Spoilers ahead! Beware!
“Sanctuary” opens with a backwater farm in the middle of nowhere, where villagers are harvesting shrimp-like creatures called Krill when raiders attack their village. Taking their entire harvest and devastating the farm in their process. Meanwhile, the Mandalorian and Yiddle are looking for somewhere to lay low and discover Sorgon, the same planet where these villagers were attacked. As the father-son duo make a pit-stop for some bone broth, they cross paths with Cara Dune, an ex-rebel shock trooper, similarly escaping her past just like the Mandalorian. Back at the Razor Crest, two villagers attempt to hire the Mandalorian to protect the village, which he initially declines due to the little pay. When the villagers mention the seclusion of their village, the Mandalorian sees an opportunity to lay low, and accepts, bringing Cara Dune to help. Cara and the Mandalorian train the villagers to defend themselves and successfully bring down the raiders and an AT-ST in the process, as well as discovering a new way of life that may change the Mandalorian forever.
I have to be honest, reviewing an episode like this is pretty difficult for me. As a critic, I have to look at the episode through a critical lens, but this episode in particular checks a lot of boxes for me. It has everything that I love, not just about Star Wars, but television in general. It has the obvious action and heart we’ve come to expect from the series, as well as some near heart-crushing tension at the end. Beyond that “Sanctuary” felt like the most intimate of the series so far, giving us our closest look at the Mandalorian, showing us who he is, and what he wants.
First and foremost, I think the most important inclusion in this episode is Cara Dune played by the wonderful Gina Carano. I had some reservations about her inclusion in the Star Wars universe because of her role in the first Deadpool movie. I don’t think she was given a whole lot to do in that film, and I just wasn’t that impressed with what she did in it.
That’s all changed because she does a wonderful job as the ex-shock trooper turned friend of the Mandalorian. From her first fight with the Mandalorian on, she brings an intensity and physicality to the role that makes her a force to be reckoned with through every altercation. Gina Carano deserves a ton of credit for her portrayal of the character and now I understand why Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni have given so much praise to her on the press tour, she has been awesome throughout and I need to see more of her.
Cara isn’t telling us the whole story about why she left the New Republic and I desperately want to know more about her backstory, heck I wouldn’t mind a comic or novel about it if they don’t get more into it in the series.
Speaking of character’s backstories, I also really enjoyed newcomer Omera, she provides a reason for the Mandalorian to possibly settle down, take his helmet off, and raise Yiddle.
Just like Cara Dune, she has a backstory that I find equally interesting. When the Mandalorian and Cara are training the villagers, it’s obvious that she’s had some kind of training and knows how to fight.
Where does that come from? Is she like the Mandalorian and Cara? Hiding on a backwater planet with her child, attempting to escape a past she’d like to forget. She’s a strong emotional core for the Mandalorian and just like Cara, I’d love to see more of her.
The first three episodes of the show leaned in heavily into the western aesthetic and I loved how they did it, but this episode deviates from that and shows that the show is much more than that. It feels very much like the Karasawa films that inspired George Lucas. Teaching villagers to protect themselves from a threat that could destroy them, as well as showing the protectors what their life could be. It’s not anything new, but it’s done effectively and makes us care more about the Mandalorian then we did before, by continuing to show the heart that our main character has.
In my other reviews, I’ve talked a lot about the smaller moments that are at the heart of the series, but I think “Sanctuary” is the best in the series so far in terms of heart, intimacy, and smaller character moments that I love.
It’s Omera asking the Mandalorian about why he doesn’t take off his helmet. The Mandalorian and Cara teaching the villagers how to defend themselves Yiddle playing with the kids and the feeling that our heroes might have a new life away from the chaos across the Outer Rim. The whole episode just felt more focused on the Mandalorian than any before and I can’t help but appreciate this detour to Sorgan.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about the whole sequence with the raiders and in particular, the village going against the AT-ST.
We’ve all seen an AT-ST and it’s always a force to be reckoned with, but this iteration felt more menacing then we’ve seen it before. Just when you think that they’ve escaped from the raiders, the red eyes of the walker shine through the darkness and they make their way to the village to spring their trap.
There’s no Jedi to save them, it’s just the villagers, Cara, and the Mandalorian against the might of the raiders and the walker, and all their training pays off. Cara once again shows her streak of kicking butt and taking names, using the pulse rifle to defeat the operator and trap the walker in the booby trap they’ve laid out for them. Everyone played a role and it makes you care about the village and it’s inhabitants even more.
The episode very deliberately lulls you into the idea that this may be a new way of life for the Mandalorian and Yiddle. Showing that life has been good for the villagers, Cara, and the Mandalorian since they defeated the raiders. You're rooting for the Mandalorian to finally catch a break and settle down and raise his new surrogate child.
Just when you think he's finally going to take his helmet off and join Omera, a bounty hunter with a trackers has Yiddle in his sights, and for the briefest moment of dread, you think they may kill our little green friend. A shot goes off and thankfully, Cara Dune saves the day.
It's a gut punch to the audience and while it's probably to be expected since we have 4 episodes left in the season, it still stings for our heroes. With the final shot being Yiddle looking sad and leaving what could have been his new home.
While it may not technically be the best episode of the series so far, for myself, this is my favorite one. It has some pacing issues and moves a bit too quickly, but I just love what they're able to do in that time, and the intimate way they deal with the characters. You leave the episode caring more for the Mandalorian and wanting more from the brand new characters that they're introduced. It sets itself apart from the previous three episodes all while making you wonder where we go from here.
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