Thus ends another season of Star Wars stuff! I've enjoyed a lot of what Shirley has put together for this show, and I think that he is very adept at working with the foundational themes laid out by Göransson. Although the material itself is more than familiar to us at this point, he continues to mine a variety of cool permutations out of both the Boba and Mando catalogues alike. This album also shows how good Shirley is at crafting standalone melodies, and part of me wishes he had been given more opportunities to expand the collection of leitmotifs himself.
This second volume of music is certainly an interesting construction to say the least. The first 10 or so tracks mark what could otherwise be the start of one of the best Mandalorian albums we've heard thus far, before returning to Boba's admittedly less colourful sound world for the finale. What's more is the relieving albeit curious inclusion of several Volume 1 bonus tracks tacked on to the end. I think most of us have already decided a whittled playlist is going to be the best way to go about revisiting this score, with the Mando tracks best left as a prologue for whatever comes our way in Season 3.
If you haven't already read the breakdown for Göransson's credits piece and the rest of the first volume, I recommend checking it out. I will continue to use the same terminology for each of Boba's themes, while trying to remain consistent with whatever my latest entries were for the Mando motifs that appear. Alright, let's get started!
01. The Underworld (3:19) from Chapter 5: Return of the Mandalorian
We open the album with gentle overlapping strains of the now-iconic Fanfare for winds and strings, ushering in the return of the Mandalorian with a fantastic variation on one of his main themes. A flurry of recorder sounds and familiar patterns follow at 0:26, before synths bridge the gap into the second half of the piece. The Drama motif, which is most closely associated with the Mandalorian covert, properly appears at 1:20. Mysterious harp lines enter at 1:44, before being joined by covert drum loops at 1:55. String chords resembling the Drama motif calm the surroundings at 2:30 as the cue plays out.
02. A Cautionary Tale (3:12) from Chapter 5: Return of the Mandalorian
Suspended strings introduce a reconfigured version of the Forge motif that provides the basis for this flashback track. It blooms into a full orchestral performance at 0:41 and explores some interesting territory before returning to a low-key setting. Harp outlines of the Rhodes motif begin to call out as Mando expresses his desire to make a gift for the child. The more familiar trappings of the Season 1 armorer scenes finally emerge at 2:29, with the Forge motif returning to its standard chant-like setting. The track ends with continued harp gestures of the Rhodes motif.
03. Faster Than a Fathier (4:58) from Chapter 5: Return of the Mandalorian
There's no question that these shows and their scores excel at montage, and Shirley certainly does well to continue the tradition for this fun ship repair cue. The immediate presence of synths, pizzicato, and clarinets establishes a light tone that continues throughout the entire piece, with permutations of several Mando themes helping to bridge the gaps along the way. A lot of these elements sound similar to the speederbiking music from Mando Chapter 5, which itself was notably derivative of the excellent Jawa theme from Chapter 2. The descending notes that close the Fanfare are isolated and repurposed as a cheerful and airy throughline, appearing first at 1:08 for flute and strings. A determined interjection of the Recorder Riff sounds out on strings at 1:28, leading into a dynamic combination of the complete Fanfare over the Recorder Riff at 1:41. The descending notes return at 2:08, this time paired with the Recorder Riff. The next statement at 2:42 feels particularly Powellian, employing shimmering violins to outline the notes while flutes provide little connecting accents. The Heroic motif is heard briefly on contented strings at 3:34, eventually giving way to one last arrangement of the Fanfare for cellos, which rises beneath little harp outlines of the Recorder Riff.
04. Maiden Voyage (1:20) from Chapter 5: Return of the Mandalorian
His new starfighter now completed, Mando goes for a test flight that marks the glorious return of the major-key Razor Crest fanfare. Yes, that particular ship has sailed, so to speak, but the name will stick for now. Rushing strings take off with the up-tempo Recorder Riff to start, and triumphant brass tease a fuller statement of the now-classic flying theme. A fun woodwind warm-up for the Razor Crest fanfare begins at 0:25, before taking off alongside the main Fanfare at 0:39. The Western motif appears with Mando's signature dissonant stinger at 0:49, rounding out the short but impactful cue.
