SPOILERS FOR THE MANDALORIAN AHEAD!
Without Timothy Olyphant around to steal all his screentime or hog his spotlight, Baby Yoda successfully reclaims his spot as the true star of The Mandalorian – apologies to Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal), our actual Mandalorian protagonist, but there’s simply no way he can compete with the adorable pint-sized little green alien. But under Peyton Reed’s so-so direction, nobody wins: not Djarin, who is forced to spend much of the episode cleaning up after his tiny sidekick; not Baby Yoda, who isn’t yet the Force wielder many of us expected him to become after the first season’s finale; and not The Mandalorian as a whole, which seems to have settled quite comfortably back into its usual routine and doesn’t look likely to shake things up anytime soon.
If I absolutely had to choose a winner from today’s episode, it would be Amy Sedaris, who returns for what I truly hope is not her final appearance this season. The episode picks up on Tatooine where we left Din Djarin last week – speeding back to Mos Eisley with Boba Fett’s armor in tow and no closer to finding any Mandalorians (though, as I and many others have noted, he may not have to find any, since possessing Boba Fett’s armor might unintentionally bring them to him). Sadly, he doesn’t actually run into Boba Fett, whom we saw last week watching the Mandalorian from afar: instead, after a brief but humorous scuffle with a group of bounty hunters who are still looking for Baby Yoda (something that doesn’t alarm Mando nearly as much as it probably should, since it could mean his Imperial enemies are already on his trail again), he and the child make it back to Mos Eisley and meet up once more with their lovable mechanic Peli Motto (Sedaris), who is even funnier and more roguishly charismatic than she was last week, or in season one – a quip about roasted Krayt dragon meat goes over particularly well, and I have to give Sedaris props for keeping a completely straight face while speaking in a frog-like alien language. She has quickly become an indispensable asset to The Mandalorian, and there’s no reason why she shouldn’t take on a larger supporting role. Hopefully, with Boba Fett presumably still on Tatooine, Din Djarin will have to return there eventually.
This week, her impact on the story is critical, as she points Djarin in the direction of a friend (the aforementioned frog alien, played by Misty Rosas) who has a tenuous but possibly vital connection to some Mandalorians on another planet – where the frog lady herself is headed on a personal mission of her own, since she has an entire tank of her eggs that need to be fertilized and a husband waiting for her return. It’s unclear what she’s been doing on Tatooine all this time with her eggs, and whether the Mandalorians that her husband supposedly knows will turn out to be frauds like Cobb Vanth, but it’s the best lead Din Djarin’s got. And so he, Baby Yoda, the frog lady, and a tank of frogs as yet unborn set out, quickly leaving Tatooine behind and heading into more frigid climates. Sorry, Boba Fett, your time will come. Hopefully.
The mission goes badly, as one would suspect, and it’s not long before Din Djarin’s ship, the Razor Crest, crashes into an icy cavern. Remember how we saw this in the trailer, and some of us (a.k.a. me) thought this planet was Hoth, and some of us thought it was Ilium, the ancient kyber crystal planet of the Jedi? Yeah, no. It did turn out to be the home of hundreds of thousands of giant ice-spiders though! You can imagine how I, an arachnophobe, absolutely loved that! Soooo much better than finding some silly old kyber crystals, or Jedi temple ruins, buried beneath the ice. For those who want to know more about these spiders (why???), you’ll be pleased to know they are a new addition to the Star Wars universe, but their design is borrowed from the giant spiders that were once intended to inhabit Yoda’s planet of Dagobah in The Empire Strikes Back (and would have fit in perfectly there, considering it’s the same movie that gave us starship-eating space whales, parasitic space bats, and bloodthirsty space yetis), but which eventually became the almost indestructible Krykna of Star Wars: Rebels. Luckily, these particular spiders are much easier to kill than Krykna, but no less nightmarish – they come in all different sizes, move at high speeds, and their leader almost takes down the Razor Crest. Luckily, Din Djarin and his passengers are rescued by some quick intervention from a pair of New Republic X-Wing pilots who were previously chasing the Razor Crest but who come back to help out – and both pilots are super cool cameos. Dave Filoni, one of the top creative minds at Star Wars and a director on The Mandalorian, is one of the pilots, reprising a cameo role from season one (clearly competing with Peter Jackson’s carrot-eating man in the Middle-earth Cinematic Universe for most times a director can cameo as a single character in their respective franchise), but the other pilot is none other than Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, whom I recognized immediately since I happen to be a massive fan of Kim’s Convenience, the popular Canadian sitcom in which Lee stars.
With the spiders gone, Din Djarin is able to patch up his ship to the best of his abilities, and the little crew continue their journey – notably missing a few of the frog lady’s eggs, which Baby Yoda periodically steals from her tank over the course of the episode and eats. He’s also the reason we get the absolutely-necessary-and-not-at-all-trauma-inducing spider attack, after eating a spider egg. And trust me, I get it; stress eating is in right now. Not sure stress-eating various species’ eggs is quite as popular, but I’ll excuse that. My problem with Baby Yoda over these past two episodes is that he’s done nothing but cause trouble and look cute for the camera. By this point in season one, he had already started using the Force, and everybody had already come up with their own theories about who or what he was, who his parents were, whether Yaddle had anything to do with it, so on and so on. And sure, he’s still an infant; he shouldn’t have to be wielding the Force every few minutes (and we’ve seen how it exhausts him to do so, sometimes). But surely a little bit of Force magic wouldn’t be too much to ask for, at least to keep the conversation about Baby Yoda going? If this season is going to repeat the slow-burn storytelling of season one, it has to do something to make that choice worthwhile. You can’t end your season one finale on a massive cliffhanger and then wait until your season two finale to ever address it! You can’t just introduce Boba Fett and then not mention him again! I mean, you can, technically, but it hardly seems fair.
The closest thing we’ve got to a Boba Fett reveal this week is the return of a season one antagonist, the bounty hunter droid named Zero (voiced by Richard Ayoade), whom the Mandalorian unceremoniously blasted to bits before the droid could kill Baby Yoda. Bizarrely enough, it looks like Din Djarin never had time to dispose of the droid’s various disassembled body parts, since the frog lady finds them sitting in a pile on the Razor Crest and uses them to build herself a translator, making her conversations with Din infinitely easier. It’s really just the droid’s disembodied head that’s been fired up again, so I doubt he’ll be able to cause any mischief, but it’s still something to keep an eye on in the future. Not quite Boba Fett, I’m aware.
But don’t lose hope! Next week, if the frog lady’s information is accurate and her husband isn’t missing or dead by the time Din Djarin reaches their destination, we’ll probably be meeting up with some Mandalorians – or at least people claiming to be Mandalorians, for purposes that could be innocuous…or nefarious. It’s possible they could be characters like Bo-Katan Kryze or even Sabine Wren, but even if they’re not, remember that fraudulent Mandalorians can turn out to be scene-stealers too, as Timothy Olyphant’s Cobb Vanth proved to us all. Fingers crossed, folks; fingers crossed.
Episode Rating: 5/10