This post contains spoilers for The Mandalorian, season two, episode three.
This week’s episode of The Mandalorian marked the live-action debut of a legendary character from Star Wars’ past. Bo-Katan Kryze was a major figure of both The Clone Wars and Rebels. Viewers unfamiliar with her animated adventures quickly learned she is as fierce and deadly as any Mandalorian. But her history and life goes far beyond just being a warrior. She is also a leader with a complicated past, one who will play an even bigger role going forward on The Mandalorian.
The Clone Wars
Katee Sackhoff didn’t just became Bo-Katan on The Mandalorian. She voiced the character on the animated shows, too. That’s where the character’s Star Wars saga began long ago, during The Clone Wars of the prequel era. Some planets remained neutral during the conflict between the Republic and the Separatists (or at least tried to). That included Mandalore. At the time of the war, the pacifist Duchess Satine Kryze ruled. She was Bo-Katan’s sister.
Mandalore had long been a world of feared warriors, but after a civil war of its own the planet became completely peaceful. Not everyone was happy about its new, non-violent way of life, though. That included a terrorist group known as Death Watch, made up of multiple clans. It wanted to return Mandalore to its martial roots. While Bo-Katan led a subgroup of members known as the Nite Owls, Death Watch’s ultimate leader was Pre Vizsla of Clan Vizsla. He wielded the famed, ancient Mandalorian lightsaber known as the Darksaber,
Duchess Satine was able to stop Death Watch after it conspired with the Separatists to take Mandalore. She got help from Obi-Wan, who she had a personal history with. But that was far from the end of the terrorist group’s attempts.
The Brief Rise of Pre Vizsla
Death Watch committed atrocities during its attacks and while it continued planning to retake their home world. 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 other Force users they were able to take Mandalore. Unfortunately for Death Watch, you can never trust a Sith.
Vizsla joined forces with Darth Maul and his brother Savage Oppress (pronounced “suh-vaj,” which only makes that name slightly less terrible). Together they caused chaos and destruction on the planet, with Pre Vizsla “saving” Mandalore from the attacks. A scared and grateful nation then named him their new leader, marking a return to its warrior tradition. He quickly imprisoned Satine. Vizsla’s reign was short, though. The Sith Lord killed Pre Vizsla in single combat and took both the Darksaber and control of Mandalore.
Mandalorian honor demanded Vizsla’s followers now accept Maul as their leader. But Bo-Katan and the Nite Owls would not. She would never let Mandalore be ruled by an outsider. The group escaped the ensuing fight with Maul, but ultimately the planet would fall to the Sith and his puppet Prime Minister. Despite rescue attempts by both Bo and Obi-Wan, Satine was killed by Maul. An angry Bo did help save Obi-Wan from his old enemy, though. Then she did the previously unthinkable and asked the Jedi to alert the Republic about what had happened. She hoped the Republic would invade Mandalore and overthrow Maul.
While fighting Maul’s crime syndicate on another planet, Bo once again came across Ahsoka Tano. This time they worked together, allies against a common enemy. Then, finally, the Republic invaded the planet, in what is known as the Siege of Mandalore. Bo and Ahsoka fought together during the battle, which was unfortunately another trap in Chancellor Palpatine’s plans to take over the galaxy. Republic forces won and the Jedi named Bo-Katan Kryze as the new regent of Mandalore. Her reign did not last long either.
Mandalore Under the Empire
The Republic immediately became the Galactic Empire. But some proud Mandalorians, like Clan Kryze, refused to acquiesce to Imperial control. Clan Saxon then betrayed Bo-Katan, removing her from power. Gar Saxon swore loyalty to the Empire and was named Mandalore’s Imperial Viceroy and Governor. He held the position for years.
Two years before Luke Skywalker blew up the first Death Star, another clan decided to stand up to the Empire on Mandalore’s behalf. Clan Wren began a new civil war against Gar Saxon. Eventually Bo-Katan and her own loyalists came across members of Clan Wren. The groups worked together on a number of important missions, including destroying a machine known as the “Duchess,” which specifically targeted Beskar steel, the metal used in Mandalorian armor.
Together they defeated Gar Saxon, and Bo proved to everyone, and herself, she was worthy of ruling. The great rebel—and ally of Ahsoka Tano—Sabine Wren finally convinced Bo-Katan to take the Darksaber Sabine had found. With the support of the other clans, Bo was once again named leader of Mandalore.
A Splintered People
Mandalorians suffered under Imperial control. During the Great Purge, the Empire stole and melted the sacred Beskar steel used to make their armor. That’s why another Mandalorian was angry Din worked for an Imperial officer last season. The Armorer said the Great Purge is why they live “hidden like sand rats.” The remnants of the Empire continues to use their plunder to bankroll its efforts.
The fall of the Empire didn’t end Mandalore’s problems. though. Something terrible followed Bo-Katan’s triumphant return during Star Wars: Rebels. Season one of The Mandalorian ended with the former Imperial officer Moff Gideon holding the Darksaber. Bo-Katan is still alive, so it seems unlikely Gideon—or anyone—beat her in single combat to take it. It’s far more likely he stole it from her.
She wants it back; she needs it so a Mandalorian can be named ruler of the planet. Din Djarin isn’t sure anyone should have the title, though. He called their home world “cursed.” He also gave us our first real clue as to what happened there since Star Wars: Rebels. “Once the Empire knew they couldn’t control it, they made sure no one else could either.” Chaos reigns on Mandalore. We don’t know what the Empire did to destroy the planet, but the result is clear. Mandalorian warriors are hiding in small conclaves around the galaxy, cut off from one another.
Bo says Din shouldn’t believe everything he hears, because that’s what the Empire wants them all to think. It continues to try and divide Mandalorians. And their efforts are clearly working. He didn’t even know most Mandalorians take off their helmets.
Din is a “Child of The Watch,” a group of “religious zealots” who taught him the very oldest of Mandalorian traditions. Bo-Katan knows the sect well. Their history goes back to her former group Death Watch, whose symbol was clearly seen on the Mandalorians who rescued a young Din.
Bo-Katan has won and lost many battles. She’s fought both with and against the Jedi. And she’s done terrible things and performed heroic deeds. But she has always acted in the name of Mandalore and what she thinks is best for her people. All of her people. She still does.
Her home world still needs someone to unify them. And Moff Gideon holds the Darksaber she needs to once again unite Mandalorians everywhere. Bo-Katan Kryze’s story is far from over.
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.
Featured Image: Disney