What Dr. Pershing didn’t say speaks volumes. In The Mandalorian Season 3, Episode 3, “The Convert,” a mystery that has pervaded the show since the beginning was just given a new wrinkle. If Dr. Pershing’s cloning research wasn’t specifically commissioned by Palpatine, what was his research for? Mando Season 3 may finally be setting up an answer to the show’s oldest question. Spoilers ahead.
Taking place mostly in Coruscant, “The Convert,” focuses on Dr. Pershing (Omid Abtahi) who used to work for Moff Giedeon, but now, does clerical work in a New Republic rehabilitation program. Near the beginning of the episode, Pershing gives a public talk encouraging New Republic citizens to think about this cloning research in a different light. Cryptically, he says: “My research was twisted into something cruel and inhumane, at the behest of a desperate individual intent on using cloning technology to secure more power for himself.”
Presumably, the “inhumane” activities Pershing refers to include stealing blood cells from Grogu in Season 1. But oddly, his mention of a “desperate individual” who was giving the orders makes many fan theories and assumptions about this cloning program suddenly less clear.
Did Dr. Pershing work for Palpatine?
If Dr. Pershing was working in a program for Palpatine directly, one might wonder why he wouldn’t just admit that in public. But then again, as far as the New Republic knows, at this point, Palpatine is dead. However, if Pershing knew that Palpatine was really alive and trying to get a bunch of cloning tech to sustain his life — all so he can come back 25 years later in The Rise of Skywalker — why not just tell somebody? If Pershing really wants the New Republic to trust him, telling them that somehow Palpatine is going to return might get their attention
“The Convert” paints Pershing as an innocent but misguided scientist who was only working for the Empire because he had to. He seems to genuinely want to help the New Republic with his research, even though we’re still a little iffy on what that research is specifically.
But the larger point is, in his big public talk, why not just name his former boss?
Mandalorian Episode 3 ending explained
Before we cut back to Bo-Katan and Din Djarin, the Courscant portion of “The Convert,” ends with Dr. Pershing about to get parts of his memory wiped by a mind flayer. He’s been set up by somebody else who used to work for Moff Gideon, Elia Kane — reprising her role from Mando Season 2 where she was only known as a “comms officer.” As Pershing is hooked up to the mind flayer, Kane cranks up the juice, which will either murder him or erase his memories more thoroughly than originally intended. Either way, the meaning of this scene seems clear: Pershing knows something else about the cloning research, and Kane is making sure he never talks.
This brings us back to the mystery of the two previous seasons. If Moff Gideon didn’t want Baby Yoda’s blood for Palpatine what did he want it for? “A desperate individual intent on using cloning technology to secure more power for himself,” is a statement that could apply to Moff Gideon or Palpatine, but what if it’s neither? Pershing knew he worked for Gideon but didn’t name him outright. We don’t know if Pershing knew about Palpatine. Now, it seems unclear if that’s even connected.
So, what was once a fairly straightforward canon theory is now less clear. Sure, we can still believe that Dr. Pershing’s weird cloning research with Baby Yoda was connected to Palaptine’s eventual resurrection in a roundabout way. But Pershing himself doesn’t seem to know Palpatine was involved. Or, if he did, kept it quiet. This begs the question of why.
Pershing even says “why did you set me up” when Kane betrays him, which is a very tantalizing question. If Pershing was going to spill the beans about Imperial secrets, he probably would have done it at his New Republic TED Talk at the start of the episode. What else could he know? Kane’s motivations for betraying Pershing point toward her still being loyal to the Empire. But what if it’s something else? If Pershing didn’t know anything that he didn’t already blab about in public, why silence him?
When The Mandalorian returns to Coruscant, or when Kane appears again, it feels possible that the show could solve its oldest mystery. Only now, it seems like that mystery is much deeper than we thought.
The Mandalorian is streaming on Disney+.
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