Tuesday, December 3, 2019

The Mandalorian Season 1, Chapter 4: Sanctuary

This week on The Mandalorian we get another obvious homage episode, but it's a good obvious homage episode. 

Sanctuary most definitely takes its inspiration from Akira Kurosawa's classic Seven Samurai, as Manny lands on a remote planet and helps a group of peaceful farmers fight back against a band of Raiders.

As I said last week, I kind of wish they'd dial back the homages, but eh... Star Wars has been influenced by westerns and pulp sci-fi from Day One, so it's unlikely to start changing now.

That minor reservation aside, so far The Mandalorian hasn't let me down. It's still consistently good and I can't wait to see where the series is going. To be honest, the show's making me a little nervous. I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop and the producers to deliver a dud. Hopefully that won't happen.

This week's episode introduces Cara Dune, an awesome new character and the first female of note in the series so far. More on her later.

I'm definitely liking the low stakes in this series, as we get episodes set in the outskirts of the Star Wars Universe, away from all the Skywalker business. It's nice to see there are planets in which the inhabitants know nothing about the Force and all that.

Sanctuary was directed by Bryce Dallas Howard of all people. Yeah, that Bryce Dallas Howard! Looks like she's following in her famous father's footsteps, as she dips her toe in the world of directing. She's previously directed a series of shorts, but nothing of note. Despite her inexperience, she does a great job here.


The Plot:
On the backwater world of Sorgan, a lightly populated backwater world. A community of humanoid krill farmers harvests their shallow ponds. Suddenly they hear a noise from the nearby woods. Laser blasts fire from above, causing the farmers to scatter for cover. A young girl named Winta freezes, and her mother Omera runs to save her. They hear something coming, so they hide in one of the shallow krill ponds.

Just then a group of Klatooinian Raiders bursts from the forest. They steal the villager's krill harvest, destroying their equipment, huts and droids in the process. Fortunately they don't spot Omera and Winta, huddling under an overturned basket in the pond.

Cut to Manny and Baby Yoda flying through space in the Razor Crest. Last week Manny "liberated" the baby from the clutches of The Client, and the two are now on the run from dozens of Guild bounty hunters searching for them.

Manny realizes they need to find a place to lay low till the heat's off. He scans nearby systems and spots Sorgan, and figures it'd make a good spot to hide for a while.

Manny lands on the planet and tells Baby Yoda to stay put while he checks it out. Of course the baby doesn't listen, and toddles along behind him. They enter a pub in a small community, where they grab a bite to eat.

Manny notices a suspiciously bounty hunter-looking woman eyeing them. After a beat the she disappears. Manny tells the proprietor to mind the baby, and goes looking for the woman.

Outside, Manny tracks the woman with his helmet's infrared mode. Suddenly she attacks him from above, and the two tussle for a bit. Their battle ends in a draw when they both pull their weapons on one another. Manny recognizes the woman as Cara Dune, who he's met before.

Inside, Dune infodumps her backstory, saying she was a Shocktrooper for the Rebel Alliance.
After the Empire fell, she mopped up Imperial stragglers on various planets for a while. Eventually she decided she'd had enough "peacekeeping" and retired on Sorgan. When she saw Manny, she assumed some former enemy had sent him to kill her. She tells Manny she got to Sorgan first, and he'll have to vacate the planet for reasons I don't quite understand.

That night Manny tinkers with his ship as he prepares to leave. Two of the krill farmers timidly approach, and offer him money to rid their village of the Raiders. He's not interested at first, until he finds out they live "in the middle of nowhere." Thinking he's found his sanctuary, he agrees to help.

Manny tracks down Cara Dune and offers her the money to team up with him against the Raiders. Amazingly, she accepts. The farmers take Manny, Dune and Baby Yoda to their village, where they're welcomed as heroes. Omera sets up a space in a barn for Manny & the baby. She's clearly intrigued by the mysterious Mandalorian bounty hunter.

