This is inevitably going to end up a Chris Farley-style review of episode 2, “The Passenger,” because I honestly don’t have a whole lot of insight beyond “Remember when he knocked out those two guys at once with a third guy’s rifle? That was awesome.”
This episode was, as usual, cool as hell, and exactly how you should do televised Star Wars, and it remains the series that I wanted in my childhood but would never have been possible so we live in the greatest time in history, etc. etc. I’m actually a little worried that I’ll get too used to this level of quality week after week, and I’ll start taking it for granted.
Three things stood out to me: First, that this is probably the most genuinely scared I’ve felt watching anything Star Wars since The Empire Strikes Back for the first time.1And back then, I was 10, so everything scared me. Star Wars is all about narrow escapes, but this felt like a relentless pile-on of inescapable disasters. One of the best aspects of The Mandalorian is the “purity” of storytelling that discourages over-thinking it, and instead just taking it all in viscerally. It’s kind of like seeing the asteroid field sequence in Empire, before it got numbed by repeat watching.
Second is the way the episode piled threats on top of each other throughout. Instead of just a sequence of character moments interleaved with action scenes, it was more like the best-constructed sequences of the Final Destination movies. Each threat is introduced and then left unresolved, so they subtly linger in the background like a low rumble of menace that suddenly breaks into a devastating earthquake. Will they be forced to jump to light speed? Will they be captured by the good guys? Will someone be murdered by an assassin? Will they freeze to death? Will that asshole Baby Yoda ruin everything? The dangers are everywhere, and every single thing in this galaxy wants to kill you and/or eat you.
Third is how Baby Yoda and the Mandalorian were both kind of assholes in this episode. It was interesting but weird feeling like I had so much more sympathy for the passenger than either of the main characters. I was actually a little surprised to see that Jon Favreau wrote this episode (it was directed by Ant-Man and the Wasp director Peyton Reed), since it felt oddly off-tone from the others, especially the previous one. I’d thought that the entire first season of the series was about The Mandalorian shifting alignment, in D&D terms, from lawful neutral to neutral good. It wasn’t obvious (at least to me) why the New Republic was enough of a threat to be worth risking everything, and it seemed weird that he would be so unsympathetic to the passenger that he’d ignore the obvious threat of her freezing to death.
To be fair, I can piece it together to all make sense in retrospect, but the “visceral storytelling” of the series usually depends on having every character’s motivations be immediately apparent in the moment, so that every emotional beat lands immediately. But with this episode, I spent much of the time feeling tense just because I didn’t get why the protagonists were being such jerks.
And I guess fourth is that there’s a scene with Amy Sedaris playing sabaac against a giant ant alien. Remember that? That was awesome.
- 1And back then, I was 10, so everything scared me.