Serial Consumer celebrates and interrogates Evan’s relationship to franchised media and his addiction to purchasing its licensed products.
The Book of Boba Fett was mostly a pile of shit besides the two episodes that inexplicably detoured into The Mandalorian (The Return of the Mandalorian and From the Desert Comes a Stranger). Ever since, the brazenness of Jon Favreau’s decision to just up and leave a show he cared about less to tell more stories with cooler characters has been a running joke. That’s not exactly what happens in The Convert; the story is still squarely concerned with Din Djarin and Grogu’s world, but for most of its running time, we journey into what can only be described as Andor-lite. It’s a welcome bit of world-building and tonal continuity between otherwise unrelated Disney+ shows that makes The Mandalorian truly, and unexpectedly, feel like the flagship of these series.
After a great dogfight that destroys Bo-Katan’s home on the Mandalorian moon of Kalevala (with the first onscreen reference to TIE Interceptors that I can remember), the story flashes over to Coruscant, following the re-integration of Imperial Geneticist Dr. Pershing (Omid Abtahi). Pershing is the cloner who wanted Grogu in the first place during the first season. As the Client (Werner Herzog) stated back in The Sin, “His enthusiasm outweighs his discretion.” After the fall of Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito, still absent from this season but never far from characters’ minds), Pershing and his fellow Imperial remnants have been brought to the galactic capital as part of the New Republic’s amnesty program. They’ve taken on mundane new jobs and serial numbers for names, pledging loyalty to the fledgling new democracy. Pershing gives public talks to the rich and wealthy about his work but always leaves out the more immoral aspects of his most coveted project — advancing the cloning techniques pioneered during the Prequel Trilogy to create genetic hybrid strands.
It doesn’t take much to convince him to get back to his work. “For the New Republic,” of course.
What plays out is a little intrigue on Coruscant that pushes forward the ongoing cloning subplot in myriad, small ways — all of which hint at the ultimate endgame of the idea: Emperor Palpatine returning to life and using the First Order junta to end the New Republic in the Sequel Trilogy. I’m all for new Star Wars media re-contextualizing and explaining some of the more half-assed ideas found in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. After the job Dave Filoni and company did to the prequels via The Clone Wars and Rebels, it’s basically franchise tradition to fix things after the fact.
For losers like myself, simply spending another 40 minutes on Coruscant is a welcome enough treat. The planet was first introduced in the pages of Timothy Zahn’s influential-but-overrated Heir to the Empire trilogy, and it played a huge role throughout the 1990s Expanded Universe. George Lucas first recognized it in his Special Edition of Star Wars: Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, using assets developed for the substantial role it would eventually play in his Prequel Trilogy. As a kid, it floored me that Lucas would incorporate an idea from the Expanded Universe novels I loved so much, and every time it appears in new Star Wars media, I still feel that same excitement. Perhaps my greatest disappointment with the Sequel Trilogy is that it never returned to Coruscant, given its importance to everything before the Original Trilogy.
It’s such a cool setting. I loved seeing Pershing and fellow asylum-seeker Elia Kane (Katy M. O’Brian) visit the park, touching the piece of the surface they have on display. I love that, decades after the Prequel Trilogy, there still aren’t any real guardrails on walkways that are all miles into the sky. What a nightmare for parents of small children!
None of it looks as good as the planet looked in Andor, but that show is in an aesthetic league of its own. And none of the political commentary is on the same level, but that’s because this is Favreau’s adventure show, not Tony Gilroy’s dark look at the rise of rebels in a time of fascism.
I think the two are blended quite well, however, and it’s an interesting contrast between the Imperial rule of the galaxy and the nascent, doomed New Republic. In both the Expanded Universe and contemporary Disney continuity, the New Republic is only in power for about 30 years after Return of the Jedi. Both versions of the organization win great battles for freedom and protect what our heroes won at the end of the Original Trilogy. They also each fall prey to petty political machinations and, eventually, an unexpected external threat. In the Expanded Universe, the democracy lives on in a different political body; we don’t quite know what awaits Rey and her friends after The Rise of Skywalker, but I’m anxious to see, possibly in the rumored Damon Lindelof movie slated for 2025. Whatever it is, I hope they don’t repeat the mistakes of the original Expanded Universe: Keep our heroes away from the center of galactic politics. The closer you get, the more fundamentally depressing the subject.
Which is what Favreau seems to understand in his story. He has Pershing meet the idle, galactic rich, whom we see in Andor and later in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The wars our heroes fight mean little to their pocketbooks and, therefore, to their lives. Later, Pershing runs into the incoherent and bumbling bureaucratic nightmare that is the lower levels of the Republic’s governance, which he starts to see as wasteful and hamstrung by policy. It’s an interesting mirror of the bowels of the Empire as seen in Andor, albeit one with more freedom for its cogs. That doesn’t mean they’ve stopped using Mind Flayers, though: now it’s just a “low-voltage” version used for “treatment” rather than torture.
The other similarity between the New Republic and the Empire, as seen in The Convert and in other media, is the now-traditional “trip to an abandoned old ship” type of mission. The Bad Batch are constantly looking for old information and equipment in scrapped ships. Hell, they even raided one on Coruscant a few weeks ago on Season 2 of their show. The Empire never cared to protect its junk, and I guess the New Republic lacks that interest, too.
It was nice to have so many little Easter eggs, too. The Botanical Gardens; the Outer Rim; the Resistance theme written for the sequels that now seems to be the official anthem of the New Republic (just like the Imperial March is, in continuity, the Empire’s anthem).
On the Din Djarin side of things, we really only get the dogfight and the ceremony reinstating him as a member of his Mandalorian covert. I find it funny that the show had previously worked overtime to show us Pedro Pascal’s face and has now completed a mission for him centered around never showing it again. I’m curious how we’ll glimpse his mug going forward, if ever. I hope Katee Sackhoff’s helmet isn’t permanently on, either. It works for one protagonist but would get tiresome with both of them.
I love this show! It is very good.
I got my copy of The New Republic Omnibus, Vol. 1, which I look forward to reading. It collects about 1,000 pages of the old Expanded Universe comics, some of which I grew up reading. I own a lot of the Epic Collections published by Marvel collecting this era of Star Wars, but I’m happy to upgrade to the hardcovers as they slowly trickle out.
On the action-figure front, I got a few good deals: Six-inch Ponda Boba and Dr. Evazan (the thugs who accost Luke in the Mos Eisley Cantina) at Ollie’s Bargain Outlet, and a discounted six-inch Boba Fett (Tython) off eBay. The Boba Fett is particularly exciting; I had pre-ordered him for much more money over a year ago and eventually got so frustrated with waiting that I canceled the pre-order. Finding him much cheaper was so satisfying because it’s the best figure from his appearance in The Mandalorian. The weathered paint job suits him, and I wish they’d kept it because the deeper, fresher green in The Book of Boba Fett honestly looks too clean. Anyway, I’m happy to have it.
What I’d Buy
Not much new — although this episode further shook my resolve not to drop $50 on an N-1 Starfighter LEGO set.