The Mandalorian. The title of Jon Favreau’s upcoming Star Wars TV series evokes images of proud warriors, battle-beaten armor and the bounty hunter Boba Fett in the hearts of fans.
And yet, the name “Mandalorian” is never even mentioned in any of the main films. And don’t get it twisted, the Mandalorians weren’t always warriors, and Boba and Jango Fett are not Mandalorians. So why is the fandom — and Jon Favreau — so interested in them? Allow us to explain.
Catching up with the Fetts
The connection between the Fett clan and the Mandalorians is so strong in the minds of fans that Favreau invoked it in his announcement on Instagram. It even seems that The Mandalorian’s titular character will wield a blaster rifle that bears a striking resemblance to Boba Fett’s weapon from his first appearance in the Star Wars Holiday Special.
The reason for this is connection is simple: Boba Fett was the first Star Wars character ever to be identified as a Mandalorian. An entry in The Empire Strikes Back Sketchbook, a reference book of concept art released in 1980, revealed that Fett’s armor began as a design for an entire race of supercommandos hailing from the Mandalore system.
Many stories about the nearly silent, masked bounty hunter and his Mandalorian brethren followed, in comics, novels and video games. When Jango Fett, Boba Fett’s father and the man he was cloned from, was introduced in Episode II: Attack of the Clones, he was also given a lengthy backstory in the Expanded Universe that centered around the assumption that he was a Mandalorian.
Then, a single line in Star Wars: The Clone Wars changed thirty years of preconceptions. When Obi-Wan Kenobi met with the Mandalorian prime minister Almec, he describes Jango Fett as “a common bounty hunter.” According to Almec, while Jango’s armor is of Mandalorian origin, Jango himself was never a member of their order. Since Boba is an exact clone of Jango, it would seem he, too, is simply a common bounty hunter.
Thus, Boba and Jango Fett are not Mandalorians, they just really dig their style. Despite this retcon, Lucasfilm has since fleshed out a rich history for the Mandalorians which has stayed true to their supercommando roots.
A long time ago….
The Mandalorians were a feudal human culture united by a common language and code of honor. Their civilization is one of the oldest in the Star Wars galaxy, spanning thousands of years before the events of the films, during which the Mandalorians established themselves as a fearsome people committed to lives of war and conquest.
But eventually, the ancient Mandalorians’ crusades brought them into contact with the Jedi and the Old Republic. The clans rapidly adapted their technology and weaponry to an equal with the force-wielding Jedi, and their wars lasted for generations.
That is, until Tarre Vizsla, the first Mandalorian inducted into the Jedi Order. Vizsla forged a one-of-a-kind lightsaber with a black blade, christened it the Darksaber and took on the title of Mand’alor, becoming absolute ruler of all Mandalorians. When Vizsla died, the Jedi and Mandalorians vied for control of his legacy.
The Jedi Order claimed the Darksaber as their own and hid it away in their temple on the Republic capital, Coruscant. However, the Jedi and the Republic were on the brink of destruction at the time, facing the might of both the Mandalorians and the ancient Sith. A few members of House Vizsla used this to their advantage, slipping into the Temple and recovering the Darksaber.
From there, many warriors wield the infamous saber, often using its as a symbol to unite the Mandalorians against a common enemy.
Pre Vizsla and Death Watch
Just prior to the time period of Star Wars’ prequel trilogy, Mandalore faced a civil war that would change the face of its culture. The Jedi assigned a young Obi-Wan Kenobi to protect the Mandalorian duchess Satine Kryze as she attempted to lead her people into a new age of pacifism. The two fell in love, and Satine emerged from the war victorious. She then exiled the warrior clans who opposed her and became ruler of a more democratic Mandalore.
One of those exiles was a descendant of Tarre Vizsla himself, Pre Vizsla, who was voiced in The Clone Wars by Jon Favreau himself. As Satine built her bold new society, Vizsla obtained his ancestor’s Darksaber and secretly began unifying the exiled clans into a terrorist group known as Death Watch. Satine’s sister, Bo-Katan, who opposed her peaceful ideals, joined Vizsla as his lieutenant.
