The Mandalorian: Chapter 23 review!

The penultimate episode of The Mandalorian season three is here, and it’s one of the best in the entire series.

From start to finish it’s a chapter full of worldbuilding, intrigue, tension, and action that takes our heroes closer to their goal than ever before… while coming into more dire situations than ever before as well. The worst thing about the episode is that we have to wait a whole week for the finale, because everything else about this one worked tremendously well.

Let’s dive in to the episode, “Chapter 23: The Spies”, and be warned that full spoilers are ahead!


The episode begins on the lower levels of Coruscant where an undercover Elia Kane meets with a probe droid, who transmits a hologram of Moff Gideon. Kane informs Gideon that the pirates have been driven off Nevarro by the Mandalorians, and Gideon sees the uniting factions as a threat that he promises to deal with. We then see Gideon meet with the Imperial Shadow Council via hologram. Each of the warlords have been feigning independence to keep the New Republic from growing suspicious, and they are awaiting the return of Grand Admiral Thrawn – which Captain Gilad Pellaeon says is imminent. But Gideon suggests it’s time to look for new leadership, since Thrawn isn’t there. He asks Commandant
Brendol Hux for more resources, and though Hux isn’t thrilled with Gideon’s own interest in cloning, after Gideon discloses the Mandalorian threat the rest of the Council agrees to send him the requested reinforcements.

Meanwhile, the Mandalorian fleet arrives on Nevarro and the different clans strike up a working, yet tenuous, relationship as they prepare to re-take Mandalore. Greef Karga also has a present for Mando, as the Anzellan droidsmiths have rebuilt IG-11 – this time, called IG-12 – to be operated by an individual. Grogu wears the armor and begins to operate it, which allows him to also communicate “yes” or “no”.

The Mandalorians travel to their home system, and while the fleet orbits above the planet, Bo-Katan Kryze leads a scouting party to the surface to find the Great Forge. They meet up with another Mandalorian clan, who are loyal to Kryze and say they knew she’d come back for them. She then confesses that she surrendered to the Empire, giving Gideon the darksaber, thinking that it would save their people… but then Gideon turned on her and brought the Purge. She feels her own weaknesses and inadequacies to lead, but Din Djarin speaks with her and tells her that he’s not following her because of the darksaber, but because of her.

They press on toward the Forge, only to find it in ruins – and to find an Imperial ambush waiting, as troopers in beskar armor attack. The heroes fend them off and pursue them, but right into a trap. They realize that there’s an Imperial base on Mandalore that’s still functioning, and Din Djarin is taken captive by Moff Gideon, who has his own beskar armor as the next phase of the dark trooper project. This time, Bo-Katan refuses to surrender and leads the others away, while Paz Vizsla stays behind to buy them time. He takes out the Imperial troopers, but three Praetorian Guards then arrive and kill him.


This episode was the best of the season so far, and one of the best from the whole series. It pulled threads from the Mandoverse, the sequel trilogy, the books, Legends, and so much more, tying it together into a thrilling story with dark twists that sets up an epic finale next week.

The Shadow Council

Moff Gideon sure does love to wait until the end of a season to make his appearance (this is the third season it’s happened), but from the very introduction of this episode it was clear that the stakes were higher than they’ve ever been and that this threat was bigger than we ever knew. We actually got to see the Imperial Shadow Council on the screen, which is really cool. The Council was formed in the aftermath of the Battle of Endor, where the Empire was fractured into groups of remnants but still fought back against the newly-formed New Republic until the Battle of Jakku, where they retreated into hiding in the Unknown Regions. This episode shows that the Shadow Council is still active, and that the warlords are trying to appear independent so they won’t attract more attention (and from what we’ve seen of the New Republic this season, it’s definitely working).

They’re waiting for the right moment to show their full strength, and the moment they’re waiting for is the supposedly imminent return of Grand Admiral Thrawn. There’s a major Thrawn connection in the episode besides the name-drops, and it’s Captain Gilad Pellaeon, who has a seat on the Shadow Council. He was first introduced in Timothy Zahn’s groundbreaking novel Heir to the Empire in 1991, which also introduced Thrawn. Pellaeon was Thrawn’s right-hand man and served under the Grand Admiral as they reunited the Imperial remnants for a war against the New Republic – a war that almost led to victory, if not for Thrawn’s untimely death. Pellaeon was mentioned in canon in Rebels, as Thrawn contacts him, but this is his first live-action appearance. And he looks absolutely perfect. I mean, his look, voice, and dialogue feels like it could have been just plucked right out of Zahn’s works and it would fit. They absolutely nailed it.

