For fans of The Mandalorian who were rooting for revelations about the series’ central mysteries—where Baby Yoda came from, why he’s at the top of the Imperial remnant’s most wanted list, and how he eats so much despite being so small and slow-growing—the first two episodes of Season 2 have mostly been a bust. But for anyone who hoped to see some exotic Star Wars wildlife, Disney has delivered. For the second straight week, Din Djarin failed to find another Mandalorian or make much headway in his quest to bring the Child to the Jedi. And for the second straight week, a seeming sidetrack led to a near-death encounter with a terrifying cave creature. Even when Mando eludes Moff Gideon and his army of mercenaries, the Outer Rim can be an unpleasant place.
Last week’s season premiere ended with an apparent reveal of Boba Fett, the type of twist that most series would return to immediately. But Temuera Morrison’s work was done, at least for one week: Chapter 10, “The Passenger,” proceeds as if that closing scene hadn’t happened. Fett—and according to the episode’s IMDb page and Morrison’s hastily scrubbed CV, it was Fett, not one of the Kiwi actor’s other lookalike characters—may yet play a more prominent role in Mando’s story, but it’s not clear what he and his armor have to do with Mando’s mission. Perhaps his cryptic cameos—including his suspected episode-ending appearance in Chapter 5—are setting up a spinoff: On Thursday, Deadline’s Nellie Andreeva relayed rumors of a Fett miniseries that might be filmed and released in advance of The Mandalorian’s third season.
Even without any intervention from Fett, Mando has problems with bounty hunters before he lifts off from Tatooine. A quartet of Child-seekers ambushes him on his return trip to Mos Eisley, destroying his speeder, but the element of surprise and a quadruple-team attack aren’t enough to find a hole in his blaster-proof carapace. After dispatching the bigger bounty hunters hand-to-hand, Mando tricks his fourth and final assailant by giving him his jet pack in exchange for the Child, then activating the jet pack from afar and sending the hunter on a brief and fatal flight. Mando’s moral awakening hasn’t made him merciful, and Baby Yoda snorts in response to his would-be captor’s demise, making me question whether the quality time he’s spending with his adopted dad bodes well for his future capacity to tell light side from dark.
The melee reminds us that Moff Gideon and his henchmen remain on Clan Mudhorn’s trail—even when Mando is busy big-game hunting—but the Imperial threat fades for the rest of the episode. After trudging the rest of the way to town—evidently one does simply walk into Mos Eisley—Mando meets up with Peli Motto at the cantina. By staking her sabacc opponent, “Dr. Mandible”—an ant-man filmed by Ant-Man director Peyton Reed, taking his first turn behind the camera on Jon Favreau’s show—Mando earns another tip about a Mandalorian sighting. The catch is that he has to take the tipster with him to the estuary moon of Trask in an adjacent system, where the Mandalorian was supposedly spotted.
To make matters worse, the titular passenger—an egg-toting, non-Basic-speaking “Frog Lady” en route to have her husband fertilize her cargo—can’t travel via hyperspace, which would evidently endanger her eggs. (The galaxy far, far away could really use a non-droid-dependent universal translator; not only is communication difficult without one in a civilization with millions of languages, but it’s pretty implausible that Mando speaks Tusken and Motto happens to speak frog.) The episode doesn’t explain why only sublight speeds are safe for the eggs; hyperspace isn’t typically hazardous to health unless there’s an object in the way. For Favreau, though, the speed limit is a convenient excuse for Mando to make a detour.
Although there’s no sign of the pirates and warlords he’s worried about, Mando and the Razor Crest run afoul of another adversary: the New Republic. He and the Frog Lady—whom I’d love to call by a less speciesist name if she’d offered one—are awakened from their naps by two patrolling X-wings, one flown by Paul Sun-Hyung Lee (Kim’s Convenience) and the other by Mandalorian writer-director-producer Dave Filoni, reprising his role as New Republic pilot “Trapper Wolf” from Chapter 6. At first, it seems as though Mando may get away with a warning about his pre-Imperial ship’s missing beacon, but the pilots soon connect him to the prison break he helped stage on a New Republic transport in Chapter 6. The X-wings lock S-foils in attack position, which is Mando’s cue to break formation and head for hiding on an unidentified frozen planet. With some fancy flying, he gives the fighters the slip, but the Razor Crest soon sinks beneath the surface and sustains a huge hole in its hull.
