If the second episode of The Mandalorian felt like A New Hope, this Star Wars take on Seven Samurai felt like an homage to Return of the Jedi. From the lush setting to the saturated color palette and music that contrasted the epic with the simple, everything felt like it was calling back to Endor once more.
Bryce Dallas Howard’s work was excellent if by-the-book, and Ludwig Göransson’s idyllic score is almost-but-not-quite on par with his driving, mysterious action beats, even if it strayed somewhat close to pastoral cliche at times. Favreau’s script is fine at worst. Gina Carano and Julia Jones were excellent, filling their roles in this classic tale with life and a unique tenor that instantly made them feel like part of this universe. I love meeting more new characters, though the revolving door of Carga, Kuiil, and Omera leaves me wishing we could spend more time with pretty much all of them before the obligatory unraveling of Mando’s life presumably brings them all together at the end.
And while that isn’t a spoiler (or, at least, I don’t have any reason to think that it is), the rest of this article is. Go watch this show before you continue.
Every episode of The Mandalorian is so good that we’re uniting the Star Wars fandom as they haven’t been united since the halcyon days of the original trilogy. Some people are calling this show the best thing to happen to the franchise since Return of the Jedi, and while I think the franchise has been pretty good all along, it seems clear that it’s probably the best thing to happen to the fandom since Return of the Jedi. Even if we can’t agree on Episode VIII or the prequels, at least we can all agree that Baby Yoda is cute and we want a plushy of him. It’s even impressive how this episode made the AT-ST–the erstwhile brunt of many a fanboy joke after its poor performance on Endor–into a real, palpable, animalistic threat that belies its “chicken walker” moniker.
…even if it is again taken down with traps.
…laid by technologically unadvanced people.
…who have a pastoral village.
…on a forested world.
…where the main characters take refuge in a time of trouble after nearly being captured.
…even though they are jeopardizing others by their very presence.
Ah, whatever. Seeing that walker emerge from the jungle, with a slight frame jutter making it look like it’s really an early-80s stop-motion model shot, was just pure awesome. Terrifying, but awesome.
Nowhere to Go
As the village on Sorgan prepares for nightfall, the terror is palpable. “We’ll be ready,” Omera tells Mando, but it’s clear that isn’t the case; a day of training for the villagers is better than nothing, but there’s no way they have a chance if Cara and Mando can’t take out the AT-ST. They might be braced, but they won’t be ready.
Imagine the impending danger; everything around you seems calm, placid, normal, but it’s impossible to ignore the certainty that destruction and devastation are approaching. There’s nowhere to go. No guarantees. Very little hope.
You probably don’t have to imagine. The hot flush of certain loss has crawled up all of our necks at one time or another; we feel our adrenaline dumping and our stress levels skyrocketing. Fight or flight with no one to punch and nowhere to run. But it’s unsustainable, and our bodies don’t even try; sooner or later, we become numb to the fear. The danger hasn’t gone anywhere, but the feeling of it has.
When I realize the depth of my sin and the weight of the danger it puts me in, sometimes I get that fear and anxiety. But usually, it’s just this dull concern that burns in the back of my mind. I even have Someone in my corner to protect me from the wrath to come, but it’s complicated: Jesus’ presence, while calming, doesn’t eliminate the danger of consequence, and so my mind pushes it aside and tries to ignore it.
And for me, it’s even worse than for the villagers on Sorgan because it was all my fault to begin with. Those raiders running toward me? They’re the right consequences of the things I’ve done wrong. And while Jesus blows up the AT-ST of God’s judgment for my sin, there is still so much I’ve done that haunts me.
I think the Bible is clear that this sort of chastening is good. Jesus pronounced a blessing on “the poor in spirit” in Matthew 5; people who know they need Someone to get them to God. People who know that without Christ, they are lost.
We may find comfort in that. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. The ache of consequence still comes, even if the sting of death has been removed. And sometimes that feels overwhelming, because there doesn’t seem like an escape from it. It seems like it would be easier to hide from it entirely.
You Can’t Ever Put It On Again
Star Wars has always been about masks: putting them on, taking them off, finding out who’s behind them. When Omera begins lifting Mando’s helmet from his head, he faces a choice: stop her or let her. He’ll be unmasked, he’ll be revealed, and his entire life will change.
Take off the mask, and he’ll change families. He won’t be a Mandalorian anymore; he’ll be a member of this tribe. He won’t be welcome or entitled to the protection of the Covert. He won’t be able to share in The Way. But he will be able to have a home, to sit on a porch and sip spotchka, to see whether a romance develops with Omera, to watch the child grow up (apparently pretty slowly).
Sadly, for Mando, there’s another level: he knows he’ll have to leave. Even before the bounty hunter comes to kill the child, he knows that he doesn’t belong. He knows that his sin will find him out; The Sin from Chapter 3 eventually does.
There’s no escape for him, like there was no escape for the villagers. Though he can leave Sorgan, he can’t leave his failures behind him.
He can’t escape. But maybe there is fellowship in the running.