It seems that Pellaeon is the link to Thrawn on the Council, but they’re growing impatient. Gideon suggests that it’s time to look to new leadership, and I’m sure he will be less-than-thrilled by the Grand Admiral’s arrival. Gideon probably wants to be the one leading things, so he might make things harder for Thrawn… which surely wouldn’t turn out too well for Gideon. But I really like how even these Imperial warlords aren’t convinced Thrawn’s actually coming to their aid and are disillusioned, distrusting, and power-hungry. Just like true Imperials.

There’s one other named member of the Council, and he’s also a big deal: Commandant Brendol Hux. He is the father to General Armitage Hux, who is a prominent villain in the sequel trilogy commanding the First Order forces (and Brendol is played by Brian Gleeson, the brother of Armitage Hux actor Domhnall Gleeson, which is awesome). Brendol Hux has appeared in canon material and was a prominent member of the Shadow Council, but who also became a founding member of the First Order. He oversaw the First Order’s stormtrooper training program until he was killed by Captain Phasma a few years before the events of the sequel trilogy. His appearance here is a major connection to the sequel trilogy, for Brendol Hux will go on to help form the First Order. Here it’s his interest in cloning that’s most pertinent, as he’s working on “Project Necromancer”, which surely has to have some connections to Palpatine’s desires and cloning attempts. Gideon is also distrusting of Hux, and it seems that the reason he didn’t want Doctor Pershing still around was so that he could have the cloning info, but not Hux.

It would also appear, though, that Pellaeon and Hux are in possession of far more resources than the rest, as Gideon requests reinforcements from them, and they are ultimately the ones to authorize it. Perhaps that will help explain why the First Order (from Hux) is able to survive beyond the others, and why Thrawn is so well-positioned to lead them (Pellaeon). But as we learn later in the episode, Gideon is also quite well-resourced. He’s got Imperial troopers in beskar armor (which explains why beskar was found on the shuttle he was freed from), and he has a new beskar dark trooper suit for himself. And thanks to Hux, he’s got more TIE Bombers and Interceptors, as well as three Praetorian Guards. These are the same type seen in The Last Jedi guarding Supreme Leader Snoke, so it’s super cool to see them appear here. And since we saw that Rey and Ben Solo had trouble with them, it’s no surprise that Paz Vizsla would too. They’re a very formidable threat, and I loved all the sequel trilogy connections throughout this episode.

Stronger Together

But speaking of Vizsla, he went out like a true hero. Throughout the first two seasons of this show, and The Book of Boba Fett, he was mostly just someone to stand around and look cool, but this season he’s had a lot of character development (which, in a Star Wars series, is bad news for them. Sorry, Tech). He went from a one-dimensional character committed to the Way to one who came to embrace Bo-Katan Kryze and follow her, even being willing to sacrifice his life for the hopes of a reunited Mandalore. Even earlier in the episode, it was Vizsla who fought Axe Woves, but it speaks volumes about him that he’s still willing to lay down his own life for the others to live. He had a heroic final stand, taking out all the Imperial troopers before the Praetorian Guards killed him. It’s a hearbreaker of a way to end the episode, as we got to see his heroics, but also are more aware than ever of the threat these Mandalorians are up against.

A big theme of this season, and especially this episode, is that the Mandalorians are stronger together than they are apart. They’ve spent so much time fighting one another when they could have fought alongside one another, and Bo-Katan says that in this episode. As she speaks with the assembled Mandalorians in the scouting party, she says, “Our people have suffered time and again. From division and squabbling factions. Mandalore has always been too powerful for any enemy to defeat. It is always our own division that destroys us.” That’s something that she has come to learn, and it’s why she is a worthy one to unite them. These factions have fought over all sorts of things, including adherence to the rules. Which is why Vizsla and Woves fight over the rules of a game, as emblematic of their disagreement over deeper rules.

But there’s Kryze, and there’s Din Djarin, who have recognized a better way. In the most heartwarming moment of the episode, Djarin tells Kryze that he’s behind her – but not because of the darksaber. No, he stands behind her because of honor, loyalty, and character. It’s a huge moment for Djarin, who admits that the darksaber, station, and bloodline mean nothing to him or his people. These symbols that he’s put so much faith in are not the true test of a Mandalorian. The fact that he’s the one to say it is significant, since when he first met Kryze he said she wasn’t a true Mandalorian. And when he first met Cobb Vanth, and Boba Fett, he said that they weren’t true Mandalorians. It’s always been his go-to response, but now he’s realizing that deeper than any of that is honor, loyalty, and character.

