Dr. Pershing Steps Into the Light
Mar 15, 2023
Episode 3 of The Mandalorian’s third season breaks free of the story styling that has been established across three seasons, shifting the focus away from Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal/Brendan Wayne/Lateef Crowder) in unexpected ways. With the aptly titled episode, “The Convert,” the series brings new blood to not only the director’s chair but the writer’s room too, and this shift is felt across the board. Noah Kloor joins Jon Favreau to pen this episode, which features a compelling story that is filled with open, honest—and sometimes deceitful—communication, which is something that has been lacking in previous seasons. Paired with the award-winning direction of Lee Isaac Chung and a much longer runtime, Episode 3 is a refreshing deviation from DIn’s search for redemption.
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The episode opens mere moments after the end of “The Mines of Mandalore” with Bo-Katan (Katee Sackhoff) waiting for Din to wake up after his unexpectedly dangerous soak in the Living Waters. Even with her helmet on, it’s clear that she’s ruminating over what she saw beneath the water. When Din awakes, she is quick to assuage his concerns and confirms that she witnessed him bathe in the Living Waters, which means he is once again a true Mandalorian. She also questions him about what he saw—or didn’t see—beneath the waters, and she seems quite satisfied that Din didn’t see the legendary Mythosaur as he plummeted to the bottom of the chasm.
During their return to Kalevala to retrieve Din’s ship, they run into a squadron of TIE fighters looking for a fight: so Bo-Katan gives them one. They engage in a little combat, but even with Din on the guns, they are vastly outnumbered, so they concoct a plan to get Din to where his ship is parked. This plan includes Din pulling his best Tom Cruise impression by essentially free-falling out of Bo-Katan’s ship onto the platform where his starfighter is located. It all works out right up until the moment it doesn’t. After an impressive display of tactical skills, the duo manages to dispatch the first wave of TIE fighters, but as anyone who has ever played Battlefront knows—there’s always more. As they celebrate their modest victory, Din notices more TIE fighters incoming, but these are focused on Bo-Katan’s cliff-side castle, which they bomb to the ground. Homeless, once again, an irate Bo-Katan seems raring to take on the next wave of TIE fighters, until it’s revealed that there are dozens of them. Completely outgunned, Din convinces Bo-Katan to abandon Kalevala for now. He has somewhere safe they can head where they won’t be found. While the “where” might be obvious, the episode waits until the final five moments to make the reveal.
Image via Disney+
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Shifting gears to Coruscant, The Mandalorian reintroduces its audience to the familiar face of Dr. Pershing (Omid Abtahi), who was last seen aiding and abetting Moff Gideon’s (Giancarlo Esposito) cloning experiments beneath the remnants of the Empire. Though, it was always clear that he wasn’t there for the Empire: he was there for science. In the time since Moff Gideon’s capture, it would seem that Dr. Pershing found himself as a prime candidate for the New Republic’s amnesty program, which takes former Imperial officers and helps them reintegrate into society with a little deprogramming. At what seems to be Coruscant’s answer for TEDTalks, Pershing discusses the cloning research he conducted for the Empire, and he reveals that the reason he pursued cloning, to begin with, was out of a genuine desire to improve medical treatments with cloned organs. While he speaks, another familiar face from Moff Gideon’s ship can be spotted in the audience: Katy O’Brian.
After his talk, the hoi polloi of Coruscant, all of whom wish to commend him on his efforts and his talk, swarms Pershing, which leaves him seeming very uncomfortable. He retreats for the evening to his new amnesty program housing facility, where he crosses paths with Elia Kane (O’Brian) who he recognizes from Moff Gideon’s ship. Despite the initial alarm of seeing a familiar face, Elia and the other members of the program welcome him with open arms. They spend the evening commiserating about their time under the Empire and reflecting on the little things they miss. After a little prodding, Pershing admits that he misses the yellow travel biscuits, which Elia gifts him with a box of, later that evening.
In contrast with Andor’s sterile imperial office scape, The Mandalorian crafts its own with the office that Dr. Pershing finds himself working in, processing files and sending old imperial equipment off to be destroyed. It’s monotonous and menial, and a mockery when you consider the vast knowledge that Pershing possesses. The amnesty program, which is backed by the New Republic—the good guys—feels sinister at times, especially considering the fact that they have stripped them of a degree of personhood. Everyone in the program has been assigned a number and that is how everyone refers to them.
