‘The Mandalorian’: Who is the true villain of Season 3? Top 3 suspects

Season 3 of “The Mandalorian” deviated from the central plot in an intriguing manner during Episode 3, “The Convert.” Most of the running time was focused on the former-Imperial Dr. Pershing (Omid Abtahi) as he tries to rehabilitant his life with the New Republic on Coruscant. Pershing is ultimately betrayed by his supposed ally Elia Kane (Katy O’Brian), which is curiously the first villainous action of Season 3. Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) is sidelined and supposedly mind-flayed (though it’s a good bet we haven’t seen the last of him), leaving a void in the series for a new “Big Bad” to fill. Several clues were present during the adventures of Pershing and Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) this week, pointing to a larger menace lurking behind the scenes. Here are the best guesses as to who may serve as the villain of the season.

SEE ‘The Mandalorian’ Season 2 recap: Relive the adventures of Mando and Grogu before watching Season 3

Grand Admiral Thrawn
Din Djarin and Bo Katan (Katee Sackhoff) are pursued by a fleet of TIE Interceptors as they return from the planet Mandalore. The dizzying dogfight that ensues might have distracted you from two vital questions: how the heck did anyone know that Din and Bo were on Mandalore and who sent them? With the episode placing heavy emphasis on Imperial remnants, the most obvious answer to the second question is Grand Admiral Thrawn. This military tactician is a rival of Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson) and was previously teased in Season 2. He would certainly be in command of any remaining Empire loyalists and have plenty of ships at his disposal. But will “The Mandalorian” choose to introduce this fan-favorite baddie now, or wait until the “Ahsoka” series so that the titular Torgruta can exact her revenge?

The Armorer
Even if Thrawn is behind the fleet of TIE Fighters, he would still need intel on Mando’s whereabouts in order to attack. The only other person who knew about Din’s mission to find the Living Waters was The Armorer (Emily Swallow). Sure the Armorer is positioned as a mentor and guardian of “The Way,” but what do we actually know about her? Unlike the other Mandalorians in her covert, she does not use any identifiable family name. Furthermore, she does all that she can to persuade Din out of traveling to Mandalore, peddling the false tale that the planet is uninhabitable and the Living Waters long gone. It may be possible that The Armorer is an undercover agent of the Empire, similar to Elia Kane. If the de facto leader of The Mandalorian covert is keeping her people de-powered and homeless, then they won’t be a threat to Imperial forces planning their comeback. She could have informed Thrawn, or any other Imperial leader, about Mando’s whereabouts.

SEE ‘The Mandalorian’: Top 3 unanswered questions that Season 3 must address

Supreme Leader Snoke
Elia Kane’s deceitful actions suggest that she is a devotee not just of the Empire, but the Sith. She goes to great lengths to win Dr. Pershing’s trust, only to have him arrested. In the process she learns what equipment would be needed for a mobile cloning lab and then cranks up the mind flayer machine to erase Pershing’s memories of Empire’s cloning program. As we know from the feature films, Emperor Palpatine is eventually brought back to life via experiments with cloning, so Pershing’s work is clearly going to serve as the foundation of Palpatine’s resurrection. While it might be tempting to think the Emperor is already back and pulling the strings (Elia seems a bit too “small potatoes” to serve as the main antagonist herself), it’s rather early in the story for him to pop up.

Instead, the series may introduce Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) as Elia’s master, fleshing out an interesting villain whose story was cut short in “The Last Jedi.” Snoke was the result of an early attempt to clone Palpatine. While it took the Sith additional tries to restore their master, Snoke was at least a clone who was attuned to the force. So he began amassing power across the galaxy in the form of The First Order. Din already discovered a body in a cloning lab last season which bore a striking resemblance to Snoke, albeit with a cruder visage. With “The Mandalorian” making efforts to showcase failings in the New Republic, it stands to reason that Snoke will reveal himself soon as the figure who will eventually help strike down their rule.

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