A Whole Planet of Nope – Review of “The Passenger”, Episode 2 of “The Mandalorian”

Another week has gone by and another episode of “The Mandalorian” has dropped. And this one was a far different but no less enjoyable affair than the last episode. Season openers usually tend to be the action-packed, hit-the-ground-running type of shows, mainly to bring back returning viewers who are looking forward to the new adventures and to introduce the series to new viewers who may not have watched the first season. The second episode of season 2, titled, “The Passenger”, had a much slower pace but was still a joy to watch, with a few minor nitpicks. Beware, mild spoilers ahead!

The episode begins shortly after the ending of the season opener, with Din Djarin flying back to Mos Eisley on a speeder bike with his collected Mandalorian armor. He is waylaid by a group of mercenaries intent on capturing The Child, reminding us as the audience that there is still a sizeable bounty on their heads. How Din deals with the bounty hunters is quite fun to watch and it shows that despite his gruff demeanor, Din’s main goal is to protect The Child, even going so far as to sacrifice his jet-pack (temporarily).

One of the strengths of the show is that despite not being able to see the lead character’s face, we are able to infer so much emotion and depth simply from his voice. Now, there have been rumors that Pedro Pascal is unhappy with the role, since he isn’t able to work outside of the costume but those appear to be unsubstantiated. While he may not be physically present in the armor due to scheduling conflicts, it’s Pedro’s voice that sells the character and how he’s able to use tone, inflection, and the few words Din speaks to convey so much.

This episode placed Din in the uncomfortable position of having to ferry a being to another planet without making use of the hyperdrive engines of his ship (requiring travel through realspace which the “Star Wars” films and series over the years has established takes a long time). The titular passenger is from a previously unseen frog-like species that is transported her eggs to the planet Trask, in an attempt to have her husband fertilize them and continue their bloodline.

Right off the bat, this establishes the stakes of the story. Unlike the grandiosity of the first episode (kill the dragon!), this is a far more personal story and motivation. The desire to protect one’s offspring and ensure the survival of one’s family line is a motivation anyone can understand, even someone like Din, who’s only real family was the Mandalorian clan who adopted him. It proves to be a difficult task once a pair of New Republic X-wing pilots get involved, not to mention The Child’s fondness for eating things it really shouldn’t be eating.

The second act of the episode involves Din, the Frog-Lady, and The Child stuck in an ice cave after their ship has been heavily damaged. This is where the whole world of Nope happens. I’m an arachnophobiac. Jon Favreau and Peyton Reed made certain this episode was filled with all the nightmare fuel it could hold if you have arachnophobia. The CGI for the episode did look clean, for the most part, with the monstrous creatures moving and filling the screen. The tension of how they would survive this encounter with a horde of creatures that would make me just curl up into a ball and be eaten was well-paced. There’s an element of plot armor to the show that isn’t a bad thing but I knew this obviously wasn’t going to be the end of the characters. Having the X-wing pilots save them at the last minute may seem like a cop-out to some but it ties together the actions Din took in the first season where he showed his underlying honorable nature, which was on display here throughout the episode.

Overall, episode two of the second season was a slower, more character-driven episode, with plenty of CG monsters and action to satisfy the audience while giving us some interesting character moments to chew on. I’m looking forward to the rest of the season and intrigued by where this story is going.

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