This STAR WARS: THE MANDALORIAN review contains spoilers.
The Mandalorian Season 2 Episode 2
Peli gives Din a lead on another covert of Mandalorians, but there’s a catch. He needs to ferry “Frog Lady” (that’s her official name at the moment) and her unfertilized eggs to her home planet. Traveling through hyperspace will damage the goods, so it’s going to be a slow ride. Eventually, they get stranded on a snowy planet and have to fight their way through action staples (a canyon dogfight, sinking sand, spiders). While this might sound like business as usual, the high production value, Baby Yoda antics, and energetically weird tone of the episode make it a delightful spectacle.
Like last week, the episode opens with a vignette that showcases Mando’s skills as a warrior. When his speeder is taken out by an amusingly low-tech trap and a trio of bounty hunters try to steal the baby, Mando is willing to trade anything for the kid. Anything includes his own gear or Boba Fett’s armor. But like last week, there’s a catch in his mercy, using his jetpack’s remote controls to send one of the ruffians hurtling through the air.
That first scene doesn’t really sum up the wild adventure-horror tone of the rest of the episode, though. Revisiting the Mos Eisley Cantina earned an eye-roll, the series continuing to play a little too hard on the elements we already know from the movies. But it’s worth it for the interplay between Peli, who reminds us she’s rough around the edges, and her alien gambling buddy. There are so many bizarre and unexpected moments that made me laugh in this episode: the just-large-enough-to-be-comical bug-like alien referred to as “Dr. Mandible,” Peli strongly voicing her opinion about maggots, her similarly loud opinion about the right way to cook Krayt dragon meat.
Here too are some sure-to-be-classic Baby Yoda reaction shots. The kid is sometimes perfectly in sync with Mando and sometimes channels the energy of when you’ve just heard a crash in the next room and haven’t seen the cat.
The weirdest and funniest of many absurd images this episode is Baby Yoda eating the eggs. Instead of baby recognizing baby, he just sees a shiny snack. Now, I can very easily see people finding this distasteful; the eggs are children, and Frog Lady doesn’t have much personality outside of being a mother. But I just can’t find it within me to think about it that hard when it’s so absurd. And it’s supposed to be a little gross, along with the other horror/adventure elements of the episode. The show has made an effort from the beginning to make sure Baby Yoda isn’t too cute. Now, he’s firmly back in grotesque territory, and that’s a part of the DNA of Star Wars, too. Every time he ate a big, shiny egg I both cringed and laughed, and right now, I need to laugh.
And I do want to give the use of Frog Lady some credit. Like Mando’s very first passenger, Frog Lady doesn’t have much of a character arc or a name. It would have been nice if she had a bit more personality, especially if she’s going to stick around. But glimmers of it shone through. I like that she rigs the droid to talk, even if her dialogue sounds especially generic coming out of the gruff Zero, who is voiced once again by the great Richard Ayoade (The IT Crowd).
By the end of the episode I remembered one of the most enduring magics of Star Wars: creating real chemistry, both dramatic and comedic, between a person in a mask and an alien with what might as well be a rubber face. The feeling in the Razor Crest is so much warmer at the end of the episode than at the beginning, even if it is literally much, much colder. As usual, props to both actors for conveying so much through all of that costuming.
There were suggestions that this episode might have something deeper to say about parenthood. After all, there are three sets of parents in “The Passenger” if you count the spiders, and motherhood is a very overlooked subject across the franchise. The episode doesn’t do much with this, though, except make gentle suggestions that it might mean something that both or all three parents involved fiercely protect their offspring (adopted, unfertilized, or otherwise). Nevertheless, I became fond of Frog Lady’s big eyes and the way she flops around as she hops.
The episode doesn’t move the plot forward too much, but it does put Mando one step closer to finding his people. The major connection to season one is the appearance of New Republic X-Wing pilots as literal space cops, flagging down Mando for essentially having a busted headlight. They pay off some of the bounty hunter’s choices in last season’s “The Prisoner.” This is very silly, and my lore-hungry heart wants more of the world-building the New Republic gets in other Star Wars media, but it’s also fun, and goofy, and leans into the broad, adventurous feeling of the episode.
Technically, the canyon chase, cave crash, and spider attack are solid but not astonishing. The lighting is gorgeous, similar to The Empire Strikes Back’s blue and whites. The moments where a big spider crawls along the ice above our heroes, and when the baby spiders fill up the ship’s doorway, are thrilling. At times they’re a little too familiar — very Jurassic Park, perhaps. But it’s never so familiar as to be boring.
Contributing to the energy of the episode, the music adds some new twists on Mando’s theme. I especially liked the crunchy, inquisitive sound of the theme as he tried to repair the ship. Ludwig Göransson continues to shine as the show’s composer.
This episode was, well, weird, in a great way. Action and absurdity piled on each other in what felt like an adventure movie. It’s not deep, and it might be polarizing, but as escapist fun, this season is off to a good start.