You have no idea how much went into that surprise you saw on December 18, 2020. That was the day the eighth and final episode of The Mandalorian season 2 was released and, with it, a reveal of epic proportions. None other than Jedi Master Luke Skywalker himself arrived to take Grogu from Din Djarin to train with the Force. The moment elicited all types of emotions from fans but, for the team behind The Mandalorian, the main feeling was probably relief. Measures had been put in place since before the first episode of The Mandalorian season 1 began to keep this secret a secret. Which it did.
What exactly does that entail? In this slideshow, we’ve pulled out 11 fascinating tidbits about the reveal as detailed in the new Disney+ documentary, Disney Gallery: Star Wars: The Mandalorian: Making of the Season 2 Finale, which began streaming this week.
1. Plo Koon
To keep people off the scent of this big reveal, the episode’s script had it written that beloved Clone Wars and prequel Jedi Plo Koon arrived to retrieve Grogu. On set, even when Mark Hamill himself was standing there, they called him “Plo Koon.” Fake concept art and digital effects (as seen above) were created in case there was a leak as well. The team felt, since Plo Koon is known to be executive producer Dave Filoni’s favourite Jedi, it was a plausible misdirect.
Oh, and as the date of the episode got closer, Lucasfilm employees would scour sites like this to see if anyone had put together the pieces yet. No one had.
2. Unclear, the Future Is
Producers Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni weren’t always sure bringing Luke back was the right idea. They said with decisions as big as this everyone had to be on the same page and ultimately, if one person wasn’t sure, they’d stop. Everyone was sure.
There was then the struggle of how much Luke to use. They didn’t want him to overshadow the main story. Eventually though, they realised since none of the characters in the scene knew what we knew about Luke, that helped undercut the magnitude a bit for them, while keeping the audience in the know.
3. Hooking In Mark
Getting Mark Hamill on board was no easy process. It began before season 1, when Favreau and Filoni asked Hamill if they could show him some footage to get his opinion on the show. He loved it, and even did a few uncredited voices (such as the bartender in the Tatooine Cantina in season one). Eventually, before the show even premiered, they finally pitched him the idea, and brought his Return of the Jedi outfit and the Grogu puppet to his house. Mark read the script quietly in another room and agreed.
The problem is, no one had figured out how to actually use Mark at this point.
4. Mark’s Dream
Hamill figured eventually we’d see something with a post-Return of the Jedi Luke, but he was sure they’re recast him with a younger actor. So, when they asked him to do it himself, he didn’t immediately jump on it. Then he realised it was a responsibility to the character he’s played for over 40 years.
Secretly though, Hamill said this specific reveal made sense to him, because Luke is one of the few people left in the galaxy who would even recognise Grogu’s species, having trained under Yoda
5. Deepfake Exploration
So how to pull it off? Well, fascinatingly enough, Lucasfilm spent a lot of time exploring deep fake technology. That’s when you put a bunch of footage and imagery from other projects into a computer, and A.I. extrapolates it frame by frame to maps an appropriate expression over new footage. A VFX worker named Landis Fields was secretly locked in a room at Lucasfilm to explore using deep fake technology to recrate Luke, using 4K footage from the films, old interviews and more. In the end though, the team didn’t feel like the technology was quite ready yet, and went with the traditional deaging they’d used in other films like Rogue One.
(Side note, even just based on the footage seen in the documentary, I disagree with that sentiment. The deep fake, even in rough form, was excellent.)
6. Real Face, Fake Voice
The finale episode was directed by Peyton Reed, who made both Ant-Man movies for Marvel. So he had some experience with the de-ageing technology (where, in the Ant-Man films, it was used to de-age both Michelle Pfieffer and Michael Douglas) and used the same company called Lola. However, while the effect was Hamill’s real face, the voice was faked. Reed used a program called Respeecher to recreate a younger Hamill voice.
7. The Other Luke
There were actually two Lukes on set. One was Hamill, of course, but the other was stunt actor Max Lloyd-Jones. He filmed all the same scenes, so the team could have them as reference. At the start though, the actor didn’t know what role he was up for. He was called in to read for a different role and it wasn’t until he was cast that they told him who he’d be playing.
8. Secretive Shoot
While Hamill was on set to film his scenes (which included going into a special camera rig called The Egg to capture every angle of his face in various lighting conditions, seen above) the crew was as small as possible. In fact, most of the people working on The Mandalorian were purposefully in a whole other location — Simi Valley, CA -filming Robert Rodriguez’s season 2 episode. The team did this to keep the secret even more secret.
9. Return of the Jedi connections
Since this was Luke after Return of the Jedi, the team used that film as a touchstone. For example, the sword fighting techniques he used in that movie were emulated but advanced a little bit, as one would expect. But, they weren’t quite polished, because Luke doesn’t have a teacher at this point.
Also — to give R2-D2 (who joins Luke on his rescue) the right look, the team sneaked in a specific animation that was filmed outside of Jabba’s palace in Jedi and used it in The Mandalorian.
10. A Brown Cape?
Most Star Wars fans are aware that while Han Solo’s jacket on Hoth looks blue on film, and the original toy was blue, it was actually brown on set. But did you know that Luke’s cloak in Return of the Jedi, which most of us see as black, was also brown as well? The point is brought up because the team had to decide which colour to make Luke’s outfit, either remaining true to the original costume or leaning more towards the memory of fans. They went with the more accepted black.
11. First John Williams Music
When Luke shows up, it’s the first time The Mandalorian uses any Star Wars music that was written by John Williams, playing the composers iconic leitmotif from The Force theme. Talk about a powerful tool.