By Josh Reilly B. and George Bate
WARNING: The following review contains spoilers for The Mandalorian – Season 3, Chapter 19: The Convert
The Mandalorian season 3 surprised some audiences with the debut of Chapters 17 and 18, both of which served as a reset of sorts after the climatic finale that came before it. The series continues today with Chapter 19: The Convert, an episode that pushes the story forward while also highlight a character that hasn’t been in the spotlight in this way before.
The Convert follows Doctor Pershing, the scientist who aided Moff Gideon’s quest to experiment on young Grogu to make advances with cloning technology, as he is reacquainted with life after the Empire. Pershing is part of a rehabilitation program on Coruscant, designed to help ex-Imperials move away from the brainwashing they received under the previous regime. His genuine nature is on display, something that has been hinted at before (Gideon always treated Pershing like a hostage rather than a colleague), but he gets sucked back into the world of espionage and Imperial activity by the ruthless Elia Kane, who poses as a friend but clearly has other ideas in mind. Kane encourages Pershing to continue his cloning research, helping him steal some old equipment from a nearby junkyard on Coruscant, before causing his mind to be wiped at the end of the episode (presumably to cover up any evidence of Kane’s involvement).
Meanwhile, Din Djarin and Bo-Katan exit Mandalore and return to the latter’s home, which is destroyed by the Empire just as they arrive. With nowhere else to go, Djarin brings Bo-Katan to his covenant of Mandalorians where they are both redeemed in the eyes of the Armorer. Djarin is happy to be seen as a member of the tribe again, but Bo-Katan seems to have something else on her mind. Whether that is the beginning of her transition into a full blown member of the Watch, aided by her discovery of the ancient mythosaur on Mandalore, or a pining for leadership once more remains to be seen.
Broadly speaking, The Convert is a fitting title for this episode. The majority of the runtime is spent with Doctor Pershing, a man who publicly disavows the Empire on Coruscant’s biggest stage, but it could easily apply to Bo-Katan as well, especially if she rethinks her criticism of the old ways of the creed. This is an outing centered on transition, on an evolution of the core players in this story, and one that interestingly ends with many of them in the same place they started. Doctor Pershing getting his mind wiped is an extreme version of his place within the Empire’s plan; he is a pawn being used to further their hidden agenda. Djarin also is welcomed back into his clan, where he has been since childhood, ending his extended period of exile.
The Convert is a refreshing deviation from the story of Djarin, who is obviously still involved here but doesn’t feature as heavily as the previous episodes. The story is being pushed forward and Djarin is arguably at the center of that, especially given his proximity to Grogu, but there are plenty of other characters that factor into all of this. The Book of Boba Fett highlighted one of them, Temuera Morrison’s bounty hunter turned crime lord, and now the third episode of season 3 of The Mandalorian puts the spotlight on another key member of the story. The scope and scale continues to grow, but in a way that feels natural. The placement of The Convert within the overarching story of Din Djarin feels right, something that wasn’t necessarily the case in the Mando-centered episodes of The Book of Boba Fett. While those episodes were enjoyable, they appeared to derail the narrative of that show, whereas The Convert does the opposite here.
This episode is carried by the excellent Omid Abtahi, who has done great work in the Star Wars galaxy before but is really given the time to shine here. Abtahi portrays a weak, scared human being who has genuinely good intentions but has been taken advantage of time and time again, even in this episode, and he does so in an incredibly convincing manner. It could be considered quite a daunting task to lead an episode that is largely set away from the fan favorite heroes of Djarin and Grogu, but Abtahi succeeds greatly.
The Convert also features Katy O’Brian as Kane, a character who appeared in season 2 but, like Pershing, takes a starring role for the first time here. O’Brian plays Kane with such mysteriousness that at times it seems difficult to determine whether or not her character is genuinely trying to help Pershing or has a larger plan that she’s not telling him. In that way, this episode feels interestingly similar to Andor, which premiered last year on Disney+. That show was essentially a spy thriller set in a galaxy far, far away, with some characters ending up as traitors and Diego Luna’s hero being left with an uneasy feeling as he never knew who to fully trust. That’s the same feeling that audiences are bound to have this week about Kane, and one that is created by O’Brian’s performance.
The writing is another strong aspect of this episode. The first two episodes of the season appeared a tad choppy at times, oddly switching from one plot line to the next and unable to establish any real flow to the proceedings. This episode definitely has what the others lacked with a strong narrative told in an interesting and engaging way. The format is one that modern television has moved towards in recent years, with a season taking a time out of sorts to focus on a side character, all while still advancing the overall story and the heroes involved. The Last of Us did that most recently, dedicating several episodes to further develop characters, a tactic that worked incredibly well for that show. It can be argued that Jon Favreau was going for that in The Book of Boba Fett, to admittedly mixed results, but he gets it right here.
This week’s episode of The Mandalorian is the best of Season 3 thus far, providing a refreshing dose of escapism while expanding the scope and scale of the story in an engaging manner. This season has been unpredictable in terms of the stories that Jon Favreau and co. have wanted to tell, and given the nature of this outing, that looks set to continue for the remaining episodes.