The Mandalorian Chapter 23: The Spies Thoughts

Giancarlo Esposito injects a world of energy into The Mandalorian on the way to the end of the season. But the star of this episode is its director, Rick Famuyiwa, who has been the best at handling action scenes.  

Automatic Cinematic

The red color palette is not the only connection this episode has to The Last Jedi | credit Lucasfilm ltd.

Let’s stay with the direction and the production design. This was the most cinematic episode since “The Marshal” in season two. There are shots of ships in space that we have never seen before in any medium (when the fleet is coming out of hyperspace). Doug Chiang’s production design is also next level as we see more of underground Coruscant in the beginning, to a Mandalorian pirate ship, to what we later learn is an Imperial base in the Mandalore Forge. The Imperial base on Mandalore is one of the most unique I have seen, adding to Mount Tantiss in The Bad Batch and Fortress Inquisitorius from Jedi: Fallen Order and Obi-Wan Kenobi.

And the costume design on the Dark Troopers 2.0, Gideon’s armor, and the Mandalore tribe were all new. However, Gideon’s armor takes inspiration from the Mandalorian traditionalists who served under Darth Maul. And the Dark Troopers (now organic beings) look like a mix between the OT Stormtrooper and the First Order designs. Even these Praetorian Guards’ helmets are not quite the same as the sharp-angled helmets in The Last Jedi. The dome top is reminiscent of the Emperor’s Royal Guard.

There are many ways to connect timelines. The story is one, but the design is another, and this episode excels at both. 

Grogu Finds His Voice 

Grogu gets a mech suit | credit Lucasfilm ltd.

A way to speak is what Grogu needed in this series—something to do and contribute instead of just looking cute in the corner. 

Greef Karga greets Mando with some nice Coruscant wine and a resolution to the IG-11 problem from “The Apostate.” Complete strip IG of his unit so Grogu and use the droid skeleton as a vehicle. It is a nice nod to the scene from “The Reckoning,” where IG holds GRogu in a knapsack in front while he guns down Stormtroopers in Nevarro City.

This leads to a more heartwarming use of his new voice. When a fight breaks out between Paz Visla and Axe Wolves over a game, Grogu steps in from either dealing a potentially fatal blow with an emphatic “no, no, no.” As someone who has witnessed first-hand the downfall of the Jedi Order, Grogu does not want to see it happen again to his new family. 

He Was Here All Along

And we get a nod back to the Clone Wars with Gideon’s helmet | credit Lucasfilm ltd.

The fact that Moff Gideon was on Mandalore the whole time makes sense:

  1. He knows the planet well
  2. Communications are jammed (unless you are contacting Gideon directly)
  3. The New Republic would never think to look for him there so he could operate in secret

But how did Elia Kane contact him? Is it just the Empire blocking comms signals? I do not think that was established in the episode if so. 

Also, what is going on in those tanks in the hallway, Gideon was walking through? Gideon lied to Hux when he said that cloning was his obsession. We know that Gideon is working on cloning which is why he wanted Grogu in the first place. 

But Let’s Not Forget Rae Sloane

Sloane’s appearance in the game Star Wars: Squadrons | credit Lucasfilm ltd.

One of the founders of the First Order was a black Grand Admiral named Rae Sloane, and she has still not appeared in live-action or been referenced outside of the novels or comics except for Star Wars Squadrons. The fact that Brendol Hux and Captain Pelleon are now in live-action, on the Shadow Council, referencing Thrawn (who is just now being brought into this timeline), and there is still no mention of Rae Sloane, is concerning. This franchise has a poor track record of representation that is just now making inroads. But actual representation started (and continues) in the canon novels, and one of the earlier ones introduced Grand Admiral Sloane, Star Wars: Aftermath (you can read up on Rae Sloane in my Recontextualizing Aftermath post). 

This show is already moving away from the concepts seeded in The Aftermath Trilogy (that only CERTAIN Imperials were taken into the Unknown Regions to rebuild after the Battle of Jakku, leaving everyone else behind to fend for themselves). From a storytelling point of view, it makes Lucasfilm’s job easier to connect the dots for the masses of how the Empire became the First Order (and maybe even the beginnings of the Final Order). But suppose they do not mention or explain what happened to Rae Sloane soon? It would be another erasure of a black character established in the novels (Filoni recently did this in the Tales of the Jedi episode, “Resolve”).

I have faith that Lucasfilm has learned from past mistakes and will not ignore Rae Sloane, and she will appear at some point, but the time to do that is now. And if they replace her role with Thrawn or remove her from the story entirely? They deserve all the criticism that will come their way. 

Unless they are trying to cast Regina King and need more time before she makes her live-action debut, then that is totally fine.

Bo’s Secret and Mando Learns A Lesson

Mando tells Bo-Katan he is with her until the end in a heartfelt conversation | credit Lucasfilm ltd.

“The Spies” gives us the answer to how Bo-Katan lost the Dark Saber to Moff Gideon. During the Night of a Thousand Tears, she met with Moff Gideon and the ISB to negotiate a cease-fire to save her people. That is how he acquired the Dark Saber; Bo willingly gave it to him. Gideon did not honor their deal, destroying Mandalore and most of the Mandalore people. 

