Every Tuesday, Nate from @natenightmoviereviews will be revisiting The Mandalorian starting at the very beginning.
Hello there. If this is your first time clicking on The Mando Rewatch, my name is Nate, and over the past few weeks I have been revisiting The Mandalorian, starting from the very beginning. This week, I will be doing a deep dive into the key moments and thematic significance of “Chapter 4: Sanctuary.” As a reminder, these recaps are spoiler-heavy, and I am writing them under the assumption that you have not only seen this episode, but the rest of the series as well. It also helps if you have read my earlier reviews because I tend to circle back to previously established themes. So, go check those out if you haven’t already done so. With that out the way, let’s talk about Star Wars…
“Sanctuary” is written by Jon Favreau and directed by Bryce Dallas Howard, and it is one of my least favourite episodes of the series. However, it is still a very significant episode, because this was when the audience really started to gain a better understanding as to what type of show The Mandalorian is trying to be. In many ways, The Mandalorian is simply an homage to the classic adventure serials of the week from the first half of the twentieth century. In hindsight, this formula for the show seems fairly obvious when you consider that the Executive Producers, Favreau and Dave Filoni, have stated that they wanted to hearken back to the films that originally influenced George Lucas. Naturally, they would also want to follow George’s established formula. Interestingly, Lucas recently provided a little more insight into this formula when he was quoted in the new book, The Star Wars Archives: 1999-2005. George states that “most people don’t understand the style of Star Wars. They don’t get that there’s an underlying motif that is very much like a 1930s Western, or a Saturday matinee serial.” Well, Favreau and Filoni are not “most people,” they truly understand the style of Star Wars. Hence, that is why The Mandalorian feels very Western, but also very episodic as well.
Unfortunately, the episodic nature of “Chapter 4” is its downfall for me. The plot is just way too formulaic. Having familiar themes and motifs is one thing, but this story is so worn out and cliché that I was rolling my eyes the first time I watched the episode. Having said that, I understand the reasoning behind this seemingly hackneyed approach. The plot is an obvious homage to Seven Samurai, directed by Akira Kurosawa. And, as you may or may not know, George Lucas took great inspiration from Kurosawa when creating Star Wars. Therefore, the mundane plot of this episode becomes an inception of homages. Nevertheless, it’s still very cliché, and just because I appreciate the reference, that doesn’t make it any less predictable.
“Chapter 4” also marks the first appearance of Cara Dune in the show, and upon revisiting this episode, and seeing her again, I was left with a sour taste in my mouth. The casting choice is very disappointing when you consider the fact that this character was so exciting for so many Star Wars fans – especially female fans. Personally, I was never fully on board with her, because Gina Carano is the most wooden Star Wars actor we’ve seen since the prequels. At the same time, I understood why some people appreciated the character. Sadly, we now know that not only is Gina Carano a terrible actress, she is also a terrible human being. As a result, she will no longer be working for Lucasfilm going forward. Yet, the damage has been done. It will always be difficult to separate what we know about Gina as a person whenever we see her portraying Cara Dune. For example, I was out shopping a few weeks ago, and I saw an awesome Mandalorian hoodie on sale. I was about to buy it, until I noticed that Cara Dune had squeezed her way into the design. Suddenly, I didn’t want that hoodie anymore. Anyways, I am not sure if they will be recasting the character, or if Cara will just never be seen or heard from again. Either way, Gina Carano sucks…
Despite the fact that this isn’t one of my favourite episodes, there are still some things that I genuinely love about it. For starters, there are more than a few funny moments with Grogu, such as when he sips the bone broth. He shines quite a bit throughout the episode, especially in his interactions with all of the other children – so many memes. Credit has to be given to Bryce Dallas Howard for adding more depth and mischief to his character. Additionally, I also really enjoyed the use of the AT-ST in this episode. The red interior lighting makes it seem as if the AT-ST has red eyes. Thus, it comes across as more threatening, and even life-like. In this way, Bryce Dallas Howard effectively turns the AT-ST into a monster. Maybe she is just giving a wink and a nod to her time as an actress in the Jurassic World films, but it really works for this story. Moreover, the scale of the AT-ST is on point, and the angles used to capture it on film really add a personality to the Walker. Furthermore, I appreciate how dangerous they make the AT-ST seem, and how difficult it is to destroy it. Chicken Walkers got a bad rap after Return of the Jedi, and this episode helps to elevate the genuine threat that they possess. At the same time, the AT-ST comes to represent the strength of the Empire, and the power of the fear that they are still able to inflict upon the galaxy. Simultaneously, it also shows how amazing it was for a group of Ewoks to successfully take down multiple AT-STs in Jedi. On top of that, the use of the AT-ST also provides greater insight into the state of the galaxy following the fall of the Empire. If a group of bandits were able to find and use this Imperial technology, it leads the audience to question who else has gotten their hands on Imperial weaponry in the aftermath, and what do they have? Yet, best of all, this scene just brings back fond memories of playing Star Wars video games. If you have ever played Shadows of the Empire on the N64, then I’m sure you can recall the “Escape from Echo Base” level. I remember how terrified I was as a kid the first time I rounded the corner and realized that I had to fight an AT-ST with nothing but a blaster. So, of course I got goosebumps when I saw the AT-ST in this episode. However, as you should know by now, I love Star Wars for more than just the pew-pew moments. Not surprisingly, what I enjoy most about this episode is the thematic significance it helps to build upon for the rest of the series…
Din continues to struggle with his identity in this episode, and his armour serves as a powerful metaphor for this struggle. On an emotional level, the audience is meant to question what is being hidden underneath the mask. We can recognize that Mandalorians identify with their armour, but the armour doesn’t have to be Mando’s entire identity. The use of masks and armour has always been integral to Star Wars storytelling throughout the years, most notably with Darth Vader, but also more recently in The Force Awakens. If you recall, when the audience is first introduced to the three main characters (Rey, Finn, Kylo Ren), each of them are wearing masks. This is because masks are often used to visually symbolize the fact that a character is hiding their true self. In Mando’s case however, he isn’t sure if his true self is the mask – seeing as he belongs to a group of Mandalorians that have been forbidden from removing their helmets. Looking back, for fans of The Clone Wars and Rebels, this rule seemed very strange, because we had previously seen Mandalorians remove their helmets hundreds of times before. For that reason, I was always sure that Din’s inability to remove his mask in front of other people had to be for thematic purposes. Be that as it may, this episode further builds upon Din’s fatherly bond with Grogu, and even establishes a possible love interest as well. These emotional attachments contribute to Din’s lingering desire to remove his armour, and to have a chance at living a peaceful, normal life. Yet, his traumatic upbringing causes him to get pulled back to the Way. He is even willing to leave Grogu on Sorgan in order to continue his path alone. That is, until he realizes that other bounty hunters have picked up their trail, and Grogu will no longer be safe there. Obviously, Din’s decision to remain in his armour projects the strength of his character, and it can be seen as honourable. However, thematically, it symbolizes an emotional repression, and it is becoming a symbol for his weakness and fragility. It is important to remember the flashbacks in previous episodes which show Din as a young boy being hidden away in a box prior to being rescued by the Mandalorians. Even though Din may no longer be hiding in a box, he is still hiding in his own armour. He has become part of a culture that has been intentionally sealing itself away from the rest of society, and his armour has become the physical representation of a denial of humanity/individuality. I am reminded of what Obi-Wan once said of Vader, “he’s more machine now than man.” So, from a certain point of view, this episode reiterates the fact that it is time for Mando to find a new Way.
All that being said, in real life, you still have to wear your mask!
I have spoken,