least the way it was done here.

Coruscant's highest mountain

The good thing about Pershing's plot is the worldbuilding. We see Coruscant again, always a welcome sight, however you also see the very clear limitations of the Volume, where everything looked real and tangible in Andor everything looks uncanny valley fake here, you can tell that one series used real world locations to shoot in and the other series used the Volume, you never believe that Pershing is on Coruscant, it all looks fake in ways that remind me of how the prequels looked fake because of the excessive use of greenscreen. Now the Volume does look better than early 2000s greenscreen, but Andor shows us how real world locations and extensive sets really help with giving you that sense something is "real".

Droid counseling, who doesn't want that? We are almost there with ChatGPT in 2023.

The other interesting aspect of the Pershing story is that we see how the New Republic is dealing with all those former Imperials. They try to reintegrate them into society. I come from a country that had to do this twice in recent history, once after World War II and then again after the reunification in 1990 with East Germany. After WW II Nazis and other officials, judges, civil servants had to be reintegrated, you do need people who work in administration after all, and you can't replace all of them just like that. And after the reunification you had an entire army of ex STASI agents and party officials, reintegration can be difficult actually and to this day there are cultural differences between West and East Germany, even though we are one country now. So seeing how the fictional New Republic in the fictional Star Wars galaxy deals with former Imperials was interesting.
And while they seem humane and are apparently trying their best to offer former Imperials a new life, they also do a really bad job. On the surface everything is alright, the former Imperials are given nice communal housing, they get (pedestrian) jobs, but for some weird reason they are given code names, almost like clone troopers and are never referred to by name. Also, the droid counseling sessions are decidedly odd. If the point was to show us how the New Republic may be well meaning but ultimately incompetent, then yes, the point was made successfully. Another thing: since Imperial Warlords with sizable resources are apparently still a thing you have to wonder why the New Republic decided to dismantle its navy and army (a big point that lead to the militia like Resistance in the sequels). If the galaxy has not been pacified yet it makes zero sense to dismantle your military, and NOT to use the many, many captured assets from the enemy. In real wars the other side will use everything the enemy leaves behind, weapons, tanks, planes... not so in Star Wars. But only because the scripts demands it.

A Clockwork Orange Star Wars style

But let's briefly talk about Pershing's story: he is happy to be in the reintegration programme, but you can tell immediately that he'd rather keep working on his cloning project, but this time for the New Republic and for strictly beneficial medical purposes, like cloning organs that can be used to save people. And it's obvious that Pershing is serious about this. He wants to do good, motivated by his own backstory where his mother died because they didn't have cloned organs that could have saved her. The big issue with Pershing's story is that it's James Bond or even Austin Powers villain levels of needlessly complicated and dumb.
Let me explain: Pershing meets Cute Imperial Officer, you know her, the one who served under Moff Gideon. There were good reasons to believe she perished in season 2, but somehow she survived (a Star Wars trademark). We even finally learn her name: Elia Kane, or so she claims. And it turns out Elia goes to great lengths to con Pershing into breaking the law. She befriends him, is downright charming and sweet, they go sightseeing, enjoy a space popsicle together, she even gifts him Imperial biscuits Pershing is missing from his old Imperial days. In short. Elia seems a super friendly reformed woman, well, maybe if you are 5 years old and super naive. It's pretty obvious that Elia is actually Little Ms Honeytrap. So to the surprise of no one Elia manages to con Pershing into breaking into an old Star Destroyer, where he wants to procure some mobile lab equipment. His goal is to work on his cloning project in secret, because he wants to help the New Republic, even though it is explicitly mentioned in the episode that cloning has been deemed illegal outright and any associated research is outlawed. So either Dr Pershing is the special kind of smart person who is very dumb... or the script is dumb. But it gets worse: it turns out Little Ms Honeytrap jumped through all those hoops and went to all these great lengths just to get Pershing caught in the act. She tipped off the New Republic police and thus Pershing is caught. He is sent to rehabilitation where he gets connected to an entirely humane (not) mind flayer device, the super friendly Mon Calamari doc reasures him that they are using only save settings, so his mind won't be erased, he will just have pleasant thoughts that are meant to help him with overcoming his alleged Imperial ambitions.
Little Ms Honeytrap then tells the other doc in the control booth that she'd like to watch the procedure. So EVERYONE leaves the room with Pershing connected to the mind flayer, they leave Little Miss Honeytrap UNATTENDED in the control booth. And of course she dials the device up to 11, so Pershing's mind gets erased / corrupted.

