[Warning - SPOILERS for the Star Wars Rebels season 4 premiere ahead!]
Monday's season 4 premiere of Star Wars Rebels once again traveled to Mandalore where Sabine has been leading the insurgency against the Empire's occupation. Over the course of the two-parter, 'Heroes of Mandalore', they managed to free her father and destroy the weapon Sabine had created during her time at the Imperial Academy - a vile contraption that turned a Mandalorian's own armor against them, cooking alive anyone wearing it within range.
'Heroes of Mandalore' was another fantastic episode for Sabine, further grooming her as a future leader of her clan and, potentially, all of Mandalore. With the Darksaber - an immensely powerful weapon and symbol to her people - coming into her possession during Rebels season 3, it'd seemed all but confirmed that she would be the one to wield this legendary sword and rally the clans of Mandalore to fight back against the Empire. And that's kind of what happened in 'Heroes of Mandalore', but in the end, it's made clear that this is not Sabine's moment - it's Bo-Katan's.
Who is Bo-Katan Kryze?
First introduced in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Bo-Katan is the sister of the former Duchess of Mandalore, Satine. The two shared a fraught relationship, with Bo-Katan finding Satine's pacifist views a betrayal of their people's warrior heritage. This leads Bo-Katan to joining with the terrorist group, Death Watch, and working alongside its leader, the then-Governor of Concordia, Pre Vizsla. With the help of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Satine is able to expose Vizsla as the terrorist leader, exiling him and the rest of Death Watch from Mandalore.
A little later on, Death Watch makes an alliance with Maul and his brother, Savage Oppress, bonding over their shared hatred of the Jedi (Kenobi in particular) and vowing to free Mandalore from Satine's pacifistic rule. Together, the former Sith and Death Watch form the Shadow Collective - a group which also includes several crime syndicates and allows Vizsla to overthrow Satine and declare himself Mandalore's new ruler.
Of course, it was only a matter of time before Maul would betray his new allies, killing Pre Vizsla and taking from him the legendary Darksaber. Bo-Katan is furious, so she and her squad of elite warriors, the Night Owls, rally those still loyal to Mandalore and fight against Maul. This leads to her freeing her sister from prison and sending word to Obi-Wan that Maul is now (via a puppet government) in control of Mandalore. During this conflict, however, Maul murders Satine, after which civil war breaks out between those still loyal to Maul and those loyal only to Mandalore. Not until the Republic sends their forces to liberate the planet from Maul is order restored, with Bo-Katan placed in charge as the newly appointed Regent of Mandalore.
Bo-Katan would remain Mandalore's rightful ruler throughout the remaining years of the Republic, but when it transformed into the Galactic Empire, she refused to recognize Palpatine as Emperor and was deposed. She was then replaced by Gar Saxon, another former member of the Shadow Collective and leader of the supercommandos (who had remained loyal to Maul during that conflict). We can only assume that Bo-Katan went into hiding as the Empire tightened its grip on Mandalore, since had she remained an outspoken opponent, she almost certainly would have been imprisoned or executed. It isn't until Sabine and the rest of Clan Wren stand firm against Clan Saxon that Bo-Katan returns, arriving along with her Night Owls as reinforcements for Sabine's assault on the Imperial prison in 'Heroes of Mandalore'.
Fenn Rau introduces Sabine to Bo-Katan, though it's hardly likely a Mandalorian held in such high esteem would need any introduction. Sabine offers her the Darksaber - which has been thought lost she discovered it in an old Night Sister's temple that Maul was hiding in - but Bo-Katan refuses, seeing herself as unworthy and remarking that she isn't her sister. Before the two-part premiere ends, however, Bo-Katan will come to recognize that it is she who must assume this responsibility and lead Mandalore in rebellion against the Empire. Finally accepting the Darksaber from Sabine, she raises it high above her head to the cheers of the assembled Mandalorians, declaring that it's time to again fight to free their home.
Why Bo-Katan Is The Leader Mandalore Needs
For Star Wars Rebels to keeps its focus strongly on building up Sabine, demonstrating what a capable leader she can be, even having her dramatically win the Darksaber in combat against Gar Saxon - the only way in which an individual is able to truly inherit the sword, according to ancient Mandalore custom - it does feel odd that the episode ends with Sabine handing it over to Bo-Katan; presenting her with a symbol of leadership that she had rightfully claimed. But if we consider who Bo-Katan is and the role she's played in recent Mandalore history, it makes perfect sense.
For one, Sabine is still awfully young to take on that level of responsibility. She's at most 19, maybe 20-years-old in this current season of Rebels. Bo-Katan, on the other hand, is a seasoned veteran though arguably still in her prime as a warrior. She's been at the heart of Mandalore's political upheaval for years, personally witnessing not just the downfall of her sister's rule (granted, partially at her own hands), but the collapse of Pre Vizsla's regime as well as her own ousting as Regent by the Empire. Bo-Katan understands the Empire, knows their tactics, is obviously proficient in guerrilla warfare and is just a little experienced at overthrowing governments. She strongly believes in honor, and honor in battle above all, quick to call the Empire's use of Sabine's weapon an act of cowardice. But most importantly, Bo-Katan has failed her people before and understands the folly in blindly following. She has learned from those mistakes and now with the backing of almost every clan, it seems a foregone conclusion that the Empire's days on Mandalore are numbered.
But Bo-Katan needed to regain her own confidence as a leader, and that's what Sabine showed her by presenting her with the Darksaber. She also gave Bo-Katan hope for the future, recognizing Sabine's brilliance with strategy and skill in battle. She remarks to Fenn Rau of how Sabine reminds her of them when they were younger, only better, and it's in moments like this that Bo-Katan is also reminded of what she's capable of doing. And what she can and will do is lead her people to expel the Empire from Mandalore.
Star Wars Rebels continues with ‘In the Name of the Rebellion’ on Monday, October 23.