The Mandalorian marked the live-action debut of a legendary character from Star Wars’ past, Bo-Katan Kryze. Viewers unfamiliar with her animated adventures on both The Clone Wars and Rebels quickly learned she is as menacing and skilled as any of her fellow warriors. They also learned her history in the galaxy far, far away is far more important than most of Mandalore’s people. She was a leader with a complicated and tragic past. Now she’s a ruler ushering in a new age for all Mandalorians.
The Early Life of Bo-Katan Kryze
Bo-Katan was born into the royal Mandalorian family House Kryze. Her father was Duke Adonai Kryze, whom Bo-Katan described as a great man. During The Mandalorian‘s third season she told Din Djarin a story about her father proudly showering her with gifts after she took the Mandalorian initiation ritual in the planet’s sacred Living Waters.
She also said her father “died defending Mandalore” during a civil war. The Great Clan War ended with her sister, the Duchess Satine Kryze, ruling over a pacifist government. Mandalorians who wished to remain a warrior culture found themselves exiled to the nearby moon of Concordia. Bo-Katan was among the outcasts.
Bo-Katan might have had another sibling we don’t know about, though. The Clone Wars introduced her nephew Korkie Kryze without revealing his parents. Korkie appears to have died at some point during the Empire’s reign, as Bo-Katan has called herself the last surviving member of House Kryze, which had its own castle on Kalevala, a nearby planet in the Mandalorian system.
Bo-Katan Kryze During The Clone Wars
Katee Sackhoff played Bo-Katan long before joining The Mandalorian. She originally voiced the character on Star Wars‘ animated shows. That’s where the character’s own saga began long ago, on The Clone Wars. During that galactic battle, some planets remained neutral, refusing to support the Republic or the Separatists. (Or at least they tried to remain neutral.) That included Mandalore, ruled by the pacifist government of Duchess Satine Kryze.
Mandalore had long been a world of feared warriors with an ancient history of fighting the Jedi. But after the planet’s latest devastating civil war, it became completely peaceful under the New Mandalorians to avoid further destruction. Not everyone was happy about the new, non-violent way of life, though. Those known as the Old Mandalorians moved to the moon Concordia to live by their culture’s former ways.
That New Mandalorians believed those exiled warriors died out. Instead, they endured in secret, and many eventually formed a clandestine terrorist group made up of multiple clans. Known as Death Watch, it wanted to return Mandalore to its roots. Despite her own sister ruling their home world, Bo-Katan led one of Death Watch’s clans, the Nite Owls.
The faction’s ultimate leader was Pre Vizsla of Clan Vizsla. He wielded the famed, ancient Mandalorian lightsaber known as the Darksaber. His ancestor Tarre Vizsla, the only known Jedi Mandalorian, had built that weapon a thousand years before.
Death Watch conspired with the Separatists to take Mandalore, but Duchess Satine stopped the first attempted coup with (unofficial) help from the man who loved her, Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi. But that was far from the end of the terrorist group’s attempts at retaking Mandalore.
The Brief Reign of Pre Vizsla and the Rise of Darth Maul on Mandalore
Death Watch hatched a plan to take Mandalore that involved committing atrocities against its home planet and fellow Mandalorians. One of these plots brought Bo-Katan into direct combat with Jedi Padawan Ahsoka Tano.
It wasn’t until Pre Vizsla (voiced by The Mandalorian creator Jon Favreau) and Bo-Katan came across a different Force user that they were finally able to prove triumphant and end Mandalore’s pacifist era. Unfortunately for Death Watch and Mandalore, you can never trust a Sith.
Vizsla joined forces with Darth Maul and his brother Savage Opress. (Pronounced “suh-vaj,” which only makes that name slightly less terrible). Together they caused chaos and destruction on Mandalore, with Pre Vizsla “saving” the planet from the attacks. A scared and grateful nation then named Pre their new leader, marking an official return to the planet’s ancient fighting traditions. Death Watch’s leader quickly imprisoned Satine, but his reign was cut short. Literally. The Sith Lord challenged Pre Vizsla to single combat. The former Sith apprentice beheaded the Mandalorian before taking both the Darksaber and control of Mandalore.
Mandalorian honor demanded Pre Vizsla’s followers now accept Maul as their leader. But Bo-Katan and the Nite Owls would not. She would never let an outsider rule Mandalore. The group escaped the ensuing fight with Maul and the Death Watch members who defended him. ( Maul’s Mandalorian loyalists became known as super commandos in his Shadow Collective.) Despite the Nite Owls efforts, ultimately, the planet fell under the control of the Sith and his puppet Prime Minister.
Bo-Katan returned with Obi-Wan, but it wasn’t enough to save her sister as Maul killed Satine. An angry Bo-Katan did help save Obi-Wan Kenobi from his old enemy, though. That led her to do the previously unthinkable and ask the Jedi to alert the Galactic Republic about what had happened. She hoped the Republic would invade Mandalore and overthrow Maul, fully aware her people would hate Republic troops on their planet.
