Being episodic is okay. After spending countless hours during the pandemic binge-watching “The Clone Wars” and “Rebels,” I know that Dave Filoni has narrative tricks up his sleeve to bring his arcs full circle. That’s not to say he hasn’t gotten lost before in his inconsequential subplots that lead nowhere. In Season 5 of “The Clone Wars,” there’s a 4 part side quest episode about a frog who overcomes his insecurities when working with a group of droids. The episode’s point was made in the first part, but it continues forever with no end in sight. Furthermore, there are countless episodes of “Rebels,” where the story consists of our heroes disguising themselves as Stormtroopers to infiltrate an Imperial Base, reliving the middle act of “A New Hope” tirelessly. I understand that writing for television isn’t easy, but “The Mandalorian” doesn’t have much room for filler episodes like this one that could be plucked out of any other film or TV show.
I’m aware that Jon Favreau wrote this episode, yet at some point, I wish someone from the writing staff told Jon that this episode idea is too rehashed. There’s not much to give away in terms of the plot since it is essentially an episode where almost nothing significant happens. Mando (Pedro Pascal) has to deliver a frog lady who’s carrying a bunch of eggs to her people. Mando’s ship crashes in a cave, Mando has to get the vessel out of the cave, Mando gets out of the cave. Writing a filler episode is fine. Last week’s episode felt like one, but it was unique enough to reevaluate the sand people and its cliffhanger ending to kept me hooked. The story in this one could have been chosen from any episode of “Star Trek,” “Stargate,” or star anything.
We see our hero trapped in a spooky cave; Mando has to fight off the spiders shown in “Rebels.” By the end, he makes it out alive; everyone is happy. One aspect of “The Mandalorian” I appreciated was it didn’t just rely on The Child to hold the audience’s interest. Baby Yoda here is used as the crutch I was afraid would eventually be grabbed. It was as if when directing on set, Favreau knew the audience would get bored, so cut to the baby doing cute things. The thing that this episode did have going for it was its continuation of world-building.
Sometime before the First Order came into power, The New Republic had taken charge of the universe. The inclusion of the two X-Wing pilots (Dave Filoni reprising his role as one of them) requires that your ship doesn’t have an outdated Imperial code. This small detail verifies that the Empire’s scattered remnants grew across the Galaxy. It would be a bit like if the Nazis continued to fight. This uncertainty amongst civilian ships clarifies the Galaxy never quite lived in harmony post the 2nd Death Star’s explosion but was instead rebuilding itself. Much of this is not explained but understood through minimalistic inner galaxy lingo. Reminiscing from the first image of the small Rebel Starfighter being chased by a looming Star Destroyer from the first “Star Wars,” we obtain all the information we need without being bogged down by clunky exposition. The X-Wing pilots were a pleasant representation of a universe putting itself back together. Especially in this chapter’s final act.
The fanboy in me can’t shake the final cameo from the Season 2 opener out of my head. I thought the series would take its plot from there or address the elephant they left in the room. I’m sure this season will go somewhere. I genuinely hope it does since the third episode of Season One was one of my favorite episodes from a television show I’ve ever witnessed. “The Mandalorian” isn’t a cartoon show where you can focus too much time on frog’s taking bubble baths or Baby Yoda being adorable. The episode capacity is limited due to its herculean budget. When making an episodic chapter, be creative with it like Chapter 6, “The Prisoner,” was. That episode still focussed on Mando’s backstory, introduced itself to a thrilling cat and mouse plot, and ended on a great “gotcha” note. Chapter 10, “The Passenger,” was TV writing 1-0-1. The incredible team behind “The Mandolorian” can do much better than this.