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'The Mandalorian' Episode 4 is a Nod to a Classic Western Movie Trope

A still of The Mandalorian Episode 4 concept art The concept artwork by Christian Alzmann, shown at the end of each episode. It's gorgeous, hopefully it will be available as a collection.
A still of The Mandalorian Episode 4 concept art The concept artwork by Christian Alzmann, shown at the end of each episode. It's gorgeous, hopefully it will be available as a collection.
(Image: © Lucasfilm/Disney Plus)

Warning: Spoilers for Episode 4 of "The Mandalorian" on Disney Plus are below.

Since last week's  Episode 3 of "The Mandalorian", we've learned that the "alpha-Mandalorian" character is listed as "Paz Vizla" and was voiced by the show's writer and creator Jon Favreau, who also voiced a Mandalorian character named Pre Vizsla on "Star Wars: The Clone Wars." And while the spellings are slightly different, it seems an unlikely coincidence. Bizarrely, this character is also being referred to as just "Heavy Infantry Mandalorian," at least as far as future toys are concerned.

Anyway, onto this week's installment, which is titled "Sanctuary" and it's immediately obvious following the events of last week that our antihero and his precious cargo (Baby Yoda!) need somewhere safe to lie low for a little while, hence the title.

Cue the most tranquil and harmless farming settlement you can possibly imagine, located on a lush, verdant world, complete with children playing innocently in the nearby stream. When suddenly, out of the forest yonder, comes a rampaging horde of marauders and mercenaries — called Klatooinian raiders — and the zen-like serenity is shattered as huts are burned down and harvested crops are looted. 

Related: 'The Mandalorian' Episode 3 Sees the Hunter Become the Hunted

Meanwhile, in space not far from this planet — it's called Sorgan —  the Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) searches for a safe haven. The bond between himself and the Child appears to be growing ever stronger as we see the cute and adorable little rapscallion playing with the controls of the Razor Crest and the bounty hunter, who has slipped into the adoptive father role very easily, picks him up and puts him on his knee away from the controls, while the Child makes cute and adorable chirping noises. 

The Mandalorian identifies this planet as not having any major cities or spaceports, so he decides its safe and plots a course.

We will never get tired of these lovely shots of the Mandalorian's ship landing. (Image credit: Lucasfilm/Disney)

He lands and with the Child in tow makes his way to the village and a cantina, where all manner of food and drink is being prepared and served. Huge clouds of steam erupt from giant woks as humanoids and aliens alike are seated at every table. Some pause to clock the newcomer in town, but most are captivated by the cute and adorable little creature toddling along by his feet.

And then we get our first glimpse of new character Cara Dune (Gina Carano). She's sitting on her own in a darkened corner and deliberately not making eye contact with the Mandalorian. He orders some refreshments for the Child and subtly indicating Dune, asks the owner — a woman named Omera (Julia Jones) — "When did that one arrive?" The server replies that she's unsure and leaves to get the food order, during which time, Dune has disappeared from her table. The Mandalorian quickly gets up and leaving the Child in the relative safety of the cantina, ventures outside to find the elusive Dune. 

Related: "The Mandalorian" Episode 2 Is Fun, But Falls a Little Short

Once again, we get to see some of the tech incorporated into his helmet as the bounty hunter activates a thermal imaging display that shows up recent footprints outside of the cantina. He tracks them around to the back of the dwelling where she launches a surprise attack on him. The two exchange a number of heavy blows and more or less beat each other senseless, until finally, they're both on the ground, exhausted and pointing blasters at each other.

We didn't know very much about Dune prior to this episode, only that she was a former "shock trooper," but given the intensity of this re-introduction, we're wondering if maybe she's his ex-wife?

It turns out that Dune's a former Rebel Alliance shock trooper, which is new to "Star Wars" canon, since only about seven variations of Rebel troopers currently exist, although Wookiepedia states that "Shock troopers were specialized infantry of the Alliance to restore the Republic. During the Galactic Civil War, Cara Dune served as a shock trooper." We very much look forward to this new type of Rebel soldier being fleshed out and a history being created soon, the Special Air Service meets Sardaukar, or something.

The Mandalorian meets up with Cara Dune in Episode 4. But who is she? (Image credit: Lucasfilm/Disney Plus)

Dune may not be the Mandalorian's ex-wife, but they clearly have history. The villagers offer him a proposition; all the cash they have and in exchange, he protects them from the marauding raiders. At first he rejects the idea, but realizes that this settlement, which is in essence in the middle of nowhere, is perfect for him to hide out, so he agrees to help and persuades Dune to also join the cause.

