Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian: Making of Season 2 review

Robert Rodriguez plays the guitar
The Mandalorian director Robert Rodriguez serenades Grogu on set. Pic credit: Disney Plus

The Season One edition of Disney Gallery’s exploration of The Mandalorian was a spectacular and moving deep dive into the origins, music, and special effects of the series. It confirmed Dave Filoni as the Heir to Original Lucas he is, and showcased the many people whose talents made the man of beskar into a cultural phenomenon.

Season 2’s edition, which offers just one episode instead of Season 1’s expansive 8, is disappointing in its brevity. While it makes sense not to retread the topics covered in Season 1, more in-depth exploration and granular discussion of the show’s advancing themes would have been most welcome.

We’ll take what we can get

We’ll Take What We Can Get

But COVID-19 and the necessity of keeping the final heartwrenching moments of the Season 2 finale a secret whittled the party down to one installment. For the brief time it runs, The Mandalorian: Making of Season 2 performs admirably in expanding the scope of its supporting players. Fans get to hear from two of Mando’s stunt doubles, including Hollywood legacy Brendan Wayne, and there are a welcome few moments focused on the stunning concept art that accompanies the credits.

Fans are treated to plenty of shots of star Pedro Pascal in the silver suit, an aspect missing from Season 1 because… well, he just wasn’t there. Pascal was filming Wonder Woman 1984 when Season 1 of The Mandalorian was shooting, and he seems to have shown up on set only for Mando’s dramatic helmet lift in the final episode.

A great deal of attention is paid to the Krayt dragon, another character lifted from the Star Wars deep-track “toybox’; the skeleton of one is buried in the background as R2D2 and C3PO trundle through Tatooine in A New Hope. Production designer and co-producer Doug Chiang discusses how special effects designers worked to demonstrate that the dragon moves by liquifying the sand around it via audio waves. He also points out that the entire dragon is never shown, even in its destruction: “The less you reveal, the more powerful it is,” he says.

Raising the Volume

Further special effects and practical elements are showcased with a visit to an expanded creature shop and the Volume, where much of the series is filmed indoors. In fact, the entirety of the episode The Jedi, which is set outdoors, was shot inside.

This season, Lucasfilm has improved even on the realistic aspects of the first series; the Volume is bigger, with more advanced color management. A technique of scanning practical models, then projecting them on the screen, is an improvement on the green screen techniques of the prequel era. Director Bryce Dallas Howard reveals that the “rules” of direction involved treating the Volume as though the environment were real in every possible way; in a scene onboard a ship, for example, crane shots were a no-no, since they couldn’t have been accomplished on a physical set.

Some moments were still shot in the great outdoors. An old-fashioned shootout was filmed in Simi Valley, a realistic unfolding that counterbalanced all the technical wizardry. In the same way, fans might be surprised to learn that the terrifying Darktroopers were actually precision-directed actors, with mechanical joints digitally added to make for a frightening blend of humanity and robotics.

Noticing the details

Making of Season 2 lingers on certain sets to showcase the ability of The Mandalorian’s artists to combine ingenuity with a respectful and deep knowledge of the Star Wars universe. Street artist David Choe was brought in to create graffiti for the opening of the first episode of Season 2; references to Alderaan were tucked in, as well as such thoughtful touches as including paint marks low to the ground to indicate that tiny Jawas may have left them there.

Such details are easy to miss but go a long way to demonstrating why longtime fans are so pleased with The Mandalorian. As Mike Stoklasa says, “You might not have noticed it—but your brain did.”

A surprise after-credits scene, for example, required a great deal of loving care. A set in Jabba the Hutt’s throne room from Return of the Jedi exactly matches blueprints of the original film, recreated “crack for crack,” as Favreau says. He acknowledges that in the Star Wars fan base, “everybody has a personal relationship with every frame… we show it the proper respect.” Exactly so.

Adventures in Ma Klounkee

To this end, showrunners Dave Filoni and Jon Favreau are active in every step, their fingers in every possible creative pie– testing lightsabers, discussing the fighting style of Gamorreans, and having serious words over whether or not Mando would actually say “ma klounkee,” a Huttese phrase meaning “This will be the end of you.” (Filoni laughingly halts the insertion, chalking up yet another reason for endearment to traditional fans, as the phrase was the centerpiece of yet another contentious “Han Shot First” edit. Bib Fortuna, however, busts a “ma klounkee” at the end of Season 2—perhaps a compromise, maybe a fourth-wall wink at fans.)

While adherence to this galaxy’s laws of physics isn’t always obeyed in the Star Wars universe, thought went into deploying it in character movement.

One of this season’s breakouts, Frog Lady, Later, Favreau muses that a fighting squad of Mandalorians would move “like a machine,” but Mando’s movements would be markedly different: He’s not one of them. The physical difference also underscores Din’s philosophical split with Bo-Katon’s more relaxed interpretation of the Mandalorian religious code.

Playing Star Wars

“We’re all like six year olds in our backyards like playing Star Wars with one another,” Howard says, underscoring the series’ primary secret to success. Technical dedication such as carefully studying the way light played on Vader’s helmet combine with childlike excitement to “play Star Wars” to make for a deferential sense of continuity.

Director Robert Rodriguez’s decision to submit an animatic using his kids in Halloween costumes wielding action figures speaks volumes, as does Filoni’s wide grin every time he hovers around the live-action Ahsoka Tano.

Filoni offers a heartwarming sense of reality to Grogu’s movements, directing puppeteers to move Baby Yoda’s head to “look up at Dad.” His stream-of-consciousness reference to Mando as Grogu’s father reveals that the relationship lives in him as a real one, an authenticity underscored by tender footage of George Lucas cradling the animatronic during a set visit.

Boba Fett! Where?

Valuable moments are dedicated to the much-anticipated arrival of Boba Fett. Temuera Morrison, who played Boba’s father in the prequels, assumes a Fett-like bearing even while just discussing the role, performs a Maori haka from his native New Zealand before filming.  

“I’ve been waiting to see this version of Boba Fett since I was a kid,” Rodriguez says—which is why his interpretation of the character worked so well. He has thought about this. For decades. That’s why fans were given, for the first time, a look at the rotation of Slave 1’s distinctive cockpit from the inside.

Such preparation included a lot of work with Fett’s makeup; this man is different from the one who went sailing into the Sarlaac pit in Return of the Jedi. Rodriguez was keen to balancing Morrison’s makeup between increased humanity and indicating what Fett suffered in the deserts of Tatooine.

This scene gave Filoni one last chance to reach into the toybox; he reveals that Bib Fortuna’s staff in this scene was part of the action figure, but never appeared in the movie. The series benefits from loving details such as these, combined with occasional wise acting choices (footage of Bill Burr reveals that his walk is a strut even when he thinks no one is looking, and the same actor who portrayed Fortuna is back as his older, wiser self.)

Children of the original trilogy

Favreau and Filoni, both children of the original film trilogy, point out that this new age of streaming brings together not just factions of fans, but generations of them. We’re witnesses to the formation of an entirely new age band of fans. However, The Mandalorian also layers deeper meaning into the original trilogy, lending its gravitas to new adventures while maintaining a feeling of familiarity.

And that’s why we’re here, right?  

The Mandalorian is currently streaming on Disney Plus.

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