After a torturously bad sixth episode of The Mandalorian’s third season, all eyes are on the final two in the hopes that it can recover. Unfortunately, “The Spies” doesn’t hit the mark at all, and raises more questions than it answers. While the episode can be lauded for a few standout points, its essence is a rather banal and juvenile storyline that doesn’t make a lot of sense, and tries to hurry its way to a penultimate conclusion.
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As I have previously discussed in the past, Lucasfilm and Disney always structure their Star Wars TV shows as a series of narrative bookends where all effort is concentrated. In the middle sits a lot of filler that isn’t the least bit satisfying, and does nothing but waste time. As the season draws ever closer to conclusion, there’s suddenly a mad race to the finish, and an over-reliance on gimmicks and surprises to try and hide the fact.
“The Spies” is no different. It tries to set the stage for the final episode of the season, but there’s very few places it can go from here. It also offers up a series of thoroughly predictable plot twists that everyone saw coming a mile away, which means there’s no element of surprise in the same way that the final episode of season two managed to create. Get ready for the fall of a once-mighty show, and another strike against Disney-led Star Wars stories.
After uniting her old Mandalorian crew and the Children of the Watch (in record time, because this is how storytelling is done these days), Bo-Katan Kryze immediately readies the assembled fleet to return to Mandalore, where they hope to establish a perimeter around the Great Forge to begin anew. A small recon team is sent down to the surface consisting of members from both Mandalorian factions, which causes a predictable amount of tension.
However, once they discover leftover Mandalorians loyal to Kryze who managed to scrape together a life on Mandalore following the purge, their quest for the Forge is hastened. Once there, they are set upon by a new wave of Stormtroopers with beskar-enhanced armor who immediately ambush them. The entire attack is a ruse to draw in and capture the Mandalorians, and masterminded by none other than Moff Gideon himself.
It’s revealed that Gideon has stationed himself on Mandalore to utilize the planet’s rich resources in order to build up a new attack force, with the goal of attacking the New Republic. Kryze manages to escape capture with her fellow Mandalorians, but only after Din Djarin is captured by Gideon’s troops. This sets up a cliffhanger where one popular side character loses his life, and is sure to be the first of many.
There is some good to this particular episode, and it’s a massive step up from the previous one. Here, the story is forced back on track, but only because there’s two full episodes left to tell it. Therefore, haste is necessary in order to wrap everything up, but that’s just not enough time. Regardless, the return to Mandalore is a welcome one, especially with a Mandalorian force in tow.
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However, the good begins before any of that takes place. The opening of the episode shows the not-so-surprising return of Moff Gideon, but this time he’s flanked by other Imperial Remnant warlords all staking out territory whilst waiting for the signal to initiate a larger galactic move. At the heart of this Shadow Council is talk of Grand Admiral Thrawn’s return, pushed heavily by one Gilad Pellaeon.
Longtime fans of the original Star Wars Expanded Universe novels know that name well, as he played a central part in Timothy Zahn’s movie sequel novel Heir to the Empire. There, Pellaeon was widely regarded as Grand Admiral Thrawn’s right-hand man, and one who would later broker peace with the New Republic. The character has already been reintroduced in Star Wars: Rebels alongside Thrawn, but this is the first time he has been represented in the flesh.
At any rate, Gideon’s return is a welcome, albeit imperfect one. Giancarlo Esposito has a certain knack for playing complex and intimidating villains with a strong intellect, and he shows it off once more in this episode. His new plans for Mandalore, however, come with a lot of inconsistencies and confusion attached, which makes his return somewhat lukewarm. Beyond that, there’s a somewhat neat sequence showing the Praetorian Guard troopers in action, but it’s nothing fans haven’t seen before.
“The Spies” hits a bunch of bad notes primarily due to the fact that it now has to rush its story along at Ludicrous Speed in order to finish up. This big reveal should have occurred in the fifth episode instead of the seventh, and the entire story suffers because of it. There’s no time to flesh out characters, expand the happenings of the plot, or leave any room open for new elements to be added in. Sure, Gideon’s new beskar-armored troopers are cool, but at the same time…not.
That’s because there’s no exposition related to their creation. Had the show not decided to stray off into pointless territory and ridiculous Lizzo cameos, it would have had more time to show the progression of Gideon’s new army and fleet. Instead, the troopers just show up, and the audience is supposed to expect it. That brings us to another massive plot hole involving Mandalore, itself.
The season started off with Din Djarin visiting Mandalore solo, and this new Imperial remnant faction failed to take notice. Yet, when Bo-Katan Kryze traveled there to rescue him in the second episode, her fortress was subsequently attacked by Gideon’s TIE Interceptors. At what point did Gideon figure out that his two biggest targets were right under his nose, and why didn’t he make a move when Djarin touched down on the planet?
