The Mandalorian Tries to Channel Andor in “The Convert”
Chapter 19 of The Mandalorian ditches our hero for a side story similar to Andor but without the depth that made that show so great.
The Mandalorian Season 3, Episode 3:
“The Convert” Review
After last week’s fantastic episode, which featured meaningful plot progress as well as interesting set-ups with a healthy dose of character beats and action, Chapter 19 of The Mandalorian, titled “The Convert,” scales things back considerably. This week the show put the adventures of Din and Bo-Katan on the back burner to give us a peak at what life is like in the New Republic through the eyes of Moff Gideon’s former reluctant scientist Dr. Pershing. It’s a difficult episode to judge since much of what happens depends on the quality of the follower, but as a singular episode, it was decidedly mixed.
“The Convert” picks up right where Chapter 18 left off. Bo-Katan has just rescued Mando from the depths of the Living Waters in the Mines of Mandalore. It was down there that she saw the legendary Mythosaur, a creature whose existence she believed to be the ramblings of crazed zealots. Her witnessing the creature no doubt throws a wrench in her belief system, and curiously she doesn’t mention the creature to Mando.
The dichotomy of Bo and Mando’s differing beliefs and ideologies of their own culture is one of the strengths of their pairing. The revelation of the Mythosaur obviously affects Bo as she doesn’t take her helmet off at all after seeing the creature despite not telling what she saw. That inner conflict is sure to come up during the season, and while it is explored in subtle ways in this episode during the little screen time Bo and Mando have, it’s hard not to feel like that would have served as a stronger episode than what we actually got.
Not helping matters is how strongly the episode starts. Not just with the added wrinkles to Bo-Katan’s beliefs but with one of the best Star Wars dogfights to grace our screens. As Bo and Mando make their way off Mandalore, they are attacked by a group of TIE Interceptors. The question of who sent them is sure to be paid off later in the season, but the aerial action itself is sublime. The CGI work in The Mandalorian has always been top-notch (barring young Luke), but this dogfight might take the cake.
It’s so easy for sequences like this to feel weightless, like they take place in a vacuum, because they literally do. But ILM and director Lee Isaac Chung put together an astounding sequence that will leave you breathless. From how the camera moves with the ships to the ripples in the water as they skim by, you feel an immense sense of speed as it’s happening, but it all remains crystal clear. Nothing is blurry or out of focus, you can see every flip, every turn, every closer call, and every explosion in all its balletic beauty.
Unfortunately, the episode peaks early, after that sequence, the show cuts to Coruscant for an episode that is more similar to Andor than to The Mandalorian but without what made that show as good as it was. The majority of the episode follows Dr. Pershing as he acclimates to the New Republic’s Amnesty Program, which is to give former members of the Galactic Empire a chance at a new life.
It’s a decent premise, and we do get an interesting look at the fragility of the New Republic, but neither that nor the characters we follow are given enough depth to make it truly worthwhile. The crux of the episode is that Dr. Pershing believes that the cloning research he was doing for Moff Gideon could be used for the greater good by the New Republic, but that kind of research is banned, so he’s stuck at a desk job. He forms a friendship with Elia Kane, another member of the Amnesty Program who used to work for Moff Gideon, and she convinces him to continue his research anyway. Her eventual betrayal of Pershing to improve her standing with the New Republic would be interesting if she were an actual character instead of a plot device.
Pershing has depth to him; you can tell he genuinely wants to do good and is sorry for helping the Empire. His being depressed at his desk job isn’t because he wants to go back to the lab, it’s because he believes he can be helping the betterment of the galaxy, but they won’t let him. Kane exists as something to get the plot moving, to get Pershing to break the rules and try to restart his research. We learn nothing of who she is as a person, she is here to encourage him for her to eventually betray.
Andor’s biggest strength was in how every character was well-defined, multi-faceted, and had clear motivations for all their actions. “The Convert” is so similar to Andor in its premise and execution that it’s impossible to see how it fails in comparison. The main plot is interesting enough, but Kane is such a thin character with no clear end-game and no clear connection to the main plot that it’s hard to muster any sort of feeling towards it.
This episode could end up being much better in retrospect, but that entirely depends on how the events are followed up on. As it stands on its own merits, it’s a letdown. It peaks early with the dogfight and never comes up with a satisfying reason to care about the rest. Its biggest fault, though, is stripping away what makes this show good to become an episode that is just a lesser version of a much better Star Wars show.