This review contains spoilers for The Mandalorian season 2, episode 2, “Chapter 10: The Passenger.”
Since the first season, The Mandalorian has always walked a fine line between telling an engaging story and finding padding to fit an episode count. While numerous episodes last season felt like they added to the overall story of Mando (Pedro Pascal) and Child, there were a handful of them, most notably episode 6, that felt more like tributes to genres than substantial additions to the plot. You could make the argument that last episode leaned harder into the Western homages than ever before, but it still gave us a ride that felt exciting and, most importantly, essential to the overall narrative.
“The Passenger” is neither of those things. While I’ve been hesitant to ever call an episode of The Mandalorian bad, since the production at its worst is at least still sterling, “The Passenger” is the worst the show has been by a mile. And yes, I do think “The Passenger” is bad. Quite bad actually.
If I could describe this episode in one word, it would be “pointless.” We begin with Mando being surprised by a group of bandits as they launch a raid on him while returning with Boba Fett’s armor. It appears that they’re after the bounty on Mando’s head for his actions last season, but almost as quickly as they appear, they’re disposed of without much effort. They’re an inconvenience, and even the threat of the Child being taken hostage is resolved without any difficulty on Mando’s part. The only difference now is that instead of returning to Mos Eisley on a speeder bike, he’s returning on foot.
How does that change anything? He doesn’t lose any of Boba Fett’s armor. The Child isn’t scared because of this, and Mando does little to emote besides a general shrug as he carries everything. Every action in a story should have a reason, but there is none to the ambush. It feels like an obligatory scene to get some action for the episode’s introduction.
Upon arriving back at Mos Eisley, Mando, in the search for more information regarding the location of other Mandalorians, agrees to transport a frog lady and her eggs to a moon to reunite with her husband. The catch is that since the eggs are fragile, he can’t go lightspeed, meaning that his ship will be at risk of attacks and will take far longer than it should. This is something that not even Mando wants to do since he outright states that he’s “not a taxi service.” So in effect, the entire episode amounts to an escort mission.
Now, episodes like these can work. Mando has had to do things before that he doesn’t want to do, like team up with droids, (Does anyone else miss IG-11 or is it just me?) and they usually result in some legitimate character development and wonderful moments that stand as some of the show’s bests. But throughout all of “The Passenger,” Mando and the Child, for lack of a better phrase, act like assholes to the frog lady.
Along the way to the moon, they’re attacked by New Republic X-wings and have to crash-land on a frozen planet, damaging their ship. Upon seeing the frog lady freezing and near death, Mando just resigns himself to sleeping and telling her they’ll fix things in the morning. Meanwhile, the Child continuously eats the frog lady’s eggs, which are her children.
Are we supposed to find the Child eating this woman’s eggs funny? It’s played out for laughs each time, but instead of feeling all warm and fuzzy, laughing at the cute doll doing cute things, I just couldn’t get over the fact that the show is framing the Child eating babies as funny. The Mandalorian then acts like a jerk to the frog lady by undermining her very real concerns since he’ll be fine due to his Beskar armor retaining heat. When the frog lady correctly points out that Mando is going back on his word, he has nothing to say since she’s right. Mando promised to protect her and her children, so this is a clear act of betrayal on his part. After seeing Mando’s notable growth on full display last episode, this feels like an unnecessary backpedal.
We do get a small quota of action this episode from a large swarm of krykna, or ice spiders, attacking the crew and forcing them to attempt to retreat. They barely survive and are on death’s door until the New Republic pilots return to save them, still searching for Mando after he crashed on the planet. And of course, the attack of the krykna was predicated by the Child eating one of their eggs. Well, I’m sure glad that awful running joke amounted to nearly watching Mando and an innocent woman die.
In the one moment of the episode I do actually enjoy, the New Republic pilots decide to let Mando go, thanks to his actions in episode 6 last season. While they justly state that the Mandalorian was responsible for letting one high-security prisoner escape, Mando did help capture (or in his case betray) three other criminals on that mission and help protect a New Republic officer under threat by the fugitives. In their eyes, Mando did more good than ill, so they’re willing to let Mando go for his services to the Republic, showing that his good deeds didn’t go unnoticed. The pilots still leave Mando to die on the planet and deny his request for help, so I guess the moral of this episode is, “Everyone’s a jerk.”
While it wasn’t the shortest episode in the show’s history, so little of what happened in “The Passenger” feels consequential. The show has established by this point — and this episode continues to support — that Mando’s actions do have positive and negative repercussions, but it’s hard to figure out at this point what helping the frog lady deliver her eggs will actually mean in the grand scheme of things. In theory, this will help get Mando information about the other Mandalorians, but that information could have been received in so many different ways that didn’t involve being stranded on an ice planet while everyone acts out of character. It eventually comes back to why did we have to see our heroes acting in such a negative light when the same scenario could have played out in a way that didn’t portray them as uncaring clods?
We’re past the point now where the visual effects automatically make an episode good. Yes, the krykna look suitably menacing and the puppetry on both the frog lady and the Child are still nice, but a good production can’t excuse an episode that seems to undermine what the show has been building so far. If the Mandalorian is developing a paternal instinct, he shouldn’t be so dismissive of the frog lady and her own children. Nothing makes the Child’s life more important than the dozens of eggs that the frog lady has except for their race. While I won’t go so far as to say that “The Passenger” has refuted everything that has happened so far, it did almost entirely kill the momentum, and my enthusiasm, built from the last episode.