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The ‘Mandalorian’ Chapter 23 Breakdown: “The Spies” Is a Possible Season Saver

For the first time, Season 3 felt like Season 2 again, thanks to a penultimate episode that delivered visceral action, showcased a big bad, effectively teased sequel trilogy ties, and more—all while finally re-centering the characters we care most about

Disney Plus/Getty Images/Ringer illustration

For much of this season, Mandalorian fans could have been forgiven for feeling like they’d reached a sacred site—Season 2—only to take one step too many and plunge into a deep pool while wearing full armor. Season 3’s highs have been modest, and its lows (like last week’s “Guns for Hire”) have left it gasping for air. It comes as a great relief, then, to announce that at least for one week, we can crawl out of the Living Waters, dry off our waterlogged gear, and consider the series cleansed. Just in time for the finale, The Mandalorian we’ve missed is back. Unsurprisingly, so are these Mandalorians:

Man, I’ve missed those guys. The problem with the first three-quarters of The Mandalorian Season 3 wasn’t that it made room for new or previously peripheral characters. The problem was the way it underserved its central ones. In its scope-expanding second season, the series proved it could incorporate the most storied of crossover characters played by big stars—Luke Skywalker, Ahsoka Tano, Boba Fett, Bo-Katan Kryze, Cobb Vanth—without disrupting the dynamic between Din Djarin and Grogu that put The Mandalorian on the map. As I wrote in my wrap-up after the finale, Season 2 borrowed from classic Star Wars but didn’t depend on it; its legacy characters passed through the spotlight without stealing it. If anything, their presence reflected further wattage toward the show’s leading duo and their nemesis, Moff Gideon.

Season 3 has also incorporated new crossover characters (Kelleran Beq, Zeb Orrelios) and big-name guest stars (Jack Black, Lizzo, Christopher Lloyd, Tim Meadows) while giving increased screen time to returning figures (Bo-Katan, Dr. Pershing, Elia Kane). All of which might have worked once again if the show hadn’t also neglected its ostensible stars. Din and Grogu checked off so many milestones in their three-episode takeover of The Book of Boba Fett—including Din’s excommunication, Grogu’s aborted Jedi training, and their heartwarming reunion and team-up on Tatooine—that there seemed to be little left for them to do once they got back from Fett’s spin-off to their own series. For much of the first six episodes of Season 3, they drifted with little development. In Chapter 18, Grogu flipped the script by saving Din for once; in 18 and 19, Din received the absolution he sought; and in Chapter 20, we saw Grogu start his Mandalorian training and learned how he escaped the Jedi Temple amid Order 66. Other than that, though, they were largely sidelined, their feelings, goals, and desires so subordinated to Bo’s that it seemed like she was doing to them what they’d done to Fett.

In Chapter 23, that changes. Not because Din and Grogu elbow Bo and Co. offstage in the season’s second-to-last episode—they’re still sharing the screen with a multitude of Mandalorians—but because it’s finally clear what they want. Last week, I wrote, “This batch of episodes is headed for a predictable end point—even, perhaps, a satisfying and fitting one—but the path it’s taking to get there is increasingly confounding.” Much of what happened this week was predictable—but it didn’t disappoint.

Although there was ample frustration en route to “The Spies”—a group effort by the show’s three EPs that was written by Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni and directed by Rick Famuyiwa—the season’s plot threads finally fit together without the result overheating like the late Paz Vizsla’s blaster cannon. Chapter 23 gave us back a big bad; introduced new crossover characters; continued to tease Ahsoka and the sequel trilogy; delivered visceral action; killed off a long-recurring character; and, most important, made the characters we care most about an integral part of the proceedings. Just as it looked like this season might be stuck in a graveyard spiral, The Mandalorian pulled out of its dive and followed one of its worst episodes ever with one of its best. And for the first time, Season 3 felt like Season 2.

“The Spies” starts with the belated reappearance of Moff Gideon, who’s been waiting in the wings all season to resume his anti-Mandalorian vendetta. First we see him chat with double agent Elia Kane, who informs Gideon via probe-droid connection from Coruscant that two factions of Mandalorians have banded together to take down pirate king Gorian Shard on Nevarro. (RIP, my mossy monarch.) Armed with that info, Gideon joins a holo conference call with the Shadow Council, an advisory group so named because—well, why do you think it’s called the Shadow Council? (Its existence is secret, so it operates in the shadows!)

