Warning: contains spoilers for The Mandalorian Season 3, Episode 7
Guess who’s back? Back again? Moff Gideon’s back. Tell a friend. Or, not – because his long-awaited return to The Mandalorian heralds all kinds of dark deeds to come in the galaxy far, far away, sure to spell danger for everyone who crosses his path. Ever since we found out earlier in Season 3 that Giancarlo Esposito’s menacing space-baddie had evaded capture by the New Republic, we’ve been eager to see what he’s been getting up to. Now, we have some answers. But this latest episode of The Mandalorian wasn’t just a big deal because of Moff Gideon’s return – it was important because of what he was doing, what he was saying, and who he was saying it to.
Before the title card of Chapter 23, ‘The Spies’, had even kicked in, the conversation between Gideon and his Imperial pals unveiled some major clues for what’s going on. And if you don’t know what any of it meant, allow us to break it down for you.
The Shadow Council
First up, let’s deal with the who. (No, not Roger Daltrey and co.) Moff Gideon’s holographic Teams meeting was between a group who refer to themselves as the Shadow Council – an appropriate name for an especially shady group. They are the secret organisers of the Imperial Remnant, the scattered remainders of the Galactic Empire who are still clinging on after its defeat in Return Of The Jedi. As we’ve seen throughout The Mandalorian, the Empire might be gone, but there are plenty of true believers out there – die-hard individuals, as well as more organised groups with access to Imperial hardware and weaponry. And they’re not just the odd pocket here and there – this meeting is a sign that these factions of evil are talking and working together.
Significant, too, is who they actually are. We all know Moff Gideon – but some other names and faces here are of interest. One of them is Commandant Brendol Hux, the father of Domhnall Gleeson’s General Armitage Hux in the sequel trilogy – General Hux was Kylo Ren’s (Adam Driver) second-in-command in those films (until he became an informant and smuggled First Order secrets to the Resistance in The Rise Of Skywalker, leading to his death). Since his father was involved with the Shadow Council while the Empire was at its lowest, it seems that Hux Jr. was born into a lineage that informed his political persuasions, and which gave him a leg-up in climbing the ranks of the First Order. Yes, he’s an Imperial nepo baby. Fun fact: Brendol Hux is here played by Domhnall Gleeson’s brother, Brian.
The other name to keep an eye on is Pelleaon. It may sound like a planet somewhere in the vicinity of Tattooine, but it’s actually a man – played by Xander Berkeley. And he’s important because he originally appeared in Timothy Zahn’s Heir To The Empire trilogy of novels – a no-longer-canon set of stories from the early ‘90s, initially intended as a kind of sequel trilogy to the original films. The reason why that’s important? Because those books are about…
Grand Admiral Thrawn
Let’s address the big, blue Admiral in the room. Yes, Thrawn is coming – and he’s about to be a very big deal. A strategic master who planned a resurgence of the Empire, his story was told in Zahn’s aforementioned fan-favourite novels – but when Disney took over the franchise they were taken out of canon, and now exist under the ‘Legends’ banner (alongside every no-longer-canon bit of wider Star Wars lore). Thrawn himself has since come back into canon, though, through his appearances in animated series Star Wars: Rebels – and he’s about to cause all kinds of chaos in live-action in the New Republic era.
As revealed at Star Wars Celebration this weekend, Thrawn will play a significant part in Dave Filoni’s upcoming Ahsoka series – and his mention in this week’s Mando is no mere accident. He’s being established as perhaps the biggest bad of this part of the Star Wars timeline, a ruthless and cunning true believer in the Empire. The smart money would have him down as a major player in Dave Filoni’s recently-confirmed movie too, tying together threads from across the Mando-verse. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves: for now, we know he’ll be played by Lars Mikkelsen (who also voiced him in Rebels), and it’s clear that several members of the Shadow Council are counting on his comeback to help the Empire rise once more. They have promised his “imminent return,” after he was taken off the board (in ways too complex to get into here) during Rebels. It does seem possible, after his name-drop this week, that he could turn up in the Season 3 finale.
There is a sense, in the conversation around Thrawn in ‘The Spies’, that there are differing views in the Shadow Council about who exactly should be leading them. While Captain Pellaeon is vocal in his hopes that Thrawn will “herald in the reemergence of our military”, Gideon points out that Thrawn is, for now, nowhere to be seen. Instead – in true Moff Gideon style – he posits himself as an ideal leader, intimating a possible power-struggle. Plus, as we hear mentioned several times in this sequence, there is a wider plan in place here for the resurgence of the Empire and the implementation of a figure-head. And that plan goes by the name of…
Here’s where things get really juicy: Project Necromancer, surely, has to refer to the Empire’s efforts to create an Emperor Palpatine clone. As we know from The Rise Of Skywalker, their efforts are (eventually) successful, and breed plenty of other important creations along the way. Not only was Palpatine 2.0 a clone body in Episode IX, but we learn that Supreme Leader Snoke was a failed Palpatine clone too – as was Rey’s father, Dathan. ‘Project Necromancer’, then, is the key to the creation of the whole sequel trilogy – both its hero and its villains.
It’s not come completely out of nowhere. Previously in The Mandalorian, we’ve discovered that Moff Gideon’s attempts to capture Grogu were because he wanted to procure the kid’s precious Midichlorian-rich blood. Those samples were taken by Dr. Pershing, whose work concerns cloning – and we saw some proto-Snokes in his workshop a while back. In this episode, too, we also saw some particularly Snokey shadows growing in liquid-filled tubes at Moff Gideon’s lair. Is Grogu’s blood the key to engineering a powerful, Force-wielding clone like Snoke or Palpatine?
Quite how this all plays out from here remains to be seen. It’s clear that Brendol Hux is the Shadow Council member most personally invested in the success of Project Necromancer (again, perhaps a clue to General Hux’s high status in the First Order down the line). Plus, there’s mention in this conversation that Necromancer’s success is the ultimate aim here – even the return of Thrawn is intended to get the Empire to a place where the revival of the Emperor can be a big success (spoiler: it won’t be once Rey’s had her say). And as for Pershing? He was last seen having his brain melted on Coruscant, after Katy O’Brian’s Elia Kane persuaded him to steal back his research. Whether he’s in a fit state to undertake any more clone science looks unlikely – perhaps his findings will be put on hold, or maybe dispatched directly to the cultish hooded oddballs hiding out on Exegol.
There’s plenty left to unwrap then – and much more on all of this to come in Ahsoka, as well as future The Mandalorian series, and Dave Filoni’s upcoming film. But in this one brief pre-title sequence, we got a fascinating and fact-filled glimpse into what exactly the Imperial Remnant is up to. In short: a whole bunch of bad Sith. Protect Grogu at all costs!