Warning, this review contains spoilers!
At the close of last week’s episode of The Mandalorian, we saw Mando make a bold choice to protect “the child” while simultaneously placing a target on his back. After the daring rescue and escape, the unlikely duo is now being hunted by both bounty hunters and what’s left of the Empire. As Mando and his verdure sidekick blasted off into space we were left wondering just how far they’d make it before trouble caught up. While episode four “Sanctuary” is a nice slice of Star Wars adventuring, we don’t get much development in that respect, but what we do get is another layer to the Old West and Japanese influences the show crafts its stories around.
I’ve mentioned in previous episode reviews that The Mandalorian wears its love of classic Westerns on its heavily armored sleeve. It also understands that those films, like the spaghetti westerns of Sergio Leone, were inspired by the samurai tales of feudal Japan. In episodes one and two we see echos of Clint Eastwood that then mix with the unmistakable tales and tone of Lone Wolf and Cub in episode two. These echos get even stronger in this week’s episode, as we see Mando stepping in to help a town in need, much like the classic Akira Kurosawa film Seven Samurai.
At the start, Mando thinks he’s found a perfect place to lie low for a few months while the Imperial heat dies down. The backwater planet of Sorgan seems remote enough to give the fugitives a quiet respite, but as we’ve seen already, trouble seems to follow Mando wherever he goes. Almost immediately, our hero gets into a brutal fistfight with former Rebellion Shock Trooper, Cara Dune (Gina Carano). After the misunderstanding is resolved (with another adorable moment from the pint-sized force wielder) we learn that she’s trying to lay low herself after becoming disillusioned with post-war life. The post-brawl meeting is cordial but Cara makes it clear that there’s only room on this planet for one hiding mercenary. Mando respects this and heads out to find a new remote planet, but just as with everything before, it’s not going to be that easy.
While preparing his ship, Mando is approached by krill farmers who need his help in ridding their village of a pillaging group of monsters that eerily resemble this year’s National Dog Show winner Thor the bulldog. This is where the layers of Seven Samurai (and then subsequently inspired Magnificent Seven) are laid on thick. Just as in that story, a beleaguered small-town enlists a noble fighter to defend them from warlords. While Mando immediately rejects the offer of a paltry sum, his mind quickly changes when he finds that the village in need is “in the middle of nowhere” and has a place for him to stay. He enlists the help of Cara Dune and together they hatch a plan to take down the warlords and their formidable AT-ST Imperial Walker.
Last week I mentioned how I’d love to see an 80s movie-style montage of Mando learning how to use a jetpack, and this week I got as close as I think I’ll get with the battle training of the framers. Although training a group of pacifistic farmers to take down a group of marauders in a short amount of time is close to unbelievable, it doesn’t really matter in a show as well crafted as The Mandalorian. While all this is going on, Mando is falling in love with the oddly blaster-proficient widow Omera. Once again, even though we can’t see his facial expressions, we know that Mando feels a connection with her and a pull to settle down and leave it all behind.
After a harrowing battle with the bulldog aliens and the defeat of the AT-ST we pick up with Mando and Cara weeks later, enjoying the tranquility of the farm. In this interaction between the two, we learn why Mando never takes his helmet off in front of another person, and why he never will. After Cara asks if he will be hunted down and killed for revealing himself, he confesses that the reason is if he removes it, he can never put it on again. Cara laughs this off as an easy out, but that’s not how Mando sees it. After his parents’ death, he was taken in by Mandalorians and given redemption. To remove the helmet and subsequently oust himself from their ranks would be worse than death. While he may have started as a “foundling” he is a full Mandalorian warrior now, and to them, honor and adherence to the code are everything. After a botched assassination attempt by a member of the Guild, Mando and Baby Yoda make the difficult decision to move on. This town won’t be safe as long as they are there (which makes you wonder where they could go if they can be tracked across the galaxy so effectively) and so Mando says goodbye to his chance at a peaceful life and heads off with tiny sidekick in tow. Wherever they end up next, I hope there’s a large supply of tasty space frogs to appease someone’s Jedi-sized appetite! Stay tuned as we will be recapping every episode each week.
Photos Courtesy Disney