Well, this was a change of pace…
It would appear that Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni got tired of hearing everyone rave about Andor and its look at bureaucracy that kept the Empire running and how this was the Star wars they’d been waiting for. So they made their own version and put it into the Mandalorian. (“Oh, you like Andor, huh? Well how about an Andor with Grogu? Huh? How about that!”)
After a quick visit with Grogu, Mando, and Bo Katan – who narrowly escape a fleet of TIE Interceptors after leaving Mandalore and then flee to the secret Mandalorian convent after TIE Bombers destroy Bo Katan’s castle – the bulk of the episode is spent on Coruscant. I think this is the first time the series has visited the galactic capital.
The focus of the episode is Dr. Penn Pershing. You remember him? He’s the one who was going to cut up little Grogu way back in episode 3 in order to harvest his midichlorians. He also got captured by Din and Boba Fett and Bo Katan back in episode 16 and they used him to help get onto Moff Gideon’s ship.
Pershing was a clone engineer for the Empire. He’s giving a TED talk when we see him, explaining his situation. He’s grateful to have been admitted into the Amnesty Program. This is a program where the New Republic deprograms Imperial soldiers and reintegrates them into society. (Which sounds great! Undoubtedly, a lot of the Empires troops were drafted into it when their worlds were conquered and they had little say in the matter.) He says he wanted to be a scientist ever since his mother died. She had a bad heart, and if there had only been simple organ cloning on his remote world she might have lived. He is sorry for all the work he had to do for the Empire, but now hopes that his research can be put to good use for the New Republic. (Sure, sounds great! No unforeseen side effects could happen if allow evil scientists to work for us. Operation Paperclip? Never heard of it!)
Among his fellow amnesty candidates, he’s only known by his code number – L52. Pershing, excuse me, L52, is surprised to see a familiar face at his dorm. Namely, G68. In the Empire, G68 was a comms officer on Moff Gideon’s ship. (If you go back and watch episode 16, you’ll see she’s the one telling the incoming shuttle to back off as it zooms toward the flagship while being chased by Boba Fett.) She’s very welcoming to Pershing, although he’s a bit uneasy. (Also, there are rumors that Gideon escaped his transport to the war tribunal…though G68 says that’s just a cover story.)
It certainly is odd to hear the New Republic refer to these reformed Imperials by numbers and not names, since dehumanizing others was long a trademark of the Empire. You’d think that the Republic would encourage some individuality as a way to combat the crushing conformity of the Imperials? Apparently not!
That’s a theme throughout this part of “The Convert”. Pershing is confronted with the conformity of his new life. He and his fellow amnesty recruits wear the same uniforms, live in dormitory housing, and work at gray, dull, scutwork jobs. You’d almost expect the weaslely Syril Karn from Andor to be sitting at the desk next to Pershing, cataloguing weights and measures while Pershing archives the contents of Imperial starships set for destruction.
It certainly appears that the Republic has taken the architecture of the Empire and given it a fresh coat of paint, rather than strip it down and rebuild. And it’s unsettling to see our noble Republic get bogged down in the nuts and bolts of the realities of government.
Pershing yearns to be useful and help the New Republic, but as his amnesty droid tells him genetic research like he used to do is strictly forbidden. But, ever helpful G68 has a solution. Why don’t you just start your own mobile lab to do research? After all, you’re archiving all those ships that are set to be destroyed, who’s going to miss anything from there? Reluctantly, he agrees.
G68, who tells Pershing that her real name is Elia Kane, takes him to the shipyards where a gleeful Pershing starts to pack up his gear. He’s so excited! Once the Republic sees what he can do for them, they’re sure to let him continue his work! But, as they leave the ship, they are surrounded by Republic guards who immediately arrest him.
But not G68.
No, Kane was working for the police to show how loyal an amnesty convert she is. She’s silent as Pershing gets dragged away. And she remains silent when they strap him into a mind flayer for reconditioning. No, no! Not a mind flayer, says the Calimari operating the machine. It’s a 602 Mitigator! It’s similar, but totally different! We aren’t the empire! We’re here to help! And at low levels, the mind flay- uh…Mitigator can pleasantly erase traumatic memories. And maybe he’s right, only we won’t know. G68/Kane turns the dial up to eleven as soon as her handler leaves the room and watches Pershing writhe in pain.
So that was deeply disturbing, seeing the cheerful attendant strap Pershing to the board and happily using the tools of the oppressors to “heal, not harm.” And what was Kane’s endgame? Is she merely getting revenge for his part in Gideon’s (and her) capture? Is there more at play? Did Moff Gideon escape? Kane was the one saying that was just a rumor, so perhaps she knows more than she lets on?
The episode ends with Din reuniting with the rest of his clan. His vial of water proves he has been to the mines of Mandalore and is apostate no more. And, wouldn’t you know it, because Bo Katan also submerged herself (to save Din, but it still counts) and hasn’t removed her helmet since, whaddaya know she’s redeemed as well! She protests that she doesn’t walk the path, but the Armorer says it doesn’t matter. She can leave any time, but as long as she keeps her helmet on, she’s part of the clan.
Which is convenient! Bo Katan now has the dark saber and is part of the Children of the Watch. And she saw the mythosaur! So it seems she has many of the tools she needs to reclaim her homeworld. It remains to be seen what obstacles might stand in her way. Is Moff Gideon still out there? I’m sure he’ll have some revenge in mind for her helping in the attack on his ship.
Overall, “The Convert” was a very intriguing episode. It’s an interesting change of pace, but I’m not sure how much of that is going to be incorporated in the episodes to come. Are we going to spend a lot more time with the political skullduggery on Coruscant? Or are we going back to the stars and the retaking of Mandalore? It remains to be seen. Still, I’m giving this a good grade this week, mainly for the novelty of the story.
Grogu Cuteness Meter: Hardly any Grogu content this week!!! You know why I’m tuning in, right?