Although this scene doesn’t reveal the location of Gideon’s base—which most Mandalorian viewers likely intuited some time ago—it does show us that he hasn’t skimped on security. The path to his conference room is protected by both troopers and laser gates like the ones that separated Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi from each other and Darth Maul during their duel in Episode I. (Could we see a similar duel in the finale, possibly between Bo and the Praetorian Guard? I don’t doubt it.) And no wonder: On his way to conference in, he strides by a few occupied cloning vats, reminiscent of the ones in Gideon’s old base on Nevarro (seen in Season 2) that appeared to contain proto-Snokes. (These figures, intriguingly, look less misshapen: What is Gideon growing?) Pershing may be mind-flayed in New Republic custody, but Gideon’s work on cloning continues.

The Shadow Council, first introduced in Chuck Wendig’s 2016 novel Aftermath: Life Debt, was founded by Gallius Rax, an Imperial admiral and protégé of Darth Sidious. The Emperor tasked Rax with carrying out the Contingency, a Sidious-designed scheme to orchestrate the downfall of the Empire in the event of the Emperor’s death, all while sowing the seeds of its rebirth by sending select Imperials to the Unknown Regions, where they would work in secret to restore its power. (It sounds a bit galaxy brained, but Sidious was always thinking on a galactic scale—and hey, it worked.) Rax was killed at the Battle of Jakku, a year after the Battle of Endor, but he did his job: As he’d intended, the battle spelled the end of the Empire proper, but the building blocks of the future First Order survived, as Rax’s handpicked leaders fled Jakku to establish a distant stronghold.

Prime among those survivors was Brendol Hux, a former officer in the Grand Army of the Republic who became the commandant of Arkanis Academy, a training center for Imperial officers. Rax saw Hux as a visionary who’d be instrumental in ensuring that the Empire could strike back, and he planned for the other members of the Shadow Council to be eliminated at Jakku, thereby paving a path to power for Hux. Sure enough, Hux rose to become a general of the First Order, in charge of its stormtrooper training program. He was one of the few OG Imperials who lived long enough to serve Snoke (who was Palpatine’s puppet), though he was eventually betrayed and killed by Captain Phasma, working in concert with Hux’s own son, Armitage, whom you may remember from his delicious spats with Kylo Ren in the sequel trilogy. Armitage, who was raised on his father’s rosy stories about the Empire bringing order to the galaxy, went on to do his dead dad proud by using Starkiller Base to blow up the New Republic’s capital and fleet in the Hosnian Cataclysm (before ultimately committing treason just to spite Ren, losing his own life as a result).

Got all that? Keep those details loosely in mind, because the elder Hux is one of the eight Shadow Council members we see in this scene. (If you thought his resemblance to the younger Hux was striking, it’s because Brendol is played by Brian Gleeson, brother of Armitage actor Domhnall Gleeson.) The other confirmed Shadow Council member, a white-haired, mustachioed captain played by Xander Berkeley, is an even more prominent figure from Star Wars lore: Gilad Pellaeon.

Pellaeon, whose name I will one day be able to spell confidently, originated in Heir to the Empire, the landmark 1991 novel by Timothy Zahn that introduced Grand Admiral Thrawn and kick-started the Star Wars Expanded Universe. In Thrawn’s books and dozens that followed, Pellaeon—whom Zahn named after the principled Arthurian knight Pelleas—was one of the good Imperials, an honorable, somewhat sympathetic naval lifer with Republic roots who was one of the Imperial Remnant’s most prominent point-of-view characters. After retreating from Endor, Pellaeon commanded Thrawn’s flagship and grew to admire the blue-skinned tactical genius. After Thrawn was assassinated, the aged Pellaeon commanded the Remnant against the New Republic until eventually accepting that the fight was lost and agreeing to a truce. Still later, he commanded the forces of the Galactic Alliance—a unified government formed from the New Republic, the Imperial Remnant, and other political entities—in conflicts against invaders from the Unknown Regions and beyond the borders of the galaxy.

Got all that? Don’t worry, you don’t need to: None of it is still considered canon. Pellaeon, however, had already been brought back to Disney’s current canon by none other than Filoni, the foremost plunderer and savior of Legends material. Pellaeon is mentioned (and heard) in the series finale of Star Wars Rebels; he’s the last person other than Ezra Bridger to talk to Thrawn before Bridger and Thrawn are hauled off to parts unknown by the purrgil. Although Pellaeon’s communications were cut off as the purrgil converted on Thrawn’s fleet, Filoni confirmed that he had survived. “I don’t think that’s it for him,” Filoni said in 2018. “I would like to see other stories with the guy.” Five years later, he cowrote one. (In the interim, Pellaeon also appeared in a newer, canonical Zahn novel, 2019’s Thrawn: Treason.)

