After rescuing the Child and escaping the clutches of the Client, Greef Karga, and a small army of mercenaries in Chapter 3, the Mandalorian seemingly set his navicomputer to “surprise me.” His hyperspace jump takes him to Sorgan, a planet that appears to be the perfect hideout for a bounty hunter who’s broken the Code of the Guild and the cute, conspicuous quarry who stole his heart. “Looks like there’s no star port, no industrial centers, no population density,” Mando says to his tiny, unqualified copilot as he scans the surface from the Razor Crest. “Real backwater skug hole. Which means it’s perfect for us. ... Nobody’s gonna find us here.”
If we learned anything from the first three chapters of The Mandalorian, it’s that hiding is hard. The most perplexing aspect of Chapter 4, “Sanctuary,” is why Mando thinks Sorgan might be a safe place for him and his charge to lie low. Or, for that matter, why anywhere would be. How can you hide from hunters who always know where you are?
I hate to harp on the intricacies of the tracking fob week after week, but understanding the way that it works is important. Everything we’ve seen so far suggests that the fob is somehow keyed to the quarry’s current location. In Chapter 1, Mando followed fobs to the Mythrol and to the Child. The fobs weren’t just programmed with approximate locations, which could have been based on reports from informers; when Mando holds up his fob in the compound on Arvala-7, it points him to the precise location of the Child within the room, beeping and flashing furiously as he homes in the cradle. IG-11 confirms that the fob is tied to the quarry’s vital signs when the hunter droid says, “The tracking fob is still active. My sensors indicate that there is a life form present.” And in Chapter 2, the Trandoshans follow their fob to the Child even though the infant and Mando are on the move, which provides further evidence that the fob is feeding the hunters real-time tracking info, not static coordinates.
On Sorgan, Mando meets and eventually teams up with Cara Dune (Gina Carano), an ex-Rebel shock trooper who seems to have deserted—although she prefers to think of it as entering “early retirement”—when her mission to mop up ex-Imperial warlords after the Battle of Endor morphed into peacekeeping duty. Dune, who still rocks an Alliance tattoo on her cheek, isn’t surprised to see another fighter from offworld on the ostensibly sleepy planet, and she attacks Mando in what she believes to be self-defense. “I figured you had a fob on me,” she says.
Mando is no stranger to tracking fobs. He knows that he wasn’t the only one using one to find the Child on Arvala-7, which also seemed to be a “backwater skug hole.” And after the abduction and shootout in Chapter 3, he knows that the Child’s wanted level can only have increased. If the fob were triangulating a transponder signal, then Mando could deactivate the chip embedded in Baby Yoda, but he doesn’t do so. No, the trackers are tied to targets’ biorhythms—and not just Force-sensitive targets, as we learned from the Mythrol and Cara. Why, then, does Mando think that no one will find him and the Child on Sorgan? Why would a settlement in the “middle of nowhere” be a better place to go to ground than anywhere else on the planet? And why would the Child be safer without Mando than he is in the company of a Beskar-clad bodyguard?
I can accept the existence of a biometric tracking device that’s linked to the signature of a specific person; suspending disbelief while watching Star Wars depends on subscribing to Clarke’s third law. But even fictional universes must have rules to guard against inconsistencies. How can we explain Mando’s behavior in Chapter 4—or the Empire’s inability to find the Rebel base in Episode IV—in a world with tracking fobs?
There’s one workable solution: The tracking fob is a short-range device. Yes, the fob allows its holder to tail a particular target even more adeptly than Mando can with his helmet’s broken branch/footprint filter turned on. But only if that target is, say, on the same planet, or even in the same vicinity on that planet.
That explanation dovetails with what the Client tells Mando when he gives him the fob in the first place: “We can also give you last reported positional data. Between that and the fob, a man of your skill should make short work of this.” If the fob could track a target from any distance, Mando wouldn’t need the last reported positional data; the fob would function from far away and lead him directly to his objective. Like its protagonist, The Mandalorian doesn’t volunteer information freely. The series isn’t interested in identifying every planet and character by name, nor has it divulged many details of its beloved baby’s background. But it could, perhaps, stand to be more transparent about the most indispensable tool of the bounty-hunting trade, lest the tracking fob cause confusion.
So yes, you can hide from a fob carrier. And you can grind one fob beneath your boot heel, as Mando does after Cara kills a bounty hunter who has the Child in its sights.
But as long as your adversaries know your general location, they’ll “keep coming,” as Cara observes. And by the end of the episode, it’s no secret that Mando and his force-sensitive sidekick are on Sorgan.
Kuiil could give Mando some pointers on leading a low-profile life. The bounty hunter’s cover is blown because his efforts to avoid attention end up attracting a ton of it. After Mando tussles with the on-the-run former Rebel, Cara tells Mando that she saw Sorgan first, and that the backwater world isn’t big enough for both fugitives. Mando returns to the Razor Crest and prepares to move on. But before he can take off, he’s approached by Stoke (played by Eugene Cordero, a.k.a. Pillboi from The Good Place) and Caben, two emissaries from a remote village that’s being harassed by Klatooinian raiders. They want the warrior to protect them, and they’re willing to pay. He agrees to help—not for the money (which he uses to recruit Cara as backup), and not to protect the peaceful villagers, but because their besieged home sounds like an ideal location for him and the Child to take shelter, far from any fobs.
