‘The Mandalorian: Season 2, Episode 2’ - TV Review (Rough Ride)

After last week’s season premiere of The Mandalorian exceeded most viewers' incredibly high expectations, the second episode of season two certainly had an uphill battle ahead of it. While it’s near certain that some fans will be chomping at the bit to get to that next glance at a certain someone, this second episode sees Payton Reed (Ant-Man and The Wasp, Bring It On) in the director’s seat. It might not feature the infamous bounty hunter some are looking for, we do get a visually beautiful chapter that further explores the clash between the untamed Outer Rim and the encroaching establishment of the still youthful New Republic.


SPOILERS BELOW

Picking up where we left off last time, this episode is titled “The Passenger” and sees Mando and The Child (a.k.a. Baby Yoda) returning to Mos Eisley after successful securing Fett’s former suit of beskar armor. When our hero gets a lead on a contact who’s seen other Mandalorians offworld, he finds himself agreeing to give passage to an unassuming frog lady and her precious cargo of eggs in exchange for the information. There’s just one catch: They are required to fly sub light (meaning no hyperspace jumps) the whole way there in order to not impact the health of the passenger’s brood. While Mando mentions that flying sub light can be dangerous due to pirates and warlords, it’s actually New Republic X-Wings that come for the Razor Crest. Identifying the ship from its involvement in last season’s raid of a New Republic prisoner transport, the starfighters give chase and while the Razor Crest escapes its pursuers, the ship crashes in the ice caves of the planet below. Mando, The Child, and the passenger find themselves fighting against the harsh elements of the icy wilderness as they attempt to repair the ship and make the final leg of their journey before it’s too late for the quickly expiring eggs onboard. Unfortunately, they’re not alone in that ice cave…

While it might feel a bit slower than the previous episode, “The Passenger” is an interesting reimagining of the Western trope of the noble cowboy attempting to get an innocent soul safely delivered from one town to the next. The episode also features some truly beautiful and cinematic visuals in the depiction of the chase sequence of the X-Wings and the Razor Crest through the clouds and then the ice canyon. Finally, Reed’s episode (written by series creator Jon Favreau) also continues exploration of several themes that have run though the majority of the series, offering its space fantasy version of the dangerous frontier wilderness, and bringing elements Star Wars fans have only seen in the animated series to live-action life on their television screens.


"If you put one mark on him, there's no place you'll be able to hide from me."

I don’t know if it’s possible, but is seems like Mando is becoming even more attached to The Child than before. His mission to find other Mandalorians is just one step in the path to finding the Jedi and returning The Child to “his people,” but it seems pretty clear right now that both of these characters have a serious bond that will not be easily broken. It will be really interesting to see where the series takes this. Are there more episodes of The Mandalorian once The Child is returned to the Jedi and our lead character’s mission is fulfilled or, as is more likely, is the story of the series their story? If that’s the case, one has to assume that, even when we reach the Jedi, the Mando we’re seeing on screen is not going to want to give up the little guy, and it’s fairly likely the feeling are mutual.

No matter what, one thing is clear. One of the quickest ways to lose your life in the Star Wars universe is to threaten The Child in front of Din Djarin.


"Sorry, lady. I don't understand frog."

The name of Mando’s reptilian passenger is not clear, but she is an expectant mother looking to get herself and her eggs reunited with her husband so that they can be fertilized. While she can’t speak basic (Star Wars for English), she clearly understands it and when we’re introduced to the character, she speaks by allowing Amy Sedaris’ Peli Motto to act as translator. The character seems written to be seen initially as a burden to both Mando and the audience, especially due to their stunted ability to communicate once Peli is out of the picture. What’s amazing is how much the “voice” of the character changes part way through the episode when she manages to rig the carcass of the bug-eyed protocol droid, Zero, from last season to speak for her. Suddenly, she can communicate with the nuance she surely has in her native tongue and reveals herself as a passionate, capable, and intelligent individual willing to do whatever it takes to ensure the future of of her children.

