“It must be won in battle. In order for her to wield the Darksaber again, she would need to defeat you in combat.”
Moff Gideon lost the Darksaber to Din Djarin, but he relished what that meant for the person he originally stole it from, Bo-Katan Kryze. She wanted to regain the legendary lightsaber so she could once again lay claim as her peoples’ rightful ruler. Bo-Katan couldn’t accept Din’s offer to simply take the Darksaber back in The Mandalorian‘s season two finale, though. That’s how she began her last reign as Mand’alor, which ended with the destruction of her home world and the deaths of millions.
The Armorer believes Bo-Katan’s dishonorable acceptance of the Darksaber without battle doomed Mandalore. Clearly, there are strict creeds about the Darksaber, especially when it comes to who can claim that iconic symbol of Mandalorian civilization. But after “The Mines of Mandalore” it’s not clear who the Darksaber rightfully belongs to now in the world of The Mandalorian. What exactly constitutes winning the Darksaber in battle? The answer to that question will have ramifications for all Mandalorians.
Moff Gideon was right when he said Bo-Katan would be “a pretender to the throne” without the Darksaber. Her followers abandoned her when she returned without it. But he was wrong when he said that infamous sword “doesn’t have power” of its own, only the “story” behind it does. The Darksaber can master those who use it.
Din Djarin unquestionably won the Darksaber in direct one-on-one combat. But the first time we saw him use it on The Book of Boba Fett, he could barely swing it. The Darksaber, a sword of light, was physically heavy in his hands. Fighting with it made the usually swift, sure-handed Mandalorian slow and plodding. He also severely burned his leg with it in battle. A skilled warrior like him would never accidentally injure himself in combat with a different weapon.
We learned the problem he faced later in that episode. While Darksaber training with the Armorer, she told him he was “fighting against the blade” instead of his opponent. Worse, the more Din used it, the “heavier” he said it felt to him. As a result, she easily bested him again and again. That’s because ultimately, controlling the Darksaber is just as much a mental matter as it is a physical.
The Armorer: “You are too weak to fight the Darksaber. It will win if you fight against it. You cannot control it with your strength.”
Din: “I want to try again.”
The Armorer: “Persistence without insight will lead to the same outcome. Your body is strong, but your mind is distracted.”
Din claimed he was focused, and he might have thought he was, but “the blade said otherwise.” He’s not the only one we’ve seen struggle to use the Darksaber without training, either. Paz Vizsla, a descendent of the Darksaber’s creator, challenged Din to direct combat for ownership. During the fight, where Din Djarin was again slow and clunky, Paz picked up the Darksaber to use against Din. But the large, strong Mandalorian also found it leaden. He only picked it up and swung it with tremendous, uneasy effort. It actually caused him to lose the fight. No longer burdened by the sword’s weight, Din was able to deftly use his other weapons to defeat Paz and keep the Darksaber.
The only other time we’ve seen Din Djarin use the Darksaber was during The Book of Boba Fett‘s finale, when he tried to stop a Scorpenek droid. He wasn’t quite as awkward with it then, possibly because he was fighting a machine rather than a living creature. But either way, he was still far from the usually gifted fighter we know him to be.
Bo-Katan had no such problem when she used the Darksaber to save Din’s life in The Mandalorian‘s “Chapter 19.” The small insect-like creature that employed a large machine to capture Din stripped him of the Darksaber and left it on the ground. When Bo-Katan came to the rescue, she picked up the abandoned sword and used it against Din’s captor. Her strikes were swift and purposeful. The Darksaber looked like it belonged in her hands as she wielded it with ease.
Was the Darksaber light in her hands because, unlike Din, she truly wants both it and the responsibility that comes with it? Maybe, but Paz Vizsla also greatly desired the Darksaber. So was it simply a matter of having mastered the sword before? That’s far more possible. Moff Gideon, who is not a Mandalorian, also fought with ease when he used the Darksaber against Din. And since he stole it, his ability to control it shows the Darksaber doesn’t actually require its owner to have won it in combat. But Moff Gideon, like previous Darksaber owner Darth Maul before him, is not a Mandalorian burdened by its historical significance, either, so he’s not a perfect comparison to any other Mandalorian.
But those aren’t even the most important questions raised by this episode. The most important issue facing all Mandalorians going forward is the matter of who rightfully owns the Darksber now. Did that underground creature on Mandalore technically win it in “combat” when he captured Din with a sneak attack? Did Bo-Katan then rightfully reclaim the Darksaber in The Mandalorian when she picked it up off the ground? And if we have to wonder about that, we must also ask if Bo-Katan ever actually stopped being the rightful owner because Moff Gideon stole it from her. Does Din need to defeat her in single combat to have a true claim upon it? Is that why it does not feel heavy in her hands but does his?
These are not merely fun “what-ifs.” The Mandalorian wants us to ask these questions about the Darksaber. The episode didn’t just show the difference in how Bo-Katan handles it compared to other Mandalorians. It made a point of showing Din put the Darksaber back on its belt. The camera lingered on what otherwise would have been an unremarkable moment. The Mandalorian wanted us to notice that the Darksaber might not be where it belongs and notice we did.
The mythosaur is back. The Armorer believes its return will mark a new age in Mandalore’s history. With the planet in ruins, its people will be looking for a leader to unite them more than ever. And they’ll expect that leader to be the unquestioned owner of the Darksaber, a great warrior who wins it in combat. We just have no idea who that actually is now.
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.