The bulk of the episode plays out like a cover version of Seven Samurai or The Magnificent Seven, except instead of seven ronin/gunfighters, there are only two. (Star Wars already owed a debt to Akira Kurosawa, whose Hidden Fortress inspired Episode IV, and Seven Samurai also provided the premise for an episode of The Clone Wars.) Mando and Cara consider bailing when they discover that the Klatooinians have an operational (albeit dingy-looking) AT-ST, which Stoke and Caben conveniently left out. Sorgan, it seems, is no less dangerous a sanctuary than Endor’s Sanctuary Moon, but Mando and Cara—maybe moved partly by compassion—decide to stay. In one efficient montage, they train the villagers to fight, build defenses, and concoct a plan to trap the walker in one of the village’s treasured ponds, which provide food and defense. (Forget blue milk; this village is all about blue krill and blue beer, or “spotchka.”)
For reasons unknown, one of the villagers is already a crack shot: Omera (Julia Jones), the widowed mother of Winta. One gets the sense that the village is short on eligible bachelors, and the fetching widow wants more Mando in her life. But as much as Omera undresses the Mandalorian with her eyes, she can’t convince him to let her look under his Beskar. Sorry, baby: Celibacy is the Way, unless you like it helmet on. This is a Star Wars Western, so our problematic hero can’t settle down; he has to ride away. No wonder Mando groans and sighs so much.
Mando and Cara infiltrate the Klatooinian encampment, blow up their vats of blue beer, and lure the rest of the raiders back to the village, whose formerly helpless inhabitants fight flawlessly. The two hired guns take out the AT-ST, and the raiders are routed. No villagers appear to perish in either attack, which makes “Sanctuary” even more PG-rated than Return of the Jedi. (Pour out some spotchka for Nanta the Ewok.)
Sorgan may be a backwater, but it isn’t completely primitive—the village has droids, one of which drives Mando and Baby Yoda back to their ship—or unknown to interplanetary travelers. Cara and Mando made their way there, as did the Klatooinians and other assorted aliens. (There’s a Twi’lek in the cantina, and a Loth-cat flashes its fangs at Baby Yoda, treating Rebels fans to a more realistic-looking version of a creature previously portrayed in cartoon form.) After repelling the raiders, the victors relax for a few weeks, but as Mando notes, word of the commotion they caused will travel; the Klatoonianians could carry the news off the planet, and it wouldn’t take much to connect the Beskar-suited Mandalorian on Sorgan with the one who’s fleeing from the Client and the Guild. The safest course, Mando concludes, is to “cycle the charts and move on,” although he plans to leave Baby Yoda to grow up in the village, where he’s become fast friends with Winta and the other children.
It’s unclear why Mando thinks the Child would be safe on Sorgan; if the hunters hear about the bounty hunter’s visit, they’ll go looking for the infant, and their fobs will take them right to him. That’s what happens in the episode’s final few minutes, and the close call convinces Mando to take the Child with him.
Like Chapter 2, in which Mando takes a roundabout route off of Arvala-7, “Sanctuary” is sort of a sidetrack from the Baby Yoda mystery that forms the spine of the series. Although the season is only eight episodes long—each of them shorter than a standard drama, at least so far—The Mandalorian takes its time dispensing plot points. “Sanctuary” doesn’t even offer a big reveal on par with Baby Yoda’s predictable-but-meaningful moment with the Mudhorn in Chapter 2, although we do learn that the Way doesn’t preclude Mando from removing his helmet when he’s on his own, Vader-style. If he takes it off in another person’s presence, though—or at least in another non-Mandalorian’s, although we haven’t seen these Mandalorians go helmetless even among their fellow clan members—he “can’t ever put it back on again.” As I noted last week, that’s a different depiction of Mandalorian culture than the one we saw in Star Wars Rebels, but it’s evidently not a new custom, because Mando hasn’t de-helmeted since he was small.
Even when The Mandalorian devotes an entire chapter to an adventure that leaves its leading duo exactly where they were when the episode started, it’s still refreshing to see a Star Wars version of a buddy cop show, bolstered by appearances from idiosyncratic allies like IG-11, Kuiil, and Cara. (Plus, the scenery is always eye-catching, whether we know the name of the planet or not.) Carano, who gets to give Mando the Predator handshake Carl Weathers wasn’t allowed to reprise, isn’t much more expressive than the helmeted Pascal, but her character is compelling. In Star Wars, deserters usually leave the Empire; they don’t ditch the good guys. But as Karga’s comments in Chapter 3 about the New Republic’s obliviousness suggested, the New Republic may have lost its purpose and clarity after destroying the Second Death Star, creating the conditions that eventually allowed the First Order to arise. Even if The Mandalorian doesn’t directly tie into the latest trilogy, it’s clearing up some of the uncertainty about how the galaxy got from the triumph of Return of the Jedi to the dire circumstances of The Force Awakens.