As with most Mandalorian character crossovers—Luke, Ahsoka, and soon, perhaps, Thrawn himself being the most obvious exceptions—all of this backstory is fun for the die hards but optional for more casual viewers. All one has to glean from this scene is that the Shadow Council is biding its time and trying not to attract the New Republic’s attention until at last it’s ready to reveal itself and have its revenge. Pellaeon is promising that Thrawn will return, even though Gideon has seen neither hide nor hair of him, and Hux is hard at work on “Project Necromancer,” which we can safely assume has more to do with Exegol than Dol Guldur. Although these shadow delegates—one of whom looks a little like Uncle Fester—are nominally collaborators with a common cause, they’re unsurprisingly plotting against one another as well as against their mutual enemy. Gideon, who makes himself sound like a master of whisperers, tries to drum up opposition to the powerful Pellaeon and Hux among the other members by casting doubt on Thrawn’s whereabouts; Hux rebukes him by reminding him that Project Palpatine Necromancer will supply all the “new leadership” that the reborn Empire needs and chastising him for keeping Pershing and his cloning research to himself.

These scheming moffs and despots can come together in the face of a common threat, though, and Gideon raises the specter of one by breaking the news that the Mandalorians are on the offensive. “A resurgent Mandalore would hamper our efforts,” Pellaeon concedes, no doubt envisioning a vengeful Mandalorian horde out to make the Empire pay for the Purge. Invoking the Mandalorians is enough to get Gideon the aid he requests: reinforcements for the TIE interceptor and bomber squadrons that Bo and Din depleted in Chapter 19, and three Praetorian Guards (those red-cloaked personal protectors—spiritual descendants of Palpatine’s Imperial Guard—whom Rey and Kylo Ren unforgettably fight in The Last Jedi). Gideon is spooked, but help (for him) is on the way. Its business done for the day, the Shadow Council concludes its conversation with a round of hearty “Long live the Necromancer Emperor” cries.

In Disney Gallery: The Book of Boba Fett, the hour-long Disney+ documentary on the making of Book of Boba that I’m sure all my readers have committed to memory, Filoni describes his and Favreau’s philosophy of “making this feel like one, big, connected galaxy. That’s what Star Wars is. Where all the stories come together.” From the start (and with increasing urgency of late), both The Mandalorian and The Bad Batch have devoted themselves to bridging the gaps between trilogies and tying the sequels more tightly to the prequels and the originals by explaining how Palpatine returned and how the First Order arose—developments that the sequels themselves barely deigned to explain. (Ahsoka seems likely to continue the trend.) I laid out the virtues and downsides of those efforts on a recent House of R episode, but the news that Lucasfilm is finally making a movie, starring Rey, that will pick up after The Rise of Skywalker makes me feel a little bit better about all of the creative resources being devoted to salvaging the story of the sequels. In “The Spies,” though, the greatest significance of the Shadow Council sequence is the way it sets the stage for a showdown between Moff and Mandalorians.

(One final note about this scene: In previous recaps, I’ve puzzled over how much repetition has crept into this season’s scripts, but also, what’s with all the dialogue that sounds as if it got garbled by Google Translate? Pellaeon’s pronouncement that “Grand Admiral Thrawn’s reemergence will herald in the reemergence of our military”—why herald in?—is right down there with earlier lines like “I believe that pursuit of knowledge is the most noble thing someone can do,” “You have done the highest honor of the Creed,” and “I am humbly requesting the New Republic to send a patrol to clear out the raiders.” Somebody please proofread Favreau!)

It took quite awhile, but for the first time this season, The Mandalorian devotes substantial time to the possibility of a Mando-on-Mando fight before the battle between Mandos and Moff. “This cannot be,” Gideon told Kane after hearing that Bo had joined forces with Din and his covert. “Those two factions are sworn enemies.” Yes, so we were told! And as the combined Mandalorians land on Nevarro, Bo—who’s holding Grogu on her lap the way Din often does, providing further fodder for the Bo-Din shippers (of which I’m one)—says, “I hope these two groups get along. They’ve never met, and what little they know of each other, they hate.” Didn’t seem to be a big problem for you and your best bud the Armorer! To pick up the thread from previous recaps: I totally approve of Bo and the Armorer putting their prejudices aside in the interest of Mandalorian unity, but it’s still a little strange that this schism was so smoothly sidestepped (and only obliquely addressed until now).

