Spoilers ho! I would avoid reading this if you haven’t seen Chapter 10 yet, but feel free to check out my Chapter 9 analysis if you’ve already seen the season two pilot.
Taking pages both from the connected, self-contained movie style of the first season’s opening storyline and the singular, more episodic arcs on the midseason episodes, “The Passenger” has a healthy mix of overarching plot and isolated conflict while allowing the two main characters to develop and grow.
The overarching plot rears its head at the beginning of the episode, when Din and Baby Yoda are still traveling back to Mos Eisley on the swoop bike. When the two are attacked by bounty hunters, viewers are reminded of the current state of affairs regarding the clan of two. Din is still the badass protector, willing to do anything to keep his child safe. Baby Yoda is the adorable bystander, casually bringing hell down upon their heads in one breath and giggling at gratuitous violence in the next. That is the relationship they have, and until this episode, Din’s single-minded determination to prioritize Baby Yoda above all else has been a relatively straightforward motivation.
That motivation invites conflict when Baby Yoda reveals himself to be a genocidal carnivore intent on eating the eggs of Frog Lady. Which is, generally, something that a parent might frown upon. For the first time, Din is confronted with the strong parental instincts of another person, and in this case, Din’s own child is the one poaching Frog Lady’s eggs. Baby Yoda is in need of temperance and guidance, and this allows Din’s role to expand into true parentage beyond the protection aspect. It is an excellent way for the relationship between Din and Baby Yoda to develop and grow.
However, Baby Yoda is the one who receives the most development on screen this week. While his motivations and actions don’t actually change throughout the episode, the fact that he has desires that continuously impact the plot indicates a greater focus on Baby Yoda as a character and the development of his own agency. In the first season, Baby Yoda was literally a character who was picked up and toted around; his fate was constantly being decided for him. The only instances in which Baby Yoda’s own decisions impacted the plot were when he used the Force to save Din from the mudhord, to heal Greef Karga after the reptavian attack and to protect the group from the flametrooper in the last episode of season one. All of those actions were a result of Baby Yoda’s strong Force potential which has defined his role in the plot thus far. Even regarding Baby Yoda’s status as a high-value target, Baby Yoda did nothing to warrant the bounty on his head; his power in the Force caused Moff Gideon to seek him out, but that driving plot point is not a result of Baby Yoda’s own actions.
Yet when Frog Lady’s eggs enter the scene, Baby Yoda is shown to have agency outside of his abilities with the Force for the first time in “The Mandalorian.” Is that agency homicidal in nature? Absolutely. Does it bring a mass of deadly spiders down upon the heads of himself and his companions? No doubt. Are we still happy to see Baby Yoda’s personality and active role in the plot growing? You bet we are!
This agency and ability to act outside of the desires of his adoptive father will likely grow as the season progresses, especially assuming that Ahsoka Tano is introduced as a teacher for Baby Yoda. With the familial relationship between Baby Yoda and Din firmly built and solidified, it is time for the two characters to grow and develop alongside each other, and “The Passenger” showed Baby Yoda taking that first step.
Granted, this focus on character development does leave the plot flagging a bit. The episode serves as a decent link between searching for a Mandalorian on Tatooine and actually finding a Mandalorian with guidance from Frog Lady. However, the main conflict comes as a result of Baby Yoda’s appetite and the natural deadliness of the planet that the Razor Crest crashes on. Being trapped on an ice planet full of aliens spiders is an interesting reference to “Star Wars Rebels,” both regarding Sabine and Rex fighting spider-like creatures on Atollon, and Zeb and Kallus becoming trapped on the frozen moon Bahryn, but it is still an episodic fight sequence that has the feel of a filler episode.
As entertaining as it is to see that Peyton Reed’s abilities to direct bugs expand beyond ants, the most interesting revelation of the entire sequence came from the New Republic fighter pilots. “The Mandalorian” offers insight into a time period previously unexplored in canon outside of novels such as “Star Wars: Aftermath.” Any details it gives on the government that follows the Empire is welcome, and the fact that the pilots themselves recognize that even with the emperor (supposedly) dead for a decade, the times are still challenging is a wake up call for viewers. Din has not just faced difficulties because he’s on the run from multiple organizations and governments; his difficulties are also simply because the galaxy that Leia, Luke and the Alliance to Restore the Republic have rebuilt is not as perfect as the end of “Return of the Jedi” would have us believe. Hopefully, the season will continue to sprinkle breadcrumbs about the current state of things in the wake of the Empire’s fall, and we might even get to see how that state impacts other Mandalorians and Jedi alike.
Overall, the episode did not quite meet the standards of its predecessor. Full of a unique focus on Baby Yoda and a terrifying sci-fi atmosphere, this episode seems to mainly serve as a set up for whatever Mandalorians Din may find on the next planet he visits. The cinematography and effects are phenomenal, though, and the first fight sequence and detailed flight scene alone make the episode worth viewing. “The Passenger” is not necessarily a groundbreaking episode, but it is enjoyable and necessary for Baby Yoda’s development. Now we’ll just have to see what scuttles onto screen once Frog Lady’s husband arrives in the next episode.