From finding their way after The Purge, facing their past with the Jedi, the inclusion of elements such as the Darksaber, and more, the first season of The Mandalorian builds upon Mandalorian history in Star Wars. With the second season fast approaching, I thought it would be valuable to take a look back at the history of the Mandalorians.
Their first leader was Mand’alor who was backed by The Protectors clan living on the planet Mandalore. Their society formed around a house and clan makeup. Their house was their cultural group and their clan was tied to family. Their culture was built upon warrior principles known as the creed and code. The creed established cultural customs while the code was used for combat situations as we see when Sabine challenges Fenn Rau in Star Wars Rebels.
Their warrior ways caused Mandalore to be plunged into constant war–wars between their own and wars for expansion where groups such as The Crusaders conquered other worlds to expand Mandalorian territory. The Mandalorians often came into conflict with the Jedi. They viewed the Jedi as sorcerers, and though a challenge to overcome, The Mandalorians invented technology to overpower the Jedi’s abilities such as the Mandalorian Vambraces and the trapping device in The Clone Wars.
Despite warring with the Jedi, we learn from Fenn Rau in Star Wars Rebels that Tarre Vizsla was the first Mandalorian inducted into the Jedi order. There he created The Darksaber which would become a very important symbol of leadership and power for the Mandalorians. During the fall of The Old Republic, Mandalorians of house Vizsla infiltrated the Jedi temple and liberated the Darksaber.
The New Mandalorian Period
The next history we know of was with the rise of Satine Kryze and The New Mandalorians. Satine started to gain power because of her belief that Mandalore should be a pacifist society. Unfortunately, this caused conflict because of how important warrior customs were to many Mandalorians.
We learn from Obi-Wan that a civil war broke out aptly titled The Mandalorian Civil War. Because of Mandalorian traditionalists opposing her beliefs, Satine was on the run aided by Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon. Though we don’t know many specifics about the war, we do learn from The Clone Wars that during this time Satine and Obi-Wan developed feelings for each other, but never acted upon them.
Eventually the New Mandalorians rose to victory and a pacifist society took control. As a result, anyone who disagreed and did not follow their beliefs was exiled to Mandalore’s moon Concordia, according to Satine and Almec, to “die off”.
But much to Satine’s later troubles, they did not. Instead, they thrived in their own way and came together with the shared interest of returning Mandalore to its warrior ways. Their group became known as Death Watch and was composed of members of House Vizsla, led by the governor of Concordia, Pre Vizsla, who had claim over the Darksaber. During their exile, they slowly worked on achieving their goal of executing Satine and gaining leadership over the Mandalorian people.
Their first attempt was by aligning with the Separatists. They made an agreement with Dooku to help them overthrow Satine and her pacifist government. This drew the attention of the Republic. Death Watch realized that if the Republic became involved, a military presence on Mandalore might cause more people to side with Death Watch. They launched attacks against the New Mandalorians and Satine to bait the Republic in getting involved.
After the attack, the Republic argued that Satine’s pacifistic ways were incapable of protecting the Mandalorian people. Satine, meanwhile, maintained that Republic intervention would only lead to more violence. Satine is able to convince the Republic not to claim occupation over Mandalore making it a neutral system. This, however, would not be the end of Satine’s troubles.
Mandalore becoming a neutral system caused a lack of aid and supplies from other systems. As a result, Satine continued to deal with unrest in her society. Corruption became a huge problem especially with the actions of Prime Minister Almec. The New Mandalorian people’s faith in Satine becomes shaky making all of them even more vulnerable to the Death Watch.
The Rise of Maul with Death Watch
Death Watch’s path takes an unexpected turn when they encounter Darth Maul who was stranded with Savage Opress. Largely due to overconfidence, they side with Maul claiming if he’s an enemy of the Jedi, he’s on their side. In their attempt to take down Satine, they also join forces with the crime syndicates to have another outside force that can help with their plan while painting Death Watch as loyal heroes.
Playing upon the vulnerability of the Mandalorian people’s faith in Satine, Death Watch has Maul, Savage, and the Syndicates attack different areas of the Mandalore capital to show how incapable Satine is of handing the threat. Meanwhile Death Watch captures Satine showing themselves as saviors of the people and proving their capability to protect the people when Satine couldn’t.
They succeed in their plan, gain the support of the people, capture Satine to bait Obi-Wan and establish themselves as the new rulers of Mandalore.
“Do you hear the people? They cry out for change. Your weak minded rule of Mandalore is at an end. The resurrection of our warrior past is about to begin.”
Having always planned on betraying Maul, Pre Vizsla tells him that he is the one in control and keeps Maul in captivity. After escaping, Maul challenges Vizsla to a duel and executes him. Maul claims the Darksaber for himself and by extension, leadership over the Mandalorian people.
This splits Death Watch, with part of the group siding with Maul, while the other side pledges loyalty to Satine’s sister Bo-Katan who argues that a non-Mandalorian should not have rule over their people. With the remaining Death Watch on his side, Maul then uses Prime Minister Almec to secure the trust of the people as he frames Satine for Pre Vizsla’s demise.
Obi-Wan attempts to rescue Satine, but they are captured by Maul who kills Satine as revenge against Obi-Wan.