Better in the penultimate episode than never, though. Just as it looks like the Children of the Watch and the Nite Owls might be about to throw down on Nevarro’s already battered surface, the Armorer digs deep for some clutch diplomacy: “Welcome, fellow Mandalorians,” she says. “We invite you to make camp. Let us prepare a feast for our guests.” With that, the tension temporarily dissipates. And if that rapprochement weren’t enough to lighten the mood of the episode, the next scene would be.

Remember Mando’s efforts to resuscitate IG-11 in the season premiere? Chekhov’s droid had to return in some form, and here it is: IG-11 is now IG-12, a droid frame stripped of its memory circuit and reduced to its base motor functions. In other words, it’s an exoskeleton that can turn a tiny pilot into a mech. A tiny pilot like an Anzellan—or, better yet, Grogu.

Back in Chapter 20, Din pushed Grogu to take part in combat practice. “He is too small,” the judge objected, yet Din insisted that the challenge proceed, an inversion of Yoda’s warnings that the Skywalkers were too old. Grogu proved himself then, but now that a droid has entered the picture—even the shell of a formerly trusted one—Din is playing the overprotective parent. “He’s too little to operate this thing,” he protests, adding that he’s “too young to operate heavy machinery.” (Reminder to Din: Grogu is AARP eligible.) In the earlier exercise, Grogu had to be pushed out of the nest. Now he’s flying so high that Din is the one who has to let go, lest he hold Grogu back. Grogu won’t take no for an answer—though with help from IG-12, he will give no as an answer. Repeatedly.

The notion of Grogu driving a droid is borderline batshit, the kind of idea that, on the surface, seems calculated merely to maximize cuteness. And yes, it’s incredibly cute. But it’s also thematically rich. In Chapter 18, Grogu helped rescue Din, but he couldn’t do it without Bo: Grogu was overpowered by a cyborg being that compensated for its small stature by implanting itself in a machine. Now Grogu is taking a page out of the cyborg playbook to demonstrate that size matters not. In Season 1, IG protected the Child, who had trouble defending himself. Now Grogu has taken the controls of an upgraded ride, and Din, like every parent, has to accept that there comes a time to be hands off.

Well, mostly: maybe not so much when Grogu decides to be extremely hands on with a merchant’s food, using his mechanical arms to snatch some snacks from a stand and his actual arms to shovel them down his adorable gullet. This is, of course, in character for our insatiable friend, who’s barely been shown meeting his caloric requirements this season. As indicated by the piece of fruit he pulverizes, he doesn’t know his own strength, and he is a bit of a bad baby when he uses his newfound height to play keep-away with Mando, but toddlers can be terrors at times. They can also be prone to repetitive speech. We still haven’t heard Grogu speak in his own voice, but thanks to IG, the wait for yes/no responses is over. Grogu spamming the “Yes” button while walking through the square is one of his signature moments in a season when he’s often been a background character. This sequence alone packs in more quality father-son time than the past few episodes put together, so while Grogu’s new power-up may not be working for Mando, it’s definitely working for me.

With the Mandalorian factions uneasily allied, it’s time to take back Mandalore. All of the Mandalorians whose names we know, minus Ragnar and plus various randos, volunteer to accompany Bo on a recon mission to the planet’s surface, leaving Gideon’s former flagship (and its sweet new Mythosaur-skull paint job) in orbit, out of communication range. As clouds scud disconcertingly quickly across yellowish skies, the scouts have an unlikely encounter: They stumble on another group of Mandalorians riding a sort of sail-driven skiff across the planet’s windswept surface. (Maybe it’s just me, but when I saw the jury-rigged craft ferrying a group of weathered survivors, I flashed back to the crew of the Ghost rendezvousing with weathered ex-clones Rex, Gregor, and Wolffe in Rebels Season 2.) These Mandalorians (led by one warrior played by the great Charles Parnell of Top Gun: Maverick and The Last Ship fame, and another played by Charles Baker, Breaking Bad’s Skinny Pete) have stuck it out on the planet since the Purge—which, if you ask me, makes them more entitled to claim the planet than these Mando-come-latelies, Darksaber or no Darksaber. (No one on the mission asked me.)