Bo-Katan eventually came across Ahsoka Tano again while fighting Maul’s crime syndicate on another planet. This time, however, they worked together, unlikely allies against a common enemy. That led to a long-time friendship between them. As seen on The Mandalorian, Bo-Katan knew where Din Djarin could find Ahsoka. And the latter stopped attacking Din Djarin when he invoked Bo-Katan’s name—a far cry from when Bo-Katan and Death Watch tried to kill the (then) Jedi Padawan.
Eventually, the Republic answered Bo-Katan’s call and invaded the planet during the Siege of Mandalore. She and Ahsoka fought together during the battle, which the Republic forces won. The Jedi then named Bo-Katan Kryze as the new regent of Mandalore.
Like Pre Vizsla before her, Lady Kryze’s reign did not last long. The siege was another trap in Chancellor Palpatine’s plans to take over the galaxy. When the Republic fell Mandalore fell to him.
Mandalore Suffers Under the Empire’s Control
Right after the Siege of Mandalore, the Republic became the Galactic Empire. But when some proud Mandalorians like Bo-Katan and her clan refused to acquiesce to Imperial control, Clan Saxon betrayed them, removing Bo-Katan from power. Gar Saxon swore loyalty to the Emperor, who named Gar Mandalore’s Imperial Viceroy and Governor, a position Gar Saxon held for most of Palpatine’s reign.
Two years before Luke Skywalker blew up the first Death Star, another Mandalorian clan decided to stand up to the Empire on their home world’s behalf. Clan Wren launched a new civil war against Gar Saxon. Eventually, Bo-Katan and her loyalists came across members of Clan Wren. The two factions decided to work together on a number of important missions. That included destroying a machine known as the “Duchess” that specifically targeted Beskar steel, the sacred metal used in Mandalorian armor.
With the help of other rebel clans, they defeated Gar Saxon. In doing so, Bo-Katan proved to everyone—including herself—she was worthy of ruling as she had briefly done before. The famous rebel Sabine Wren—also a close ally and friend of Ahsoka Tano—then convinced Bo-Katan to take the Darksaber Sabine had found among Darth Maul’s belongings.
With that legendary weapon in her possession, other clans named Bo-Katan Kryze leader of Mandalore once more. But, once more, her time as “Mand’alor” was brief.
The Great Purge of Mandalore Scatters Mandalorians
Mandalorians suffered under Imperial control, but it was the downfall of the Empire that led to the planet and its peoples’ near extinction. Once the Empire, busy fighting the Rebellion, realized it could not control Mandalore, it ordered its destruction. Grand Moff Gideon led that atrocity.
It began with the Night of a Thousand Tears and a lie. After Gideon “annihilated” Mandalorian forces Bo-Katan knew “defeat was imminent.” In an effort to save her people and their remaining cities from harm, she responded to a ceasefire request by the Empire. She then met with Gideon to surrender, agreeing to disarm and submit to the Empire. During that meeting, he betrayed her and stole the Darksaber. With Mandalore now helpless to oppose the Empire in any way, Gideon ordered The Great Purge of Mandalore to commence.
The mass bombing destroyed the planet’s domed cities. It also killed nearly every Mandalorian still living there. Assassin droids then hunted down and murdered any survivors they found.
The Empire also stole and melted down Mandalorian Beskar steel. (Easy to understand why a fellow Mandalorian was angry Din worked for an Imperial officer during the show’s first episode.) The Armorer of Din Djarins’s clan said the Great Purge is why Mandalorians lived “hidden like sand rats” scattered among the galaxy.
Bo-Katan After the Great Purge of Mandalore
Bo-Katan lost nearly everything after the Great Purge. She gave up her honor to save her people, and it didn’t matter. But she didn’t she give up her fight against the Empire. Nor did she give up on reclaiming the weapon she believed she needed to rule.
She and her remaining Nite Owls continued fighting against Imperial Remnants during the early years of the New Republic. Their efforts hunting Moff Gideon also led them to amass a fleet of ships, the biggest of which Din Djarin helped her win. They two almost didn’t work together, though.
Bo-Katan and the Children of the Watch
The Nite Owls and Bo-Katan had once been a part of Death Watch, the same group Din Djarin’s covert descends from. But the “ Children of The Watch” is a group of “religious zealots” who follow the oldest of Mandalorian traditions, which Death Watch did not. Death Watch removed their helmets in front of others.
The Watch’s strict beliefs made them outcasts in their own society. Other Mandalorians rolled their eyes at the clan just as much as they were wary of the group’s Death Watch connection. That worked both ways, however. The Watch’s “Way” also made Din Djarin think Bo-Katan and the Nite Owls were not real Mandalorians initially. He had never met a Mandalorian outside of the Watch.
The Children of the Watch survived the Great Purge because they lived on Concordia, the same place pacifist New Mandalorians once exiled their defeated warrior counterparts. The covert did not think they could return to their native planet after Gideon’s bombing, though. Din Djarin called Mandalore “cursed,” an inhabitable place where chaos reigned. He, the Armorer, and the Watch thought it was best to stay far away from that wasteland, and they did.