The Millennium Falcon needed frequent repairs in the original trilogy, but its refits pale in comparison to those of the Razor Crest, which was disassembled in Chapter 2 and nearly blown up in Chapter 5 before being broken open again in Chapter 10. The second half of “The Passenger” isn’t unlike the interlude in Empire when the Falcon’s crew tries to lie low in the asteroid field. In this case, Mando is running from the Republic, not the Imps, but he also ends up in an even more precarious position, thanks to the life forms. It’s hard to imagine a less hospitable setting than the toxic insides of a space slug full of mynocks, but a freezing den of massive/skittering spiders qualifies. This is a cave, but that doesn’t make it much better. Even those soothing hot springs sit in the egg chamber from Alien. (Side note: On top of all of the other creepy crawlies in this episode—arachnophobe fans of the franchise beware—Baby Yoda eating the eggs seriously stressed me out. I get that babies can behave badly, but it’s not cool to snack on the last brood of the Frog Lady’s life cycle!)
Just when it seems as if a Shelob-looking monster is about to ruin the rest of the Razor Crest’s structural integrity, the X-wings arrive and blast it into oblivion. After reviewing the security footage from the prison break, they’ve decided that imprisoning three thugs—who are seemingly still in custody—and trying to stop them from murdering a Republic corrections officer makes up for spearheading the heist, springing a prisoner, and laying waste to the guard droids. Debatable, but OK. (Remind me to use the magic “These are trying times” defense if I’m ever about to be arrested.) Thus spared from the spiders, Mando patches the cracks in the cockpit, heads for space, and limps toward Trask, where he may or may not finally locate a Mandalorian (Sabine or Bo-Katan?) at the next stop on this Star Wars safari. Mando, the Frog Lady, and the spiders were all trying to protect their young. Unfortunately for the spiders, webs, teeth, and talons are no match for a good blaster at your side.
When footage from this episode appeared in the Season 2 trailer, it was easy to imagine that the ice planet was Ilum and that the X-wings were after the Child or teaming up with Mando to take on Gideon, but there was no such significance to those sights. One-fourth of the way through its second season, The Mandalorian has hardly hinted at its promised expansion in scope. It was one thing when Rebels or The Clone Wars went off on tangents for a few of their 20-plus episodes per season; it’s another when The Mandalorian burns back-to-back installments of its eight-episode slate on events that seem like filler from a story perspective. The limited length and quantity of its chapters make the series’ stinginess with details trying for fans who are impatient to piece together the bigger picture, and it’s semi-surprising that this season has started with two non-mythology episodes (to steal some terminology from The X-Files), rather than positioning them in the middle like last year.
The show functions fine as a procedural, so it’s not necessarily a negative when it puts the plot on the backburner. That said, Chapter 10 suffers somewhat in comparison to the episode that preceded it. Although the genre switch from Western to horror-infused creature feature (and the tonal alternations between gross-outs and sight gags) help differentiate Chapter 10 from Chapter 9, “The Passenger” is more than 10 minutes shorter than “The Marshal,” with a smaller-scale action sequence, a less compelling companion for Mando, and no glimpse of an iconic character. No offense to the Frog Lady (played by Misty Rosas, who previously provided the physical performance for Kuiil in Season 1), but a frog can’t compete charisma-wise with Timothy Olyphant.
Ultimately, “The Passenger” is the least consequential—and, for non-arachnophobes, maybe the most forgettable—episode since at least Chapter 5. The overarching plot will probably exceed sublight speed soon—and maybe Baby Yoda will use the Force for something more important than moving floating frog eggs—but in the meantime, it might serve the series well to stop taking the term “monster of the week” so literally for a while, lest some sameness set in. But the baseline level of visual effects and choreography is so high that the spectacle is satisfying even if it’s not building to anything. It’s tough to please both Star Wars obsessives and less lore-curious viewers who just want to be entertained by a watchable blend of action and cuteness for 40 minutes a week, but The Mandalorian is still trying to straddle the two target demos, and mostly making it work.