Image via Disney+
But Dr. Pershing does have a small reprieve from the monotony, with his slowly forming friendship with Elia. She spends most of their evenings and nights out trying to goad him into admitting that he misses working in a lab. She tempts him with offers to break into the Imperial junkyard and find him a mobile lab, which is an offer he refuses—at first. It’s only after he sees that the New Republic is wasting perfectly good equipment that he eventually snaps and agrees to her plan. How could he not snap when she has so smoothly convinced him that blindly obeying orders was how they ended up with the Empire?
It seems like the perfect crime. They effortlessly sneak out of their housing, jump turnstiles, avoid ticketing droids, and jump out of moving trams, and all the while Dr. Pershing seems in awe of his own actions. He’s a very rigid character, one that Elia has slowly drawn out of his shell through kind words and a common bond. On the decommissioned imperial vessel in the junkyard, they even reintroduce themselves to each other when they realize they never once spoke to each other when they survived on Moff Gideon’s ship. It feels like a turning point for both characters—a chance at a different kind of rebirth and redemption.
But for Elia, her friendship has been a ruse at the behest of the amnesty program to seemingly find weak links like Dr. Pershing. It’s not quite as gutting of a betrayal as it could have been, had this plotline been drawn out over a few weeks of seeing these two become friends, but it does work. Dr. Pershing is understandably shocked that Elia orchestrated this, and he maintains this all the way to the interrogation room where she trapped him. And he’s not wrong: every step of the way was technically entrapment.
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Up until this moment, the worst things that the New Republic has done is strip away personhood, use entrapment to ensnare members who have “relapsed,” and show a distinct disinterest in allowing its members to utilize their skills, but all of that is set aside when Dr. Pershing comes face to face with the mind flayer. Despite the assertion that it’s a kinder, gentler version of a mind flayer—it is still a tool used to essentially torture someone. Elia’s deception is not yet at an end either. Putting on a fine show of claiming Dr. Pershing is a friend, she turns up the dial on the mind flayer, which does untold damage to Pershing, at least until the next episode.
As the episode draws to a close, it picks back up with Din and Bo-Katan’s journey to where his covert is hidden. He explains that he is bringing Bo-Katan there as a guest, and encourages her to keep her helmet on to keep the peace. When they arrive, Paz Vizsla (Tait Fletcher) is less than thrilled to see that the apostate has brought another one with him. He’s reluctant to believe that Din has actually bathed in the Living Waters, even after he offers proof. They are taken into the inner chambers of the cave system they’re occupying, where The Armorer (Emily Swallow) is waiting for them.
Din provides The Armorer with his proof, and Bo-Katan calls herself a witness to the act, and with very little fanfare, The Armorer confirms that he has been redeemed by the Living Waters, but before he can truly celebrate this victory, she makes Bo-Katan an unexpected offer. Since she also bathed in the water—unintentionally though it may have been—and hasn’t removed her helmet since that moment, The Armorer offers to allow Bo-Katan to join their covert, for as long as she wishes too. Without much convincing, she agrees, and everyone except for Paz seems excited about this conversion. As the Mandalorians clap each other on the back and celebrate, Bo-Katan’s focus turns to the Mythosaur sigil mounted on the wall, signaling that perhaps she is on a path now to reclaim what is rightfully hers.
Image via Disney+
By borrowing so heavily from modern-day religion, The Mandalorian has found itself in a bit of a dilemma. It’s unclear if the audience is supposed to feel happy for Din and his unnecessary “redemption” in the eyes of the creed. Instead, what audiences saw was a religious cult member bringing someone into his ultra-conservative cult, who was promptly inducted into the cult because she accidentally got baptized alongside him in the Living Waters. It looks even worse when the top of the episode is remembered, and Bo-Katan’s newfound homelessness is considered. This is a woman who has lost her family, the trust of the Night Owls, and now her physical home being essentially preyed upon by religious fanatics. Din, to his credit, is likely unaware of what he’s doing, based on the long history of his blind belief in the creed and general cluelessness.
This isn’t the first time Star Wars has crafted a religion that parallels a real-life one, but this storytelling seems far less confident in showcasing whether this extremist ideology is a good thing or a bad thing. Paired with the New Republic’s tender torture, “The Convert” features a lot of murky politics without the follow through, yet, to self-reflect critically. It will be interesting to see how Bo-Katan settles into this newfound existence when she’s lived by very different rules for forty-odd years.
The Mandalorian is streaming exclusively on Disney+.
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