It’s a subversive plot development in the episode and something that speaks to the values that Star Wars has always embraced. These stories are filled with characters learning that one should never underestimate others based on first impressions or appearance, whether Yoda, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Ewoks, or Ahsoka Tano. The Mandalorian’s passenger fits right in, allowing the audience to assume she’s some primitive alien and then allowing them to discover that this character is not only a good mother, but has the tech experience to repair and rewire a droid, a troubled past that has left her as one of the last of her species, and the guts to call out a Mandalorian to their face regarding their commitment to their code of honor.



The Krykna Spiders of Star Wars: Rebels also make an appearance in this episode. They are way creepier in live-action form than one might have anticipated and look like they literally walked straight out of Ralph McQuarrie’s Dagobah concept art. They also serve as another opportunity for this episode to stretch its cinematic abilities and show how visually stunning a Star Wars TV series can be. Honestly, The Mandalorian has really done an impressive job from the beginning of giving viewers a good showing of the crazy and terrifying creatures populating the galaxy far, far away. It gives the series the same thrilling feel of a top-notch Extended Universe comic or novel, revealing things fans thought they'd only ever daydream about.

I bring the Krykna up, because it was not missed that both the lead spider and the passenger really share the same goal; they just want to protect their future, their offspring. And, while I don’t know how to interpret it quite yet, Baby Yoda is totally the creepster who prayed on both of them due to his insatiable taste for eggs! One assumes it could be argued that the passenger’s eggs aren’t fertilized yet, but the little, green runt definitely ate a baby spider out of its egg and, circling back, I don’t know that him eating unfertilized eggs unbeknownst to the passenger is any less creepier either. This might just be an odd choice, but it does make you think… who is this little, green guy really… and who is he going to become once he grows up?


"I thought honoring one's word was a part of the Mandalorian code. I guess those are just stories for children."

As has been mentioned previously in these reviews, throughout 2020, the staff and contributors of Fanbase Press have committed themselves to an initiative known as #StoriesMatter which examines the important and powerful role stories play in human culture. This episode is just one of the chapters of The Mandalorian that refers to the stories the residents of the galaxy have heard of these masked warriors. They seem to be known for their beskar armor, lethal abilities, and their honorable code. It’s interesting that through series like Clone Wars, Rebels, and now The Mandalorian, these masked super commandos have, in many ways, become "knights" of the Star Wars universe as much as the Jedi themselves. 

It’s a truly meta moment to have Mando’s passenger reference these stories as a way to force him to live up to his code and save her children’s future. When looking for ways that stories inspire and affect us, it’s not always easy to find such a direct example. Not only does this plot point reflect the importance of stories and mythology within the Star Wars universe, but it speaks directly to viewers, reminding them of the very true message that stories aren’t just for children. They teach us foundational values and much, much more. Keeping your promises isn’t something that only happens to fictional characters in fantasies or fairy tales. The world is a harsh and complex place, but that doesn’t mean that the power of honoring one’s word has been completely lost.

It’s a simple, yet powerful, message for young and old viewers alike.


"Am I under arrest?"

"Technically, you should be. But these are trying times."

Joss Whedon’s Firefly was a show that really examined the idea of people fighting to build something in the absolute freedom and cruel danger of the new frontier and their struggle to accept the structure and restrictions of the larger civilized world as it expanded into their territory. A desire for freedom and individualism seems to have always have been part of American culture. For better or worse, Americans seem to resist being told what to do, even when it truly is for their own benefit. While this situation is not exactly the one being explored in The Mandalorian, we are seeing the events of the Outer Rim 5 years after the fall of the Empire. While Mando certainly has no love for Imperials, we’ve also seen that the general opinion is that while the Empire fell, nothing changed for folks in the Outer Rim. Viewers even witnessed, just last episode, how citizens on Tatooine found themselves oppressed and enslaved shortly after the fall of the Empire.

