Many fans are growing impatient due to current production delays on The Mandalorian's third season, largely due to how strongly the Star Wars series left off. The Season 2 finale saw Mark Hamill's Luke Skywalker make his "unexpected" yet wildly welcomed, Mandalorian debut as he slashed through Moff Gideon's Dark Troopers before taking Grogu to his Jedi Temple.
Like all great Star Wars secrets, Luke's appearance was one that was kept quite close to the vest. Most of the cast was under the impression that the mystery Jedi was actually Plo Koon, a character from the Clone Wars era. The Mandalorian director Peyton Reed revealed his crew went as far as to put "misreads" in the script and "temporary visual effects" of Plo Koon to ensure that the big reveal was only known by the smallest group possible.
Seeing that this Luke is close to his Star Wars: Return of the Jedi age at the time of The Mandalorian, bringing back Hamill meant CGI would be heavily involved. Reed utilized a combination of de-aging technology and a stand-in actor to bring a 1983-looking version of the famous Jedi to 2020 streaming screens.
Even a year removed from the cameo that shattered the internet, new details about Luke's big return are emerging.
Luke Skywalker's Altered Appearance Explained
The Force is strong with Lucasfilm's art team.
Lucasfilm creative art manager and author of The Art of The Mandalorian (Season 2) Phil Szostak revealed to StarWars.com that while Luke Skywalker's appearance was conceptualized in art form, he was never blatantly drawn.
"As you can see in the book [The Art of The Mandalorian (Season 2)], no art that really clearly depicted Luke was actually created. And honestly, some artists were left completely in the dark up until the episode aired. It was really only a small group of us that knew all along."
Szostak continued, noting the aforementioned Plo Koon fake-out was what occupied all pre-season materials.
"There was no mention of Luke in the script, either. It was all Plo Koon. But there’s that one image in the book where it’s Plo Koon in Luke’s robe and it’s like, 'Hmmm' (laughs). And Plo Koon surviving makes a lot less sense than Luke, who we know is still around."
Even without concept art to go off of, Szostak emphasized that his team was committed to being "faithful" to Luke's appearance at that point in the Star Wars timeline.
"For Luke especially, the aesthetic of his look is just about being faithful to what you know. But it’s more what you think you know, versus what it actually is. It’s almost like an elevation or a sketch of your memory versus being exactly, precisely one-to-one with the last time we saw him in the timeline, which would have been, you know, Return of the Jedi, and the supplemental narrative material that he was in for Battlefront II."
Luke dons a familiar black robe in his Mandalorian cameo, but his wardrobe did have some alterations. According to Szostak, this "balance between remaining faithful yet bringing something new" was by design.
"You don’t want to just assume that Luke only has, like, one pair of clothes (laughs). So, you know, something that would be appropriate to who Luke was, and that’s recognizable and as iconic as his Jedi look in Return of the Jedi. But also updating it and bringing it to the modern age, and just making slight tweaks. It’s that balance between remaining faithful yet bringing something new to it, or just translating it into something that will work for the purposes of this particular show."
The Mandalorian's Updated Luke Skywalker
While Luke Skywalker's Star Wars future remains unknown, The Mandalorian's creative heads put in enough effort to ensure he's in a good spot creatively moving forward. The Jedi Master is nowhere near his Star Wars: The Force Awakens look at the time of The Mandalorian, but he has put years on his life since Return of the Jedi.
Szostak and his creative art team putting in that extra effort to update Luke's look, even in the subtlest ways, shows Lucasfilm is handling their former face of the franchise with care. Luke is still that same "symbol of hope" in The Mandalorian as he was in the original trilogy, but that doesn't mean he can't evolve during that time between.
The first two seasons of The Mandalorian are streaming now on Disney+.