The Mandalorian season 3, arguably the least consistent show on TV right now, did it again. Today (April 12), saw Chapter 23, "The Spies", arrive on Disney Plus to give us a bunch of great things — and tease something that has me rolling my eyes (again).
And, to be clear: I didn't find Chapter 22's trio of peculiar and surprising cameos (which drew ire online) to be that bad. I felt that it was one of the least annoying episodes of the entire season so far. Admittedly, I've become detached enough from Mando that maybe it would have broken me had I not already groaned through the space pirates.
That said, let's break down the highs and lows of the latest Mandalorian episode — oh, after this spoiler warning!
The Mandalorian's Project Necromancer is reminiscent of the worst recent Star Wars movie
To make sure there's no misunderstandings: I absolutely loved the return of the once-defeated, still-diabolical Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito). Summoned for a holographic Zoom call by Elia Kane (Katy O'Brian), the current baddest guy in the galaxy is free like we knew he was at the end of Chapter 22.
And then, he went and took another meeting, with the Imperials that still remain in the New Republic era of Star Wars. There, Captain Gilad Pellaeon (Xander Berkeley) mentioned something called Project Necromancer, and my heart sank.
For weeks, I'd been trying to get back into The Mandalorian, and the twist of Mandalorians possibly helping Gideon escape had me intrigued. But now, to learn that the Imperials (likely) want to reanimate the dead — necromancy is the magical art of communicating with the dead — reminded me of the single worst Star Wars moment in recent history: Emperor Palpatine's cloned revival in Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker.
Did he just say Hux is working on "Project Necromancer!" So that's what they are calling Palpatine's return! LOL! Project NECROMANCER! And we have Hux to blame! LOL!This is the beginning of them inserting the "Heir to the Empire" into Disney Canon! #Mando #TheMandalorian pic.twitter.com/w17gTCKQD2April 12, 2023
Looking online, my concerns were echoed by folks who believe that Project Necromancer is the backstory of Palpatine's return. Or it's about how we got to Supreme Leader Snoke, who always looked like a little like an uncooked Palpatine.
Both of these possibilities feel utterly underwhelming, because it's just explaining how and why stuff we've already seen happened. We already tried that once — and, sorry prequels defenders — it doesn't really work.
Analysis: At least The Mandalorian season 3's big story is coming into focus
At the same time, Gideon's plot to destroy what remains of the Mandalorian people is the thing I've been waiting for all season. Jon Favreau's show has seemingly been spinning its wheels all season, and building towards this massive conflict that sees the Mandalorians go had to head with Gideon and his Beskar-enhanced Dark Troopers.
Chapter 23 also delivered solid storytelling and action about the two sides of the Mandalorians — the unmasked strays and the helmeted true believers — who finally united. This gave us that neat bickering-then-fighting scene between Axe Woves (Simon Kassianides) and Paz Vizsla (Tait Fletcher/Jon Favreau) on the ship, which would soon be followed by Vizsla's heroic sacrifice? Fantastic stuff.
Also, we've got Mando in captivity, split away from Grogu who's his own in the new IG-12. On top of that Gideon probably has his eye on the latter, who he's probably still hoping he could kidnap. They even teased the arrival of Grand Admiral Thrawn, last seen blasting off into space in the Rebels finale, and we most recently saw in the Ahsoka teaser trailer. There's a lot of good stuff here.
Hopefully, The Mandalorian's final episodes of the season focus on these events. But if the overarching story of Star Wars' TV shows is building towards the Snoke and Palpatine stuff, I'm more concerned with the overall direction than I was before.