In “The Spies,” Elia briefs Moff Gideon on the Mandalorian interference on Navarro. He then conspires with the Imperial Remnants to take down the Mandalorians once and for all. Bo’s new old crew arrives on Navarro, and Greef gives IG-12 to Mando and Grogu. Bo asks for volunteers to retake Mandalore. Once they arrive, more Mandalorians take notice and join the party. Grogu breaks up a fight between Paz Viszla and Axe Woves. They find the great forge and are attacked by Moff Gideon’s forces. Din is taken captive, and Moff Gideon’s Praetorian Guards kill Paz Viszla.
For me, “The Spies” represents one of the most complex and difficult-to-review pieces of work. I can’t just say it sucked and call it a day; unlike “Guns for Hire,” I loved a lot about this episode. We get confirmation that Elia Kane is working directly for Moff Gideon in “The Spies.” I think most of us assumed as much after “The Convert,” but there were other possible motivations for her behavior. We also now know that the pirates were part of Moff Gideon’s shenanigans. This one may not have been a good move; there can be more than one threat to the galaxy’s peace without them all falling under one umbrella. Why can’t Gourian Shard just be a jerk searching for wealth and power? I don’t see why he needs to be part of Gideon’s Imperial designs.
And that’s just a minor gripe; Shard is already dead regardless, and I have more severe issues with “The Spies.” Those of us (myself included) who want the “Mando-verse” to steer clear of the sequel trilogy timeline and themes are officially out of luck. I chalked the test tube clones up to post-Clone Wars scientific wrongdoing. Every time something in The Mandalorian or The Book of Boba Fett pointed to sequel acknowledgment or tie-ins, I rationalized it away. But Moff Gideon requests and is granted a detachment of Praetorian Guards, AKA the guys guarding Snoke in The Last Jedi. There’s no reason they couldn’t have been some other Imperial bodyguards; they’re just rubbing it in at this point.
I really wanted to love the shadow council scene. I think hair and makeup did Giancarlo Esposito dirty with his hair and lack of mustache here, but that’s just another nitpick. The talk of Thrawn would usually perk me up, even as Gideon tries to usurp him. These Imperial Remnants are just like the Sith, selfishly vying for what little power there is to be had. I don’t know if it’s last week’s episode or the news we got over Star Wars Celebration weekend, but I felt nothing during this scene. I’ll still watch the show, and this was a big step up from “Guns for Hire,” but something needs to change.
A lot of character development has been forced throughout the season so far. It feels unfair to burden “The Spies” with that, but sometimes these issues gradually become apparent as the season goes on. At the end of season 2, Din Djarin and Bo-Katan were reluctant collaborators at best. But now, he’s swearing to serve her “until (her) song is written.” The biggest issue here is that this doesn’t feel earned. It’s also not a natural progression of Din’s character; all this guy ever cared about was survival and his green baby. Why is he swearing fealty to a leader he fiercely opposed until he suddenly didn’t? Din even remarks that he was raised to believe Bo-Katan was selfish and a bad ruler. This doesn’t have the intended effect because it doesn’t feel like “look how far we’ve come;” it’s more like “How did we end up here?” The Armorer’s turn towards Bo feels even more forced, rushed, and disingenuous.
As I said, though, I didn’t hate this episode. That’s the worst part of it; this was, technically speaking, well put together, and it had some “hell yeah” moments to boot. The opening with Elia Kane reminded me of how unique the show’s musical style can be at times. I appreciate the variety and attempt to do something different. The episode also looks good, especially the alien creatures and IG-12 with Grogu inside. I have a problem with this which I’ll return to, but visually, it works. The Mandalorians rallying and returning to Mandalore was cool both visually and in-story. Paz Viszla got an epic ending I didn’t expect, especially not right now. It’s sad and makes me wonder about his son, whom he obviously cared about deeply. Who will care for him now? Will he have some resentment towards Paz for essentially choosing to sacrifice himself, or will he understand? Din and Grogu got some much-needed moments this week, like quibbling over whether or not Grogu is allowed to pilot IG’s body. Grogu simply making Ig say “Yes” over and over in enjoyment was funny and very cute. Finally, I loved the fight between Axe and Paz, especially Grogu’s intervention. Din saying he didn’t teach him that is a sweet hint at the episodes we should have gotten with Grogu and Luke.
There are several exposition dumps in this episode that I found distracting. It’s hard not to be pulled out of the story by Elia explaining what we already know to Gideon; ditto much of his dialogue in the shadow council. Learning how Gideon got the Darksaber from Bo-Katan is problematic, as well. Apparently, she gave it to him because she surrendered the planet, but they didn’t actually fight (based on the dialogue, at least). Did anyone actually fight for the thing? Who IS the rightful wielder of the Darksaber? Because Sabine gave it to Bo in Rebels; she didn’t earn it there either, and that was the point. How did the remaining Mandalorians survive this long with no food and creatures constantly trying to eat them? I find the choice to put Grogu in IG’s desecrated, hollowed-out corpse disturbing. And how does this make him IG-12? He’s still the same droid, just an empty husk of one.
But my biggest problem is the sequel garbage. Hux appears in the shadow council, we see Snoke’s guards, and Gideon talks about “bringing order to the galaxy.” All hope is lost; it’s all sequels and Rey from here. I’ll go down with the ship, and it was a nice two seasons. For those who will also continue watching, I hope we find light at the end of the tunnel.