Brief Thoughts On The Mandalorian, Episode 4

by Erik Amaya

It was only a matter of time before The Mandalorian re-enacted scenes from the Battle of Endor and the TV-Movie Ewoks: The Battle for Endor.
That is, perhaps, an unfair take. But the opening moments of the series’ fourth episode unavoidably felt like the raid at the beginning of the second Ewok movie. From the look of the raiders to the nature of the peaceful agrarian settlement, the whole thing just echoed the feeling of the pivotal forest moon in that story. That, of course, is intentional as we’re finally introduced to Cara Dune (Gina Carano) in this episode, who almost immediately tells us she was in the Battle of Endor on the side of the Alliance. As a character, she’s more mysterious than even our title Mandalorian, though. Her story — getting tired of protecting New Republic delegates after the Alliance fleet routed Imperial remnants out of the core systems — has some holes. For one thing: she has a bounty on her head and it would not surprise us in the least to learn it was placed by the Republic itself. Also, The Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) seems to know preternaturally that she will join up with him in defense of the village. Presuming her story as an Alliance shocktropper is more or less true, it makes sense she would help a village of underdogs, but how would he know that? A sympathetic Force sensibility from the kid, perhaps?
At the same time, Cara represents a tantalizing idea — members of the Alliance who became almost immediately dissatisfied with the New Republic. We can’t help but think of Saw Gerrera (had he lived) almost immediately storming out of the senate when one of his proposals gets voted down. The Rebellion required people from disparate backgrounds to work together, and without the threat of Imperial repression, opposing philosophies can easily resurface. This is, ultimately, why Leia Organa left the Republic to found her Resistance against the First Order. Not that any of these higher political stakes appear to be Cara’s primary issue. In her case, it was simply being a solider with no more battles to fight. Or, at least, that’s her stated reason for leaving the Republic military. But that is enough of a hook and we want to see it explored: why are foot soldiers already feeling burnt and neglected by the Republic?
Nonetheless, she proves to be a valuable asset in the battle against the raiders. Her plan was sound, even if it needed a little improvisational flourish in the end. She was a capable teacher to the villagers (shades of The Seven Samurai here). And she did it all with a smile on her face a lot of the time. That attitude was one of the key differences in Cara from other seasoned rebels we’ve seen over the years. In some ways, she feels like one of Rex’s troopers from Clone Wars or his early Rebels appearances — a dedicated soldier who just needs the right kind of struggle. We certainly hope that’s her real deal and the bounty ends up concerning some mercenary situation she encountered after leaving Republic forces.
But even if she is sought by the Republic, we hope she quickly crosses paths with The Mandalorian again.
Meanwhile, the episode also gave him a new edge — he’s heterosexual and can attract women without taking his helmet off. That might sound silly, but romance is an area Star Wars struggles with in its live-action output. Leia and Han’s burgeoning relationship in The Empire Strikes Back notwithstanding, the overall sense of romantic entanglements in Star Wars is that of a necessary but unpleasant part of existence. And while that means characters like Rey can go on adventures without worrying about that stuff — leaving it to the fanfic writers to will Reylo into existence — it makes the series’ transition to television just a little bit tougher. Romances drive TV shows. But as seen in this episode, writer Jon Favreau and director Bryce Dallas Howard found a way to introduce the beginnings of attraction to a Star Wars story in a way which felt organic. It also allowed us to learn a little bit more about the title Mando and Mandalorian culture (post-purge, anyway).
Taking his helmet off in front of anyone means he would never be able to put it on again. As we’ve said before, this is clearly a more recent development as Mandalorians had no issue with removing their helmets during the Clone Wars or the pre-Yavin days of the Rebellion. But “the Way” demands this of the most recent Mando generation. Hopefully, Favreau will ultimately tell us why this is the case. Also, it seems more likely now that the title character is not a Mandalorian by blood. This isn’t a huge issue as it has long been established that the warrior culture will adopt people into their ranks. More tantalizing, though, is if “the Way” was instituted by some remaining Mandos to preserve the culture even if the race itself dies out.
And since we have claimed Alderaan as the planet of Latinx people in Star Wars, we hope The Mandalorian turns out to be a survivor of that planet as well.
The Mandalorian streams Fridays on Disney+.

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