05. It's a Family Affair (3:47) from Chapter 6: From the Desert Comes a Stranger
A fantastic one-off melody sets the stage for this episode, which features some of the most Williams-esque sequences in the score thus far. Obviously this cue is still completely in Göransson and Shirley's playground, but there remains a healthy dose of oddball whimsy to some of the angles here that I can't help but pick up on a slight ROTJ vibe, at least in spirit. No recurring themes appear as Mando is greeted by R2 and a small army of construction droids.
06. Life Lessons (3:56) from Chapter 6: From the Desert Comes a Stranger
The not-so-long wait for the return of our beloved Grogu is fittingly scored as a thematic banquet. Shirley begins by cementing the mysterious harp and choir combo of Mando Chapter 16's A Friend as being representative of Luke in this era. Several references to the many parts of that stunning Season 2 piece appear throughout the remainder of the episode. Grogu's synths being to sneak in at 0:47, and the Rhodes motif is heard briefly in the background. A surprise reference to Yoda's theme appears beneath a namedrop at 1:26. Sweet ambient phrases of the Rhodes motif come to the fore at 1:56, leading to the emergence of the Season 1 Child's theme at 2:10. A darker dramatic atmosphere takes over for a flashback at 2:30, allowing Shirley to pack some heavy punches with bold strings and brass vaguely reminiscent of the prequels. The climax at around 2:57 is an excellent sample of a type of scoring that these shows don't often allow room for, which is too bad considering how well Shirley sticks the big landing here (to my mind, one of the only comparable instances is the closing of Mando Chapter 16's Open the Door). The cue ends with overlapping textures of the Child's theme and Grogu's synths.
07. A Gift (2:46) from Chapter 6: From the Desert Comes a Stranger
Gentle twangs of the Recorder Riff open the track as Mando wishes to pass his gift on to the kid. Soulful recorder announces itself at 0:45, followed by the Mando & Child theme at 1:06 and the yearning Child's theme at 1:42, the latter of which receives a nice expanded resolution to close.
08. Teacher's Pet (6:25) from Chapter 6: From the Desert Comes a Stranger
The Mando-centric opening to this album is consistently engaging and jam-packed with highlights, but this track might just be the truly quintessential addition here. Shirley once again aces a lengthy montage sequence by concocting a peerless melange of Göransson's themes in new settings and textures, providing some of the most highly-concentrated rapid-fire development since Mando Chapter 8's bolstering of Moff Gideon. We begin with a decidedly cute synth and piano intro, which quickly leads into the first adventurous statement of the recontextualized Mando & Child theme at 0:08. The B section appears at 0:38, with the same percussive elements and string runs carrying on beneath each phrase. The Force theme is quoted plainly at 1:04, before segueing back into the same twinkly atmosphere as Luke and Grogu train in the forest. It's interesting to note the prominent use of piano in this track, as it's not a sound we hear often in this galaxy despite working quite well in scenes like this. The Mando & Child B section returns at 1:43, eventually leading into a wonderful statement of the Grogu theme at 2:08 (that little horn bridge...just fantastic). Gentle Grogu chords interject, clearing the space for a more standard string and synth version of the full Grogu theme at 2:42, and once more at 3:09. The Mando & Child theme returns at 3:23 accompanied by soaring flute and running strings, leading straight into the B section again at 3:52. Cute synths return and open up for the Grogu theme at 4:30. A new recording of the soulful recorder from Mando Chapter 1's You Are a Mandalorian makes an appearance, which happens to be quite similar to its reference in Chapter 14's The Story. Luke's strained A Friend melody returns at 5:16, and is interrupted by Mando's dissonant call at 6:08. What a piece of music!
