The return of Luke Skywalker in the season two finale of The Mandalorian was a monumental achievement in terms of how much hype it generated on social media. However, the more impressive feat that Jon Favreau and the team at Lucasfilm managed to accomplish was keeping the entire affair completely secret – especially in this day and age when there’s not much in the way of surprises with so many leaks and rumors floating around the internet.
To do that, Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni had to keep as few people in the loop as possible. In fact, according to the creative art manager at Lucasfilm, Phil Szostak (who also wrote The Art of Star Wars: The Mandalorian), Luke wasn’t even depicted in most of the concept art for the final episode, nor was there any mention of the character in the script.
“As you can see in the book, 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,” Phil revealed in an interview with StarWars.com
As for the script, the Jedi in question who saves the day was apparently the Clone Wars general Plo Koon:
“There was no mention of Luke in the script, either,” the artist continued. “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, ‘Hmm’ (laughs.) And Plo Koon surviving makes a lot less sense than Luke, who we know is still around.”
That wasn’t the only reason that Luke’s physical appearance and even his facial features are somewhat different from what we expected. As Szostak explained:
“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.”
The character’s costume also underwent subtle changes, so it’s not the same one you see him wearing in Return of the Jedi, per se.
“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.”
Honestly, I think it’s safe to say that Star Wars fans don’t care if Luke Skywalker looks a bit different as long as we get to see him again in the Mandoverse or his own live-action spinoff series at some point in the future.