Related: "The Mandalorian" Episode 1 Perfects the Small-Screen "Sci-Fi Western"

The Mandalorian settles in the village and life is pretty peachy. We're meant to believe that some time does in fact elapse, but given the 40-minute duration of the episode, it feels like everything has been crammed in a bit, but more on that later. He makes friends and everyone simply adores the Child, naturally Things even get to a stage where the Mandalorian starts to become a little more than just friends with Omera. 

"How long has it been since you took that [helmet] off..?" she asks.

"Yesterday," the Mandalorian replies, which is something of a surprise and nice to actually hear. We were beginning to wonder if a) he actually ate at all or b) if the side panels of his helmet opened up so he could eat without technically removing the helmet. Plus of course last week, he told the Armorer (Emily Swallow) that it had never been removed. 

"I mean, in front of people," Omera clarifies.

The Mandalorian explains that he wasn't much older than the children playing outside. "I was happy when they took me in," he says. "My parents were killed and the Mandalorians took care of me."

Related: The Greatest 'Star Wars' Villains of All Time

This suggests — but doesn't conclusively prove — that perhaps the bounty hunter isn't Mandalorian by birth. We still know very little about Mandalorian culture, so it's entirely possible that this code of behavior or way of life doesn't begin until a certain age and other Mandalorians adopted him after he was orphaned at such a young age, too young to immediately adopt it. Of course, this detail has been left deliberately ambiguous.

Omera respectfully leaves him in peace so that he can remove his helmet without being seen and eat the food that she’s prepared. A character portrayed in a similar — and very effective way — can be found in the comic 2000 A.D. Judge Dredd of Mega-City One has only removed his helmet a few times since his creation nearly 45 years ago, but every time he does, his head and shoulders are either in shade, or the image is obscured by someone in the foreground or bandages, or something.

Just like Judge Dredd, the Mandalorian's head and shoulders remain in shade or out of shot when he removes his helmet. (Image credit: 2000AD, Prog 515, art by John Cooper, Lucasfilm/Disney)

Will Disney decide to reveal the face of the Mandalorian as a Season 1 cliffhanger? Or will they prefer to prolong the mystery of his identity through to the second season, which by the way, is already in principal photography. 

The tranquility of this arable lifestyle is soon shattered however, when Dune and the Mandalorian discovery some very large, very ominous tracks, left in the soft mud, near the village.

This episode is an entertaining "Star Wars" take on a classic Western trope: a small peaceful village is helpless against an aggressor; our heroes step in, the villagers step up and by using their horticultural knowledge and farming tools to their advantage, they are able to defeat the raiders, bandits and pillagers etc. 

This was more or less the plot of "The Magnificent Seven" and you could argue there’s some influence from "The Hidden Fortress," plus the theme was parodied in "The Three Amigos," where a trio of moronic mercenaries takes on a band of outlaws led by a man called El Guapo. In a way, all of us have an El Guapo to face someday. For some, shyness might be their El Guapo. For others, a lack of education might be their El Guapo. The Mandalorian's El Guapo is a 10-foot tall, heavily armored Imperial All Terrain Scout Transport (AT-ST).

The All Terrain Scout Transport looks far more menacing here than it ever did in "Return of the Jedi."  (Image credit: Lucasfilm/Disney Plus)

The discovery of this evidence is enough to make the Mandalorian want to leave; an Imperial AT-ST means trouble. Even Dune has her doubts. However, they’re persuaded by the simple village folk to stay and fight. A well-worn montage of farming folk learning to fight follows and we see them using sticks as quarterstaffs and being trained to use blasters.

Against inadequately armed foot soldiers, the AT-ST is a daunting threat. Since it's nighttime, the cockpit is even "rigged for red," which can be seen through the driver's and gunner’s open viewports, creating the terrifying illusion of evil, dragon-like eyes. 

This is an example of clever writing on this episode. Just like on submarines and even air traffic control towers, red light is used to preserve the night vision of the crew while still allowing them to still see their instrument panels. Submarines “rig for red” when it's dark outside and crewmembers need to use the periscope or go on watch duty on the conning tower. 

(There's even a Lego model of this particular AT-ST available, just in time for the holidays.)