09. From the Desert Comes a Stranger (2:19) from Chapter 6: From the Desert Comes a Stranger
This track is fairly cut-and-dry, building up tension and atmosphere as Cad Bane stands off against Marshal Vanth. It's a brief and unremarkable detour from the Luke and Grogu material, and is honestly a bit of a puzzling inclusion. This excerpt is essentially athematic save for a passing glimpse at the speederbiking melody from Mando Chapter 9's The Marshal's Tale at 1:58, which has seemingly been reclaimed as a theme for Freetown and/or Cobb Vanth.
10. Two Paths Diverged (2:50) from Chapter 6: From the Desert Comes a Stranger
A big cutaway opens the track as we return to a cliffhanger ending between Luke and Grogu. A Friend immediately appears and merges with both the Force theme and the Grogu theme. The Mando & Child theme emerges over synth choir at 1:03, before quickly morphing into a second quote of Yoda's theme. A flurry of Luke and Grogu-related themes mix together, and solo cello and violin sound out the Mando & Child B section at 2:12 to close.
11. In the Name of Honor (3:24) from Chapter 7: In the Name of Honor
We return to Boba's world and all the sounds that come with it following a long interlude on the admittedly more keeping Mando-and-Grogu side of things. Various pieces of his gang move in place across the city beneath synths, cellos, breathy sounds, and unbalanced strains of the Desert Fanfare. A harsher soundscape of electronics and dissonant cello slides takes over the second half of the track as things go awry for Boba and company.
12. Battle for Mos Espa (2:30) from Chapter 7: In the Name of Honor
A high-octane ostinato version of the Jaunty Riff is unleashed to kick off the next string of action, with supporting statements of the Desert Fanfare interjecting from 0:08 onward. Menacing shimmers of the Desert Fanfare at 1:08 mark one of the most different variations of the theme in the show. The Freetown theme is heard complete with choir as a group of villagers come to the rescue at 1:26.
13. A Town Beseiged (6:46) from Chapter 7: In the Name of Honor
This is the longest action setpiece in the show, and while it certainly works fine in the episode, it's not very rewarding as a standalone cue. Hard electronics dominate for largely athematic stretches that lumber on, expanding the show's diverse palette but gaining little to no ground in terms of thematic development. 808s join with the Heroic motif at 2:54, and the Freetown theme is briefly heard at 5:11. The wacky breakneck surroundings are split open by the reunion of the Mando & Child theme at 5:25, but the track eventually ends with more of the same.
14. Final Showdown (4:13) from Chapter 7: In the Name of Honor
An appropriately monster-sized intro sets us up for both a rancor rampage and a climactic duel between Boba Fett and Cad Bane. The action material is pretty well a continuation of what's already been heard in this episode. A stretched-out statement of the Desert Fanfare can be traced out amidst the bustle at 1:09 and 1:32, respectively. The backing for the Buccaneer theme confidently asserts itself at 3:19, setting the stage for a rare statement of the "Main" theme at 3:32. Shirley cites this reprise of the sparingly-used melody as an important moment in the score, specifically because it calls back to Boba's foundational experience with the Tusken tribe during his key moment of victory.
15. Goodnight (2:32) from Chapter 7: In the Name of Honor
The big bad has been defeated, but the rancor is still on the loose. Thankfully, little Grogu comes to the rescue and calms the beast with the help of the Child's theme at 0:15 and later at 1:34. All tuckered out, the Rhodes motif softly enters to puts him to sleep at 0:51. The cue ends on the atmospheric side of things as Fennec takes out the Pyke leaders across town.
16. A Town at Peace (2:21) from Chapter 7: In the Name of Honor
Acoustic guitar and medieval woodwinds combine for a cool summation of Boba's themes in this epilogue cue. It starts with the "Main" theme at 0:14, the B section of that same theme at 0:28, and finally the Tribe Fanfare at 0:47. I particularly like how the little lead-in to that last section translates here. Unfortunately, the arrangement doesn't quite grow and flourish to the extent that the beloved recorder fugue from Mando Chapter 14's Ahsoka Lives does, but it's still a worthy addition. Mando's Western motif takes centre stage at 1:07, followed by the full-fledged orchestral Fanfare at 1:22, the Rhodes motif at 1:38, and the Skeletal Riff for woodwinds at 1:52. Fluttering synth blast us into outer space, and hopefully into the next adventure in about a year's time.
