The biggest deal of Black Friday 2019? A new episode of The Mandalorian! Read on to check out the best episode of the series yet. Check out our earlier recaps here, here, and here.
Recap of The Mandalorian, S1.E4: “Sanctuary”
It’s a peaceful day in a farming village. The residents talk and their children play as everyone harvests bright blue krill. The calm is shattered by a large band of Klatooinian marauders backed by some kind of heavily armed vehicle. One of the farmers hides with her child in a krill pod while they loot and destroy much of the village.
Back aboard the Razor Crest, the Mandalorian searches for a temporary home. Having rescued baby Yoda from genetic experimenters and a whole passel of bounty hunters, the duo needs a place with “no star port, no industrial centers, no population density—a real backwater skug hole.” The planet of Sorgan fits that bill and the bounty hunter heads for the surface, asking baby Yoda, “You ready to lay low and stretch your legs for a couple of months, you little womp rat?”
Walking into a tavern for vittles and info, the Mandalorian runs into an old Rebel shock trooper, Cara Dune. She attacks him outside the tavern, thinking he’s chasing a bounty on her, but they fight to a draw. After some conversation—Dune worked special ops mopping up leftover Imperial leaders, transitioned to peacekeeping work under the New Republic, and left the military—the Mandalorian decides to move on to another planet.
He’s approached later that evening as he prepares the Razor Crest by Caben and Stoke, a couple of farmers from the village. Assuming he’s a mercenary based on his beskar armor, they offer all the money the town could scrap together in exchange for his protection from the raiders. The Mandalorian is uninterested in their paltry offer until they reveal that they live in a quiet town in the middle of nowhere. Recruiting Dune with the krill farmers’ money (and reminding her that she needs a place to lay low as much as they do), the Mandalorian and baby Yoda make their way to the town.
The mother and daughter we saw at the beginning of the episode host the bounty hunter and the child. The woman, Omera, is intrigued by the Mandalorian, and asks him about his helmet. We learn that the Mandalorian does take it off, just not in front of people; he hasn’t taken it off in front of another person since he was a child. His parents were killed and the Mandalorians sheltered him. Sensing her pity, he states the Mandalorian creed: this is the Way.
Omera’s daughter, Winta, introduces baby Yoda to the other kids in the village. With Winta acting as a babysitter/watchful big sister, baby Yoda finds fun and companionship among his new friends. Outside the village, the Mandalorian and Cara Dune realize that the raiders have an Imperial AT-ST and try to convince the villagers to move. They refuse, forcing Dune and the bounty hunter to redraw their plans.
Knowing they can’t fight a walker head on, the Mandalorian, Dune, and the farmers build a trap. Tall, heavy walls will funnel the raiders directly into the waiting guns of the villagers; a deep pit disguised as a krill pod will bring the AT-ST down. Dune and the bounty hunter train the farmers in shooting and hand-to-hand fighting, with Omera displaying some unexpected skill with a weapon. It’s almost time; leaving the child in the village, the Mandalorian and Dune head out.
The Klatooinian raiders, indolent and secure in their local preeminence, are easy targets for the two fighters. Having roused the marauders and their grimy, modded AT-ST, Dune and the Mandalorian lead them back to the trap. Nothing ever comes easily for the Mandalorian, though, and the walker refuses to walk directly into the trap.
As the bounty hunter and the farmers fight the raiders, Dune takes the Mandalorian’s pulse rifle and lures the AT-ST into the pit. Caben and Stoke bring down the raiders’ chieftain and the rest flee as the Mandalorian throws a detonator into the cockpit of the walker. Victory!
Having brought peace to the village, the Mandalorian is the hero of the hour. He is tempted by the mirage of a life with Omera, Winta, and baby Yoda. The Razor Crest is no place for a child, though, and he can’t stay in the town without drawing attention—his plan is to leave baby Yoda with Omera, give him a chance at a normal, peaceful life. When Care Dune objects that it’ll break the child’s heart, the Mandalorian says, “He’ll get over it. We all do.”
All of this takes place as a bounty hunter, tracking baby Yoda with a beeping fob, approaches the town. He’s got the child in his crosshairs when Dune takes him out. Realizing that the child will bring more violence, the Mandalorian and baby Yoda pack up as Omera and Winta bid our duo a tearful goodbye. Cut to black!
