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Saturday, December 7, 2019

Force in Focus: The Mandalorian Episode 04


Seeking a place to lay low with the Child, the Mandalorian arrives on the planet of Sorgan. There, he meets Cara Dune, a former solider with the Rebellion. When he encounters a pair of villagers from a remote area of the planet looking to buy help repelling a band of raiders, the Mandalorian convinces Cara to help him lead the villagers in defense of their homes. When they discover the raiders are in possession of an Imperial Scout Walker, the Mandalorian & Cara try to convince the villagers to leave, but they insist on fighting back. Working together, the Mandalorian, Cara, and the villagers succeed in destroying the walker and repelling the raiders. In the wake of their victory, Cara suggests the Mandalorian could settle down in the village; instead, he plans on leaving the Child there for safe-keeping. However, when bounty hunters track down the Child, the Mandalorian realizes the Child will only be safe with him, and the pair depart the planet together.

Firsts and Other Notables
This episode marks the first appearance of Cara Dune, a former Rebel shock trooper who has become a mercenary in the wake of the Empire's defeat and the rise of the New Republic, a status quo which quietly comments on earlier sentiments that the New Republic government is weak and ineffective.

Casting Call
Cara is played by former MMA fighter Gina Carano (who also appeared in, amongst other things, the first Deadpool movie). 

Bryce Dallas Howard, daughter of Solo director Ron Howard and a notable actor/director in her own right, directs this episode.

A Work in Progress
The planet most of this episode takes place on is Sorgan. The beings attacking the villagers are Klaatoonians; members of the same species also served as guards in Jabba's palace.

It's confirmed that the Mandalorian isn't a native Mandalorian, but was adopted into the group as a child.

It's also made clear that Mandalorians do remove their helmets (presumably for, amongst other things, eating & sleeping); they just do so alone, and never in the sight of other people.

Did You See?
The cat-like creature which hissed at the Child was a lothcat, a species which appeared in Rebels. It is native to the planet of Lothal, which was the main setting of that series.

Austin's Analysis
After straying from its Western influences a bit (relative to the first episode, at least), this episode returns to them in full force, presenting, essentially, The Magnificent Seven but with a bounty hunter, a former Rebel shock trooper and a Baby Yoda instead of seven mercenaries. It's a fun if narratively inconsequential episode (it veers in the direction of both suggesting a new setting and then as a way to separate the Mandalorian and the Child, but by the end, both characters are essentially right back where they started), but there's nothing inherently wrong with an episode that isn't an integral chapter in an ongoing narrative - if anything, it helps the series feel like a series, and not an extended movie cut into eight chunks. The direction does an effective job of building tension throughout the nightime battle and presenting the presence of one AT-ST scout walker as a serious threat despite the fact that we've seen Chewbacca and the murder bears dispatch them with relative ease in Return of the Jedi, and the confident but laid-back (relatively) Cara Dunne makes for an interesting counterpoint to the Mandalorian. While perhaps not as narratively significant nor as stylistic as some earlier episodes, there is something pleasingly episodic about it.

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  1. "...there's nothing inherently wrong with an episode that isn't an integral chapter in an ongoing narrative - if anything, it helps the series feel like a series, and not an extended movie cut into eight chunks."

    THANK YOU. You alluded to this in the previous episode's review, but I felt it be better worth commenting on here. I don't watch a ton of streaming shows, but I did watch all the Netflix Marvel stuff, among others, and it drives me nuts when these series just tell one story for all of their season, with no divergences. JESSICA JONES came closest to breaking away from that formula in the first season, giving her one or two one-off "case of the week" episodes, but even that felt half-hearted.

    Whether streaming, on cable, or on network television, I like TV shows to feel like, well... TV shows. Serialization is great; I love it. But you can have a show that serialized yet also episodic. Most of my favorite shows were done that way. When you try to stretch one story out over thirteen (or even ten or eight) episodes, it winds up feeling padded out and interminable. I much prefer the approach of "filler" episodes that provide character development and a tangential advancement of the overall plot vs. every single episode being fully devoted to the overall plot.

    So while I liked this one on its own merits, I would've liked it anyway simply for being an "adventure of the week" with minimal importance to the meta-plot!

    1. Yeah. I’ve regularly lamented this about heavily serialized shows and especially ones like the Marvel Netflix series that otherwise tended to feel padded and/or have episodes rather amorphously run together. Plus it’s always possible for episodes that appeared to be purely standalone at the time to feed back into the overarching storyline of the season, although even that can become a predictable trope.


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