How Mandalorians fit into the Star Wars universe and what you should know about them before watching The Mandalorian.
Warning: Spoilers for the animated Star Wars series Clone Wars and Rebels and some of the Star Wars movies. I highly recommend watching Clone Wars in its entirety, but if you don’t mind spoilers or just want a refresher, welcome!
For Star Wars fans who were alive for at least some of the original Star Wars trilogy’s release, following The Clone Wars in early 2010 would have been a childhood dream come true with a trilogy of episodes that dealt with Mandalorians.
To be sure, the word Mandalorian and its derivatives are not spoken on-screen in the six films of the original or sequel trilogy, but if you nerded out enough you eventually found out Boba Fett from the original trilogy and Jango Fett, his father, wore Mandalorian armor.
Jango Fett was a bounty hunter hired by Count Dooku to both be the template of the Clone Army and to handle certain side missions. Jango tangled with the Jedi in Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones and ended up decapitated by Jedi Master Mace Windu in the first true battle of the Clone Wars on Geonosis.
Jango’s son Boba—an unaltered clone—grows up to be the one of the most feared and reliable bounty hunters in the galaxy, and it was Boba who brought Han Solo encased in carbonite to Jabba the Hutt at the end of Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. When it came to canon (the official top-tier Star Wars storyline), all we had was Boba in the original trilogy and Jango and a little Boba in the prequel trilogy.
But in early 2010, we saw Obi-Wan Kenobi during the Clone Wars — a Jedi Master on the Jedi Council at the time of the conflict — travel to the planet Mandalore to investigate rumors of Separatist activity. At the time, Mandalore ran a council of some 1,500 neutral systems and was neutral itself. In its war against the Separatists, the Republic, which the Jedi served, needed to make sure that Mandalore would not fall to some Separatist plot.
Hence Obi-Wan’s arrival. Mandalore!?
Would we be seeing a bunch of warriors in Fett-like armor, the armor we’d seen on Boba inThe Empire Strikes Back since we were kids??
At first, it seemed no. The Mandalore we were seeing, led by Duchess Satine Kryze, was now pacifist after a recent civil war had wiped out most Mandalorians.
Jango Fett was part of an apparently defunct band of extremists or just a bounty hunter, a top advisor of the Duchess informed Obi-Wan, though this advisor is clearly trying to play down any ties to warrior Mandalorians. Satine and the current pacifist government also clearly look down on the “warrior ways of the past.”
For anyone who played the amazing Knights of the Old Republic series, we had been treated to an extended universe dose of the old Mandalorians: a proud warrior race that thirsted for battle and glory but fought with honor and against the Jedi of the Old Republic (you can almost hear Canderous Ordo recalling his tales of riding into battle on a Basilisk war droid).
Even at the time of the Old Republic when we meet them, the Mandalorians’ numbers have been whittled down by years of war.
Thousands of years later, the canon Mandalore would be led by pacifists when we were introduced to Satine’s Mandalore on Clone Wars. But by the end of the roughly 20-minute episode, we had been introduced to the Death Watch, a terrorist group trying to overthrow Satine and restore the old warrior ways, led by a rebel terrorist-governor voiced by Jon Favreau.
And with a few lines, Favreau’s character, Pre Vizsla, made the hearts of many a Star Wars fan race: “For generations, my ancestors fought proudly as warriors against the Jedi. Now, that woman tarnishes the very name Mandalorian. Defend her, if you will. This lightsaber was stolen from the Jedi Temple by my ancestors during the fall of the Old Republic. Since then, many Jedi have died upon its blade. Prepare yourself to join them.”
He then produced a black lightsaber!
A… black…. Lightsaber!! Wielded by a guy in Boba Fett-armor that could fire rockets and with a jetpack. With just a few lines, our old experience of Mandalorians in Knights of the Old Republic was made plausibly canon, but in the immediate sense. Clone Wars would provide in the Death Watch a link both to ancient Mandalore and the Fetts.
Vizsla’s Mandalorians may have been terrorists, but they were also worthy adversaries who would be some of the most threatening characters in the entire series. Their three-episode introduction includes some of the best episodes in early seasons.
A few seasons later, they teamed up with (SPOLIERS) Darth Maul and important players in the galaxy’s criminal underworld to take over Mandalore and overthrow Satine. Soon after, though, their alliance fell apart and Maul would challenge Vizsla for the right to rule the Death Watch and Mandalore.
