Release Date: December 2020
Every hero can be judged by the quality of their enemies, and with The Mandalorian taking place between the fall of the Galactic Empire in Return of the Jedi and the rise of the First Order you might think that the Star Wars universe would be short of big bads during this time period. But of course you'd be wrong, as Moff Gideon has quickly proven himself to be one of the Empire's most cunning and threatening leaders. This is of course helped by the fact that actor Giancarlo Esposito has already proven himself to be arguably one of the best TV villains of all time. Thankfully we haven't had to wait too long for Hasbro to add this key character to their various collector toy lines, with Black Series Moff Gideon arriving as part of the line's 28th wave.
There will soon come a point where I'll have to stop referring to this style of Black Series packaging as "new" and simply the current style the line is using (probably around the time they change it again to make it more environmentally friendly), but for now the novelty is still there. This new type of box features a diagonal spine with connecting character artwork, allowing the boxes from each Star Wars production to combine into a larger mural. Moff Gideon is marked as the eighth release in The Mandalorian range (which is acknowledged by using orange as its secondary packaging colour) so will fit eighth along in the mural. The front of the box however is relatively plain, simply sporting the Star Wars Black Series logo at the top, the character name at the bottom and then a nice big window to get a look at the figure itself. On the back of the box you'll find that same spine artwork once again, accompanied by a small (and in Moff Gideon's case, incredibly vague) bio printed in different languages. Open the box up and you can see why Hasbro feel the need to use less plastic in their packaging going forward, because boy does this one feel unnecessary. The usual clamshell tray holding the figure is fine, but then there's a wholly separate tray underneath just for the cape. It isn't a typical practice with the line, nor does it feel needed when the cape could have easily just been threaded through the back like it is with most Hasbro releases.
When it comes to Star Wars figures these days one of the first things fans pay attention to is the head sculpt, especially with how Hasbro like to hype up the "photo-real" technology they use. It still can be pretty hit or miss, but thankfully Moff Gideon is another winner for the line. The likeness to Giancarlo Esposito is fantastic, and much like they did with Grand Moff Tarkin they've really managed to capture all of those finer details at such a small scale. Moff Gideon's uniform is relatively plain but Hasbro have done a great job there as well, especially with the way the matte leather-like finish of the uniform contrasts with the shiny body armour and shoulder pads. These parts are made from a glossy almost vinyl-like plastic that shines quite unlike anything I've seen the line do thus far. The details are all correctly moulded and coloured too, particularly that Vader-like chest panel. All in all, it's a pretty great looking figure.
Until you get to the cape that is. Moff Gideon's cape has been moulded in soft plastic, fixing onto the back via a single square tab as the top section drapes over the shoulders in an almost shell-like fashion. Generally capes tend to be soft goods in the Black Series, but there have been examples of plastic ones in the past - Fallen Order's Second Sister being the most recent example that comes to mind. The fact both of those capes are black with red lining makes me wonder if the dual-colouring is the reason for soft plastic. While a soft goods cape would have been much better for the figure when it comes to posing, the soft plastic does have its own advantages - the folds for example are really nicely done here. But that connection point really isn't very good at all. It's smack back in the centre of Gideon's torso, which immediately obstructs most backward arm movement. If the tab was a little higher you might be able to get a little bit of bend on the cape when posing, but instead it just has to hang straight down or fall off since the connection isn't really that secure in the first place. Attaching it via two pegs at the shoulder blades would have worked much better. And while yes you can easily get around all this by simply taking the cape off and posing the figure without it, Moff Gideon doesn't take it off in the show.
Moff Gideon is a reasonably well-articulated figure, benefitting from the slight overhaul Hasbro have given the Black Series figures since relaunching the line in new packaging. Altogether he features;
- Ball jointed head, neck, torso and hips
- Swivel hinge shoulders, elbows, wrists, knees and ankles
- Thigh swivels
One of the strangest omissions from this release that has significantly benefitted other newer releases are the butterfly shoulder joints, which would have given plenty of additional movement to the arms. Hasbro swapping out the double-jointed elbows on the older releases to swivel hinge elbows made a little more sense to me when I thought about the additional movement the butterfly shoulders would bring, but without them it feels a little bit underwhelming. The elbows and knees can only manage a 90° bend, which isn't awful but definitely a step down to what other figures have offered in the past. One positive change on Moff Gideon though is the use of soft plastic shoulder pads which can raise up over the torso section to allow the arms to raise up properly. It's very effective, but given the soft nature of the shoulder pads I do wonder how well they'll hold up over time. For the most part all a Moff Gideon figure needs to do is stand around looking menacing, but after seeing him showdown with Mando at the end of season two the figure needed to be able to pull off some action poses. And while he can certainly do that, that cape certainly doesn't do the poses any favours.
Moff Gideon's accessories include a small blaster which can be stored in the holster on the right-hand side of his belt, but honestly no one is going to be especially interested in that. It's small, unpainted but very nicely moulded/detailed - about what you expect from any Black Series blaster accessory. The real prize here is of course the Darksaber - the ancient Mandalorian weapon wielded by Tarre Vizsla - the first Mandalorian to be inducted into the Jedi Order. Despite this extremely important weapon having important story threads and multiple users throughout both The Clone Wars and Rebels, this is the first time the weapon has appeared in the Black Series line. The unique hilt has been cast in dark grey plastic, with all of its distinct ridges present. The blade has been in translucent plastic in order to get the necessary glow around the ridges, with the centre painted black to convey the colour of the blade itself. At this scale, it was by far the simplest way to get the look of this unique lightsaber across and Hasbro have done a great job on it. The blade is also removable as is the case with every Black Series lightsaber, but sadly there isn't anywhere on the figure to store the hilt separately. The accessory looks fantastic in the hands of the Moff, but more importantly it also looks just as good in the hands of every other character that's wielded the Darksaber at some point - Sabine, Maul, even Bo-Katan if she was able to hold onto it for five minutes (or alternatively was out in the UK so I could pose her with it). Hopefully there'll be more figures in the future that come with it, but for now I'm just happy for it to be available somewhere in the Black Series and that alone makes Moff Gideon worth the purchase.
There's a lot of love for Black Series Moff Gideon around the internet it seems, but personally (and perhaps controversially) I don' really get it. The figure itself is fine and as a key character in The Mandalorian (not to mention a fantastic villain) he's worth the purchase, but it's also let down by some questionable design choices. I'm firmly in the camp that the cape should have been soft goods like the majority tend to be in the line, but even if it had to be soft plastic there definitely was a better way to attach it then with a single tab that then shells it over the back half of the body. The omission of butterfly shoulders is also disappointing, albeit much less of a sore point. Still, at the very least who can say no to finally getting the Darksaber in the line? Moff Gideon is a figure I was more than happy to add to my collection, but the Black Series has been setting an extremely high bar lately that one just didn't quite live up to.
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