The Mandalorian (Disney+)
Season One, Episode Four – “Chapter Four: Sanctuary”
Written by Jon Favreau
Directed by Bryce Dallas Howard
The Mandalorian showrunners aren’t trying to hide from its roots in the American Western genre. That’s perfectly fine, Star Wars has always been less hard science fiction than a repurposing of other styles into a science fantasy environment. The original Star Wars was lifted heavily from Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress and classic Buck Rogers serials. This could be why the prequel trilogy, seemingly unmoored by familiar genre tropes, sputtered for so many audiences.
The current trilogy is essentially a pastiche of the original Star Wars, a recursive appropriation of itself. I had hoped to see a fun heist movie with Rogue One and an actual buddy comedy with Solo, but those filmmakers opted to go down a bland middle route. This is why The Mandalorian’s unashamed Western roots are a refreshing surprise. It should also be noted that Kurosawa was influenced by American Westerns, which in turn were mimicked most notably in the Spaghetti westerns of Sergio Leone.
All that said, this was the weakest of the episodes so far, in my opinion. It reminded of all the worst of network television fillers or like an Incredible Hulk episode. The hero is just passing through town but manages to help some people with a problem. I still enjoyed Dyn Jarren the character development we’re still getting. He’s got a bigger heart than his comrades in the Mandalorian order likely have, and I wonder if this will destroy him in the end. Baby Yoda is still very endearing, and the show kind of just is what is right now. I hope that there’s some more momentum to the story coming in the next episode.
While looking for a backwater planet to hide out on, Jarren and BY cross the path of ex-Imperial Cara Dune. There’s a brief fight and then a friendly alliance that is interrupted when the people of a farming community request help in dealing with raiders. Darren and Dune decide to see what they can do and settle down for a few days at the remote swamp krill farm. It turns out the raiders are armed with disused Imperial tech, including some big surprises they are holding back for later. This is Shane & Yojimbo by way of Star Wars, nothing too surprising but perfectly fun.
The threat in this story never feels like a substantial match for Jarren & company. No one dies other than the bad guys, and things wrap up in a nice little bow. Of course, circumstances keep Jarren from finding a place to be happy, and he & little BY have to move on to what might be a safe spot. I notice notable guest-stars are getting one or two-episode appearances and keep feeling some of them may come back before the series is over. I keep thinking about Nick Nolte’s Kuiil and how he seemed to be a centering force for Jarren early on, a person Jarren offered a spot on his ship to.
Baby Yoda remains to be developed further in this episode. It’s clear from the first three episodes he is powerful, and something about him is crucial to the dwindling Imperial loyalists. I’m starting to wonder if part of the show is a tie-in to The Rise of Skywalker. My expectation for that film is we’ll learn Rey’s parentage isn’t important because she technically has none, she’s a clone of Emperor Palpatine. This explains the Force adeptness and her “awakening,” creating ripples across the galaxy. I’m thinking Baby Yoda is a clone of the actual Yoda, part of a test run before creating clones of Palpatine. We shall see.