Winta and the other children are fascinated by Baby Yoda and become attached to him. Omera brings a meal to Manny, and asks when was the last time he removed his helmet. He tells her he took it off yesterday. She asks how long it's been since he removed it in front of someone, and he says never. He says he's worn it since he was a child, when his parents were killed and the Mandalorians too him in.

Omera leaves, and Manny removes his helmet long enough to eat (although we don't see his face). He stares out the window at the kids playing with Baby Yoda.

The next day Manny and Dune track the Raiders to their camp. They discover they have a decommissioned AT-ST, left over from the Empire. Dune says the walkers are tougher than they look, and that she didn't sign up for this sh*t.

Back at the village, Manny & Dune tell the villagers they can't fight an AT-ST, and they'll just have to move to a Raider-free area. The villagers refuse to leave, offering to help fight. Manny realizes they're determined to stay and gives in. He loans the villagers his weapons, while Dune trains them in how to fight. For some reason, Omera's the only one who knows how to shoot and turns out to be a crack shot (?).

Dune tells the villagers they can't destroy the AT-ST with blasters, but they can trap it. She orders them to dig a deep hole in one of the krill ponds, while the other villagers set up wooden barriers to hold back the Raiders.

Sometime later, Manny & Dunn infiltrate the Raider camp. There's a brief struggle as they battle several Klatooinians, and Manny blows up their main building with a thermal detonator. The remaining Raiders chase after them, along with the AT-ST.

Manny & Dune return to the village, where they tell the farmers to be ready. The AT-ST appears and begins firing, striding right toward the pool. Unfortunately the drivers sense something's amiss and stop just short of it. Suddenly the rest of the Raiders appear, and the villagers begin fighting them.

The AT-ST blasts away at the village, while refusing to step into the pond. Finally Dune runs through the fray and jumps into the pool, where she begins firing up at the walker. After killing one of the drivers, the other wades into the pool after her. The AT-ST immediately sinks up to its head. Manny attaches another detonator to it and blows it up real good.

The villagers cheer and fight the Raiders even harder. With their main weapon gone, the Raiders chicken out and head for the hills.

Manny & Dune remain in the village for several weeks, but there are no further raids. Dune says he should stay here and make a life for himself with Omera. She asks what would happen if Manny ever took off his helmet in front of someone, and he replies he'd never be allowed to put it back on.

Omera approaches Manny and says he could have a peaceful life here. She gently begins lifting his helmet off his head, but he reaches up and stops her. He says it's not possible, and a disappointed Omera says she understands.

Omera comments that Baby Yoda seems happy here, and Manny says he plans to leave him on Sorgan. She promises to raise him as her own child.

Cut to a bounty hunter in the woods, targeting Baby Yoda in his blaster sights. He's just about to squeeze the trigger when a shot rings out. The bounty hunter falls to the ground, revealing Cara Dune behind him. Manny thanks her, and discovers a tracking fob on the bounty hunter. He realizes the baby is still a target, and he can't leave him here.

Manny & Baby Yoda say their goodbyes to the villagers, who promise they'll never forget them. He and Dune say their farewells, knowing their paths will eventually cross again. Manny and the baby return to the Razor Crest.

• This week Manny decides to hide out on the backwater world of Sorgan. This marks the first time in the series that a planet has actually been identified by name.

• In true Star Wars fashion, the krill farmers live in a remote village with both primitive and advanced technology. They collect krill in crudely woven fishing baskets, but also have a harvester droid wading around the pools.

This is similar to Luke Skywalker, whose family lived in a hole in the deserts of Tattooine, but also had droids and anti-gravity landspeeders.

• When the Raiders attack the village, they steal their entire krill harvest. That I understand. But they also destroy their huts, tools and krill-gathering implements. That I don't get. Why the hell would they do that? 

