After “Chapter 9: The Marshal’s” cinematic scope, memorable guest performance from Timothy Olyphant, surprise reveal, and overall epicness, a sophomore slump seemed inevitable. In The Mandalorian Season 2, Episode 2 “The Passenger”, writer Jon Favreau and director Peyton Reed (Ant-Man) take a break from the space Western and instead go for a lower stakes creature feature with plenty of The Child and a new character with the very Star Wars (1977) design and name of Frog Lady (Misty Rosas). “The Passenger” is cute, occasionally funny (Pedro Pascal has dry comedic timing as Mando.) , and has charming practical effects. However, it comes across as middling “monster of the week” episode, albeit, with an effects budget that can support mid-atmosphere X-Wing chases.
With the “Mandalorian” that Peli Motto (A feisty Amy Sedaris) turning out to be Timothy Olyphant in Boba Fett’s armor, Mando is already out of leads and has all kinds of randos on his tail trying to capture The Child. However, Motto and her insectoid buddy Dr. Mandible know someone that knows a Mandalorian on the nearby Trask system. But to meet this contact, Mando must play intergalactic taxi driver to his wife, Frog Lady and her eggs, who need to reach Trask because it’s the only place the children can survive. Unfortunately, this simple transport mission is derailed by overeager New Republic X-Wing patrols, a planet with an unstable surface, a colony of giant spiders, and The Child’s appetite for frog eggs even though that is mostly played for laughs.
Even though this episode had a real “filler before the good stuff” vibe, Jon Favreau and Peyton Reed do an excellent job showing the heartwarming relationship between The Child and Mando. This starts with Mando’s willingness to give up his jetpack (But not the buttons that remotely pilot it.) in exchange for The Child in the episode’s opening action sequence and extends to his good-natured scolding when The Child starts gobbling down frog eggs and finally to the little hammock that he has for him in his sleeping quarters on the ship. It might be the sheer ridiculousness of the episode premise or his inability to communicate with Frog Lady (Except when she hacks the voice box of his deactivated killer droid Zero.), but Mando has a lot of heart and humanity this episode from his sarcastic jokes about everything falling apart to his miming and pretending his communication systems don’t work when he’s pulled over by some cops, er, New Republic X-Wing fighters.
Reed’s comedy background definitely comes in handy in “The Passenger” from stray shots of The Child greedily eyeing various types of eggs to Mando’s stoic exasperation at everything from losing a bet with Peli Motto to his entire ship breaking down. He and Favreau even do some bits in the episode, which are honestly its best parts, like Motto arguing with her pit droids over the way she likes her krayt dragon steak cooked and then plopping it in her mouth. Sedaris’ performance as Motto is always a delight, and I’d love to see her in every episode even if her role really boils down to plot facilitator and fetch quest giver.
Speaking of fetch quests, the bits with the spiders on the ice planet really do seem like that annoying level of grinding, hacking, and slashing (Or in this case: blasting and flambeeing) before you get to the main storyline. The designs are suitably creepy, and they really do leave a mark on Mando’s ship as the final shot of the episode is it limping and spluttering in space like something out of Firefly, not Star Wars. However, they end up being a diversion and a chance for Peyton Reed to indulge his creep insect fetish unlike the krayt dragon, which seem more baked into the episode’s storyline, Mando’s arc, and the Star Wars mythos as a whole. The New Republic-ex machina is also mishandled after a pretty fun chase sequence with the pilots basically reading off plot points from last season to left Mando off the hook. They’re just super boring cops with cool ships, which shows that revolutionaries eventually become the establishment in the end the end although Favreau and Reed aren’t interested in unpacking this.
After a spectacular season premiere, The Mandalorian takes a bit of a dip in quality in “The Passenger”, which features some toothless adversaries and a storyline that doesn’t conclude as much as spin out across the end of the episode’s finish line. However, Peyton Reed and Jon Favreau’s quirky and occasionally disgusting sense of humor, some The Child adorableness, and Misty Rosas’ warm and physicality as Frog Lady keeping it from being a total snooze, especially if you’re into Amblin creature features.
Overall Verdict: 7.6