DirectorVarious, created by Jon Favreau, based on Star Wars created by George Lucas
Release Date(s)2020 (December 12, 2023)
Studio(s)Lucasfilm/Disney+ (Buena Vista Home Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: A-
- Video Grade: A+
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: C-
Having been tasked with reuniting the Force-sensitive child with members of its own kind, Mando seeks out his fellow Mandalorians to help him complete that quest. This soon leads him to the town of Mos Pelgo on Tatooine, where he meets Cobb Vanth (Timothy Olyphant, Deadwood, Justified) the local marshal who isn’t a Mandalorian but who nonetheless wears a set of very familiar armor. Upon demanding its surrender, Cobb agrees to turn it over if Mando helps him to kill a nearby Krayt Dragon that’s been terrorizing the town. When this task proves too great for the two of them, the people of Mos Pelgo must join forces with a local tribe of Tusken Raiders to accomplish the mission.
Vanth eventually surrenders the armor and Mando returns to Mos Eisley, where he learns of an alien whose home planet has a Mandalorian covert. She’ll show him where it is in exchange for transport. But the journey to her planet, called Trask, does not go smoothly. While evading a flight of New Republic X-Wings, which identify the Razor Crest as hostile from a previous encounter, Mando crashes on an ice moon and his ship suffers damage. Eventually, Mando, the child, and his alien passenger make it to Trask, which leads him to Bo-Katan Kryze (Katie Sackoff, Battlestar Galactica, Longmire), the leader of the Death Watch and heir to the throne of Mandalore. And it just so happens that Bo-Katan has an old friend who might be exactly what the child needs.
The second season of The Mandalorian managed to take an already good Star Wars series and raise the stakes dramatically, not only expanding the mythology but connecting it directly to other parts of the franchise, including The Clone Wars, Rebels, and the Original Trilogy. Two significant legacy characters (that had previously only been seen in animation) joined the cast, including Bo-Katan Kryze and the former Jedi Ahsoka Tano (played here by Rosario Dawson, Sin City, Death Proof), who reveals the child’s backstory and name (Grogu). Carl Weathers’ Greef Karga and Gina Carano’s Cara Dune returned, as did Moff Gideon (played by Giancarlo Esposito, Breaking Bad), Mos Eisley mechanic Peli Motto (Amy Sedaris, Strangers with Candy), and the mercenary Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen, Agents of SHIELD).
Several new characters joined the cast too, including 501st Legion member and actor Paul Sun-Hyung Lee (Kim’s Convenience) as New Republic pilot Carson Teva, and comedian Bill Burr as an ex-Imperial sharpshooter named Migs Mayfeld. Perhaps the most significant addition to the cast however was franchise veteran Temuera Morrison (Star Wars: Attack of the Clones), here playing the iconic and fan-favorite bounty hunter Boba Fett. But the best cameo appearance by far was saved for the season’s final episode, which—via state-of-the-art CG de-aging and deepfake algorithms—saw the long-awaited return of a beloved Jedi Knight in his prime. Returning to direct this season are Dave Filoni, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Rick Famuyiwa. Meanwhile, Jon Favreau helmed his first episode of the series here, as did Carl Weathers. And the series’ directing stable grew with the addition of Peyton Reed (Bring it On, Ant-Man) and Robert Rodriguez (El Mariachi, Sin City).
The Mandalorian is captured digitally in the ARRIRAW codec (at 4.5K) using Arri Alexa LF and Mini LF cameras, with Panavision Ultra Vista and Caldwell Chameleon lenses, and it’s finished as a 4K Digital Intermediate at the 2.39:1 aspect ratio (though parts of one episode this season—Chapter 9: The Marshal—open up to 1.78:1) for its exhibition on Disney+. It’s presented on physical 4K Ultra HD with HDR10 on a 100 GB disc. As was the case with The Complete First Season, the image quality is absolutely fantastic and a massive improvement over the Disney+ stream. With video data rates consistently in the 60-70 Mbps range, the result is much greater clarity and fine detail, a notably richer color palette, and a far more dimensional image overall. There’s none of the banding and artifacting sometimes visible in the Disney+ stream. Notably, the HDR experience on disc is more of what you expect from this format, with deeply detailed shadows and more naturally bright and eye-reactive highlights. Occasionally, the limitations of shooting on the StageCraft Volume reveal themselves a bit more here, but this is still a gorgeous 4K image.
