Star Wars Explained is our ongoing series, where we delve into the latest Star Wars shows, movies, trailers, and news stories to divine the franchise’s future. This entry examines The Mandalorian Chapter 23 and the Heir to the Empire hiding along the fringes.
After weeks of teasing, Moff Gideon reveals himself. Not only that, The Mandalorian Chapter 23, entitled “The Spies,” does more in its runtime to define Imperial rule post-Return of the Jedi than any other episode that has come before. Previously, we’ve speculated how Gideon may be in cahoots with Grand Admiral Thrawn, the recently announced big bad for Ahsoka, but now we understand the divide running through the Emperor’s leftovers.
The Mandalorian Chapter 23 opens with double agent Ella Kane sending word to her master via probe droid. She informs Gideon that their assault on Nevarro via Pirate King Gorian Shard failed, with various Mandalorian factions coming together for the rescue. Gideon is somewhat surprised regarding the union between Bo-Katan Kryze’s soldiers and the Armorer’s zealots, but his concerns are a touch more immediate. He has a Shadow Council to attend, and gosh, it’s filled with a bunch of brown-nosing narcissists. A few of which hold serious significance within the canon.
Inside his Mandalore bunker, Gideon engages with an Imperial holo council already in session. They’re discussing the New Republic and why they should stop plundering the Hyperspace lanes. They do not want to reveal their true might too early, preferring the current Galactic government to think of them as nothing more than fractured warlords.
The mustachioed commander is the first officer to spark attention. He reassures the others that their actions will bring unnecessary heat against their plans. He’s played by Xander Berkeley and credited as Gilad Pellaeon. The character first appeared in the Timothy Zahn novel Heir to the Empire, serving as the right-hand man to Grand Admiral Thrawn. While that book was de-canonized, we’ve seen its best bits picked apart and adapted into Star Wars: Rebels. With the title also getting namechecked in the Ahoska trailer and Thrawn’s live-action debut imminent, it’s a good bet that more and more from the nineties novel will ooze into current continuity.
Pellaeon promises the group that Thrawn’s return will “herald in the emergence of our military and provide Commandant Hux enough time to deliver on Project Necromancer.” Hux is Brendol Hux, father of Armitage Hux, the First Order general who sniveled throughout the sequel trilogy. Project Necromancer is a little less clear, although the obvious guess is that it’s the cloning experiment that will eventually sire Snoke and Emperor Palpatine II.
Most interesting, however, is Moff Gideon’s response to Pellaeon’s bold Thrawn claims. He wonders why Thrawn has yet to appear in the Shadow Council. He doubts Thrawn’s presence, diminishing his power within the group. Pellaeon attempts to assure the others that secrecy surrounding Thrawn is paramount and critical to their success.
In response, Gideon makes a play for leadership. He gets a little support, but Hux assures him that Project Necromancer will fulfill their leadership void, which speaks to its probability of involving Palpatine Number Two from The Rise of Skywalker. When Hux asks about Gideon’s experiments on Nevarro, Gideon again deflects. He says Hux is the one with a cloning obsession, not him.
Yeah, right. Mere seconds before entering this conversation, we saw Gideon strolling through a corridor lined with bodies trapped in containers similar to Bacta Tanks. He says Dr. Pershing’s research is gone, but you can’t trust a word seeping from his mouth. Gideon still wants to put his mitts on Grogu and extract whatever he needs from him. He’s still concerned with what he left on Nevarro, hence the Gorian Shard business. He’s up to shenanigans!
Gideon is all about cloning! To what end? That’s the real question. How does Grogu factor into it? We’ve always assumed it had something to do with the little one’s Force sensitivity. We’ve wondered whether Grogu was the key to unlocking Palpatine’s clone, but maybe Hux has already cracked that secret with his own Palpatine samplings. Maybe Gideon wants some Force-fueled clones for himself. Maybe The Mandalorian has always been about his power play against Thrawn. Well, indirectly, at least. Gideon seemingly loathes Thrawn’s representatives, the dirtbag Imperials currently occupying the Shadow Council.
On Mandalore, Gideon has established quite a battalion. Super Commandos surround him. Think of them as a cross between the sequel trilogy’s Stormtroopers and the Mandalorians. With only one episode left in season three, we could be watching a last-ditch effort from Gideon to flex his Imperial muscle.
Here’s the thing, though. As much time and energy as we’ve spent on Gidon’s plans, he may be nothing more than a pest. If Lucasfilm wants to establish Grand Admiral Thrawn as their Thanos, his showing up late in next week’s episode and swatting Gideon from existence would prove his villainous supremacy. What happens when Gideon gets that smirk slapped off his face?
We know Hux’s cloning project succeeds. We get Snoke; we get Palpatine II. If Hux is on team Thrawn, Thrawn is the key to the rise of the First Order. Not Gideon. Gideon could merely be a mid-level boss, the hurdle to jump over on way toward the final fight. The Thrawn fight. The big brawl to occur in Dave Filoni‘s feature directorial debut.
If Gideon gets stomped on during the season three finale, do we ever learn his plans for Grogu? Gideon’s death would free Grogu to be Grogu and eradicate the mystery box that kickstarted the series. Such a fate would be a touch anti-climactic. Then again, if The Mandalorian‘s third season has taught us anything, Lucasfilm prefers subversion to deliverance. With Gideon dead, Grogu and Din could concentrate on that Lone Wolf and Cub life (tell me you’re not missing those season one early days), leaving Thrawn as Bo-Katan Kryze and Ahsoka Tano’s problem.
Gideon surviving beyond The Mandalorian season three seems less and less likely. If he doesn’t get whacked next week, he’ll certainly get whacked in The Mandalorian season four. If we get a Mandalorian season four. Chapter 23 doesn’t place him on Team First Order, and if you’re an Imperial and haven’t kissed Hux’s ring, you’re on your way out of this galaxy. Gideon positioning himself against Thrawn is a death sentence.
The Mandalorian Chapter 23 is now streaming on Disney+