Can’t get enough of The Mandalorian? Neither can we at WLE (Read all Season Two Episode Reviews Here)! Unlike last year, Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian isn’t breaking up the behind-the-scenes documentary series into multiple episodes. Instead, it’s being released as a one-hour special, devoting roughly 10-15 minutes to each director who contributed to the sophomore season. Honestly, this is more digestible for the fandom, many of whom got the emotional closure they need and are now ready to revisit past Star Wars media to fill in some knowledge gaps. The doc series emphasizes what a well-oiled machine the show’s collective cast and crew is, even with new visionaries trying their hand at cinema’s biggest franchise. My apologies, Yoda, succeeding.
The energy that creative heads Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni exude onset is infectious, largely attributing to the effortless fun that transcends onscreen. However, they are the first to acknowledge that the hit series is only as good and inspired as the team behind it. Anything the duo ask for, various departments fulfill, often with more imagination than initially requested. They do their job so well that studio heads appear to take a step back to let the talented men and women of ILM and Lucasfilm work their magic. Take, for instance, the Krayt Dragon from “The Marshal” episode, which lifts from Star Wars lore to create one of the most imposing monster confrontations in the saga’s live-action history. It’s technical achievements like the Krayt Dragon that keep ILM the top effects team in the business. Furthermore, it makes the argument that television needn’t be viewed as visually inferior despite smaller budgeting.
It’s also worth noting that Kathleen Kennedy is largely absent. This either means she has enough confidence in Favreau and Filoni’s leadership, or the studio prefers to keep her onscreen involvement to a minimum given the backlash received over the years by obsessive “fans.” Either way, The Mandalorian is the most well-received content to come out of the Disney acquisition, and thus the best thing Kennedy could have her name attached to.
What fans might not know is The Mandalorian spends very little time shooting on location. The majority of the show is shot on a soundstage affectionately referred to as “The Volume.” It’s a giant indoor set with enormous LED screens covering all corners of the room. The team constructs various mini-sets, machinery, and other installations to keep the action feeling as authentic and organic as possible. For instance, the team built a real sea-ready ship for Mando and Grogu during their adventures on Trask in Bryce Dallas Howard’s episode, “The Heiress.”
The one time they did shoot on location this season — the scenic locale that is Simi Valley — the crew had Robert Rodriguez onboard to leaven up the strenuous nature of outdoor filmmaking. Rodriguez playing his guitar to Baby Yoda has already gone viral, but his presence further illuminates how important it is to have actual fans of the franchise be a part of its storytelling process. Boba Fett was Rodriguez’s favorite character from the saga growing up, and there’s an added sense of personality responsibility to get his “return” episode (“The Tragedy“) absolutely right. Taking Boba Fett to his badass extreme is the only way to authentically capture this fan favorite’s grit and tenaciousness. Someone who survived being digested by the Sarlacc has no more damns to give, and therefore a couple of measly Stormtrooper battalions won’t stand in the way of both quarry and galactic justice.
Disney Gallery gives viewers a sense of each director’s style. Favreau is highly experimental, with Filoni usually reeling him back if his ideas get a little too kitschy or tonally inconsistent. He also knows how much to pull from actors, being one himself, and has the most knowledge of shooting certain sequences given his familiarity with the Volume and its limitations. However, Favreau openly admits to preferring his EP overseer role and letting other directors do their own thing under his purview.
Bryce Dallas Howard loves to tackle stories, character, and action on a grand scale and is very much ready for her own big-budget feature. Peyton Reed loves being overwhelmed with chaotic sequences, viewing them as a challenge that allows him to get lost in the fun of it. Rick Famuyiwa is very methodical and calm on-set but always allows his actors to improvise or suggest ideas so that their characters are as true to themselves as possible. Dave Filoni is a perfectionist, making sure everything fits the canon and continuity of Star Wars. Finally, Carl Weathers is great at directing classic action and understanding the physicality it takes for stuntmen and actors to realistically convey a shootout, chase, or extended fight scene. Each auteur brings something new to the universe, ultimately proving that the franchise is better when it isn’t dominated by select creatives obsessed with tonal cohesiveness.
The only slight drawback is that for an episode as monumental as “The Jedi,” there aren’t enough interviews with Rosario Dawson or the impact of Ahsoka’s legacy on the show. Instead, time is devoted to Dave Filoni losing his patience over slight imperfections of the dual lightsaber design and lighting. Where was this disgruntled disappointment for Ahsoka’s shortened head tails? The scattered focus on this particular chapter is slightly remedied by George Lucas’s appearance, especially seeing him hold Baby Yoda while Favreau captures the photo that stopped the internet dead in its tracks to collectively gush. Overall, Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian Season 2 is a fitting, appreciative reflection on a landmark television season.