He wins, killing Vizsla in an epic duel and claiming Vizsla’s dark lightsaber, the Darksaber. Some of the Death Watch—led by Satine’s sister and right-hand-woman of Vizsla’s, Bo-Katan Kryze—refused to go along with Maul, and a civil war erupts on Mandalore.
As for the Duchess, Satine was used by Maul to lure Obi-Wan Kenobi, who arrives on the scene just to get captured and be forced to watch up-close and uncomfortably in-person as Maul stabs Satine to death right in front of Obi-wan, who is helpless to intervene.
Obi-Wan is restrained by Mandalorians and they are Maul’s main muscle now, so, in part, the Mandalorians provided one of the great contrasts between Obi-Wan and Anakin: how the two reacted when their loves were threatened and then perished. Anakin fell apart and became a mass murderer, half-man, half-machine, but Obi-Wan doubled down on his commitment to the Jedi Order, and by restraining a part of his humanity, he preserved the whole of it.
Katan rescues Kenobi, but the situation on Mandalore becomes dire.
The final season of The Clone Wars, due out in February, will depict the Siege of Mandalore, in which Republic forces take back Mandalore from Maul and the Death Watch. Bo-Katan was left as the regent in charge of Mandalore after the battle, succeeding Maul’s twisted system.
That means that when the Republic became the Empire, Mandalore was basically in Empire hands. But Bo-Katan refused to side with the Empire and was betrayed by rivals, pushed aside into the shadows, and conflict between Mandalorian clans continued into the Empire.
The Clone Wars took place in between Episode II and Episode III, but its somewhat successor, Rebels, takes place years after Clone Wars, in between Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope.
One of the main characters in Rebels is the young Mandalorian woman named Sabine Wren. She’s big on being a general Mandalorian in terms of warrior-ways, but shies away from her specific identity within Mandalorian society. It turns out Sabine helped the Empire develop a superweapon that ended up killing many Mandalorians, the reason she is on her own when she joins the rebels.
In her adventures with her fellow rebels, she ends up getting the Darksaber from Maul and reunites a number (maybe even all?) of the key Mandalorian clans under Bo-Katan, to whom Sabine gifts the Darksaber for that very purpose.
This happens just a few years before Star Wars: Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, and that is just a few years before The Mandalorian.
So when there are references to conflict and tragedy for the Mandalorians in our new show (as we have already heard in the trailers), we can say they are at least in part referencing the tumultuous Clone Wars, which saw Mandalore the subject of terrorist attacks from Death Watch along with Separatist intrigue, followed by the taking over of the planet by Death Watch, galactic organized crime, and Maul and his would-be Sith apprentice, Savage Opress.
This led to a full-blown siege undertaken by the Republic, followed by years of infighting among Mandalorians that allowed the Empire to easily dominate them until Katan rose to lead Mandalore once again.
As far as we know, Bo-Katan—who was not terribly old when Rebels left her in charge of the Mandalore system—would still be in charge. She was expecting a fierce Empire counterattack but we don’t know if that ever came or if she survived (the Empire might have been distracted by other things).
We can expect the geopolitical situation of Mandalore to be game for our new Disney streaming series, The Mandalorian, and perhaps some of the Mandalorians from other canon Star Wars stories—maybe Sabine or even Bo-Katan, who may still rule Mandalore—might make an appearance, mention, or two as the series progresses.
Clearly, the violent events described herein most certainly cast a long shadow over the new series. Keeping the above in mind may actually help you pick up on a few things others might miss while watching The Mandalorian, which is the next great update we will have in Star Wars on Mandalorian history and culture, one that goes back at least to the time of the Old Republic and now lives on in our imaginations, thanks to George Lucas and his successors, especially Dave Filoni, who ran Clone Wars, Rebels, and is co-running The Mandalorian with Jon Favreau (the same Favreau that voiced Vizsla).
We can be sure Filoni will not forget, nor simply regurgitate, the legacy he has inherited (including on Mandalorians), which is more than can be said for some of the other people Star Wars projects lately, and for that, we can be deeply thankful.
One things is for sure: when the new main character of The Mandalorian makes an entrance in the series, thousands of years of mystique, warrior-exploits, and fear surround him and run through the minds of many an onlooker who can only hope they are not in trouble with the armored bounty hunter known only to them as the Mandalorian by his distinctive armor, the legacy of a proud warrior race that had defeated the Jedi in of the Old Republic, allied with Darth Maul, and was even highly sought after by the Empire for their martial prowess.
Now, a new generation of fans will learn what Mandalorians were up to after the fall of the Empire.
The Mandalorian is streaming on Disney+.