Related: Black Friday Star Wars Deals: The Best Star Wars Gift Ideas

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Dune and the Mandalorian draw the Klatooinian raiders into the clearing and try to lure the AT-ST into a water trap that they’ve strategically dug. The ground shudders and the trees shake as the giant metal mech emerges from the mist in a moment that feels very "Jurassic Park." There’s almost a little “Robocop” moment here too as the Imperial walker senses a potential hazard, much like the ED-209 navigating a stairwell.

Eventually — after the Mandalorian lobs a grenade into the downed AT-ST – the good guys are victorious and everything seems like it at least has the chance to return to normal. 

Currently the most talked about lifeform on the internet, the Child – or Baby Yoda. (Image credit: Lucasfilm/Disney)

Until, one afternoon, a concealed sniper levels his rifle and takes aim at the Child, who is playing down by the stream with the other children. Thankfully, Dune has been taking a stroll/patrolling the village perimeter and neutralizes this threat before he has a chance to shoot. Upon hearing the sound of gunfire, everyone runs and the Mandalorian races to Dune’s side. As they turn the smoking corpse…they see a tracking fob. 

Despite offers coming left and right for the Mandalorian to remain in the village, he knows now is concealment is blown. Even Dune offers her services as a partner, but the bounty hunter politely turns them all down. 

"Until our paths cross," she says. And we just know they will.

Related: 'Star Wars'! 40 Surprising Facts from a Galaxy Far, Far Away

This episode was directed by Bryce Dallas Howard, daughter of Oscar-winning director Ron Howard, who stepped in and took the reigns of "Solo" after Phil Lord and Christopher Miller left the project. Bryce is evidently continuing to keep it in the family and you might notice her son, Theodore, staring directly at the camera at 20:58 (and at 19:27).

While acting is undoubtedly in the Howard family's blood, young Theodore might still need some guidance.

While acting is undoubtedly in the Howard family's blood, young Theodore might still need some guidance. (Image credit: Lucasfilm/Disney Plus)

We mentioned earlier that everything seems a little rushed; a lot happens in this episode and we can’t but feel a lot is also glossed over. There's no secondary storyline in these episodes, or any of them so far, there simply isn’t time if this much story is going to be presented in just half an hour. 

It might have been nice to the Client (Werner Herzog) plotting his revenge at the same that events unfold on Sorgan, or Greef Karga (Carl Weathers) or Dr. Mengele Pershing (Omid Abtahi) having to explain how the Mandalorian was allowed to escape. Or even the other Mandalorians having to leave the planet because their sanctuary was compromised. There are a number of interesting possibilities here that aren't being used.

So far, "The Mandalorian" has been pretty predictable, which could be intentional as a play-it-safe strategy since this was the (expensive) flagship show of the brand new Disney+ streaming network. One could argue that with the exception of the "Rogue One" (and the very reason we consider it to be the best "Star Wars" movie) Disney has been playing it safe since it released its first entry into the franchise in 2015 with "The Force Awakens," which was to all intents and purposes a remake of "A New Hope."

Are we being lulled into a false sense of security before Favreau pulls the rug out from under our feet with a shock reveal? Or is Disney just testing the water before the Obi Wan Kenobi spin-off, the Cassian Andor spin-off and whatever else the House of Mouse has up its sleeve. 

We can but wait.

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  • Chad Singer
    You just now noticed that?
    The entire SERIES is a nod to that trope.
    Reply
  • Woodstock
    The entire series is a nod to Westerns, yes, not just this particular trope, no. In fact, the series touches upon a number of different themes within the Western genre.
    Reply
  • Colbtron
    Admin said:
    "The Mandalorian" defends a village against raiders in Episode 4. Here's a full review of the live action "Star Wars" series now showing on Disney Plus.

    'The Mandalorian' Episode 4 is a Nod to a Classic Western Movie Trope : Read more
    Although this "trope" was used in the Magnificent Seven, the original was "Seven Samurai" by Akira Kurosawa. It became a western plot device later.
    Reply
  • tk1430
    Yes, this episode was a nod to classic westerns like "The Magnificent Seven", but while you mentioned "Hidden Fortress" you kind of missed the point that "The Magnificent Seven" was inspired by "Seven Samurai" -- another film from Akira Kurosawa who was a HUGE influence on George Lucas. It's all connected...
    Reply