Once again, Ludwig Goransson's score for The Mandalorian was magnificent.
The composer won an Emmy for his work on the hit series' first season, and Season 2 of the show elevated the music to unforeseen heights. Goransson and The Mandalorian's creative team elected to develop a new sound for Star Wars that would harken back to the scores of John Williams but fit in with Mando's world. This sound was established in Season 1 and carried forward in the second, but to greater effect.
This time around, The Mandalorian introduced several familiar characters from the animated series and original films, warranting new themes for those who would become key players. But it isn't Star Wars if there isn't a bit of that Williams flair, and the references to and return of iconic heroes demanded interpretations of pre-existing themes. The musical process for Star Wars is quite unique, and Goransson recently sat down to discuss how he handled the score for many of our old friends...
In an interview with Insider, composer Ludwig Goransson explained that he wrote a new theme for Luke Skywalker to build mystery as the Jedi Knight mowed through Moff Gideon's dark troopers:
"I basically wrote a new theme for Luke there because I wanted the reveal to be a surprise, I didn't want to hint at anything. When you see him show up in the X-Wing there's electric guitar and a children's choir playing. It kind of sets the tone. Then by the end, it's a nice transition from heroic mystery theme into the Force theme."
The composer noted that Season 1 was about developing the new musical sound, while the second allowed for room to explore original themes:
"We had a lot of conversations throughout the show. We were smart with putting our own stamp on the music through Season 1 but with Season 2 we wanted to flirt with the 'Star Wars' themes a little bit."
Such themes were hints of Yoda's melody, Kevin Kiner's piece for Ahsoka, and the Force theme - which was the most important of all:
Göransson said in both instances they used familiar music from "Star Wars" to give that sense of the history of the franchise in the moment. But he especially wanted it in the Skywalker reveal.
WHAT THIS MEANS
At the time, it was a bit perplexing to completely avoid the musical cues done by John Williams in The Mandalorian Season 1. There were hints of things, like the Force theme when Grogu would tap into his powers, but never anything concrete. In hindsight, it made perfect sense to dedicate the entire season to introducing audiences to this new musical style for Star Wars.
With The Mandalorian Season 2 expanding the world significantly with the scope of the story and the characters involved, it was only natural that the same would happen for the music as well. It started small with brief nods to Williams' March of the Resistance theme when New Republic forces would arrive on the scene, and later expanded into hints of Ben Solo's motif when what appeared to be a failed Snoke clone made an appearance.
But then things got more defined. The reference to Yoda's theme was short but unmistakable, and there was an air of comfort to it. Ahsoka's theme, written by Kiner for The Clone Wars and Rebels, already had many of the musical elements present in Goransson's work for The Mandalorian, making it a seamless transition that helped familiarize us with this newer take on the beloved animated star.
All of these moments were incredible.
Yet nothing held a candle to Luke Skywalker's appearance. Fans knew who the pilot of the lone X-Wing was immediately, and the gloved right hand accompanied by the classic green lightsaber all but sealed the deal. But Goransson continued to build up the mystery with Luke's new theme, playing on the emotions of both the audience and the characters involved in the sequence. And it wasn't until our hero removed his hood and revealed his face that the Force theme finally played out in all its glory.
Ludwig Gorasson's contributions to the success of The Mandalorian can't be understated. The original theme for Din Djarin is now iconic its own right, and Grogu's motifs hold their own amongst the best of what Star Wars has to offer as well. Using John Williams' themes sparingly was certainly the right call, and in picking the right moments to use them Goransson was able to dial up the emotional reactions to eleven.
Clear up space on your shelves, Ludwig. You've got some more awards headed your way.