While Andor is on our minds right now as far as live-action Star Wars television goes, The Mandalorian is arguably still the crown jewel of Star Wars Pillow series and Disney Plus as a whole. It’s been almost two years without a new season of the show, but thankfully, Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni have been working hard on the third season, which is currently set to premiere in February 2023. As we get ready for more Mandalorian content, we thought it’d be fun to take a look back and recap every episode of the show so far through the lens of concept art. This will be a weekly series of reviews, taking place each Thursday until the premiere of Season 3 in February 2023.
As fans of the show know, as the credits roll on every episode, we get a glimpse at some of the amazing artwork that many of the talented artists at Lucasfilm drew while each season was in pre-production. We will be revisiting all of that artwork to highlight some of the key moments from each episode, though bear in mind, these are not fully-conceptualized reviews of the episodes. We still have those from when each episode came out. In fact, we shall begin with the first episode, aptly titled The Mandalorian.
This first piece of concept art perfectly captures the first few seconds of the show. In the first few seconds of any series or movie, the filmmaker has the opportunity to define the story for us. As we hit play, our expectations for the show should be set to zero, and our minds should be blank. Now, it’s up to the writers and the director to define the show for us. The very first thing Dave Filoni shows us is a tracking device on our main character’s hand. We are hunting someone down. That is what we should know from our character right off the bat.
We cut to a shot from below and behind. Our character is owning the frame, he is above us in every way, but we can’t really figure out who he is — he is very mysterious. And as he starts walking, we blend into the shot conceptualized above. Take out the climate, put in a desert, and jump back 60 years — you show that to someone and they immediately get excited about the new Western from John Ford. Is Clint Eastwood making a fourth “Man With No Name” movie?
That feeling prevails as Mando enters the cantina where his bounty awaits. If I’m perfectly honest, I prefer the actual shot in the episode where the circular door opens as he walks in, though it’s clear what was Jon Favreau’s note to the artists — make it look like a Western. His bounty is of course an annoying Mythrol that for some reason speaks basic, though he won’t be bothering us for long.
Mando and the Mythrol manage to board the Razor Crest after a ravinak almost destroys it, as we see in the shot above. Not only is this a beautiful (and accurate) representation of the shot Dave Filoni pulled off in the episode, but it’s also our first look at our beloved ship. I imagine that when this picture was drawn, Favreau had already fully conceptualized the ship, and maybe even created a model he would play around with. I’d be fascinated to know at what point during pre-production these shots were drawn out — this feels like it was very deep into the process, but the next shot indicates otherwise.
After collecting his bounty, Mando meets up with Greef Karga, his guild contact, who has a new and secret mission for him. As I alluded to earlier, I find this image fascinating. It undoubtedly represents the meeting between Karga and Mando, but Carl Weathers is clearly not wearing a Mandalorian suit in the series. Was he supposed to be at one point? Or is this a situation where the artwork was made before Weathers was cast and they drew another Mandalorian as a stand-in?
The new client is of course played by Werner Herzog, perhaps the most fascist character Star Wars has ever created. In that scene, we were also introduced to Dr. Pershing, who would go on to play a pivotal role in further episodes (and is coming back for the third season). Interestingly enough, Herzog’s character, referred to as The Client, would accept proof of termination of Mando’s bounty. But Dr. Pershing did not sign up for that. It’s almost a throwaway moment in the episode but there are interesting implications set up by another moment later. We’ll get to that.
Mando accepts the job and tracks down The Asset to Arvala-7, where he is rescued from being eaten alive by a blurrg by Kuiil, an adorable Ugnaught who speaks just enough to make himself clear. In terms of concept art images that were directly translated into a shot in the episode, this one probably takes the prize. If it weren’t for the signature on the corner there, I would have thought this was a still from the episode.
For a reason that was never made clear to me, and almost felt like a video game, Mando has to ride a blurrg to get to where The Asset is. Kuiil does mention that it is the only way to get there, though that line is never paid off. A few watches later, I still don’t think that Mando learned to ride it that quickly, which is a complaint I remember hearing a lot three years ago — the momentum of the episode also needed this to move along rather fast, as it is essentially a side “mission”.
The two of them march towards the fortress where The Asset is kept, and after Kuiil says farewell because he’s spoken enough already, Mando realizes he’s not the only bounty hunter in the area. Taika Waititi’s IG-11 makes his grand entrance and quickly makes the case for IG-88 being the badass we all thought he was when watching the original trilogy.
In general, I am not a fan of shootouts, as I usually find them quite boring and a way for the story to suddenly stop. This isn’t the case here — Favreau and Filoni found a way to progress the story by teaming Mando and IG-11, something that would have been our main character’s worst nightmare the day before. Moreover, he even insisted on the droid not hitting the self-destruct button, something I don’t think would have happened at the beginning of the episode.
I will add, though, that I am a massive fan of these two pieces of artwork. While they weren’t directly translated into shots inside the episode (the lighting and scenery changed a bit), they perfectly capture the essence of the scene and they would look very good hanging on a wall.
In the end, they are able to kill all the mercenaries (even though they might have actually been the good guys as they were protecting the baby from the Empire?) and they open the door. This shot above does not exactly appear in the episode, but again, it captures the essence of the scene. And gets us ready for what’s coming next…
Before we start geeking out about Baby Yoda and how cute he is, I want to mention IG-11’s death. Mando is forced to shoot the droid after it is revealed that he was sent to kill the baby. Recalling an earlier moment in the episode, Herzog’s character was open to the idea of terminating the creature, but it wasn’t his first choice. It seems that whoever hired the droid had their ideas straight. So, the question must be asked, who else was after Grogu? And also, another unanswered question so far, who hired all of those mercenaries to protect the baby? We still have no idea! There are rumors of Taika Waititi coming back as IG-11 in the third season, so we could finally find out what was happening exactly.
With that being said, I cannot talk about this episode without giving a massive thank you to Dave Filoni and Jon Favreau for being so aware of what an amazing surprise they gave us with the reveal of Baby Yoda here. And, it must be said, to Disney too, as the company accepted not having Baby Yoda merchandise to avoid leaks. My mind was blown when that little green puppy appeared on screen (almost as much as my heart melted), and I remember almost being numb for the next few hours, constantly thinking about how they’d been able to pull that off. In the age of “leaks” and “exclusives” that ruin the experience for many viewers months prior to the release of a new series or movie, the fact that they were so concerned about delivering the best viewing experience possible is something I very much appreciate.
The baby’s presence there also raised a lot of questions that I was eager for the show to answer, which might be why I was so disappointed by the next episode not answering any of them. Two seasons in, we still haven’t answered all of them, and I cannot wait to see what the new season will bring.
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