This piece contains major plot spoilers for The Mandalorian‘s latest episode, “The Passenger.”
Despite our hope for a shift in focus in Season 2, The Mandalorian appears to be running back the exact same formula from its rookie run. In a nod to its Western inspiration, the blockbuster Star Wars show has relied on an episodic format with weekly challenges in lieu of a more contemporary serialized story. While this structure can occasionally deliver high points, such as last week’s Season 2 premiere, it more often hinders the potential of the show.
This week’s episode, “The Passenger,” sees Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) striking a deal to ferry a passenger with precious cargo on a risky journey in exchange for information on the whereabouts of remaining Mandalorians. Naturally, they all end up stuck on an icy death planet and must flee killer snow spiders to stay alive. (Star Wars has a nasty history of killing alien animals that didn’t ask to be bothered.)
Seen another way, it’s the same exact skeleton of last week’s plot outline—in which our hero’s surprisingly bleeding heart sets out to find more of his own kind only to be sucked into a dangerous side quest. While “The Passenger” does provide a brief glimpse into the New Republic (which could have been accomplished in a more efficient manner), it doesn’t reveal anything new about our characters or the overarching narrative.
The episode plays off Baby Yoda’s appetite for the eggs of a mother trying to prevent the extinction of her amphibious family line as comedy. It’s a jarringly tone deaf stab at humor that parallels the occasionally wonky mechanics of the show. Broadcast TV, with elongated 20-plus episode seasons, has more than enough room for relatively empty adventures that don’t hold much narrative merit. But an eight-episode season can’t be dedicated to so many standalone filler episodes that fail to progress the story, the same flaw Season 1 fell victim to. The Mandalorian is intent on self-made setbacks when all we want is for the show to move forward.
Giancarlo Esposito’s Moff Gideon, intended to be the show’s Big Bad, has yet to show up again despite 25 percent of Season 2 already being over. We’re no closer to finding another Mandalorian, let alone Baby Yoda’s species, or connecting to the greater mythology of the Star Wars universe. Yes, there are still six episodes to go, but it’s impossible not to note the show’s divided focus between random Star Wars adventures and actual storytelling. Plot and character seem to be secondary concerns, only present to serve as interludes between action sequences. Other areas of thin writing are papered over with callbacks, Easter eggs and cameos (Boba Fett popped up last week and Star Wars: The Clone Wars‘ Ahsoka Tano will be introduced soon.)
“The Passenger” opens with a display of desert fisticuffs, segues into a dog battle between the Razorcrest and two Republic X-Wings, before launching into Mando’s daring escape from icy spider creatures. Three major action setpieces in a 40-minute episode. For all that big-budget spectacle, we don’t learn anything new about anything that actually matters within the context of the show. Creator Jon Favreau has delivered a series of massive blockbusters over his career, but there’s a reason fans and critics alike haven’t exactly been enamored with the soul of films like The Lion King (2019).
The Mandalorian is undeniably enjoyable, but it could be so much more.
The Mandalorian is available to watch on Disney+.