Wednesday, March 15, 2023

REVIEW: 'The Mandalorian' - A Trip to Coruscant Reveals the Fate of a Former Imperial Scientist in 'Chapter 19: The Convert'

Disney+'s The Mandalorian - Episode 3.03 "Chapter 19: The Convert"

On Coruscant, former Imperials find amnesty in the New Republic.

"Chapter 19: The Convert" was written by Noah Kloor & Jon Favreau and directed by Lee Isaac Chung

It was shocking to see Din embark on his mission for redemption on Mandalore in only the second episode of the season. The premiere set up that adventure as arduous and full of challenges. It's similarly striking to see the show devote almost an entire episode to the fate of Dr. Pershing as he pursues his own form of redemption on Coruscant. The themes that connect the stories are apparent. However, it also presents as a side quest that has nothing of value to what has been meaningful across the series to date. It's mostly providing resolution to a character who has been in proximity to Din in his quest to protect Grogu. Dr. Pershing presented as the scientist eager to experiment on Grogu to help Moff Gideon obtain more power. And now, he's given a tragic backstory of how he was forced to work for the Empire. He's not beyond redemption. He's capable of providing value to the New Republic. The government on Coruscant sees that importance. The figures in charge accept amnesty for former officers of the Empire while also destroying the technology that was utilized by that side for decades. It doesn't make any sense of Pershing. This is the equipment he was trained on. He sees so many possibilities if he was simply allowed to continue his research. He's praised as the best possible outcome for this reprogramming effort. Humanity is far removed from the situation. That's true when it's simply the high society players who have long enjoyed life on Coruscant. They never had to worry about their fates during the war. So long as the New Republic respects them, they will continue to prosper. The government has no real control over them. Life is incredibly different for Pershing now. He's afraid to praise any moment of his life working for the Empire. That's who he was for a long time. It can't be eradicated. He wants to honor the people who showed mercy to him. He believes in the inherent goodness of his work. If he develops cloning technology for the New Republic, then they will be incredibly grateful. That goes against the law. He doesn't seek to adapt to the way this government has to function in order to stay strong and connected. It's a very delicate balance. One where any mistake can be used as pretense for a divided galaxy once more. Pershing is eager to prove his loyalty. That is exploited because he has no idea how to navigate this world. It's all an act of vengeance for him supporting the fighters who destroyed the Empire. He was loyal for a long time. Moff Gideon had a use for him. And now, he has turned his back. He is punished as a result. The former communications officer makes him suffer. It's a fitting act of poetic justice that shows the limitation of the New Republic's ideals. It's a government destined to fail. That's the writing on the wall even though plenty of people want to be more hopeful than that. Pershing understands what's happening in the final moments. He is powerless to stop it as the situation is exploited against him to remove everything unique about him completely.

This entire story is lacking of any kind of emotional power though. It's dependent on the viewer being curious about Pershing's fate. It takes away from the central focus of Din and Bo-Katan surviving in a still dire universe. They return to Din's former clan with evidence that Mandalore hasn't been destroyed. The monuments of value still stand. No one is beyond redemption. They can still honor the way. It's not exactly the life Bo-Katan wants for herself. And yet, that possibility is now extended to her. Her home has been destroyed. She knew what Mandalore was like in all its glory. So much has been destroyed. Officers loyal to the Empire still seek to destroy all that matters to her. She would love nothing more than to return to her home and send Din off never to deal with him again. That was impossible because she saw something in the living waters. The depths of that miracle even inspire her. Din didn't have the same experience. He's more loyal to the old ways. It's completely by circumstance that Bo-Katan never removes her helmet upon leaving Mandalore. It's still a notable distinction. She embodies all that a Mandalorian is expected to be. Her house once brought great shame to this specific section of the creed. The Armorer still bestows upon her a blessing. She is welcome in this space. It may be more difficult for her to commit to always wearing her helmet. That has never been a part of her culture before. She provides a different perspective. One that has already had a ton of value for Din. The two warriors continually save each other. Yes, so much is informed by the despair and tragedy of the past. And yet, they return to their people with an offering of hope. The clan no longer has to believe that Mandalore has been destroyed. Instead, the Mandalorian can prosper once more on their home planet. Bo-Katan once tried to unite the various factions behind her claim to the throne. She has such lofty ambitions. She was left defeated because she couldn't accomplish that goal. And yet, she is now surrounded by Mandalorian who accept her because it is part of their way. That's powerful too. Again, these aspects of the story are meaning because the show has established the emotional stakes. They are all tied deeply to the future of this specific race. They were left devastated by the Empire. They look to the future hoping to restore what was lost. It's not with the mindset of building a government throughout the galaxy. Instead, it's about honoring the potential of one planet and the people who once thrived there. As such, the stakes get to be a little smaller and more personal. That's where the storytelling thrives. It's always nice to see Coruscant whenever it appears in a Star Wars property. However, it's hard to offer something new in that environment. With Mandalore and the people who honor the way, it's very unique to this show and what this specific group of characters hope to accomplish.