17. The Reign of Boba Fett (1:21) from Chapter 7: In the Name of Honor
This little extra nugget follows the finale's post-credits scene, and puts in some classically-infused development for a couple of Boba's themes. The Jaunty Riff is contorted into a repeating pizzicato line while the Desert Fanfare is converted into an angular string quartet variation. It's a very short cue and although I really like what the music is doing, it mostly leaves me hungering for a longer suite in the same vein. Oh well!
18. Hit It Max [Bonus Track] (2:01) from Chapter 4: The Gathering Storm
This source cue from Max Rebo and company plays after the wookiee heavy (whose proper name I will not even attempt to spell) leaves the Mos Espa cantina with Boba. Shirley has mentioned trying to switch things up between every diegetic cue in the show, and while this one is adequately bizarre it doesn't fit in with any of the other music here. I would have thought that, if anything, they would have released something like Cantina Latina instead, but I suppose it's just the latest in the continuing trend of head-scratching album choices.
19.Train Heist [Bonus Track] (6:15) from Chapter 2: The Tribes of Tatooine
And here it is; the big kahuna that everyone was clamoring after and stressing over following the release of the first volume (myself especially)! Cellos, percussion, propulsive electronics, and dynamic vocals work together to keep the tempo up throughout this crackling setpiece, allowing several super cool passages to blossom along the way. While not heavily reliant on themes, Shirley's work here is perhaps the best application of the show's musical textures in an action setting. There's so much to latch on to in the first minute or two alone, from the chanting outbursts at 0:35 and 2:21 to the cool expansive string run at 1:17. The processed wailing from Volume 1's Stop That Train is retained here, adding to the piece's character. Tense hints of the Reborn theme are heard at 2:32, before opening up properly at 2:38. There are two cool instances of frenetic music for the conductor droid that speak to Shirley's comedy chops and are also quite enjoyable, the first of which is at 3:13 and the second at 4:03. Another quick hint at the Reborn theme is heard at 4:19 before diving back into the chanting. The same is the case at 5:07, with the Reborn theme building and building towards the closing resolution.
20. The Bonfire [Bonus Track] (1:41) from Chapter 2: The Tribes of Tatooine
Low atmosphere gives way to the percussive tribal dance that closes the episode. It's a fitting end to what's certainly the best scored chapter of the show (at least as far as Boba is concerned).
By the way, if you're looking for the chronological placement of these bonus tracks within the previous volume, look no further than Jay's chapter-by-chapter breakdown on the previous page.
So there we have it! In the end, I would say that Shirley's score has been quite successful, even though I was initially worried about how it would all play out with another composer at the helm. Naturally, my anticipation will always be higher for Göransson's next Mandalorian score, specifically as it relates to the musical opportunities that are afforded to him in that show. Before we even get to that point, however, Star Wars fans still have the likes of Kenobi and Andor to look forward to. I'm sure we're all keeping an eye out for whoever they've tapped to score either one of these. Could be good!
I will admit, however, that I'm not entirely sure how far I'm personally prepared to go with the expansion of Star Wars content on Disney+. This latest show was not to my liking, and I only continued to watch it in order to report on the music. I do not think that's something I would do again. So, I figure now's as good a time as any to put forward a little disclaimer: I do not plan to continue these write-ups indefinitely, as I imagine the ever-churning mill of new releases will far outlast me and my patience.
Once again, I'd like to thank everyone who has helped in putting these together, as well as the many people who have found them useful and reached out to me with thanks and things they noticed. It's encouraging to know that there are folks out there who will read even your longest posts! Until next time, cheers and happy listening!