On the way to the Great Forge—where surely no additional danger awaits—our heroes clear up some of the murkiness surrounding the end of the Purge and Gideon’s acquisition of the Darksaber. When Parnell says the Empire punished the Mandalorians as a warning to the galaxy because they refused to surrender, Bo admits, “That’s not true. I did surrender.” As it turns out, she tried to negotiate a cease-fire with Gideon to spare Mandalorian lives. Gideon, ever the villain, double-crossed her, seized the surrendered Darksaber, and continued to carry out the Purge. Bo blames herself: “I was selfish,” she says. But Din delivers a pep talk, assuring her that no one can keep good Mandalorians down. (Or, at least, as Bo keeps reminding everyone within earshot, that no one other than rival Mandalorians can.)

Like any responsible leader, Bo is plagued by doubts. Her followers deserted her when she lost the Darksaber, so she knows that the blade is the only thing persuading them to stay beside her now—and it’s barely keeping the bad blood between factions at bay. Din tries to reassure her, and in the process, he finally lifts the lid on the motivations he’s kept close to his breastplate, even though his helmet stays firmly on. As we know, he and the Children don’t care about the Darksaber as a symbol of the right to rule (though the Armorer used to care about how it brought about disaster), and they don’t care about her royal blood. “What means more to me,” he says, “is honor. And loyalty. And character. These are the reasons I serve you, Lady Kryze. Your song is not yet written. I will serve you until it is.” Yes, Din has become a sort of sidekick to another Mandalorian, but he’s never aspired to power, and it tracks that he would throw his support behind Bo’s claim because of their connection instead of seeing himself as Mand’alor. More than anything, it’s nice to hear him express a purpose for the first time since he almost died in the Living Waters.

Throughout this episode—and, for that matter, throughout this season—we’ve been told about the enmity among Mandalorians without being shown what it looks like. Fortunately, do we get a glimpse in “The Spies,” thanks to a brawl between Paz and Axe Woves that erupts after Axe calls the Children “primitives.” Mecha-Grogu breaks up the fight—and, perhaps, puts the squabbling men to shame—with his IG arms and a string of computerized “noes.” “You taught your apprentice well,” Bo says, to which Din responds, “He didn’t learn that from me.” Another bittersweet part of parenting is watching your kid mature without any input from you; bitter because you’ve ceded some of your influence, but sweet because of the pride that comes from watching a beloved kid become their own person. In this case, presumably, Grogu’s impulse toward peacekeeping comes from his Jedi Temple past or his learning from Luke, which makes this intervention a perfect illustration of the power of his hybrid heritage. Once again, we get growth for Grogu and added depth to his relationship with Din. This is why we watch.

Even though monster-bait Ragnar is safely out of range—along with the tribe’s even younger kids in their fabric beskar-helmet starter sets—the skiff still gets attacked by a massive monster, because it wouldn’t be a Favreau episode without one. The beast’s presence serves next to no purpose (unless it was a cloning-connected Zillo Beast?), but hey, you have to spend those CGI bucks somewhere. That brief encounter leads directly to a more meaningful and exciting one as the Mandalorians reach the Great Forge—the center of their civilization—and find an affront: a swarm of Imperials who’ve appropriated both their beskar and their jet packs. They fly now.

Axe rockets off to bring back help from the fleet (where the Armorer has transported the sick and injured), and a furious firefight follows. The true Mandalorians seem to gain the upper hand, but the Imperials lure them into an ambush at what seems to be a subterranean base festooned with TIEs. “What is this place?” Bo asks. Bo is slow on the uptake: This is the secret, underground lair we’ve suspected all season! Yes, it was Mandalore all along: The Empire has been squatting on the mostly Purged planet, mining beskar and spreading false stories about toxic air to keep prying eyes away.

Some of the Mandalorians, Din included, are cut off from the others and captured or cut down. With Din in custody, Gideon makes his majestic descent: Like any self-respecting baddie, he’s evolved into a more imposing final form after the first two boss battles. Grogu may have IG-12, but Gideon has his own power armor—a Dark Trooper suit forged from beskar. (Dark Troopers were human originally, before the next-gen droids that Luke sliced and diced last season.) This shell should make him impervious to light and/or Darksabers—assuming, of course, that the Empire’s armorers are up to the task, which may not be the case if the fragment of beskar embedded in the wall of Gideon’s Republic transport wasn’t just for show. The Empire may not have known to add those drops of Living Water that make the armor recipe just right. (Keep this possible flaw in mind for the final battle next week.)

