This Week’s ‘Mandalorian’ Felt Like the First Real Episode
When Disney first took over the Star Wars franchise, they had a two-part approach to the series: Continue the original saga from 1977 with new sequels, and explore characters outside the main storyline in what they called “Anthology Films.” The sequels have been big hits, but the Anthology movies had a bumpier track record. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story had a rocky production, with heavy rewrites and reshoots. The next film, Solo: A Star Wars Story, was even more troubled — the original directors left in the middle of production, and the finished effort was as close to a box-office bomb as Star Wars has ever gotten. The third Anthology, by Chronicle director Josh Trank, never came to fruition, and no further projects have been announced.
It is ironic, then, that after Disney abandoned the “Anthology” concept they pivoted to television and found enormous success making ... an anthology show. The fourth“ chapter” of The Mandalorian, “Sanctuary” was the first that felt like what The Mandalorian will probably end up being: A series of adventures starring a small core cast as they visit different locations throughout the galaxy. The first three episodes established the premise and the stakes — a Mandalorian bounty hunter (Pedro Pascal) chooses to protect a baby Yoda rather than turn him over to an evil space goon Werner Herzog (as himself), and then the two must flee to stay away from the rest of “The Guild” of bounty hunters who want to recapture the kid and punish the Mandalorian.
“Sanctuary” was very different. This time, “Mando” and Baby Yoda pilot their space ship at a new, remote planet. Looking for a place to lay low, they hole up with a group of farmers, who they agree to protect from a band of marauders in exchange for food and shelter. They also meet another mercenary, a former Shock Trooper named Cara Dune (Gina Carano). She joins the fight, but then departs at the end of the episode — when Mando and Yoda Jr. leave to find a new hideout.
Some viewers have noted the similarities between The Mandalorian and Lone Wolf and Cub, the manga series by Kazuo Koike and Goeski Kojima about a samurai and his young son. (This particular episode also shared some DNA with Seven Samurai, where a band of heroes protect a rural community from bandits.) But “Sanctuary” is also very much like the popular anthology TV shows of the 1970s like The Incredible Hulk or The Fugitive, where a wayward, homeless good guy would wander into a town, get involved in whatever local drama was going on, and then leave for his next spot while staying a step ahead of pursuers who were chasing them all over the country.
My college Ryan Arey, who makes all of our Easter egg videos about The Mandalorian, made an astute observation this week, noting that in a lot of ways The Mandalorian is less like modern TV shows — with layers of subplots and many supporting characters — and more of an update of the kind of classic adventure serial that inspired George Lucas in the creation of the original Star Wars. The old movie serials were typically 12 to 15 chapters long, and while they had an overarching plot — about stopping a bad guy or solving a mystery — each individual episode was very often self-contained, with the hero and a sidekick investigating a lead and getting into a scrape, or escaping a trap and then heading to a new location for another fight. Most serials had small casts, with just a couple lead heroes, with the supporting actors mostly relegated to spotty appearances here or there.
That’s exactly how The Mandalorian works. There is an overarching story — Greef Karga (Carl Weathers) and the bounty hunter guild trying to hunt down Mando and Baby Yoda — but each episode takes us to a new place, with new characters and stakes. Lone Wolf and Cub lasted for almost 30 volumes — and inspired many films and television series. The anthology shows like The Incredible Hulk and The Fugitive lasted for years recycling variations on this same formula; movie serials were wildly popular all through the 1930s and 1940s. It’s very easy to see The Mandalorian doing the same thing.
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