Although it doesn’t get Mando or his travel-size companion any closer to answers or safety, “Sanctuary” does hammer home our protagonists’ predicament. Assuming that the tracking fobs have limited range, Mando and the Child could go off the grid, in theory. But it’s tough to travel incognito when you’re a flamethrower-shooting, disintegration-dealing warrior from a legendary tribe who never removes his priceless, shiny armor, and an almost lethally lovable, green-skinned, Force-sensitive moppet from a nearly unknown species. In that case, the only options are to confront one’s attackers and learn what they want—which may be Mando’s next move—or to keep flying from planet to planet. Even if it means reluctantly leaving a Beskar-blocked widow behind.
Fan Service of the Week
This episode was light on Star Wars callbacks, but it did give viewers what they really want: more Baby Yoda.
This week, we got Baby Yoda mischievously pressing buttons in the Razor Crest’s cockpit; Mando affectionately calling him a “little womp rat” (who must never be bull’s-eyed); and Baby Yoda adorably disobeying the bounty hunter’s orders to stay in the ship, raising the question of which one of the two is actually in charge. But the best Baby Yoda moment was the scene when he observed the brawl between Mando and Cara while contentedly slurping his soup. Yoda made a mean stew, and Baby Yoda has a hunger for bone broth.
This week’s worst Baby Yoda moment was, by far, the one when he appeared in the bounty hunter’s crosshairs.
Part of me wanted the hunter to get his shot off, just to see if Baby Yoda would absorb or repel the blast bolt. But a bigger part of me just wanted him to be happy, healthy, and undisturbed on Sorgan, playing with Winta and terrorizing frogs. Why can’t the universe just leave him alone? And why can’t the creators of The Mandalorian stop sadistically subjecting us to the strain of seeing him in danger? Gifting us Baby Yoda doesn’t give them the right to torture us by threatening to take him away. Baby Yoda belongs to all of us now.
Expanded Universe Spotlight
Almost nothing is known about Klatooinians in Star Wars’ current canon, but in the “Legends” timeline that Disney de-canonized, they were slaves to the Hutts, who controlled Klatooine. Subjugation is something that many of The Mandalorian’s characters have in common: In previous EU spotlights, we’ve examined the tragic histories of the Mandalorians and the Ugnaughts, both of whom endured occupations and servitude. Twi’leks were often sold into slavery too. The legacy of slavery even creeps into the language: “Skug hole,” the term Mando uses to describe Sorgan, is a reference to “skug,” an insult used in Star Wars: The Clone Wars by the Zygerrians, a species that sold slaves until the Jedi put a stop to the practice. (The Zygerrians later tried to revive their slave trade after allying with the Separatists.)
The Star Wars universe is largely a lawless and cruel place, which helps explain why some may miss the order the Empire provided. But the Empire also employed slave labor, and many of the characters and species we see in The Mandalorian are still suffering from the aftereffects. Almost everyone we meet—Mando, Kuiil, Cara, Baby Yoda—is adrift in a disordered galaxy, searching for a family and a place to call home. And even peaceful-looking planets are more dangerous than they seem.
Previously Unseen in Star Wars
Last week’s episode, which was directed by Deborah Chow, marked the first live-action installment of Star Wars ever directed by a woman. This week, women directors went back to back, as Solo director Ron Howard’s daughter, actress and filmmaker Bryce Dallas Howard, took control of the camera. Howard’s work was notable for its presentation of smaller-scale combat than we’re used to seeing in live-action Star Wars. AT-STs appeared at the Battles of Hoth, Endor, and Jakku, but the skirmish on Sorgan makes the ground-based component of the Battle of Endor look like all-out war.
By shrinking the scope of the conflict, “Sanctuary” conveys just how scary a solitary AT-ST can be. On Hoth, they’re support vehicles glimpsed in the background behind towering AT-ATs. On the forest moon of Endor, they’re a distraction from the main conflict, and overly vulnerable to logs. On Sorgan, though, a single AT-ST—equipped with glaring, red-lit eyes—is formidable enough that Mando and Cara almost walk away from the fight when they find out what they’re up against. This doesn’t look like a “chicken walker.” This looks like death on two legs, at least until those legs are submerged and the walker keels over.
One of the most memorable and impressive aspects of Star Wars is the franchise’s capacity to depict combat on a massive scale and at disorienting speed: These are the films that delivered Death Stars and Super Star Destroyers, trench runs and speeder chases. But even the Rebels are somewhat well-equipped opponents compared to the Sorgans. The guerrilla showdown between the villagers and the Klatooinians’ Imperial relic reminds us how hopelessly outclassed most planets in the Empire’s path must have been.