***WARNING! The following contains major plot spoilers for Episode 4 of The Mandalorian!***
We've reached the halfway point on Season 1 of The Mandalorian, folks. Episode 4 (out of 8) is now streaming on Disney+ and leaning heavily into its Western influences, “Sanctuary” draws on The Magnificent Seven for its story. In addition, the fourth episode finally introduces us to Cara Dune, the character played by Gina Carano (Deadpool).
Fresh off their escape from the bounty hunter's guild, Mando (Pedro Pacal) and Baby Yoda (I don't know how, but he gets cuter and cuter with each episode) head to the remote forest planet of Sorgan. The Mandalorian is looking for a quiet place to lay low, but almost immediately gets into a tussle with Dune, an ex-shock trooper for the Rebel Alliance who helped assassinate Imperial warlords after the Battle of Endor—the conflict that destroyed the second Death Star in Return of the Jedi.
I like to think of Cara as the Star Wars equivalent of a Nazi hunter in the aftermath of World War II.
When it becomes clear that Mando isn't hunting Cara (for some unknown reason, she has a bounty on her head), the two sit down for some scrumptious bone broth with Baby Yoda. As she talks about her covert missions for the New Republic, Cara sheds some light on what the galaxy was like after the fall of the Empire. In short, it was a total mess, a jumble of conflicting politics and riots that required peacekeepers to prevent even more bloodshed.
Back at his ship, Mando is approached by two Sorgan krill farmers whose people are constantly under attack from savage, Orc-like raiders. Indeed, the episode begins with the simple folk being brutally attacked by the bandits. Right away, you know where the plot is going, that this is a John Sturges-inspired episode and that these people are going to ask the Mandalorian to protect them the invading thieves.
At first, Mando refuses their meager offer of credits, but reverses his position when he realizes that the remote farming town is just the place where he can Baby Yoda can hide out from the heat on them. He recruits Cara and they plan to protect the town, even after some hesitation over the fact that the raiders have an AT-ST at their disposal.
The iconic two-legged Imperial walker is another nice little throwback to the original trilogy that, in the dark, chillingly recalls the alien tripods from War of the Worlds.
During a classic training montage, Mando and Cara train the townsfolk in combat and set a trap for the AT-ST. The montage and eventual battle are certainly fun and suspenseful, but the episode's greatest strength comes from the quieter moments between Mando and Omera (Julia Jones), a single mother in the village.
Director Bryce Dallas Howard tenderly guides these moments along, hinting at a budding romance between the seasoned warrior and the strong-willed krill farmer. At times, it seems like the Mandalorian might remove his helmet in public and give up the dangerous bounty hunting lifestyle for a simpler one, but in the end, he's tracked to Sorgan by another hunter and is forced to move on with Baby Yoda.
Speaking of Baby Yoda, his various interactions with the children of the town will warm your heart in ways you never thought possible. He's just so freakin' adorable and his relationship with Mando, who is basically the baby's grizzled dad, is priceless to watch.
One of my two big complaints about “Sanctuary” is that it reuses the tired old cliche of a gun being aimed at a major character, the gun going off, and then the reveal that the ill-intentioned person holding the gun was shot by a different character. That was a convoluted description, but you know what I mean. I might have been willing to forgive it, if The Mandalorian hadn't already pulled the same trick on us in the very first episode with IG-11 (Taika Waititi).
My other big gripe with Episode 4 is the fact that Mando doesn't just remove the tracking device from Baby Yoda. After last week, he should have known that the kid had some sort of chip embedded in his skin. If only he had ripped it out and crushed it underfoot, the child would have been able to live a fulfilling life on Sorgan.
Obviously, the story needs to be driven forward somehow, but this feels like a lazy way to do it. Other than those two things (for which I removing a star in my rating), this was another solidly engaging episode of The Mandalorian. Not once in three weeks have I been completely let down by this show.
Next Friday, Dave Filoni returns to the director's chair for Episode 5. As it has been with the last three episodes, we won't know its title until the installment makes it debut on Disney+. Filoni also wrote the fifth chapter.
For our guide to the entire series, click here. For our recaps of the first three episodes, click on one of the links below: