This review contains some spoilers for season 3, episode 7 of The Mandalorian, “Chapter 23: The Spies.”
The past two months of The Mandalorian have been one of the strangest seasons of television in recent memory. Episodes have oscillated between light adventures of the week, deep dives into Star Wars lore, tangents focused on minor characters, and divisive cameo-laden detective stories. But in this week’s “Chapter 23: The Spies,” the focus is on not only on thrusting the main plot of The Mandalorian forward, but also laying down the groundwork for the upcoming series and movie(s) that will wrap up this entire Mando-verse and create a bridge between the original and sequel trilogies. But with only one episode left, I can’t help but feel like this season is holding a bigger secret underneath the text.
The episode kicks things off with Elia Kane (Katy M. O’Brian) making her way through the neon and rain-drenched streets of Coruscant to deliver a message to Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito), once again drawing parallels to Blade Runner. (I know I bring it up a lot, but it’s impossible to ignore.) The density of the megalopolis in this opening scene is impressive, and it makes you wonder why it can look so good in this episode and so flat and uninteresting in others.
Gideon passes the news of Din (Pedro Pascal) and Bo-Katan (Katee Sackhoff) uniting the disparate tribes of Mandalorians to the Shadow Council, which is kind of on the nose for a group of baddies looking to secretly resurrect both the Empire and the Emperor, but Star Wars has never been one for subtlety.
This scene tosses a lot of information and references at us, including Brendol Hux (Brian Gleeson), the father of Armitage Hux, who played a big role in the sequel trilogy. There’s talk of Thrawn, whom we now know will be played by Lars Mikkelsen in Ahsoka and could possibly show up during next week’s finale. We also get mentions of Project Necromancer, the experiments that directly lead to the Palpatine clones of The Rise of Skywalker. It’s clear that this series is trying its hardest to create a bridge of continuity across all of Disney-era Star Wars entries, even the ones I’d personally rather forget about.
Back on Navarro, IG-11 has finally been fixed up into IG-12, which is now less of a killing machine and more of a lanky mech with a small cockpit perfect for our pal Grogu. After another tense standoff with the Anzellan mechanic, (To be fair, if I were a critter smaller than Grogu, I wouldn’t trust him either.) Baby Yoda hops into his new Gundam and immediately starts acting like the menace that we’ve grown to love over the past few years.
With stealing food, smashing produce, bumping into furniture like a drunk after last call, and slamming the electronic “yes” and “no” buttons with reckless abandon, Grogu proves that he’s the ultimate vessel for chaos in the galaxy. And yes, the moral ethics behind piloting the corpse of a once-sentient droid are a bit spotty if you think about it, so best not to do that.
While I love Grogu’s shenanigans in this episode, it’s becoming abundantly clear to me that his role in this season is not what was originally planned. When he goes off to train with Luke at the end of season 2, it feels like it was meant to take much longer for him to reunite with Mando. At some point, it feels like the decision was made to bring them together sooner in The Book of Boba Fett, and what we’re left with is an entire season where Grogu is just kind of along for the ride and not actually crucial to any major plot beats. If my theory is correct, then that’s just another example of modern Star Wars being afraid to take risks and tell stories outside the familiar mold.
Back to the episode proper, Bo-Katan convinces the group to head to Mandalore and retake their home planet. My favorite thing about this scene is that, in the background, you can spot a giant hunk of meat being spit-roasted, and it kind of looks like one of the baby bird monsters that they captured a few episodes ago, which makes this crew seem more sadistic than the Empire ever was.
As the team makes their way planetside, the Armorer (Emily Swallow) finds a convenient excuse to separate from them shortly before they fall into Moff Gideon’s trap. Between this timing, her helmet iconography mirroring that of Darth Maul and his Death Watch, and the name of the episode literally being “The Spies,” the safe bet is that next week reveals her to be a rat working for Gideon.
The final battle introduces new stormtroopers complete with jetpacks and Beskar armor, as well as Moff Gideon’s cool new Mandalorian getup. The crew is segmented and overwhelmed, with Paz Vizsla (Jon Favreau) sacrificing himself to buy the rest more time to escape. Though he takes out all the regular troopers, he’s no match for Gideon’s new trio of Praetorian Guards, the elite bodyguards all clad in red that were featured throughout the sequel trilogy, including in the excellent battle in The Last Jedi against Rey and Kylo. It feels like there’s a lot to resolve with only one episode left, and I’ll be curious to see how satisfying next week turns out.
The timing of “Chapter 23: The Spies” airing the week of Star Wars Celebration 2023 seems fitting. With the first glimpse of live-action Thrawn in the Ahsoka trailer, and the news that Dave Filoni will be directing an upcoming movie that acts as the culmination of the stories he’s been telling across The Clone Wars, Rebels, and these various Disney+ series, the roadmap of the Mando-verse has never been clearer. Whether there’s enough gas in the tank to get there in one piece remains to be seen.