You really can’t trust a soul in the wild galaxy of Disney+’s “The Mandalorian.” You could be blitzing away from the sandy ghost town of Mos Pelgo after a Krayt dragon kill well-done, and suddenly get tripped up by pirates who trash your speeder, and threaten to kill your precious baby cargo. Director Peyton Reed’s “Chapter 10: The Passenger” kicks off this second episode of season two on such a sprightly note, and it has a couple fun, inventive ways for our bounty hunting hero Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) to get on his way. But what does he do with all of his cargo, including the armor of Boba Fett, which he retrieved in the previous episode, “The Marshal”? He just carries it on his back and walks. How long is that walk, if he had to zoom through a sandy expanse that in the last episode required a full montage? No matter, “The Mandalorian” is onto the next thing, and this episode can be a little sly with such plotting, however sporadically thrilling.
Still needing to find other Mandalorians, who can then help him find others like The Child (AKA meme god Baby Yoda), our hero Mando ventures back to a Mos Eisley cantina where Peli Motto (Amy Sedaris) is playing a game of Sabacc with a giant ant named Dr. Mandible. By Mando’s good timing, Dr. Mandible just happens to know a contact who can then help Djarin find more Mandalorians. This proves to not entirely be the case, as negotiator Peli leaves out the idea that this “contact” actually needs a ride from Mando, and at the non-ideal slow speed of sublight. That “contact” is known as Frog Lady, and she’s carrying a batch of eggs that will die if Mando were to travel at hyper-speed. On top of that, Frog Lady doesn’t know about the Mandalorians, but her husband does. And on top of that, Peli doesn’t know Frog Lady, despite saying that she vouched for this random passenger on Mando’s ship, the Razor Crest. “What can I say?” says Sedaris’ dismissive mechanic, whose Tattooine-grade trickiness makes her this episode’s MVP. “I’m an excellent judge of character.”
There’s just not a whole bunch of plot that comes after in “The Passenger,” but it has a strong dynamic by working with sharp contrasts. It starts with Mando speeding through a desert atmosphere, and then it forces him to take the scenic route that later puts him and his passengers on ice. And while traveling earlier at sublight speed, Mando thinks that he’ll be the target of “pirates or war lords.” Instead he faces something arguably more daunting, a couple of X-Wing pilots acting as space cops for the New Republic, who wonder why Mandalorian doesn’t have a beacon regarding the new guidelines. Given his record, Mando tries to get away, and it leads to a chase that’s gorgeous and crisply edited, alternating dashboard points-of-view with wide shots of clouds. One thing that’s missing, but not missed? Laser fire from the pilots, allowing X-Wings and the Razor Crest to swoop around, while the brightest, most eye-catching element is the bright sun on the horizon.
The chase leads to Mando crash-landing the Razor Crest in an icy cavern, which seems like a big deal for Mando’s now-damaged ship and its passengers, but the series doesn’t dig in that sense of danger, so much as give The Child a little more screen-time than “The Marshal.” Like in his previous baby-like moments, he continues to put more things in his mouth to the horror of those around him. And that’s not to say that Mandalorian is getting any sharper as a parent, letting Baby Yoda wander around like this. It’s almost like this series is one development away from a “Baby Yoda’s Day Out” moment, one that I assumed “The Passenger” would go for in a couple of instances.
Mando’s time marooned on this chilly remote planet leads to an exciting finale, which has everyone running through winding icy corridors, away from skittering, skin-crawling ice spiders of various sizes. Known as Krykna, they provide a claustrophobic inverse to the mega sand monster battle in the previous episode, “The Marshal.” If last week’s episode was an unexpected tip of the cap to “Tremors,” this one goes for something like “Eight Legged Freaks” or “Arachnophobia.” Another monster-driven sequence, but a welcome choice—why not use the series’ sense of spectacle for some refined, classic thrills? And again, another type of made-you-look by Reed, who creates an eerie sense with the episode’s main villains, after making you think of giant ants with Dr. Mandible early on (an unmistakable wink to Reed’s work on the “Ant-Man” movies).
As the show has a tendency to do, this episode sometimes leans too much on lucky timing. The third act has a few great surprises—as when the Razor Crest seems pinned for good—but just before things get too anxious, you practically start waiting for something to save the day. It’s just how this show has worked in numerous times, despite being very skilled at putting Mando into what seems like impossible positions. Here’s hoping that later episodes get a little more crafty with their plotting because this season has proven so far that the initial thrills are still inspired.
Throughout this episode, Mando still has a simple objective—reunite The Child with his own kind—but the series thrives on how much it can zig-zag from that path. Sure, that can be mighty tedious for Din Djarin, like trying to get a straight answer from Peli Motto, who always has one piece of information that she’s not sharing, and shrugs off Mando whenever he basically tries to call her out on misdirection. But Mando’s uncertainty can readily be our excitement, provided that we don’t feel like we’re being cheated too.