Come to think of it, why didn’t Gideon simply off Kryze while she was all by herself on Kalevala? It’s right there, in the Mandalore system. Did Gideon not think to assassinate one of his biggest threats when he had a perfect opportunity?
The partial explanation in this episode occurs when Star Wars’ most uncharismatic character, Elia Kane, informs Gideon that the pirate takeover on Nevarro was thwarted by the Children of the Watch, with aid from Bo-Katan Kryze. This doesn’t factor into account the alliance between Kryze’s fellow Mandalorians and the Children, which occurred at breakneck speed. How exactly does one set up a trap for an enemy, without knowing their actual intentions?
Of course, the audience can speculate Gideon played a hunch that the Mandalorians would seek to reclaim their home planet, which begs the question – why would he establish a base on Mandalore if that were the case? Perhaps he thought he could defeat a fully united Mandalorian force, but this doesn’t seem likely given what’s revealed during the course of the episode. After all, if two ships piloted by Kryze and Djarin were enough to hold their own against a squadron of TIE Interceptors, what hope in the galaxy would he have against an assembled fleet?
It’s a chicken vs. egg scenario that won’t get answered, because that’s not convenient for the writers. You’re supposed to simply swallow it, and not bring it up. This is part and parcel of a larger problem with the narrative surrounding the Imperial Remnant. Apparently, Thrawn’s master plan is to keep several different factions fighting for scraps by themselves, in order to prevent too much scrutiny by New Republic forces.
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Meanwhile, as Disney’s sequel trilogy has established, Palpatine’s Final Order is no doubt busy constructing planet-killing Star Destroyers on Exegol, while pulling the strings of the fledgling First Order. Even Brendol Hux is present in this episode as part of the Shadow Council, which shows that a transfer of power is already in the works. And besides, Grand Admiral Thrawn would never compartmentalize Imperial forces in a manner so as to make them weaker. In Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy, he was shown to strike fear into a larger foe using unconventional tactics, even with inferior resources at his disposal.
And finally, I need to mention the inconvenience of having Grogu attached to this story in any way. Once again, the decision not to leave Grogu in Luke Skywalker’s care is coming back to bite this show in a big way. Since the end of that particular story arc, Grogu has been nothing but a set dressing, hovering around in his little orb, or walking slow as a snail. As such, he can’t contribute anything to the story on his own, and the act of putting an infant in continuous danger feels more and more irresponsible as time ticks on.
So, to compensate – poorly – the writers decided to have Greef Karga’s Anzellans hollow out the body of IG-11 so that it can be used as a walking suit for Grogu. It’s so preposterous that it barely needs mentioning, and it’s a rotten way to make Grogu more mobile as a character. This isn’t Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Grogu certainly isn’t Krang. Yet, the writers try their best to inject the series with humor, without the slightest clue of how to do it properly.
And it’s painful to watch.
Nothing could be worse than last week’s episode of The Mandalorian, but “The Spies” isn’t going to win any awards, either. It’s a sloppy attempt to move into the final episode of the season, and trips on its own past episodic failures the entire time. Sure, there’s some nice surprises and some cool visuals, but they’re mauled to death by haphazard writing, big plot holes, and improbable twists that force the audience to go way too far out on the limb.
The only possible big reveal for the next episode would be a full-fledged Thrawn cameo, which would make sense, given the imminent release of the Ahsoka series in August of this year. However, given Thrawn has already made a showing in Rebels, the hype for a live-action reveal is tremendously diminished. There will be no Luke Skywalker moment here, that’s for sure. The Mandalorian’s third season has been a disjointed mess, and the proof is written all over the haste and hazards of this particular episode.
With only one left to go, the show faces imminent doom, and there’s no way to pull itself back from the brink. Sure, there will be an epic space battle between the Mandalorians and Gideon’s TIE fleet, and the war on the ground will be just as flashy. Yes, Bo-Katan will once again save Din Djarin’s ass for the umpteenth time, while he remains a side character on his own show. Yes, Grogu will do a lot of nothing in his new IG-12 suit, and yes, the whole episode will get wrapped up with one implausible, yet convenient bit of pseudo-writing.
NEXT: ‘The Mandalorian’ Season 3, Episode 6: “Guns For Hire” Review
- Pretty visuals, but what else is new?
- Moff Gideon's return.
- Gilad Pellaeon in the flesh is a big nostalgia trip for decades-long fans.
- Moff Gideon's entire presence on Mandalore makes no sense.
- Grogu keeps contributing nothing to the story, in any way.
- Too much rushing creates too many plot holes, inconsistencies and lukewarm battle scenes.