It's strange to think back now remembering that The Mandalorian was originally a gamble for Disney and Lucasfilm. A live-action Star Wars series was new territory, and fans didn't know who this Mandalorian would be, or that Baby Yoda/Grogu even existed.
Of course, the gamble paid off. The Mandalorian was a massive success and received acclaim from both fans and critics. But would the show's sophomore season live up to the standard set by Season 1?
As we now know, Season 2 of The Mandalorian indeed upped its game and managed to thrill fans with cameos from familiar characters in the Star Wars universe nearly every week. One of the most anticipated cameos was that of Ahoska Tano, Anakin Skywalker's apprentice from both Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels animated series.
In the fifth episode of Season 2, Ahsoka (Rosario Dawson) made her debut and fought the Magistrate (Diana Lee Inosanto) with her pair of signature white lightsabers in live-action for the very first time.
In an article from The Hollywood Reporter, Ryan Watson, the stunt coordinator for The Mandalorian, revealed that the riveting duel between Ahsoka and the Magistrate was truly the most high-pressure fight in all of Season 2.
"...the battle was the most high-pressure of the season because of fan expectations, and resulted in long conversations with showrunner Jon Favreau and director Dave Filoni about lightsaber styles, opting for clean and traditional rather than flowery."
Bringing a fan-favorite character like Ahsoka to live-action was a major undertaking. Fans had watched this character grow up and mature through both The Clone Wars and Rebels; and the success of her debut was also integral to Disney and Lucasfilm's plans for an Ahsoka series for Disney+. Therefore, the Ahsoka in this episode needed to be who fans already knew not just in spirit and conduct, but also in how she fought.
Ryan Watson elaborated further saying, "...we wanted to keep it really old-school samurai, but still entertaining enough to where it has more than two or three moves."
Dave Filoni, who directed the episode, has been open about his love for samurai films, which also influenced his mentor George Lucas. Filoni is also the creator of Ahsoka Tano. Clearly, marrying the samurai style to his character in this new medium was critical.
Thankfully, he had some help from his cast. Diana Lee Inosanto, who played the Magistrate in the episode, is the daughter of Dan Inosanto who influenced the fighting style of Bruce Lee. In fact, Watson claims that weapons experience and the ability to fight is part of the criteria for casting The Mandalorian.
Speaking of influence, Watson also blended Filipino martial arts style kali into the choreography for the fight, but he had an additional challenge. He needed the different moves and fighting style influences to work for someone who's dueling with a lightsaber.
"That changes a little bit of the dynamics. With a samurai sword, you can touch the blade and you're not going to get hurt," said Watson as he joked that a lightsaber is "like a bug zapper. That's why that fight feels very clean and very direct. There's not a lot of wasted movements — when they start to fight, they explode. It's from stillness to 100 miles an hour in the blink of an eye."
Choreographing a fight scene around a lightsaber, all while incorporating the style of a specific character and genre, is certainly a feat. But clearly, all of those factors lent themselves to the climatic power of this incredible scene.
WHAT THIS MEANS
It's fascinating to learn about the sheer amount of planning that goes into not just one episode of The Mandalorian, but a single scene. This is one of the many reasons why the series has been so successful with fans.
At its core,The Mandalorian is a character study. Even though several new characters were introduced in Season 2, Watson's words show that Favreau and Filoni put just as much care and attention to detail into these characters as they did into Mando and Grogu. If this trademark dedication is translated into the variety of new Star Wars series coming to Disney+, Star Wars fans have a lot to look forward to.