The Mandalorian Gives Dr. Penn Pershing Some Serious Humanity
The following story contains spoilers for The Mandalorian Season 3, Episode 3, “The Convert.”
A FUN and common occurrence of modern TV that’s quickly becoming a (welcomed) trope is the episode that shifts the action away from the main characters, instead shedding light into characters or settings that we never expected to get. Sometimes it can feel a little arbitrary and like a waste of time, sure, but other times (looking at you, The Last of Us) it can simply feel brilliant. “The Convert,” Episode 3 of The Mandalorian Season 3, starts and ends with our regular Mando/Grogu/Bo-Katan story, but spends about 45 minutes in the middle telling a humanizing and quite Andor–esque character story about someone we’ve seen before in the show’s first two seasons, but know very little about: Dr. Penn Pershing.
Played by actorOmid Abtahi, Dr. Pershing has only ever appeared as a minor antagonist, albeit one who never seemed all that bad compared to The Client (Werner Herzog) or Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito). In “The Convert,” we catch up with Dr. Pershing in his post-Moff Gideon life, where he’s now part of the Amnesty program (basically the Space Operation Paperclip) on Coruscant, working for the New Republic. He’s content to his boring, bureaucratic new life, where he’s no longer drawing blood from Baby Yodas or answering Evil Imperial Officers’ wildest demands. But he also loves science, and the slightest hint of cloning research being a possibility draws him in pretty well.
So when he meets Elia Kane (Katy M. O’Brian), well, nothing good happens from there. Essentially. Dr. Pershing is tricked into taking Elia to a temporary lab aboard a former Imperial ship to get all the supplies he needs to do more cloning research, before Elia essentially turns face and rats him out. And then, well, she uses her power (seemingly as an Amnesty Officer for the same program on Coruscant) to have Dr. Pershing’s brain scrambled with something called a “Mind Flayer,” which she ups the voltage on in a major way.
Poor Dr. Pershing got played. But at least it was as part of one of the best episodes of The Mandalorian Season 3 yet—and one that will certainly lead to a new ongoing storyline.
Have we seen Dr. Penn Pershing in The Mandalorian before?
Yes. Dr. Pershing appeared in both Seasons 1 and 2 of The Mandalorian, both times as part of the Imperial machine. In Season 1, he appeared alongside The Client (Werner Herzog) during The Client’s meeting with Din (Pedro Pascal); the two had put a bounty on Grogu that Din/Mando had answered. The Clint seemingly didn’t care whether Grogu lived or died, but Dr. Pershing (who arrived to the meeting unannounced and strangely kind of jittery) was adamant that our little pal stayed alive.
Dr. Pershing would show up again after Din dropped Grogu off following the bounty, a decision Din would later change his mind on. Pershing was drawing Grogu’s blood for experiments, and Din came back and saved him, killing others but sparing Dr. Pershing because he made sure that The Client didn’t kill Grogu in the first place.
Dr. Pershing also showed up in Season 2 working for Moff Gideon; this is referenced in The Mandalorian Season 3, Episode 3, “The Convert,” by Elia. Dr. Pershing was using Grogu’s blood for various experiments, injecting it into numerous volunteers but to no avail; despite how much success there was in the earlygoings, the volunteers continued to die.
Eventually, when Din and Bo-Katan boarded Moff Gideon’s ship, Dr. Pershing quickly surrendered (not before a blast grazed his ear) and gave up vital information that led to Din finding where Grogu was being held. From here—and following Moff Gideon’s defeat and capture—we can assume that Dr. Pershing was able to enter the Amnesty program. And it’s also possible that based on his exchange of information with Din, that’s why Elia is seeking revenge for her old friend Moff Gideon.
What will Dr. Pershing do next in The Mandalorian Season 3?
Dr. Pershing may just have his brain fully wiped after the events of “The Convert.” We’ll have to see. But it also seems like this episode may be setting up how Elia (and possibly Moff Gideon too, if he’s still out there) got The First Order up and running, and even potentially provide the answer to how Palpatine returned in The Rise of Skywalker (because as of now, all we have is something to do with cloning and the line “somehow Palpatine returned.”
Dr. Pershing is clearly a good guy who just cares about science, though, so hopefully he can shake whatever brain scrambling occured off, help our heroes out, and really redeem himself. That said: we do know that eventually The First Order does rise, Supreme Leader Snoke is born, and Palpatine does somehow return. So maybe we should just brace for the bad guys to win this one.
Evan is the culture editor for Men’s Health, with bylines in The New York Times, MTV News, Brooklyn Magazine, and VICE. He loves weird movies, watches too much TV, and listens to music more often than he doesn’t.
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