Good and evil have never been binary concepts in Star Wars, but what spin-off TV shows have allowed thus far is the space to really consider that nuance. Andor did this excellently, introducing characters that teetered on the moral line. Now the latest episode of The Mandalorian season 3 is another thoughtful example as Moff Gideon’s (Giancarlo Esposito) right-hand man Dr. Pershing (Omid Abtahi) becomes the focal point in a tense exploration of how different the New Republic really is from the Empire.
The main chunk of 'The Convert' focuses on a seemingly reformed Dr. Pershing taking part in the New Republic’s 'Reintegration Programme' for ex-Imperial officers. We first see him again delivering a passionate speech in Coruscant about his research into cloning and genetic modification, and how grateful he is for the opportunity to reform after aligning himself with the Empire.
However, it’s what comes after that sets up the moral dilemma of the episode. As he’s approached by people fawning over him, one person tells him that they try not to concern themselves with the politics of the everyday. It’s a glimpse of a world similar to what Mon Mothma (Genevieve O'Reilly) was dealing with years earlier in Andor under a different rule – high society doesn’t really mind who’s in charge, as long as it’s not impacting their finances.
The theme continues as we fall into the mundanity of Dr. Pershing’s new life as he tries to adjust to a society that undervalues his work and doesn’t trust him. He works away archiving Imperial data that is destined to be destroyed despite its potential use; he’s quizzed by a droid constantly about feelings of resentment and is told his area of expertise holds no use in the New Republic. It’s no wonder feelings of discontentment bubble up just as fellow convert Elia Kane (Katy M. O'Brian) offers some temptation.
The former communications officer from Gideon’s ship gives him the chance to continue his research, luring him into breaking the rules. First, she sends him prohibited items and tempts him to touch a model of the Umate mountain, and before he even realizes it, they’re on a train to the shipyard to steal some Imperial technology. There’s a lot of joy to be had in these sequences set in the glittering lights of Coruscant which have a feel of Blade Runner to them, with the pulsating futuristic score and tense train chases. It’s a reminder of the scope of the Star Wars universe and the endless possibilities of storytelling within it.
All is not what it seems and when Dr. Pershing gets his hands on the technology he needs and the authorities close in and arrest him. It quickly becomes clear Elia was testing his loyalties all along. A truly chilling sequence follows where he’s strapped into a mind flayer, an experimental machine that will help numb his memories of the past – oh but don’t worry, "this isn’t the Empire". The morally gray turns increasingly murky as Elia turns up the voltage so that the doctor convulses on the table. It’s a brutal sequence, and a fascinating introduction to what this new villain is capable of .
It's an apt moment to remind ourselves that the show is called The Mandalorian, which you may have forgotten given Pedro Pascal’s hero barely appears in 'The Convert'. This isn’t really a new concept for the universe, given The Book of Boba Fett occasionally didn’t really feature its title character either, but you do really feel Mando and Grogu’s absence from the episode, especially as it feels like we’ve only just got them back.
What we do get though, is great. The momentum built up from Mando, Grogu, and Bo-Katan’s (Katee Sackhoff) exciting adventure in Mandalore continues into the first part of this episode. A newly redeemed Mando is quizzed by Bo-Katan about what he saw in the Living Waters, as she tactfully keeps the fact a huge Mythosaur is lingering under there to herself. It’s not very hard to see the cogs turning in her head about how she can use this to her advantage, something that is only solidified when the Armorer declares her part of the Mandalorian Creed at the end of the episode and her eyes flick to the Mythosaur skull.
There’s some great action in Mando’s section of the narrative too as they’re chased by TIE fighters on their return to Bo-Katan’s home. And while Grogu’s involvement in the story was pretty slim this time around, we were treated to an adorable moment of him seemingly trying to say "this is the Way". It’s all too brief though, and when the pair escape the grasp of the Imperial ships, we only catch up with them briefly at the end as they return to the Mandalorian stronghold for redemption.
There are a lot of interesting narrative strings being pulled in 'The Convert', especially when it leans into comments on morality, as well as evoking a real sense of foreboding of what’s to come. We’ve not yet seen Moff Gideon this season, but it doesn’t feel like he’s far away, nor does it feel like that’s the last we’ll hear of the sadistic Elia either. Then there’s the question of just what Bo-Katan is planning behind her helmet, and how the Mythosaur will play into that.
The juggling act does come with difficulties. At its worst, it feels like it’s trying to cover too much, leading to an overinflated runtime with too little clarity on the relevance for Mando and Grogu’s story. However, this doesn’t stop that at its best, it allows for an interesting and nuanced perspective on the wider world our heroes are operating in, and that’s enough of a tantalizing proposition to keep us gripped.
For more on show, check out where The Mandalorian sits on the Star Wars timeline and our full The Mandalorian season 3 release schedule. We've also rounded up all of the new Star Wars movies and TV shows on the way too.