Warning: The following article contains spoilers for Season 3, Episode 7 of The Mandalorian.
The Empire is back, baby!
The third season of The Mandalorian has been the most divisive amongst fans to date, but I suspect that grumbling well and truly stopped this week now the stage has been set for one hell of an epic showdown.
But it isn’t just the season finale that is being set up here. As we know from last week’s Star Wars Celebration, the end goal of the various Star Wars Disney+ series will be a film wrapping them all up – and this week, we got our first taste of how this season will build into Ahsoka and the future blockbuster to come.
But first up, a preview of next week’s title fight…
Moff Gideon VS Bo-Katan: Round 2
A couple of weeks back, The Mandalorian ended on the cliffhanger that Moff Gideon had escaped from capture, seemingly with the help of an unruly tribe of Mandalorians. This week, we discovered that the Baskar found at the crime scene was because the Empire have taken Mandalore – and have used its resources to build some shiny new armour for themselves too.
This resolves one of the burning mysteries of the last few weeks, and in this episode, the Mandalorians united by Bo-Katan so far find themselves falling into a trap set by Gideon, with Din captured and separated from Mecha-Grogu. Yes, this week’s episode was so packed, we didn’t even have the time to process Grogu’s robot hijinks.
Paz Vizsla dies via sacrifice to give his allies a chance to escape, seeing that the threat is too great for them to counter.
In Bo-Katan’s role as the uniter of all Mandalorian tribes, it will naturally fall on her to lead the fight back next week, setting up an intriguing rematch between her and Gideon.
This episode finally revealed that the only reason he ever won the Darksaber from her in the first place was because she surrendered during the Night of a Thousand Tears, hoping her planet would be spared (which, of course, it wasn’t: don’t trust the Empire, kids!). He will naturally be seeking to reclaim it in battle next week – which, if he wins, will be the first time he’s ever been the legitimate holder of the Darksaber.
The Arrival of Thrawn
We learnt last week that Grand Admiral Thrawn will be coming to live-action in Ahsoka, which premieres in August. What this week’s episode of The Mandalorian asks is: will we have to wait that long to see him?
With the Empire about to return to centre stage, episode 7 suggests the character referred to in Star Wars Legends as “The Heir to the Empire” will have a significant part to play here. He’s part of the Shadow Council (even if the other members seem annoyed that he never shows up), meaning that this renowned tactician is already waiting in the wings, ready to help ensure the defeat of the Mandalorians if necessary.
If he does return in the season finale, it may just be a brief appearance. He’s only previously been invoked on the show by Ahsoka herself back in season two, so it would be an odd narrative decision to have someone else fight the first battle for her.
What the semi-reveal of Thrawn does suggest is that Moff Gideon may not be a major factor in this story for much longer. In terms of skill, his abilities pale in comparison to Bo-Katan’s; could he lose that fight, with Thrawn ready to take over as the big bad, leading up to one final blockbuster movie showdown as the remaining Mandalorians fight the rejuvenated Empire?
Look elsewhere on the Shadow Council, however, and you’ll see the show is looking further into the future than merely setting up Thrawn. One of the other named characters introduced is Brendol Hux (Brian Gleeson), father of the sequel trilogy’s Armitage Hux (his brother, Domnhall Gleeson), who is a key figure in the rise of the First Order, even engineering the stormtrooper training program that saw a young Finn get abducted.
The other named figure on the Council is Gilad Pellaeon, who we know as Thrawn’s right-hand-man from Rebels. Expect to see a lot more of him going forward too.
We’re excited to see next week’s explosive finale, and the likely even more explosive fallout. After a season of tangential episodes, both the show and the wider MandoVerse have regained a sense of direction going forward.