The Raiders want to swipe the villagers' sweet, sweet krill, right? So why make it harder for the farmers to harvest them? Now they're gonna have to waist time making new baskets and such. Seems like it would make way more sense for the Raiders to leave the tools intact and just steal the harvest.

And why the holy hell would the Raiders destroy the villagers' droids? Couldn't they use those for themselves? They had a lot of hi-tech equipment in their camp, plus their own functioning AT-ST. Surely they could have scavenged parts from the droids to keep all that running!

I guess maybe the takeaway here is that the Raiders are just dicks and aren't particularly smart.

• The Raiders who attack the village appear to be Klatooinians.

We've seen their race before, most notably as guards in Jabba's Palace in The Return Of The Jedi.

• After landing on Sorgan, Manny and Baby Yoda head for the nearest settlement. For frak's sake Manny, pick up the goddamned kid and carry him. Sure it's cute as all hell to see him waddle along after you, but he's gonna have a heart attack trying to keep up!

• When they reach the settlement, Manny & Baby Yoda wander into a small local pub. As they walk through the crowd, the baby encounters a grumpy Loth-Cat that growls at him. Loth-Cats first appeared in the Star Wars Rebels animated series, where they looked a lot more cartoonish than they do here.

• This week we meet brand new character Cara Dune, an ex-Rebel Shocktrooper. She's the first unmasked female character of note to appear on the series, and she is freakin' awesome! She's a complete badass and I loved her character from the first frame.

Dune's played by Gina Carano, who's a former MMA fighter trained in Muay Thai. She definitely looks like a fighter, and I have no doubt she could kick my ass without even trying.

I think what I liked most about her is she doesn't preach or constantly remind the audience that she's a female. In fact her gender doesn't seem to factor into her character at all. She's a kickass bounty hunter who just happens to be a woman. End of story.

Even better, the producers didn't elevate her by tearing down the male characters around her. At no time is Manny belittled or made to look stupid to contrast her capabilities. The two of them seemed pretty evenly matched, and simply joined forces to battle a threat. And they made a darned good team!

Pay attention, Hollywood! THIS is how you write a strong female character! Make her interesting and formidable, don't have her emasculate her male costars and above all don't make her lecture the audience in her superiority. Show, don't tell!

• Apparently Manny's helmet has an infra-red mode. This is the first time we've seen him use this particular function on the series. Although it's cool and all, I hope we're not gonna get a new piece of Deus ex Machina tech each week. It's gonna be hard to cook up any sense of tension or suspense if he can simply pull out an appropriate hi-tech gadget to get him out of any possible situation.

• As usual, Baby Yoda (or I guess technically The Baby Of Yoda's Species) is the cutest thing on two legs. That said, ever since the series began there's been something about him that's been bugging me. Something I couldn't quite put my finger on...

This week it finally realized the problem— it's his eyes! Baby Yoda has enormous, ridiculously large puppy dog pupils that fill his entire eyeball! You can't see a hint of the sclera (the whites) anywhere. He's like an alien Keane painting!

Compare that to Yoda from The Empire Strikes Back, whose pupils were much more normal looking.

Obviously they made Baby Yoda's eyes so big to up the cuteness factor, but I think they went a bit overboard. OK, a LOT overboard. With those giant eyes he almost looks like a completely different species than the original. Maybe this race's pupils shrink as they age?

• In this week's episode Manny confirms that he wasn't born a Mandalorian, but was a foundling taken in by them. We already knew that based on his flashbacks of course, but this is the first actual onscreen confirmation of it.

• For the first time in the series, we see Manny actually remove his helmet (even though we don't actually see his face). He does so in order to eat.

I've been wondering how he eats ever since the show first stated that Mandalorians never remove their helmets. Does he shove food up his helmet? Does he slurp liquefied food through a straw? How about brushing his teeth? Does he ever wash his face? And what about sleeping? Does he wear it to bed? Does he swap it out for a special sleeping helmet? 

