Following an intriguing build up in the overall narrative in the first three chapters, “Sanctuary” is a solid but standalone fourth instalment, directed by Jurassic World’s Bryce Dallas Howard. Clocking in at forty one minutes, it’s the longest episode of the series so far, with a distinctly Kurosawa influence in Mando’s latest quest.
Episode four sees Mando and the Child travel to Sorgan and the peaceful krill-fishing village in the hope of escaping the mysterious Imperial-connected “The Client”, Greef Karga and the Bounty Hunters’ Guild. But with the tranquility of the village under threat by invaders, Mando and resident mercenary, Cara Dune, are hired to help the farmers and villagers defend themselves, their land and their homes.
Following the highly serialised nature of the first three episodes, “Sanctuary” had a distinct narrative arc in the one instalment, feeling more of a “mission of the week” type episode. Other than a couple of scenes, the overall arc was put on the back-burner in an episode with vastly different style, which could frustrate some. Personally I very much enjoyed the idyllic nature of Sorgan, proving a real contrast to the change in pace from last weeks frenetic shootouts and rescue mission, plus we got some brilliant Baby Yoda moments! At the heart of the episode, the classic “Seven Samurai/The Magnificent Seven” type tale was very much in the spirit of true Star Wars; with the underdogs rising up against their oppressors.
Finally making her Mandalorian debut in “Sanctuary” is Gina Carano as Cara Dune, a former Rebel Shock Trooper-turned-Mercenary, and boy is she fantastic! Following Jyn Erso and Rey, it’s great to see such a strong female warrior going toe to toe with the male lead. Her and Mando had some fantastic chemistry, and it was genuinely lovely to see him open up to her. The emotional depth of Mando is further being unravelled as we see a brief glimpse of happiness for him and the child, along with a potential romance, but due to the short runtime, this did felt somewhat rushed. Interestingly it was also confirmed that Mando was a foundling brought in by the Mandalorians, rather than born into the lore.
With the distinct change in narrative and setting, this episode did feel a little less cinematic in scope to previous outings. There was however some fantastic choreography in the fight scenes, particularly with Gina’s MMA fight style working well against Mando’s more scrappy style. Another standout was the great training montage as Mando and Cara attempted to train the passive villagers, and the eventual but short battle sequence involving a hijacked AT-ST.
With Mando and The Child heading into space to evade the bounty hunters, the ending has left me wondering whether the next episode will be another standalone entry, or tied in much more with the overall arc. Although frustrating for some, I thought this was an interesting chapter set in the quieter parts of the Star Wars universe, and I’m surprisingly ok with that. Oh and The Child sipping tea, playing with buttons AND still trying to eat frogs alive is everything!