Review of The Mandalorian S1.E4: “Sanctuary”
The Mandalorian works best when it stays small. The entirety of “Sanctuary” takes place on Sorgan, mostly in the tavern, the Razor Crest, and the krill farmers’ village. The village is small and mostly low-tech, with only a couple of droids. But keeping the stakes small allows more room for what the show needs the most: character development.
It’s clear that the Mandalorian is becoming attached to the child. He is remarkably gentle with baby Yoda, sitting him on his lap in the Razor Crest’s cockpit, carefully picking him up out of a cradle in the village, and worrying that he’ll get hurt when Winta takes the child to play with the other kids. He’s even given him a nickname, a sure sign that a bond is growing between the two.
At the same time, the Mandalorian realizes that the longer the child stays with him the bigger the threat he’ll be—not a threat to the bounty hunter, but a threat to baby Yoda. Werner Herzog told us a couple episodes ago that bounty hunting is a complicated business, and he was right; life is exciting on the Razor Crest, but it’s not safe. The Mandalorian cares enough for the child to know that he won’t be safe, won’t have the happy childhood that every kid deserves, as long as he’s around. As the Mandalorian tells Cara Dune, “Traveling with me, that’s no life for a kid. I did my job, he’s safe. Better chance at a life.”
But even this much-needed character development stays small, and the show is better for it. There’s no dramatic swell of music to emphasize the Mandalorian’s growth, no on-the-nose directing from Bryce Dallas Howard for sentimental effect. The quiet conversation between Dune and the bounty hunter, shot mostly from stationary angles with interposed cuts of baby Yoda playing with the village children, conveys the emotions under the Mandalorian’s helmet perfectly.
Speaking of directing, Bryce Dallas Howard does an amazing job with “Sanctuary”. She is able to wring more emotion out of Pedro Pascal’s character than any other director in the series to date. Her eye for a shot is excellent. Consider the brief glimpse we get of the tavern from baby Yoda’s perspective, or the jerky overhead look we get of the Mandalorian and Dune running for their lives from the AT-ST; she gives the AT-ST a hulking, animalistic quality that just works. My favorite was the shot of the walker emerging slowly from the trees outside the village, the red lights from the cockpit looming in the treetops like two evil eyes.
Gina Carano’s character is a great addition to the show. She’s confident, funny, and fully capable of dropping the Mandalorian like a sack of potatoes. Her exploits in her past career as an Alliance shock trooper are totally believable (which function as fascinating world-building to boot). Carano’s smirks and eyebrow lifting convey loads of implied emotions. Her physical presence is as great as her acting, and she brings some much-needed physicality to the fight scenes. My fingers and toes are crossed that she’ll have tons of screen time in future episodes.
Quick hits and notes from “Sanctuary”:
- Clocking in at just over 41 minutes, this is the longest episode of the series yet. That length gives Howard a chance to shine.
- This was Ludwig Göransson’s best episode yet. The composer has already cranked out some heroic music in the series, but that beautiful village theme we hear throughout the episode is just aces.
- Baby Yoda’s personality grows a lot this episode. We see him mimicking the Mandalorian as he leans back to look at the stars, playing with other kids, and picking up on social cues. The kid’s growing up!
- Did you peep that Loth-cat in the tavern? What a rad nod to Rebels!
- We get to see another cool Mandalorian trick this episode: the rad Predator-style infrared tracking technology inside his visor.
- Cara Dune is the first shock-trooper we’ve met in the Star Wars universe; from her description they sound like a group of black ops soldiers that got pushed out as the Rebel Alliance went legit. Please please please give us more of Cara Dune!
- The more we learn about the Mandalorian’s past, the more it reminds me of the character Kal Skirata’s backstory from Karen Traviss’ excellent Republic Commando series of books. More on that in later reviews…
- The episode’s packed with tons of 80s action movie references: the infrared technology from Predator, the A-Team teamwork of Dune and the Mandalorian, and for a reference within a reference, the handshake between Dune and our hero at the end of the episode mirrors the arm clasp between Carl Weathers (AKA Greef Karga) and Arnold Schwarzenegger in Predator.
- Another cool easter egg: the bounty hunter Dune kills at the end of the episode is a Kubaz, a member of the same species as Garindan (AKA Long Snoot), the spy in Mos Eisley who betrays Han, Luke, Chewie, and Obi-Wan to the Imperials in A New Hope.
The Mandalorian gets better with every episode. “Sanctuary” succeeds on the massive talents of Howard, Pascal, Carano, and the emotional development that occur around the action bits. If this is the Way, sign me up. This is a 10/10 episode of The Mandalorian right here, folks.