SYNOPSIS: The Mandalorian teams up with an ex-soldier to protect a village from raiders.
REVIEW (WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THIS EPISODE): The fourth episode of this season was going to be a tricky one for many reasons. Firstly, it was directed by a rookie filmmaker in Bryce Dallas Howard. Yes, that Bryce Dallas Howard. The JURASSIC WORLD star has helmed a half dozen shorts and a documentary, but jumping into action filmmaking (and following in her father’s SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY footsteps) was a daunting task. Luckily, she delivers a rip-roaring chapter in the saga of The Mandalorian, albeit one that does little to progress the main narrative of the series. It does give us some character development on our title character but mainly treads water leading into the second half of the season.
While “Sanctuary” lowers the stakes of the series by slowing things down and deviating from the main storyline, it does give us a different perspective as to what this series is going to be. We pick up with The Mandalorian en route to regions unknown to hide out from the fleet of bounty hunters on his and The Child’s tail. They find their way to a seemingly quiet world full of farmers and low tech natives. But we know things won’t be that quiet after the opening sequence showing farmers raided by dog-faced pirates. it was clear from that moment what the story of this chapter would be, I just did not expect it to hew so close to THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN and SEVEN SAMURAI, films that were inspiration to George Lucas in formulating the original STAR WARS story.
Enjoying some soup with The Child, The Mandalorian quickly spots Cara Dune (Gina Carano). When the two come to blows, I immediately assumed she was a bounty hunter but was pleasantly surprised to find she was a former member of the Rebellion who had “retired” to this quiet planet. Gina Carano has so often been cast as a heavy in action films that she has not been given the chance to play a more layered character. It seems by episode’s end that we won’t be likely seeing more of Cara Dune, but she is definitely an intriguing presence that I would have liked to see accompany The Mandalorian on his travels.
When the villagers enlist The Mandalorian and Cara Dune to help defend their colony, the heroes quickly discover the raiders have an Imperial AT-ST walker. On the verge of quitting and abandoning the town, The Mandalorian chooses to stay and help train them to defend themselves. One woman, Omera (Julia Jones) seems proficient with a rifle and has a soft spot for The Mandalorian. He shares more with her than we have learned thus far, including that he is not actually a Mandalorian. He tells her that he was taken in by them as a child and learned their ways. This is interesting and surely will be a factor in the story to come.
The time compression in this episode is tricky as it is edited in such a way that makes it seem like the training of the villagers takes hours or maybe even days when in fact we hear from dialogue that weeks have passed. Cramming everything into a single episode certainly gives each chapter a standalone feel, but it also sacrifices some logical elements. Even so, the final battle is decent for a small screen offering and makes great use of the dark to hide potential CGI challenges with the AT-ST. After their victory, The Mandalorian decides to leave The Child before a bounty hunter finds them. Offered the chance to settle down with Omera and remove his helmet, The Mandalorian instead decides to leave and take The Child to safety. He bids farewell to the village and Cara Dune and they set off on their way. Will they return after this adventure is done or will our hero repeatedly encounter beautiful widows and helpful Rebellion troopers each week? Time will tell.
STAR WARS UNIVERSE REFERENCES: When sharing some soup, Cara mentions cleaning up on Endor after the events of RETURN OF THE JEDI as a shock-trooper for the Rebellion. The RETURN OF THE JEDI classic AT-ST walker plays a key role.
COOLEST SCENE: The moonlit battle sequence with the AT-ST is a pretty pulse-pounding fight and manages to deliver even on the smaller budget of a TV series. Using light to her advantage, Howard ratchets up the tension as we see Cara and The Mandalorian take down the mech.
FINAL VERDICT: This episode definitely slows things down and makes me think that this series may be more of a series of standalone adventures that eventually reconnect with an over-arching narrative. As much as I want to stick with the main story of The Child, this format could extend The Mandalorian for multiple seasons. We get a little development on the title character which is nice, but it is hard to reach the scale of a STAR WARS movie on the small screen and the restricted battle sequence shows that. Still, director Bryce Dallas Howard proves she has inherited the filmmaking genes from her dad and I hope she helms more episodes next season. Overall, a slower, tangental episode, but still a good one. (8/10)
NEXT ON THE MANDALORIAN: “Chapter 5” premieres December 6th on Disney+: The Mandalorian helps a rookie bounty hunter who is in over his head.