In Chapter 4: Sanctuary, the Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) and the Child take refuge on a peaceful world, only for the bounty hunter to be employed by a local village to protect them from raiders. With the help of Cara Dune (Gina Carano), Mando must fight off these raiders and their thundering AT-ST in a story that seems to have been taken straight from various Western films, or even an episode of Firefly. The end result, however, feels like a bit of a missed opportunity all round.
The primary issue for me is that Jon Favreau‘s script is throwing a lot of big ideas into a forty-minute episode, which could have been developed further. Mando finds a potential way out his bounty hunting, and feels torn between a desire for a quieter life and his calling as a Mandalorian, but this never feels fully explored, partly because Mando’s expressions are hidden by his helmet, and partly because Sanctuary doesn’t take the time for the character to experience this other life he could have. The story takes time out to set up the conflict, but by the time Mando arrives in the village and glimpses this potential new life for himself, the episode has to quickly move the story along to conclude itself in 40 minutes.
There’s also the sense that the Child/Baby Yoda could be safe in the village, far away from any bounty hunters, but anyone paying attention already knows that Greef Karga explained last week that the Child was still being tracked by the Guild. Thus, if Mando leaves him in the village, anyone in the Guild could find the Child and take him away. Quite why it takes an assassination attempt at the end for Mando to realise this, I don’t know, but it does make him seem like more of a Muppet than Baby Yoda. This could have easily been forgiven if this storyline had played out over that aforementioned longer period of time, and if the characters felt safe from the Guild, but for me it felt a little clunky in this format.
We also get introduced to Cara Dune, a former Rebel shocktrooper who befriends the Mandalorian, and helps him to fight off the raiders attacking the village. She’s an interesting addition to the series, and its great to see someone on a similar level to Mando both as an action heroine in her own right and as someone looking for an escape, but she feels like she needed more development in this episode. Carano plays a potentially interesting character, but she feels pushed to the side in an episode dealing with a lot of key character beats. I was disappointed that she didn’t join Mando to protect the Child by the end, and I hope she returns in a much bigger, more interesting role.
The villagers themselves all feel a little cookie-cutter, and whilst I liked the dynamic between Mando and Omera (Julia Jones), nicely paralleling with Baby Yoda and Omera’s daughter Winta, again it was a relationship that really felt confined to the forty-minute time-slot. When Omera says that she’s experienced with firearms, I assumed that we’d get more of an insight into her backstory and get to see her lead the village in a more active way, but it felt like a nice character beat that never went anywhere. Saying that, the scenes with the children and Baby Yoda were lovely, even if – once again – I felt like we could have seen more. Why not show Baby Yoda and the children reacting to the battle in the episode’s climax? Why not give Baby Yoda a little action moment like in Chapter 2: The Child?
I was interested to see some fun, villain-of-the-week baddies with the raiders, but they ended up seeming like blank-slate antagonists without personality or motivation. I appreciate that they need to feel a little bland by necessity – in order to focus on the protagonists – but in a galaxy as vast and creative as Star Wars, they just felt quite lacklustre. I loved the introduction of the AT-ST, and the way its red-lit cockpit glowed like sinister eyes looming over the village, but I’m not sure if it was ever explained why the raiders had an AT-ST. It’s a great moment, superbly directed by Bryce Dallas Howard, but its place in the actual story felt a little unclear.
That’s ultimately my issue with Chapter 4: Sanctuary – its filled with great moments and story ideas, but none of these feel fully-explored or developed, and by the end of the episode, I just felt disappointed that I didn’t get to see more of what this story had to offer. I wanted to see more of Mando’s inner turmoil, more about Cara Dune’s backstory, and more of everything else.
What’s here is actually great, and it was a nice change of pace after three closely interlinked episodes, but this chapter felt too rushed, and wasted its great ideas. Maybe we’ll see a sequel episode later on that will expand on Chapter 4: The Sanctuary, but I wish this episode of The Mandalorian had been longer, or spread its story out over two instalments to explore its ideas in more depth.