But Bo-Katan told him not to believe everything he had heard because that’s what the Empire wanted all Mandalorians to think. Talk of curses helped divide Mandalorians, a fearsome people no enemy would want to see united. She was right, but for many years that plan worked. It might have had Din Djarin not formed a mutual respect and friendship with Bo-Katan.
That was until the Darksaber nearly got between them.
The Nite Owls Abandon Bo-Katan After Din Djarin Wins the Darksaber
Bo-Katan desperately wanted to defeat Moff Gideon so she could reclaim the Darksaber by creed. Instead, it was Din Djarin in The Mandalorian’s season two finale who won it from the Imperial officer. He had no desire to own the famed lightsaber or rule Mandalorians, but it didn’t matter. Bo-Katan could not accept Djarin’s offer to give the Darksaber to her. She also elected not to challenge him for it.
When Bo-Katan returned to the Nite Owls without the weapon, they abandoned her and took her fleet. That left the former ruler of Mandalore without a clan or a purpose. When Din Djarin came to her castle on Kelavala he found a very different Bo-Katan. She had seemed to lose hope and had given up on leading her people.
Lady Kryze might have remained that way forever had Din Djarin not needed rescuing from deep beneath the ruins of Mandalore.
Bo-Katan Saves Din Djarin, and Inadvertently Wins Back the Darksaber
Grogu fled Mandalore to ask Bo-Katan to come save the captured Din Djarin. When she arrived on Mandalore, she picked up the Darksaber Djarin’s captor had thrown to the ground. She then used it to defeat the creature, saving her friend.
He took the Darksaber back, but Bo-Katan’s rescue of him would change her life and the lives of every Mandalorian forever as would what happened next when they visited the Living Waters of Mandalore.
Bo-Katan Sees a Mythosaur
Din Djarin visited (the not-cursed/totally inhabitable) Mandalore so he could bathe in the planet’s sacred Living Waters and atone for his sin of removing his helmet in front of another living creature. When he did, though, something pulled him into the deep, deep waters.
When Bo-Katan dove in to save him, she saw something no one had laid eyes on in tens of thousands of years. It was something no one, not even the Armorer, believed existed anymore. Bo-Katan saw a mythosaur, an ancient and sacred symbol of all Mandalorians.
Initially, Bo-Katan didn’t tell anyone, not even Djarin, about the mythosaur. But the prophecy surrounding the creature’s return would prove as real as it.
The Armorer Accepts Bo-Katan Into The Watch
Bo-Katan and the apostate Din Djarin left Mandalore and returned to the Watch covert. When he offered proof he’d bathed in the Living Water the group welcomed him back as a member. Only the Armorer also welcomed Bo-Katan into the group. She had also bathed in the waters and had not removed her helmet since.
With nowhere else to go (Imperial bombers destroyed House Kryze’s castle before Bo-Katan, Djarin, and Grogu made their way to the Watch), she accepted. She then led two successful missions for the covert, showing the Watch why so many Mandalorians had named her Mand’alor before.
It also showed the Armorer why there are more important things than keeping your helmet on.
The Armorer Sends Bo-Katan to Unite All Mandalorians
After the Watch stopped the pirate invasion of Nevarro, a mission Bo-Katan led, the Armorer met privately with Lady Kryze. There she told Bo-Katan to remove her helmet. It was part of the Armorer’s plan to put aside the difference that kept Mandalorians apart. The Armorer recognized Bo-Katan had now “walked in both worlds” and was uniquely qualified to bring all surviving Mandalorians together, even those who scoffed at the Children of the Watch. She was also the only one Bo-Katan had told about the mythosaur, which the Armorer believed was a sign a new age awaited Mandalore.
Bo-Katan accepted this mission, which the covert’s members acquiesced to. She then went to reclaim the Nite Owl’s leadership and its fleet from Axe Woves, who she defeated in single combat (though she did not kill him).
Initially, the Nite Owls still didn’t want to follow Bo-Katan because she refused to fight Din Djarin for the Darksaber. But he then explained why she was already its rightful honor because of his rescue. They all agreed with him, and Bo-Katan once again took up both the Darksaber and mantle as leader of Mandalorians.
Bo-Katan Defeats Moff Gideon and Reclaims Mandalore For Her People
A tenuous union under Bo-Katan led all Mandalorians to finally try and reclaim their home world they knew was not cursed. But it was still occupied by Moff Gideon and his forces. There he had laid a trap for them in an attempt to complete the Great Purge once and for all. But even though he destroyed the Darksaber during his one-on-one duel with Bo-Katan, he learned “Mandalorians are stronger together.”
Bo-Katan never needed that lightsaber, not to defeat Gideon or lead. She needed her fellow Mandalorians for both.
With the Imperial base destroyed and Mandalore back in Mandalorian hands, the Armorer then handed Bo-Katan the flame that Bo-Katan used to relight the Great Forge of Mandalorian as her people watched. For the third, and hopefully last and longest time, House Kryze rules on Mandalore.
Originally published on November 13, 2020.
Mikey Walsh is a staff writer at Nerdist. You can follow him on Twitter at @burgermike, and also anywhere someone is ranking the Targaryen kings.