Primary audio on these discs is offered in English Dolby Atmos. And unlike the compromised sound experience on the Disney+ stream, the uncompressed Atmos mix really shines. All the dynamics are present, with pleasing LFE and immersive use of the height and surround channels. The soundstage is nicely wide, with subtle atmospherics all around the listener. Dialogue is clean and readily discernible, movement is smooth and buttery, and Göransson’s score offered in pleasing fidelity. The Kryat Dragon battle and the entire final episode are sonic highlights. This certainly isn’t an aggressive or blustery surround mix, but it serves the visuals well and like the imagery it’s a big improvement over the streaming audio. Additional sound options include English 2.0 Descriptive Audio, as well as French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital. Subtitle options include English for the Hearing Impaired, French, and Spanish.
Disney’s 4K Ultra HD Steelbook release of The Mandalorian: The Complete Second Season features all eight episodes spread across two UHD discs. But there are no Blu-ray versions included—those are available separately—nor are there Digital codes. (Presumably, they’re withholding those to protect the value of the show on Disney+.) The specific episodes and bonus features includes are as follows:
DISC ONE (EPISODES 1-4)
- Chapter 9: The Marshal (UHD – 51:50)
- Chapter 10: The Passenger (UHD – 39:34)
- Chapter 11: The Heiress (UHD – 33:01)
- Chapter 12: The Siege (UHD – 37:04)
DISC TWO (EPISODES 4-8)
- Chapter 13: The Jedi (UHD – 44:47)
- Chapter 14: The Tragedy (UHD – 31:43)
- Chapter 15: The Believer (UHD – 36:18)
- Chapter 16: The Rescue (UHD – 44:05)
- Designing the New Republic (HD – 4:46)
- Forging the Covert: Part Two (HD – 6:02)
The discs’ menus feature a slideshow of high quality 4K production artwork set to music. Unfortunately, there are only two bonus features in this set—Designing the New Republic and Forging the Covert: Part Two—both of them on Disc Two, and they amount to just eleven minutes’ worth of content. In the first, Filoni and Favreau discuss this era of the New Republic, as well as tying the story to other parts of the franchise. Artist Doug Chiang and others also describe the process of connecting the ship, prop, costume, and character designs to the Original Trilogy. The second piece focuses on the process of expanding the Mandalorian culture, weapons, armor, and characters—including the Armorer (played by Emily Swallow) and Boba Fett—as well as the process of adapting characters and iconic props (like the Dark Saber) previously seen only in animation to live action.
Missing are the two Disney Gallery featurettes on the making of this season—The Making of Season 2 (65 mins) and The Making of the Season 2 Finale (41 mins)—and the ILM Virtual Production (7 mins) piece found on YouTube. It would have been nice to have these included, perhaps on a separate Blu-ray bonus disc. But the upside is that the actual episodes have all the disc room for maximum quality. You do once again get a set of three concept art cards in the Steelbook packaging, which features custom artwork by graphic designer Attila Szarka.
The Mandalorian remains a breath of fresh air for the Star Wars franchise, and its second season represents a high point for the series as well as a major turning point for its characters. And that final episode is definitely one for the ages. As with Season One, if you’ve enjoyed the show on Disney+, you haven’t seen or heard anything yet. This unexpected but welcome physical 4K Ultra HD release from Lucasfilm and Disney delivers The Mandalorian in premium A/V quality and lovely Steelbook packaging too. It isn’t cheap, but if you’re a fan it’s definitely recommended.
- Bill Hunt