Pre Vizsla allied himself with Count Dooku and his Separatist army. As a result, the Jedi once again dispatched Kenobi to defend Satine, and their latent feelings for one another slowly resurfaced.
Vizsla and Dooku conducted many coup attempts against Satine, all of which failed spectacularly, and Dooku eventually turned on Vizsla, leading the latter to swear vengeance and seek help elsewhere. That help would soon come in the form of another, more volatile Sith Lord.
Darth Maul comes back from the dead
As you might have seen in Solo: A Star Wars Story, Darth Maul survived getting cut in half by Kenobi at the end of Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Maul spent the next 10 years in a refuse pile, while he built himself a robot spider body and thought only of taking revenge against the Jedi.
Maul’s brother, Savage Opress (yes), managed to salvage him and the pair began a campaign of destruction across the galaxy. This lead to a clash with Kenobi, who grievously wounded the two brothers and left them for dead. That seemed to spell the final end of Maul and his brother … until Pre Vizsla and Death Watch recovered their bodies.
Despite having already been betrayed by Dooku, Vizsla allied himself with Maul, another Sith Lord, in his final attempt to take control of Mandalore. The two took turns double-crossing one another until Maul beheaded Vizsla with his own Darksaber. Then, Maul declared himself ruler of Mandalore.
But remember Vizsla’s lieutenant, Bo-Katan, duchess Sabine’s sister? Bo-Katan refused to bend the knee for her new boss, and reunited with her sister to depose him, with less than stunning success. Maul captured Satine and murdered her in front of Obi-Wan.
With her final words, Satine expressed her love for Obi-Wan, and with her went all hope for a peaceful Mandalore.
Maul embarked on one final siege of Mandalore, but was met with resistance from no less than the Republic, Bo-Katan and Ahsoka Tano — former apprentice to Anakin Skywalker. The campaign was interrupted when Darth Sidious initiated Order 66, killing most of the Jedi in the galaxy, but Maul and Ahsoka managed to escape the ensuing carnage. These events are expected to be expanded upon in The Clone Wars’ upcoming final season.
Bo-Katan became regent of Mandalore for a short time, but refused to recognize the sovereignty of the newly formed Empire. The Emperor had her replaced with Gar Saxon, an old Mandalorian ally of Maul who was interested in the power working with the Empire could offer him.
With this, the Mandalorians came full circle to their original creative purpose: Imperial supercommandos. That is, until a young Mandalorian rebel named Sabine Wren (introduced in the Star Wars: Rebels cartoon series) recovered the Darksaber.
Wren, an exile disowned by her family, returned to her people wielding the ancient lightsaber and defeated Gar Saxon in single combat. Sabine choose to spare his life, contrary to Mandalorian tradition, Saxon tried to kill her for this perceived insult, and Sabine’s mother shot him through the heart.
Though she proved herself more than worthy to wield the sword of the legendary Tarre Vizsla, Wren believed that her place was with the Rebels. She gave the Darksaber to Bo-Katan, who once again took the mantle of ruler of Mandalore.
What the future holds
We don’t know much about what became of the Mandalorians following the original trilogy. Lucasfilm has confirmed that The Mandalorian will take place seven years after Return of the Jedi, which leaves about 11 years of history unaccounted for. And considering Mandalore’s rocky history in the modern Star Wars universe thus far, a lot could have changed in a decade.
Lucasfilm has also, so far, skirted around the subject of the gender of the title character of The Mandalorian. Some fans are already speculating that The Mandalorian may feature an older Sabine Wren or Bo-Katan Kryze. Considering Favreau’s connection to The Clone Wars and Maul’s recent cameo in Solo: A Star Wars Story, the idea of Lucasfilm continuing stories from previous series isn’t so far-fetched. If the Rebellion’s ice cream hero Willrow Hood can make a comeback, why not characters with actual backstories?
The Mandalorian will be released on Disney’s streaming platform, is aiming for a fall 2019 launch.