The Mandalorian’s third season takes an unexpected turn in episode 3. While we learn what happens to Din Djarin and Bo-Katan Kryze, most of episode 3 shifts the focus to Coruscant and a familiar villain from past seasons. Not only does this episode give us the clearest look yet at what life is like after the fall of the Empire, it also highlights the many mistakes that will ultimately lead to the fall of the Republic in the sequel trilogy.
Let’s take a closer look at what this episode reveals about the New Republic and how it all ties into the pivotal scene in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Dr. Pershing and the New Republic’s Amnesty Program
“The Convert” is a clever episode title as it references both Katee Sackhoff’s Bo-Katan joining Din Djarin’s secret group and Omid Abtah’s Dr. Pershing joining the New Republic’s Amnesty program. However, Pershing gets most of the attention in this episode.
We know from earlier seasons that Pershing is a brilliant biologist who was instrumental in the Empire’s cloning research. More specifically, Pershing seems to have been tasked with uncovering the secret to creating Force-sensitive clones, allowing Emperor Palpatine to achieve full immortality. He was clearly making progress before his arrest. A Season 2 episode featured a tank with a discarded Supreme Leader Snoke body, and we know that Snoke was basically an avatar of Palpatine during his Exegol years (although whether or not Snoke had a mind and will of his own is still something that has yet to be explored).
“The Convert” offers valuable new insight into how the New Republic dealt with the wave of prisoners after the war against the Empire ended. Those who express remorse are given amnesty and the chance to serve the new government. This arrangement appears to be intended to parallel the US’s controversial Operation Paperclip program in the 1940s, in which the military quietly recruited and amnestied hundreds of former Nazi scientists and engineers.
The New Republic’s Amnesty program is not so overtly sinister, as it appears to be a genuine, good-faith attempt to rehabilitate former Imperial officers, many of whom likely had no control over their actions during the Imperial days. Pershing himself seems truly remorseful for his actions and wants to put his research to a nobler use. But still, the Amnesty program highlights mistakes made during a crucial period of the New Republic’s short-lived control of the galaxy.
The Republic failed in the sequel trilogy because it was blind to the growing threat under its nose. The new government made the mistake of thinking that the Empire was truly defeated, unaware that the still-living Palpatine is quietly consolidating power in the Outer Rim and orchestrating the rise of the First Order. The New Republic demilitarized and embraced a new era of peace, even as a new war was brewing outside its gaze. As we see in this episode, even members of the Amnesty program are actively plotting against the Republic.
Who is Elia Kane by Katy M. O’Brian?
“The Convert” reintroduces season 2 character Katy M. O’Brian as Elia Kane, who was an officer aboard Moff Gideon’s (Giancarlo Esposito) ship. Kane initially appears to be like Pershing – an ex-Imperial with a real desire to reform and leave the Empire behind. But as the episode progresses and Kane forces Pershing to evade the law and continue his investigation, it becomes clear that he’s up to something more sinister.
The natural assumption is that Kane will remain loyal to the Empire and his mission is to help Pershing finish his job in New Republic custody. But while he still appears to be serving the Empire, the end of this episode suggests that Kane never meant for Pershing to succeed. He manipulated her and arranged for her capture, then made sure she was there for his restoration so he could hijack the plane. Kane’s goal doesn’t seem to be to help Pershing finish his research, but to make sure his work doesn’t fall into the hands of the New Republic (not that they’re eager to take advantage of this asset). If Gideon doesn’t have Pershing’s mind, nobody can.
This makes sense because we know that Palpatine will never fully succeed in his cloning project. He creates a clone “son” (Rey’s father) who has no Force abilities and rejects his father. Palpatine trusts Snoke pieces that Pershing has already planned to lead the First Order and lead it by proxy. Pershing’s research is enough to keep Palpatine alive in a new body, but not to restore him to full health and strength.
By the time of The Rise of Skywalker, Palpatine’s mind is trapped inside this rapidly decaying body, leaving him with a very limited window to find his granddaughter Rey and collect her in his new host body. This is Palpatine’s endgame when Pershing’s research has failed to produce a perfect clone.
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How the Mandalorian builds on The Last Jedi
The Mandalorian has already established several important links to the Star Wars sequels, but there’s another connection in “The Convert” worth highlighting. Early on, we see Pershing giving a speech about his scientific work and support for the Amnesty program. He is later greeted by several members of Coruscant’s wealthy elite, who praise him for his magnificence and downplay the conflict between the Empire and the Rebel Alliance.
For these rich aristocrats who live on the most prosperous and densely populated world in the galaxy, war is barely a blink of an eye. One even jokes that they were almost recruited to join the Empire, meaning they just used their money and connections to dodge Palpatine in the wild.
This scene is reminiscent of The Last Jedi, where Benicio del Toro’s DJ gives Finn (John Boyega) and Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) a crash course in the realities of galactic politics. Whether it’s the Rebels fighting the Empire, the Resistance fighting the First Order, or Republic clones waging war against the Separatists, both sides are ultimately pawns of the military-industrial complex. The wealthy elite continue to benefit from these wars until some arms dealers supply ships to both sides at the same time.
For some, like Princess Leia and Admiral Ackbar, the rebellion is a necessity stemming from an existential threat. And there are many in the Empire who truly believe in Emperor Palpatine’s doctrine of order through fear and control. But for the really powerful, war is simply good business. It never touches them beyond adding a few zeros to their bank balance. We are reminded of that in “Turning”.
This is why the New Republic is ultimately doomed to failure. Its leaders are idealistic but blind to the realities of galactic life. They cannot accept that the richest and most powerful citizens of the galaxy want a constant cycle of war and reconstruction.
And as we see from how the Republic treats men like Pershing, they don’t always have the moral high ground. Pershing is not wrong to fear the “mind flayer” device. No matter how gently it is used, this device is ultimately a way to brainwash unruly citizens and force them to accept the new status quo. Years before the First Order destroyed the New Republic leadership on Hosnian Prime, this new government has already doomed itself by adopting the same methods as the Empire.
Hopefully one day we’ll see Disney explore the post-Rise of Skywalker era and find out how the shattered New Republic rebuilds itself. Maybe then its leaders will finally learn from the mistakes of the past.
Learn more about the new season of The Mandalorian by discussing the importance of the Mythosaurus and the violent history of the planet Mandalore.
Jesse is a gentle writer for IGN. Let him borrow the machetes for your intellectual thicket follow @jschedeen on Twitter.