As Bo looks on, helpless to free Din, Gideon delivers a humdinger of a mustache-twirling monologue. “Mandalore will live on in me,” he declares, continuing, “Every society has something to offer. The cloners. The Jedi. And even the Mandalorians. By aggregating the best of each, I will create an army that will bring order to the galaxy.” Gideon promises to finish off the Mandalorians for good; Bo vows to kill Gideon this time. And maybe she will, but not until next week. She does, at least, live to fight on, thanks to Paz, who doesn’t. Pour out a cup of Living Water for poor Paz, who heroically sacrifices himself: He takes out numerous troopers, buying time for his friends to escape, but the Praetorians make quick work of him. He will not be missed that much.

So, what might The Mandalorian have up its sleeve to top “The Spies” in next week’s big finish?

“Our one hope for success relies upon the secrecy of [Thrawn’s] return,” Pellaeon tells Gideon, but there’s no longer any secrecy surrounding Thrawn’s return to the screen: The back of his head appears in the trailer for Ahsoka, and Lucasfilm confirmed to great fanfare that Lars Mikkelsen (who voiced Thrawn in Rebels) is reprising the role. It might be more surprising if Thrawn doesn’t show up in the finale to whet the audience’s appetite for Ahsoka than if he does. That’s not to say that it wouldn’t still be thrilling to see his face for the first time in live action (or to see his fleet drop out of hyperspace), but a Thrawn cameo—especially, say, on a holo, or somewhere far from Mandalore—wouldn’t supply the same jolt as, say, Grogu’s jaw-dropping debut in the premiere or Luke’s surprise appearance in the Season 2 finale. Ditto for the Mythosaur, an odds-on favorite to ride to Din’s rescue as Bo and Grogu work together to rescue Din as they did in “The Mines of Mandalore.” Double ditto for any other prominent members of the Mandoverse: Maybe Boba or Sabine Wren will want in on the Mandalorian action, or Ahsoka herself. (Axe could know how to contact them.)

What else could go down? Gideon could die, given that back-to-back-to-back defeats in finales without a death might start to test fans’ patience. (Then again: Even with Thrawn set to take on the big bad mantle, do you really want to wipe a great villain off the board with who knows how many more seasons—plus a climactic movie—to come?) Could the Armorer, who conveniently leaves Mandalore right before the ambush (and whose flight to the flagship gets a suspicious amount of screen time), be one of the Moff’s titular spies, which would also explain why she welcomed Bo into the covert? Could one of them be Axe, who mysteriously disappeared before both the attack on Gideon last season and the thick of the fighting this week? Could it be the skiff crew?

Perhaps the sad-sack New Republic will show up, intending to punish the Mandalorians for seemingly absconding with Gideon, only to discover that they and the Mandalorians are on the same side. We could get more insight into Grogu’s past, or see the little green guy wrestle with using the dark side in his desire to save Dad. (Check out Grogu’s “Blinking Green Guy” face when Gideon says “Jedi.”) We’ve seen him babble, and this week we saw him laugh; maybe next time he’ll talk (in his own voice, instead of Taika Waititi’s). Pedro Pascal no-showed at Star Wars Celebration, but perhaps he could be coaxed to give us a glimpse of his face for the first time this season (and the third straight finale). Gideon might make him remove his helmet for the debriefing, and even if he doesn’t, voluntarily removing it would be a powerful symbol of the Mandalorians’ fledgling ecumenical movement. (If Bo and Din not only show their faces but also suck face, this finale might top the last one.)

In The Mandalorian’s last season finale, Grogu was the protagonist in distress, and Din was his savior. This time, it’s Din’s turn to depend on a little help from his friends (and his family). In Chapter 20, Din said “I am [Grogu’s] ward,” which at the time seemed like either another case of Favreau needing a copy edit—a “ward” is typically the person being protected, not the person doing the protecting—or an example of Din’s often formal, fantasy-style diction. (In more archaic speech, a “ward” can be a guardian.) Maybe, though, Din was just forecasting a future in which Grogu really would be his guardian. As Jim Bouton once almost said, you spend a good piece of your life gripping a baby, and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time.

Here’s what we know: If next week’s Favreau-written, Famuyiwa-directed finale can surpass “The Spies” and come close to rivaling last season’s “The Rescue”—and yes, that’s a tall order—then much of this season’s misguided meandering will be forgiven, if not forgotten. We’re about to find out whether Chapter 24 will be the dip in the Living Waters that this season sorely needs to erase its sins. Here’s hoping Season 3 leaves us saying, “Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.”