It is a painful memory, and Bo-Katan blames herself for surrendering. Mando tells Bo that he was wrong about her and that Mandalorians have been on the brink of extinction for thousands of years but always rebuild. Then he REALLY hits it home about the Dark Saber:

“I only know of this weapon what you taught me. To be honest, it means nothing to me or my people. Nor does station or bloodline.
What means more to me is honor. And loyalty. And character. These are the reasons I serve you, Lady Kryze.
Your song is not yet written. I will serve you until it is.”

The Mandalorian Chapter 23: The Spies

Everything that matters to the Night Owls does not matter to Mando or his faction. That loyalty, honor, and character is the true measure of a Mandalorian. For Bo-Katan, the final episode will test her as Mando is the only captive of Gideon. Will Bo-Katan and the rest of the Night Owls return that loyalty?

Who is the Second ‘s’ in Spies? Is There One?

Do you buy these Mandalorian’s story? | credit Lucasfilm ltd.

Everyone is looking at the Armorer. She was the one that encouraged Bo to gather all the Mandalorians so they could reclaim Mandalore. Was she leading them into a trap? 

She also rarely goes on missions but accompanied them this time. That feels significant but could be a red herring for the actual spies: the random Mandalorians led by Captain Charles Parnell (that’s the actor, not the character name), who happened to be on the planet this entire time. Wouldn’t Moff Gideon have wiped them out when he returned? How have they evaded him? And he led them to the Forge, right to Moff Gideon.

Then again, if some of those Mandalorians went below the surface to explore and didn’t survive, that could reference their demise at Gideon’s hands. Many of them also died while fighting the beskar-armed troopers. Axe Woves also leaves when they are attacked to try and reach the fleet to warn them, or does he?

This brings me back to the Armorer. They have separated the central characters from the rest of the fleet, which usually indicates the extras getting killed off; however, the episode ends with Bo and most of the group making it out (and Mando captured). I do not believe that showing the Armorer reconnecting with the fleet in Mandalore’s orbit is a sign that she is the spy (I guess seeing her return to the ship but nothing following is suspicious), but to establish that she is a part of the main fleet left vulnerable to attack. It does add some stakes because she is a central Mandalorian. Why would she risk the entire fleet, including her covert?

Assuming that the new Dark Troopers broke Gideon out of New Republic custody, the spy could be random Mandalorian who we’ve only seen a few times in the background. That would be quite unexpected.

Imperial Colonization

Both Mandalorian coverts return to their ancestral home | credit Lucasfilm ltd.

Invading a planet, taking resources, and appropriating culture are not new to our real world and in Star Wars, but we are just starting to get a live-action representation of it. Kicking off in Andor but has been the focus of The Mandalorian is the continued pillaging of Mandalore and ensuring that it never heals. Another tactic colonizers use to exploit internal conflicts. Bo notes this to the team, which seems to be the season’s theme:

“Mandalore has always been too powerful for any enemy to defeat. It is always our own division that destroys us.”

The Mandalorian Chapter 23: The Spies Thoughts

And this is true. The idea of Mando and Bo-Katan’s coverts working together is what gets Moff Gideon’s attention when he speaks with Elia Kane and it leads him to ask for resources from the Shadow Council.

This is the Way

Paz Vizsla has said his last “This is the way” | credit Lucasfilm ltd.

There is a similar story structure here from The Book of Boba Fett. In “From the Desert Comes A Stranger,” Cobb Vanth is shown in the beginning to have a quick draw against the Pykes to establish how much faster Cad Bane’s draw is later.

In “The Spies,” Paz Vizsla is shown as a formidable fighter against Axe Wolves. And he still handles them when he chooses to sacrifice himself by staying behind and fighting the Dark Troopers. It almost looks like he will make it out, but the earlier nod to the Praetorian Guards comes to fruition. The three guards easily defeat Paz, who dies honorably on Mandalore. While Paz was not a significant character, he did make an impression and was the face of “This is the Way” (his last words). The Vizsla name is famous in the Star Wars timeline, so their story won’t end with him (he does have a son, after all). 

So let’s talk about the significant loose ends other than who is the second spy. There is the mythosaur in the mines. This creature has to appear in the final episode and lay waste to that Imperial base.

Also, why did Moff Gideon capture Mando alive and send him to a briefing room? What information does Gideon hope to gain from him? Remember, he already obtained a sample of Grogu’s blood in the second season. So what is Mando’s value to him now?

Oddly, this show continues, not to mention Satine Kryze. She was a prominent member of the royal family and the ruler of Mandalore before Bo-Katan. I doubt she comes up in the last episode, so will she ever be mentioned? Can we at least get this guy revealed as Korkie Kryze?

Korkie Kryze, son of who knows, is that you? | credit Lucasfilm ltd.

It would also be nice if they let Mercedes Varnado (Koska Reeves) say a few sentences next episode.