At the risk of being labeled as a stereotypical sequel hater; I’m just gonna say it anyway — in my view, this is the best piece of Star Wars live-action content since The Empire Strikes Back. Showrunner and creator Jon Favreau takes advantage of his skilled hand at worldbuilding to create a TV series that is as much a great piece of television media, as it is a great piece of Star Wars media. What Favreau has achieved here is a Star Wars series that honors characters of old and new, fleshes out storylines, and expounds on Star Wars lore that hardcore fans never would’ve dreamed they’d see on screen. Favreau achieves this feat miraculously without falling into the dreaded realm of fan service storytelling. Yes, that’s right, we believe this show had minimal actual fan service. Why? Well because fan service is when you’re giving fans what they want for the sake of their appeasement — that is not what is happening here – what’s happening here is that Favreau and his co-writer Filoni are honoring characters they want to see, telling stories they want to tell, and creating moments they themselves want to experience. You can tell this is true from the level of detail and care put into each component of the series — from ensuring each character is true to their source counterpart in personality, dialogue, and design — all is done with decisive passion.
I feel this great urge to really drive home the importance of passion in this overview of The Mandalorian Season 2 — because without this passion and understanding of the Star Wars material, the powerful moments that The Mandalorian had would not have been possible. The Mandalorian in many ways is a love letter to Star Wars — an almost flavour of the day mishmash of stories combined together in a coherent and structured way, it very accurately emulates the idea of controlled chaos. With all this chaos and in all its beauty, in the center lies our titular “hero”, the Mandalorian himself – and I can confidently say now that it’s all beginning to make sense as to why Pedro Pascal was selected for this role. It’s the voice. Pedro Pascal is a vocally driven actor, expression in voice was vital to this role and Pedro delivers. We could go on about how the casting of this series was impeccable or that the emotion and action are all equaled by its fun-factor — but we’d be here all day. Now onto visuals…
I think I am reaching the point where I can confidently say that The Mandalorian is the best visually looking TV show in history – yes, we said it. You could argue Game of Thrones takes the spot but the visual quality is usually apparent in the climax episodes, however, each episode of The Mandalorian looks like a high budget film. The CGI used in all the episodes is first-class for the entire journey – the highlights that come to mind are the krayt dragon battle and the spider-like creatures in the ice cave. The cinematography is really well done with excellent shot selection which is evident in Chapter 14: The Tragedy as it contained close-ups that held the shot long enough to evoke impact. Lighting is just as impressive – used in a way that provides an atmospheric touch to it.
Star Wars films usually contain great production design due to the unique sets and creative costuming. The Mandalorian is no different and arguably better, as the journey is much longer with the quality being the same as the Star Wars films. How was this all achieved at such quality and in such a short time frame? Well, simply put, green screens are used sparingly in this series and instead a dome of LED panels generate the digital environment around the actors in real time — this means a number of things; for one, there’s no need to build huge sets, no need to travel to real locations, lighting is super accurate, and the entire set can be changed rapidly. We’re mentioning this technology because it is likely something that we can expect to see in most Disney+ shows going forward.
Another impressive feature is the character design specifically in Ahsoka Tano, Bo-Katan Kryze, and the Dark Troopers – the details have translated from other mediums to live-action smoothly. Ludwig Göransson seems to have taken a page out of his ‘Tenet’ playbook and constructed a score eerily similar to that of the inverted pieces while also keeping the original theme of The Mandalorian. Just like the Star Wars films, the sound design and editing is amazing that when paired with the outstanding visual it rivals the films itself.
The Mandalorian Season 2 sets the stage for a new era of storytelling — an era of high budget TV with the scope and grandeur of the largest cinematic universes in film. This is (and I hope I don’t eat my words here) the true start of the Star Wars cinematic universe — and perhaps a temporary hiatus of Star Wars on the big screen. Instead we may even see it almost exclusively delegated to the small screen. Jon Favreau, you’ve done it again, you’ve built all the pieces ready for a major cinematic universe. Has Star Wars been “saved”? Well, to many of the more hardcore fans, it appears Disney have found the formula – after much trial and error – let’s just hope it can be replicated.