Fan service of the week
Chapter 10 packed in a few fresh references alongside its now-familiar nods to Tatooine history and the Idiot’s Array. Motto’s method of cooking the Krayt dragon with a podracer engine owes a debt to the similar setup at Ronto Roasters in Galaxy’s Edge.
The Wookiee behind the bar at the cantina may have been Chalmun, who owns the place but hasn’t made a previous on-screen appearance. Dr. Mandible and the Frog Lady followed in the footsteps or paw prints of several Star Wars species that look like Earth creatures, including the Chevin—shout-out to Ephant Mon—and the praying-mantis-esque Yam’rii (not to mention, um, humans). And although the Frog Lady was unintelligible until she used Zero’s vocabulator (a.k.a Richard Ayoade) to translate, she was voiced by Dee Bradley Baker, who provided the voices for Rex, Cody, and the clone troopers in The Clone Wars and reprised the role of Rex in Rebels. Baker will be back to play clone troopers in The Bad Batch next year.
Expanded universe spotlight
For some readers, the less said about spiders the better. Others may be interested to know that the spiders in “The Passenger” aren’t just generic nightmare fuel or the same massive spiders as the ones in, say, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. They look like dead ringers for the “knobby white spider,” a Dagobah-based creature first sketched by original trilogy concept artist Ralph McQuarrie. McQuarrie’s creation went on to appear in various books and video games, but they passed into obsolescence when Disney de-canonized the old expanded universe.
However, their legacy lived on through the similar-looking krykna, which menaced visitors to Atollon in the second and third seasons of Filoni’s series Rebels. The spiders that terrorized Mando and Co. could have been krykna, but they weren’t on Atollon, and they looked more like McQuarrie’s monster. Their presence in Chapter 10 may have been a salute from Filoni, who’s gone out of his way to salvage some relics of the old EU. Personally, I would’ve been fine with letting this part of the past die.
Previously unseen in Star Wars
This section is usually reserved for sights unseen in any canonical corner of Star Wars, so I’m stretching a bit. But the first two episodes of this season have featured The Mandalorian’s first two explicit, verbal references to the Force. In Chapter 9, Motto says “Thank the Force” when she sees Baby Yoda, and in Chapter 10, Mando wishes the New Republic pilots a courteous “May the Force be with you” while he’s still trying to stay on their good side. Perhaps those lines are signs that the series is working its way up to a Jedi rendezvous.
Mando’s apparent ignorance of the Force and the Jedi was a source of some confusion in Season 1. Yes, it’s slightly strange for a Mandalorian not to have heard of the Jedi, given that the Mandalorians waged war with the Jedi for years. But Din could have been cut off from much of Mandalorian history; after all, he’s a former foundling, and his fellow survivors of Mandalore’s demise are so scattered across the galaxy that he can’t even find them. Not all Mandalorians refuse to take off their helmets, so Din may be a member of an isolated sect. And as I explained last year, it’s internally consistent for a character at this point in the Star Wars timeline to be unaware or skeptical of the existence of Force users: Remember Han Solo’s dismissal of “hokey religions” and Rey’s naive question, “The Jedi were real?” It’s been some time since Force users were numerous, and even in their heyday they were scarce relative to the galaxy’s population, particularly on the Outer Rim. Plus, the Empire waged such an effective propaganda/disinformation campaign against the Jedi that even Darth Vader’s coworkers doubted his “sorcerer’s ways.”
For most people post–Old Republic—and maybe even before its fall—“the Force” is a philosophy, a figure of speech, or a nebulous idea that few take to be true in a tangible sense. Mando is familiar with the expression, and he knows enough to bid the X-wing pilots a polite farewell. But that doesn’t mean it’s strange that he failed to connect the concept of the Force to Baby Yoda’s abilities.