The second season of The Mandalorian presented the Darksaber as a near-mythic weapon. Far from an ordinary lightsaber, it was the blade that could forge a new future for all of Mandalore. All you needed to do was win it by combat, and you could lay claim to the Mandalorian throne.
But when the Darksaber was first introduced in The Clone Wars, it wasn’t some power symbol that belonged to the rightful ruler of Mandalore. It was just an ordinary lightsaber haphazardly slapped together in order to meet the needs of George Lucas late in production. Since then, the history and mythology surrounding the Darksaber has steadily grown and retconned itself into the grand nature that it now possesses.
As Dave Filoni himself stated, the Darksaber was originally going to be a weapon from the Expanded Universe known as a vibroblade. But Lucas made them change it because, according to Lucas himself, non-lightsaber material shouldn’t be able to block lightsabers.
"Originally what Pre Vizsla was carrying was something in the EU called a vibroblade; it’s kind of an electric sword. George let me get away with it in the early phases of design and in the early shooting, but when the color came back and he was watching the lightsaber we want to have combating this vibroblade, he said there’s no way that can happen; there’s no way that a non-lightsaber could block a lightsaber. So he had us do away with the vibroblade in that episode really late in the game, and he created something called the Darksaber, which would be a black-bladed energy saber with a white edge."
The Darksaber in The Clone Wars
But what was the story justification for its existence? Well, the Darksaber was first introduced in The Clone Wars episode “The Mandalore Plot,” where it lay in the hands of a terrorist organization that was attempting to overthrow the current Mandalorian government.
But wait! You may ask, doesn’t it belong to the rightful ruler of Mandalore, not a group of terrorists? Well, yes, but that part of its mythology hadn’t yet been conceptualized.
The first trappings of “the Darksaber needs to be won in combat so that you can rule Mandalore” probably came from what Darth Maul says after winning the Darksaber in combat:
"I claim this sword, and my rightful place as leader, or Death Watch!"
Nowadays, we might look back at the scene and think: Darth Maul won in combat against the original user of the Darksaber, thus granting him leadership over Mandalore. But back then it didn’t have to be won in combat, and it didn’t necessarily grant its user ownership over an entire culture.
The Darksaber in Star Wars Rebels
By Rebels, it was turned into a significant cultural icon, which once allowed House Viszla (the precursor to Death Watch) to “rule all of Mandalore wielding this blade.” So while the Darksaber hadn’t yet reached the in-universe significance that it does today, the mythology around it was getting pretty close.
The last time we see the Darksaber in Rebels is when Sabine, its new owner, hands it off to Bo-Katan to unite the rest of Mandalore, without any ceremony, and without any combat.
The Darksaber now
By now it probably seems obvious that our current conception of the Darksaber is far different from what the writers originally came up with. In The Mandalorian episode “Chapter 16: The Rescue,” Bo-Katan refuses to accept the Darksaber from the titular Mandalorian because it has to be won in a fight. This obviously retcons the moment in Rebels when Sabine gave the Darksaber to Bo-Katan: now it needs to be won in a fight.
So here we are now, where the Darksaber has a vast, complex and intricate mythology built around it. It’s obviously not all bad, as many of the ad hoc retcons helped to build dramatic tension in the individual scenes they were created for. But it’s at least worth noting how far we’ve deviated from the original intent: now that pure Beskar can block lightsabers, the reason why the Darksaber was created in the first place has been invalidated.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels and The Mandalorian are all currently available on Disney+.