The Mandalorian's Mind Flayer Is Scarier Than The One In Stranger Things

This post contains spoilers for "The Mandalorian" season 3, episode 3 "The Convert."

After the major Mythosaur reveal in episode 2 of the latest season of "The Mandalorian," it became clear that the path ahead for Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) and Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff) has been forever altered. Episode 3, titled "The Convert," picks up directly after Bo valiantly rescues Din from drowning in the Living Waters, and the duo — with Grogu tagging along — cannot seem to catch a break as they are soon attacked by what seems to be a horde of mysterious TIE fighters.

This is when the episode makes a hard pivot, landing us directly in the heart of Coruscant (!), where Dr. Penn Pershing (Omid Abtahi) is fresh off the New Republic reintegration program and is now part of their Amnesty program. This is where things get interesting — we see the New Republic stumbling its way to stability, eager to shed any and all remnants of Imperial authority, no matter what the cost.

Pershing has made appearances throughout the first two seasons of "The Mandalorian," where we saw him working for Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito), as he was exclusively tasked with using cloning and genetic engineering to exploit Grogu's Force-sensitive genetic makeup. Although Pershing had been carrying out Imperial orders for the most part, he always came off as a conflicted figure, desperate to hold on to a semblance of morality within the bounds of his position. Not only did he attempt to protect Grogu from intrusive experimentation that could've led to the child's death, but he also aided Din and Cara Dune (Gina Carano) in targeting Gideon's cruiser, where Grogu was being kept hostage.

Interestingly, Pershing's storyline reintroduces an Imperial torture device that Dune had briefly referenced before: the almost-mythical Mind Flayer.

What the heck is a Mind Flayer?

Dune, a former Rebel Alliance shock trooper, brings the Mind Flayer up while conversing with Greef Karga (Carl Weathers), believing that her mind would be uploaded to the device if she surrenders. Karga counters by saying that no such device actually exists, as it is wartime propaganda to make the Empire seem more ruthless. While it is not surprising that a fascist regime could be utilizing fear-based propaganda to further its stronghold, it turns out that this device actually exists. What's worse, the New Republic seems to be using a tweaked version of this torture device to overwrite Imperial indoctrination by dubbing it the Six-O-Two Mitigator, now presented as a "non-invasive experimental treatment" to soothe the mind.

The term Mind Flayer has an obvious "Stranger Things" connection, as the psychic tentacled humanoids serve as primary antagonists in season 3 of the Netflix sci-fi horror. The concept of mind flayers can be traced back to the tabletop role-playing game "Dungeons & Dragons," wherein these creatures possess psychic abilities that allow them to control sentient beings. The D&D mind flayers, also known as Illithid, are not to be messed with — they devour human brains and emerge as Lovecraftian entities bent on using fear and psychic manipulation to control others. While such a creature might seem alien to "Star Wars," this is not the case — we saw a similar, psychic being in "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story," where rebel leader Saw Guerrera uses a Mairan named Bor Gullet to extract information out of defected pilot Bodhi Rook.

Although semi-sentient, Mairans are instrumental in reading minds and torturing subjects, used extensively by the Imperials and Partisans. Near-insanity is the likely outcome of such an invasive torture method, which ties back to the menacing Lovecraftian D&D entities.

Dr. Pershing pays a hefty price

Episode 3 of "The Mandalorian" season 3 takes the time to flesh out what life is like under the New Republic, especially in an ecumenopolis like Coruscant. The Amnesty rehabilitation program seems like a step towards genuine integration, allowing those with murky Imperial pasts to step into a new existence by making themselves useful to the New Republic.

Pershing, who aided Imperials with his groundbreaking research on genetics and cloning, wants to use his gifts for good. Dissatisfied with the inventory work he's been assigned, he hopes to help the new regime, even if it means breaking the rules and pushing the bounds of legality. This makes him the perfect target for Elia Kane (Katy M. O'Brian), a former Imperial communications officer who used to work for Gideon (and still seems to be committed to her Imperial values).

After Kane frames Pershing, the latter is hooked to a machine, which he immediately recognizes as a Mind Flayer. Although the Mon Calamari doctor assures Pershing that the device is simply meant to refresh his mind and soothe his anxieties, Pershing knows that this is a mind-wiping device, meant to evoke a clean slate effect. This is a deeply ironic turn of events, considering how Pershing previously states that Imperial technology can still be used for good instead of being scrapped, which is exactly what happens in a rather twisted, semi-unjustified way. Granted, Pershing seemed genuinely eager for salvation, but is it so easy to shed off a past steeped in heinous crimes and indirect bloodshed?

It is also eerie how the New Republic is following in the footsteps of the Empire when it comes to Imperial methods of torture and indoctrination. Even under a free, democratic regime, hypocrisy and corruptive countermeasures are rampant.

Injecting nuance into the narrative

"The Mandalorian" seems to be inching towards the complex moral setting of more grounded "Star Wars" shows like "Andor," where "good" and "bad" are not set moral boxes, leaving ample space for murky grey areas to exist. While "Andor" deftly explored the uglier aspects of the Rebellion, the latest episode of "The Mandalorian" — directed by Lee Isaac Chung ("Minari") — allows glimpses into similar moral quandaries that plague the New Republic.

We've seen Imperial torture devices before, including the one in Fortress Inquisitorius, used to torture and kill numerous Jedi for various purposes. To see the New Republic scrapping all Imperial tech on paper while indulging in similar torture methods under the guise of peaceful rehabilitation treatments is a way scarier prospect than any tentacled Mind Flayer exercising control on sentient beings for nefarious ends.

Although the New Republic does not intend to kill Pershing, it does seem like they intended to wipe his mind completely to make way for easier "rehabilitation." These manipulation tactics are uneasy to witness, especially when contrasted against the veneer of progressive freedom and prosperity that Coruscant seems to embody. When Kane steps in and increases the electrical surge of the device, she effectively kills Pershing or completely fries his mind, at best.

Losing one's mind and sense of self is undoubtedly more of an unbearable punishment than death, and while Pershing's arc is somewhat tragic, it is tough to argue that he did not absolutely have it coming. An Imperial scientist deft at exploiting Force-sensitive beings for purposes of war, torture, and information retrieval must have participated in several heinous Imperial-sanctioned orders, and irrespective of whether he was truly unwilling to stoop so low, he did aid their dastardly cause.

New episodes of "The Mandalorian" season 3 air every Wednesday on Disney+.