Dr. Evil would be very proud of her

I am sorry to say that, but to me that is as stupid as your typical Austin Powers movie where a giant space laser on the moon gets dubbed "The Alan Parsons Project". But what The Mandalorian is missing is the Seth Green character that tells everyone how super dumb all the plans are.
If all Elia wanted was to destroy Pershing's mind - I assume that this is what she is doing, wiping his mind - why bother with all the silly and elaborate setup? Hide Imperial propaganda material in his room. Hide a blaster under his pillow. Plant weird Mon Calamari porn on his tablet. Anything. She could have achieved her plan in 5 minutes. Plant some fake evidence that Pershing is violating the rules of the reintegration programme in his room, inform the authorities, wipe his mind. Done. Or even better... just kill him outright, poison the biscuits he is craving, job done. If they (Moff Gideon or whoever is behind him) don't want Pershing to potentially spill the beans about the secret project, they could have done it any number of ways that don't involve going on fake dates, getting Pershing to want to break into an old Star Destroyer to get some lab equipment, a quite dangerous undertaking too. And let's not even talk about the lazy writing when everyone decides it's perfectly ok to leave Kane alone with Pershing, with NO ONE monitoring a potentially very dangerous mind flayer device. Giving Little Miss Honeytrap the perfect opportunity to fiddle with the dial. Also, how does she expect to get away? People would usually notice immediately that something is wrong and since she is the only one who had access to the controls.... we are apparently meant to decuce that Kane will make her swift exit unseen and return to her Remnant cell.

The entire structure of the episode was patently weird. It's not uncommon to have an A and B and sometimes even a C story in a tv episode. But you usually always cut between A, B (and C), not like here where it was A - then B for 40 minutes - then A again. And in the case of something like with Dr. Pershing you usually do throw in small bits and pieces before, so you are not entirely dumbfounded when an episode suddenly features a character you haven't seen in ages and who was never THAT important to the series.

So in many ways this episode mirrored the weird structure of The Book of Boba Fett. In my opinion this is a very weird way of doing things. Also, as I tried to point out, while the worldbuilding is appreciated, the entire Pershing plot could have been resolved in a 10 minute B plot stretched across two or three episodes. The entire sequence with Kane sweettalking Pershing into doing the foolish thing and going out on a date with him is unnecessary. Not worth the trouble if all you want is to erase his mind. There are countless easier ways of incriminating him that don't even rely on Pershing's own foolishness.

And about the parts with Din and Bo-Katan... let's see where this is going, it could be fun to have Bo be an unvoluntary cult member now. I do hope this is the setup for eventually dismantling the cult for good... if Bo becomes a "always helmet on" fanatic like the others now I would be disapponted.

So where does that leave things? I am not sure what to make of The Mandalorian season 3. The first episode was "alright" at best but already riddled with some nonsensical things... why bother with IG-11 when that is all forgotten about in the next episode and Mando conveniently gets R5 who can do the same job? Episode 2 was very entertaining and very focused. And episode 3 is a weird structural mess with a plot taken from an Austin Powers movie, only unironically and without the silly humor. I am sorry to have to say this, but the writing in this episode was very, very dumb. The worldbuilding was great, the characterization of Pershing was fine, but the structure of the episode was just plain weird, why this hyper focus on a tertiary character? It's as if we suddenly got a Peli Motto episode about her scams on Tatooine. Why? Sure, Pershing is of relevance to the Grogu / cloning project, but not to the point he needs an entire episode dedicated to just him. As I said, use the more traditional A/B plot structure, spread it across two or three episodes and get rid of the silly "Kane plays Little Ms Honytrap" subplot which is not needed at all if the goal is to wipe (or corrupt or turn completely evil) Pershing's mind. Why not just kill him outright?

Let's hope future episodes don't repeat the mistakes made in The Book of Boba Fett and that we can focus on the really important things again, as interesting as it was to see Coruscant under the New Republic. But structure it differently.

One last thing: according to Samba TV at least the season premiere was a ratings hit, but fewer people watched it than even the Book of Boba Fett premiere, and Obi-Wan Kenobi was watched by a lot more people even. It will be interesting to see what the Nielsen charts will have to say about the popularity of The Mandalorian after such a long absence and a weird start into the season. Is the hype dying down somewhat? Disney woud be in need of a hit Disney+ show again.

Added: March 15, 2023
Category: The Mandalorian
Reviewer: Thomas
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