The second episode of The Mandalorian’s second season is out. How did it advance the overall plot of the series? Did it bring any character development? And what was especially remarkable about it? (Spoilers follow.)
Another Planet, Another Detour?
In “The Passenger”, the Mando leaves Tatooine, following a new tip to look for other Mandalorians. In exchange for the information, he is asked to transport a reptilian alien and her eggs to Trask. This proves to be a problem for several reasons. One, the Child tries to eat the eggs, secondly, to protect the eggs, the ship cannot travel through hyperspace.
This leads to the Razor Crest being intercepted by a New Republic patrol, that identify the ship as the one that took part in the prison bust from Chapter 6. After a chase, the Razor Crest shipwrecks on an icy planet. As if the broken ship and hostile environmental conditions were not enough, the Child stumbles upon more eggs to eat. This time, the eggs belong to a local giant spider-like species, and the heroes are soon attacked by an angry swarm. When everything seems lost, the New Republic pilots reappear to save the day.
Morality on Three Levels
The second episode is considerably less plot-oriented than the first one. In terms of the main plot, it is rather a detour, a short, self-contained story. Majority of the episode revolves around the Passenger and her eggs, and how the Child and the Mando deal with them.
Matters of honour and morality come to the fore. Din rebukes the Child for eating a sentient (and endangered, as we learn) species’ eggs. It highlights the fact that the Child does not really have any concept of right or wrong.
Similarly, Din himself is called by the New Republic pilots to answer for his previous actions. In the end, the very same pilots not only save him but circumvent the law by letting him go. The explanation for this runs on three levels. First, even though not explicitly stated, the pilots save Din from the spiders even though he’s technically their “enemy”, but he is still a fellow sentient being. Second, the pilots know that Din tried to do good in the past by protecting the life of the New Republic lieutenant, and apprehended the criminals.
Thirdly and most significantly, the pilots show empathy. They are aware that the Galaxy is in a state of turmoil after the Empire’ fall, many people are doing questionable things just to get by. If the pilots were strict about upholding the New Republic law, Djarin should go to jail. But for them, the written law does not have the last word; empathy does.
Is This High-Budget?
In terms of the rest of the plot, “The Passenger” is big on action scenes. Both the fighter chase and the spider-attack scenes are rather well-scripted and exceptionally well-done visually. Especially the chase in the clouds is visually stunning and feels like it came from a high-budget film rather than from a simple TV series. There is almost the feel of “we finally had the budget to do great CGI effects, so we did it”, but it is not a bad thing. It is not over the top and it worked.
What did not work so well, in my opinion, were the egg-jokes. I cannot be sure what the writers intended, I am however certain that the Child eating embryos felt repulsive to a considerable part of the audience.
Otherwise, it seems obvious that there was an intention to make the episode more “horroresque” with the spiders. The scene where the Child finds a spider egg was an obvious reference to Ridley Scott’s Alien, both the eggs and the spider itself resembling the Alien eggs and the “facehugger”, respectively. The shot of the Child looking inside the egg was nearly 1:1 to the same scene in Alien.
The Return of Dave Filoni
The spiders themselves resemble a similar species featured in Star Wars Rebels. It may be that the team working with Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni is just reusing its favourite tropes. Speaking of Filoni – the Clone Wars and Rebels director repeated his cameo of Trapper Wolf, the New Republic pilot, in this episode again (after being in The Prisoner in season 1). We may not have seen the last of him.
Especially since the New Republic seems to be resurfacing every now and then, and may continue doing so. Its presence in the episode was a good reminder for the audience. A touch of worldbuilding, showing – together with the pilots’ benevolent behaviour – what the Galaxy is like at this point. The pilots are former Rebels, still not entirely used to being the official representatives of the law. They are “Wedge Antilleses” barely fresh out of their final battles against the Empire. “The Passenger” nicely showed how their life experience as former “criminals” (from the former Imperial government’s perspective) reflects in their attitude towards people who are outlaws even under the new system, such as Djarin.
What Awaits Us?
The first episode of The Mandalorian‘s second season raised the bar quite high. It is also common for TV series to have episodes that may not be exactly filler, but that do not necessarily move the main plot. One could, however, still say that there was something lacking in “The Passenger”.
One could speak about some character development, but only to a degree. The whole egg incident can be interpreted as a possible warning for the future, that parenting the child may actually require more than just feeding and protecting it.
If this is what is going to happen next – the Child starting to act like an individual and not just a cute item, and the Mando having to interact with it and teach it – then the whole egg incident was a good setup for it. Especially combined with the questions of ethics, Mandalorian honour, and law under the New Republic.
“The Marshal” vs. A Jar Jar of Eggs
By itself, however, everything about the eggs and also the sequence with Peli Motto was just a line of jokes that bordered on being a little excessive. Literally nothing Peli did was possible to be taken seriously (talking about overcooking steaks roasted on a podracer jet, speaking the “croaking language” that sounded just too ridiculous to be taken realistically…), it started to downplay the believability of the whole scene and pushing Motto close to the “Jar Jar Binks territory”. Similarly, the egg joke could have been used one or two times fewer. In this sense, this episode was the very antithesis of the previous one that managed to tread this line well (it could easily have had even more funny scenes without making them excessive).
Setbacks in terms of plot and dialogue were somewhat balanced out by the gorgeous visuals and amazing CGI effects. Overall, I would say that comparing “The Marshal” and “The Passenger” feels a little like comparing the original trilogy and the prequels: when George Lucas got his hands on better technology in the prequels, he started to make cooler CGI effects, but he also made Jar Jar. I very much hope that The Mandalorian won’t go down the farting animals route.
Since the passenger is still on board, we can wait for the next episode to see whether her role will be more important in the overall story, or whether she will now simply disembark with her (hopefully some remaining) eggs never to be seen again. If the former, then I’d raise “The Passenger”‘s rating by one star for introducing her. If the latter, I will be left with thinking that this was, in the end, nearly just a filler with cool spider attack and a nice touch of New Republic worldbuilding, but not much more.