This episode gives us the Star Wars equivalent of a patrol car running Mando’s tags when two New Republic X-Wings rush up behind the Razor Crest during his journey. It seems like Outer Rim mercenaries are still getting used to the new jurisdiction of the New Republic. It’s an interesting scene given that viewers have so often seen the Rebellion depicted in a positive and heroic light, but here we see how massive power shifts, even positive ones, have unintended consequences and fall out for average citizens just trying to get by in the galaxy. When we watched Return of the Jedi, we cheered along with Luke, Leia, and Han at the end of the movie, but the typical moof-milker might have a very different outlook on the situation depending on several variables. Now, as we follow Mando’s point-of-view and see him as the hero, the New Republic seems potentially adversarial, as well. It’s and interesting message of how interactions like this one can inform individuals' feelings and opinions of institutions, whether old or new. And for Mando, it seems he feels very similar to Pete Townshend - “Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.”

What is really noteworthy about The Mandalorian’s continued exploration of the New Republic’s adoptions of its galactic duties is how the creative team continues to show us the complexities of this revolution and transition. While the X-Wings might represent civilization’s expansion pushing against the frontier communities and some, like our hero, might think this nothing more than a exchanging of powerful monoliths, these New Republic pilots add a further wrinkle when they demonstrate exactly why they are different from the Empire when they rescue Mando and his crew from the Krykna and ignore the bounty hunter’s arrest warrant given that he put his life in harm's way to protect Lieutenant Davin (actor Matt Lanter from his cameo in season one) from harm. It’s an obvious intention for the viewer to ponder how such a scene would play out if these were two Imperial pilots. Would the Empire look the other way regarding an arrest warrant as thanks for helping one of their own? Would they even waste the blaster bolts to save a civilian who fled from them from something like the Krykna? Whatever your thoughts on those questions, the pilot’s actions clearly shatter Mando’s “both parties are the same" attitude when it comes to the New Republic and the Empire, while also allowing Favreau to comment on the responsibility of real-world institutions to seek to be just in their actions over simply asserting their authority in an effort to instill peace and order.

Also, we get a final additional bit of complexity when Mando asks for help repairing his craft and the pilot’s roll their eyes, telling him to fix his transponder and they won't vaporize his ship the next time they cross paths. Overall, it’s a simple scene that only lasts a few minutes, but it speaks to some really interesting ways the Star Wars universe continues to evolve and enrich under Disney.

Also, who doesn’t love Dave Filoni as a New Republic pilot? And you know Favreau’s writing that character into his scripts because he knows Dave is super nervous about being on camera.


Miscellaneous Notes:


- Doctor Mandibles, you giant mantis! I never thought we’d see you again. (Frankly, we hardly saw you the first time around.)

- After years and years of Star Wars fans replying to “May the Force be with you” with “And also with you,” these fans are now vindicated.

- Again, it was really, really cool to see the animated Star Wars universe invade the live-action universe. Between this and last week’s confirmation of the Boba Fett rumors, odds seem likely that those Ahsoka rumors were also true. We’ll have to wait and see on that one.

- That last glimpse of the battered and wounded Razor Crest limping through space really stuck with me. Maybe the current national climate is weighing heavily on me, but I feel like we all probably could relate to that final image. Keep truckin’.

- Speaking of Firefly, a big shoutout to The Mandalorian’s costume designer Shawna Trpcic! She’s both extremely talented and a wonderfully patient and open person with fans. Star Wars is lucky to have her on their team.


Final Verdict: The Mandalorian's second episode of the season may leave some fans wanting, but while it doesn’t immediately answer all the threads from last episode (which, frankly, is not often the best approach), it’s a worthy addition to the series based on its world building and stunning, visually appealing sequences alone.


Directed by: Peyton Reed
Written by: Jon Favreau



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