Thankfully we now know how he does all these things, by occasionally taking off his helmet in private.

I still have a few more questions about Mandalorians and their helmets though. Are they allowed to marry? I guess they have to, if they want to preserve their race. Can they remove their helmet in front of their spouse? What about during sex? That'd be kind of awkward, clanging their helmets together.

• When Manny asks the villagers if any of them have ever fired a weapon before, Omera's the only one who raises her hand. In fact she turns out to be quite the markswoman, consistently hitting her targets.

I get the impression she's lived in this tiny farming community her entire life, so I have no idea where she could have learned to shoot as well as she can. Obviously she has some sort of backstory, but we never find out what it is. And unless the series plans on revisiting Sorgan in the future, we never will! 

By the way, Omera's played by actress Julia Jones. She looked really familiar to me, but I couldn't figure out where I'd seen her to save my live. Turns out she played Leah Clearwater (the Native America wife of one of the werewolf guys) in the Twilight films. And yes, I'm embarrassed to admit I know her from that series.

• Cara Dune tells the villagers there's nothing on Sorgan that can harm an AT-ST's legs. What about Manny's disintegrator rifle? It can instantly vaporize people, so why not metal? And if it can't, why not? Does it only work on living flesh?

"The hour's approaching, just give it your best. You've got to reach your prime.
That's when you need to put yourself to the test, and show us a passage of time,
We're gonna need a montage! Oh, it takes a montage!"

"Show a lot of things happening at once, remind everyone of what's going on.
And with every shot you show a little improvement, o show it all would take to long/
That's called a montage! Oh, we want a montage!"

Yep! It's a training montage! Led by Dune, as she attempts to teach the peaceful farmer how to fight the Raiders with their makeshift weapons.

We've seen this exact same training montage in dozens and dozens of movies over the years. In every one of these scenes, some sort of experienced fighter always trains a group of unprepared villagers to use pitchforks and spears against a large technologically advanced army.

You can find this "Training The Peaceful Villagers" trope in Seven Samurai, The Magnificent Seven, Battle Beyond The StarsThree Amigos, High Plains Drifter, Dragonheart, Death Wish 3, Army Of Darkness and more. 

• The Klatooinian Raiders use the stolen krill to brew a glowing blue alcoholic drink called Spotcha. Mm-mmm! Shrimp-flavored booze! Yum!

• Kudos to The Mandalorian for making AT-STs a genuine threat for the first time in Star Wars history. Up to now they've been played for laughs, wobbling around on fallen logs or getting smashed to bits by Ewoks. With its glowing red eyes and superior firepower, the one seen in this episode is downright terrifying.

• At the end of the episode, a bounty hunter follows Baby Yoda to Sorgan with a tracking fob. But how? Did Doctor Pershing implant some kind of chip in him? 

Now that I think about it, how do the fobs detect anyone? What exactly are they tracking? Last week Manny broke the Guild rules by abducting Baby Yoda, and within seconds every bounty hunter's tracking fob began blinking and indicating his location. How'd the signal go out so fast? And how'd they know the alert was for Manny? There's no screen on the fobs, just a blinking red light.

It's almost like they're magic rather than technological.

• At the end of the episode, Omera tries to get Manny to stay on Sorgan. She even goes so far as to gently try and remove his helmet before he stops her.

Good! After finding out that Mandalorians never remove their helmets in public, I hope we never see Manny's face. At this point I honestly think it would ruin the character if we ever did. Far better to keep it covered and preserve the mystery.

These scenes regarding Mandalorian helmets are obviously seeds that are being planted for a reason.  In fact I think I know how the season's likely to end. Manny will find himself in a situation in which he has to remove his helmet— most likely to somehow save Baby Yoda. We'll then get a cliffhanger as he has to decide whether to take it off or not.

I'm terrible at predicting plot twists though, so who knows.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Related Posts with Thumbnails
Site Meter