Bo-Katan aids in Obi-Wan’s escape and urges him to go back and tell the Republic what happened, even agreeing that a Republic occupation would not be bad at this point as it could rid them of Maul. Unfortunately, no aid comes until Bo-Katan takes more direct action.
The Siege of Mandalore
Following these events, Bo-Katan and her loyalists are still highly against Maul and are desperate to reclaim Mandalore. They work to keep tabs on Maul’s whereabouts while planning a strike against him.
After discovering Maul is back at the Mandalorian capital of Sundari, Bo-Katan is ready to take action. She finds Ahsoka and part of the 501st (332nd company) with her to launch a strike against Maul and his Super Commandos.
The clones, Bo Katan, and her Mandalorian followers attack Gar Saxon and the rest of Maul’s Super Commandos while Ahsoka duels Maul. They successfully capture Maul, overcome the Death Watch members loyal to him, and Bo Katan is named Regent of Mandalore.
The Imperial Period
With the rise of the Empire, the future of The Mandlaorians is again put into question as Bo-Katan refuses to follow Palpatine. Gar Saxon is able to regain control after making a deal with Palpatine and is appointed the Imperial Viceroy of Mandalore. The Mandalorians loyal to the Empire become the Imperial Super Commandos.
Gar Saxon and the Super Commandos work to dispose of any Mandalorians who are against the Empire. This lead the Empire to encourage a student of the Mandalorian Imperial Academy, Sabine Wren, to create a weapon that could target Mandalorian armor (the beskar).
Unaware of the Empire’s intentions to actually use the weapon, Sabine’s Mandalorian ways kick in as she takes it as a challenge and creates the weapon she calls The Duchess. The Empire uses the weapon and realizing her mistakes, Sabine destroys it along with the plans and begins to speak out against the Empire. Despite her efforts, her clan chooses the Empire and her past would later came back to haunt her as the Empire remains insistent on finishing what they started.
Gar Saxon continues to work on strengthening his Imperial control seeking to destroy non-loyalists and traitors such as The Protectors.
In Star Wars Rebels, the Ghost Crew comes into contact with Maul and the Darksaber when on Dathomir. Both Hera and Fenn Rau encourage Sabine to wield the Darksaber as they believe with her leadership the Mandalorians could ally with the Rebels. Despite her persisting reluctance Sabine agrees and through it faces her past.
After training to use the saber, Sabine reunites with her family on Krownest. Because her family is in league with Gar Saxon to secure their survival, Sabine is drawn into a duel with him. Even though she successfully disarms him, she refuses to follow the Mandalorian duel custom of killing him. Once Saxon threatens her life, however, he is killed by Sabine’s mother, Ursa.
This is seen as opposition to the Empire, so clan Wren is thrown into heated conflict with the Super Commandos and Gar’s brother Tiber Saxon who is now their leader. In retaliation, Sabine’s father, who was already in captivity, is scheduled to be executed. Sabine, with her allies, launch a rescue mission that the Empire uses to their advantage to test a reconstruction of Sabine’s weapon.
We see the full extent of the weapon through how it targets the Mandalorian armor and vaporizes the wearer. It is made clear how devastating this is not only because of the loss of life, but also because of how important their armor (the Beskar) is to them. As Thrawn says,
“It turns an armor legendary For its strength into a crippling weakness.”
Despite Bo-Katan at first being against her, Sabine owns up to her actions and works to prove how much she wants to right her wrongs earning Bo’s admiration. Together, Sabine and Bo Katan destroy the weapon.
Sabine convinces Bo-Katan to take ownership of the Darksaber, as it is her leadership, that she believes will be the most valuable for the future of the Mandalorian people.
“I accept this sword for my sister. For my clan. And for all of Mandalore.”
Unfortunately, the joy and signs of hope for their people is short-lived as we see in The Mandalorian.
The Great Purge and The New Republic Era
Despite the destruction of the Duchess, as Bo-Katan feared, the Empire stayed true to its goals and wiped out almost the entire Mandlaorian population and took possession of their beskar in a cataclysmic event known as the Great Purge.
The Purge reduces their population and the House structure of their society crumbles. The remaining Mandalorians become a tribe. The Tribe goes into hiding to ensure their survival. Due to their new way of living, their creed also changes. Whereas before a Mandalorian’s strength came from overpowering opponents, as the Armorer says,
“our survival is now our strength”.
As their definition of strength adjusts so do their cultural customs. The most prominent of these is the new rule of not removing your helmet in front of any living being.
We also see just how much more important the remnants of their past have become when the Client says,
“The beskar belongs back into the hands of a mandalorian. It is good to restore the natural order of things.”
While at the time of the Empire the beskar was used as a means of destruction and turning their strength into a weakness, now in reclaiming their Beskar from the remnants of the Empire, it is a path towards rebirth and reconstruction for the Mandalorians.
Despite the house structure largely collapsing, the idea of the clan remains intact as seen when the armorer makes Din and the Child a clan of two in Redemption. In that episode, we also see that Moth Gideon has the Darksaber, we don’t yet know how he obtained it.
Many questions are left unanswered about Mandalorian history and their future. In this time of change post-Empire, how will the Mandalorians continue to evolve? I and many other fans have countless theories, but I look forward to seeing what we learn in Season Two of The Mandalorian.