Grogu recognizes it too, and he’s the one to break up the fight. When leaks first suggested Grogu would wear the IG armor I was skeptical of how it would work, and admittedly the concept is a bit of an odd one, yet it works really well. It provides some perfect comedic moments earlier in the episode, but it also leads to an important moment where Grogu steps in and stops Vizsla and Woves from fighting any longer. He’s putting into practice what he’s learned not only from Djarin, but from Luke Skywalker as well, and this young foundling Jedi understands the need to stand together, not against each other. I’ve been saying for a while that I think the fact that Kryze, Djarin, and Grogu are leading this whole thing is a notable example to all other Mandalorians of the strength that comes when three factions who would normally have nothing to do with each other come together.

Which all ties in to the Empire, too. It’s not just the Mandalorians that spend time fighting one another, for that’s the entire M.O. of the Imperial regime. Each member of the Shadow Council seems to be out for themselves, and if they could unite together they could, perhaps, be strong enough to re-establish their rule. And it’s why I think it’s all setting the stage for Thrawn, who will surely come closer to doing that than anyone. This episode is showing us that both the Mandalorians and the Empire are divided, but which one will be able to unite to fight together? In the long run it’ll be the Mandalorians, but I wouldn’t be surprised if in the shorter term it looks like the Empire is doing it better. I actually wouldn’t be shocked if Thrawn shows up next week, after Gideon accused him of never coming to their meetings, and we could see Thrawn put Gideon in his place a bit to establish himself as the one to unite these Imperial warlords. The fact that they’ve already shown the character in the Ahsoka trailer suggests that maybe they knew we’d have already seen the character by the time that series premieres. We’ll see. He’s obviously the big threat lurking…

The Armorer

… but I wonder if there’s still another threat lurking out there. This is getting into some heavy speculation, but I wonder if the Armorer isn’t exactly what we think, and is in league with Gideon. There are several reasons for this:

(1) First, she’s the leader of a clan that stayed on the moon of Concordia rather than help the other Mandalorians when they were attacked by the Empire. Perhaps it was because they were actually aligned with that Empire?

(2) Second, when the Mandalorian covert on Nevarro was attacked by Imperial troopers in season one, there was only one known survivor left behind: the Armorer (this one, by itself, doesn’t hold a ton of weight because we saw the Armorer taking out the stormtroopers. But added together, perhaps we’ll learn there was more to the story).

(3) Third, she seemingly reversed course this season in allowing Bo-Katan to remove her helmet, all for a bigger purpose: gathering the Mandalorians to re-take Mandalore. Which is the very thing that Moff Gideon is thrilled about, as upon his arrival he says to Din Djarin, “Thank you for gathering the Mandalorians into one place.”

(4) And fourth, notice that the Armorer is noticeably absent from this moment. Even though she was part of the scouting party, and even though the Great Forge would be of more interest to her than most anyone else, she leaves to take some of the other survivors back to the ship. Right before they’re ambushed by Imperial troopers.

(5) Fifth, the atmosphere of the planet prevents the Mandalorians from scanning, yet Gideon knows about the Mandalorian fleet gathered above. Now it’s evident that he has ways to communicate off-world despite being on the planet (as we saw with the Shadow Council), so it’s easy to think he’d have ways to detect it. But still, the episode again reminded us of this, so perhaps there’s more going on.

(6) And sixth, a number of the episode titles this season have had double meanings. For example, is Din Djarin the only apostate in Chapter 17, or is Bo-Katan Kryze as well? Is Bo-Katan the only convert of Chapter 19, or does the whole New Republic Amnesty Program reflect it too? In Chapter 20, we see not one, but two foundlings, in Paz Vizsla’s son and in Grogu. The point is that there could be a double meaning to this episode title, “The Spies”, and the plural title even suggests there is. It’d be strange if the whole episode were named for Elia Kane, the spy seen only at the beginning. Is there another spy among the heroes’ ranks? I’m guessing so.

Maybe I’m all wrong on this, but I’m approaching next week’s episode with skepticism around the Armorer.


In many ways, season three has been just like the first two: as the season goes on there are some episodes that resonate more than others, with some episodes that seem to really drive major moments and others that seem to be adventure-of-the-week type stuff. But then we hit the final two episodes and everything comes together into an epic conclusion. That happened in season one, and it happened in season two, and it’s happening again in season three. Rick Famuyiwa directed this episode, and the next one, and he has done terrific work. A week seems like too long of a time to wait, and that’s a testament to this week’s chapter. It’s exciting, funny, and heartbreaking – all while exploring some pretty major developments both in the present timeline and for where the story will go a few decades later. This is The Mandalorian at its best.

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