The Mandalorian S2E2: The Passenger
Let me share with you a new theory that I have just come up with.
(well, first, let me share with you this: if you’re waiting on a call from your therapist, and are passing the time by watching The Mandalorian, make sure, when the call actually comes, that you double-check you’ve paused the stream so that you don’t wind up having to explain away screaming speeder-bike noises in the background of a call in which you purport to be an adult human being with adult human interests that don’t involve lying in bed with a cat on your neck and watching silly space Westerns and lusting over an inch of Pedro Pascal’s wrist for fun)
This theory is the Baby Yoda Ratio. Now, we all know and love Baby Yoda, don’t we? His little ears flap in the wind when he’s on a speeder bike! He sleeps next to Mando in a tiny hammock! He’s a loveable little scamp with the ravenous dimwittery of my stupid, stupid cat, except with Force powers to boot!
He’s great, is what I’m saying, and, even though the obvious cutesiness of his design has always felt a little merch-cynical to me, he really is All That. But, like many breakout characters, The Child is usually a good indicator of just how much the show has got going for it week-to-week. In a really great episode of The Mandalorian, Baby Yoda is really going to be there for colour, to share little moments with Mando to remind us of his humanity, and to occasionally set a plot into motion or delight Amy Sedaris an unreasonable amount. Baby Yoda is the flavour packet that one pours over the ramen of The Mandalorian, when he’s best used right, is basically what I am trying to say.
But this week’s episode, The Passenger, is a reminder that too much of a good thing is usually trying to paper over some cracks that are left by some weak storytelling. It’s not that The Passenger is a terrible episode – it’s fine, it’s cute, it features a non-human lead, which I always appreciate, and Mando stands with his hands on his hips looking like he’s about to call for the manager, and there are X-Wings and a space chase and all that. It’s not a dreadful forty minutes of TV, by any means.
But it is one, I noticed, that relied really heavily on The Child to keep things interesting. Baby Yoda is an easy go-to when you need a laugh or an aww or something else to keep the audience engaged; because he’s a kid, it’s easy to have him do random, silly things to push the plot along when you can’t think of any other way to make that happen. The Passenger relies on both of these aspects way too heavily, and it feels as though they’re just trying to pull our attention away from the fact that this is some serious filler.
Now, I don’t think any show should be pumping out filler content, really, but for one like The Mandalorian, with such a tight eight-episode run, a story like The Passenger feels downright frustrating. By the time the episode comes to an end, we’re still at the same point we were when we started, and that’s frustrating given that we’re already a quarter of the way through the entire season. I love the idea of The Mandalorian being a tool that writers and directors use to explore more of the Star Wars universe, but there’s also ostensibly a story here to tell, and it feels as though that was back-burnered for Baby Yoda so commit genocide against a bunch of unfertilized eggs, you know?
I’m really hoping that The Passenger is an anomaly for this season. I want the plot to move forward, and I don’t want to feel the show relying too heavily on the Baby Yoda of it all to keep us entertained; capitalizing on some cute is fine once in a while, but letting it run the show like this feels like a waste of what should have been a forward-facing episode.
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(header image via Bam Smack Pow)