Every time an episode of The Mandalorian lands, Fantha Tracks will be giving their responses, and here are our initial gut feelings, deep dives and thoughts on the fourth episode – Chapter 4: Sanctuary. Beware of spoilerific elements in here.
The debate will forever rumble on, is The Mandalorian a spaghetti western or a Samurai show? For me it’s a Star Wars show, that pulls from Westerns and Samurai lore.
It is well known that Akira Kurosawa’s films were a huge influence on George Lucas, who incorporated elements of samurai culture into the costumes and ways of the Jedi. Bryce Dallas Howard in her Star Wars directing debut, taps into that history of influence to model her episode of The Mandalorian into a distinct tribute to Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai’s.
We also see former MMA fighter, Gina Carano, debut as the intriguing and charismatic Cara Dune. Immediately she impacted upon the series, with a wonderful connection to her lead Pablo Pascal. Displaying a remarkable maturity in her performance and a tremendous acting ability for someone so new to the job.
It was great to see the episode set on a distinct planet instead of the all to similar desert landscapes we have encountered so far. It indulged a little with a few too many lingering shots, but with the planets looking so beautiful for TV Sci-fi standards, so who could blame them.
And what about those fights? Star Wars just got down and dirty like never before with a proper close up, hard-hitting fist fight. Beautifully shot from the initial blur of Cara’s first attack, to the pristine clarity of her delivering a haymaker to the Mandalorian. It was refreshing for Star Wars to drop the Jedi elements, and the overdone choreographed fights.
This episode had a different feel and tone to it, that will not have suited everyone but for this fan of the old Stargate SG-1 episodes, especially the early series, this was a delight to watch.
Probably my least favourite so far, but good nonetheless, Chapter 4 of The Mandalorian evoked The Ewok movies to me. There were many parallels – from the simple way of life, somewhat lack of technology, rustic dwellings and tribal feel. All this heightened the appearance of Cara Dune and a rather nifty AT-ST that was treated like a mechanical T-Rex as it terrorised the villagers.
Inevitably, the episode drew to a conclusion with a Bill Bixby era Incredible Hulk ending as the Razor Crest zoomed off for another 30-or-so minute adventure.
A great introduction to new character Cara Dune in an episode that left me questioning whether we will see The Mandalorian return to this planet at the end of the series or in the final episode of the show (Hope that is years/decades away).
There were moments during Sanctuary (also the name of one of my fave Iron Maiden songs) where I was worried that we were slipping into an old Star Trek staple, when the crew of the Enterprise / Voyager / Discovery / Defiant etc meet simple farming folks who live off the land, eschew technology etc. All very Star Trek Insurrection, and there are elements of this episode that certainly remind me of that film, but then a second watch (every episode of this show deserves and requires multiple viewings) peels back more layers.
In these post-Endor times this is life for the majority of the galaxy. Living cheap, hand-to-mouth, off the land, away from detection or danger. When marauders (very Battle For Endor) come to visit, we know the direction the episode is going to swing, especially when Mando arrives, but taking its cues from classic samurai and western films as it does Sanctuary delivers a satisfying adventure.
Helmed by first time director Bryce Dallas Howard (the lady in heels in the Jurassic World films, Elton John’s self-absorbed mother in Rocketman) the episode moves smoothly as Mando considers leaving his young captive behind in the relative safety of the small village, but not after a thrilling battle where Mando and his new ally Cara Dune outwit the attackers and protect the now prepared villagers who – apart from one notable exception – are people of the land, not of the blaster.
It’s a slow episode for sure, but not without its charms and already we can see that Mando has more about him than just the mission, just the code. We know he makes mistakes, can be beaten and bested but he is resilient (well, apart from when a Mudhorn is bearing down on him, he was tapping out for sure), determined and follows his own set of principles. As the series moves on it will be fascinating to see how those tentpoles of his personality and character are tested.
The moment I saw the two peasant farmers in Chapter 4, I knew exactly where this was going. Who would have thought that almost 30 or so galactic years we’d be seeing shot for shot “Bounty Hunters” from The Clone Wars Season 2, which in itself was a tribute to the productions of Akira Kurosawa – this is Star Wars de-ja-vu.
Tribute, rinse and repeat aside, the episode was enjoyable with well played tension and timing with the blaster shot, reaction and birds flying. Lost opportunity to have used a snoot flute, the REAL marketing gimmick for The Mandalorian series.