MAJOR SPOILERS for Star Wars Rebels and The Clone Wars ahead
Boba Fett’s famed Mandalorian armor has been a popular topic for Star Wars fans since the famed bounty hunter first appeared on screen in 1980, but outside of some non-canon Legends material, none of the official Star Wars canon delved into any details about the Mandalorians themselves until The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels arrived. Now those gates have blown wide open, thanks to the most recent episodes of Rebels.
Going back to the earliest information we have available, the Mandalorians were a warrior race whose empire slowly grew to encompass more than 1,000 worlds outside the jurisdiction of the Old Republic. When a new world was conquered, its people would become Mandalorians themselves, although some clans and houses looked down on others as inferior, with the most pure-blooded of Mandalorians being the descended from the original inhabitants of the planet Mandalore. Because of this emphasis on bloodlines, marriages typically saw the weaker clans take the name of the stronger, regardless of gender. Every clan belongs to a larger "House," with one of the most pure houses being House Vizsla, the descendants of Ta Vizsla, the first Mandalorian Jedi.
Ta Vizsla made a one-of-a-kind lightsaber known as the darksaber. After his death, the darksaber was kept at the Jedi temple on Coruscant until it was stolen back by the Mandalorians during the collapse of the Old Republic at the end of the Jedi-Sith war. The blade held special meaning for the Mandalorians, and some came to see it as a symbol of power, granting authority to the one that possessed it.
The Mandalorian Empire was massive due to its many military exploits, often causing conflict with the Jedi, but after losing a war with the Jedi they would begin to transform into a far less violent culture. Mandalore exiled its warriors to Concordia, a moon of Mandalore, and by the time of the Clone Wars, Duchess Satine Kryze ruled Mandalore as a pacifist society, declaring neutrality in the galaxy-wide conflict.
Despite their exile, the Mandalorian warrior tradition lived on. In fact, many Mandalorian groups, such as The Protectors, refused to subscribe to the new Mandalorian way of life, leading to infighting amongst Mandalore’s various clans and houses. Some even worked with the Republic to train clone troopers. One such extremist group, known as Death Watch, partnered with Count Dooku and the Separatists in hopes of overthrowing the pacifist government, returning Mandalore to its violent roots. The group was led by Pre Vizsla, the head of House Vizsla. Wielding the darksaber, he brought many Mandalorians to his side.
When rumors begin to stir that Mandalore itself was working with the separatists, the Republic dispatched Obi-Wan Kenobi, a long-time friend (and old flame) of Duchess Satine, to investigate the allegations. During his investigation, Death Watch revealed itself, only to see their efforts thwarted by Kenobi, leading Mandalore to finally acknowledge the civil war they'd been denying existed for years.
Dissatisfied with the support provided by Count Dooku, Pre Vizsla severed their partnership to take on Mandalore on his own terms, leading him to partner with the former Sith apprentice Darth Maul and his brother Savage Opress, uniting in their desire for revenge on Obi-Wan Kenobi. The dark side-wielding Zabrak brothers lead Death Watch to partner with Black Sun, the Pyke Syndicate, and the Hutt clans to form the Shadow Collective, becoming powerful enough to be a potential threat to both the Separatists and the Republic.
The combined might of the Shadow Collective made occupying Mandalore a simple task, but after establishing a Death Watch led government, Maul challenged Pre Vizsla for the darksaber, facing Vizsla in the Mandalorian tradition of single combat, where he decapitated the leader to become the new ruler of Mandalore. Opposing Maul’s rule, Bo-Katan Kryze, the sister of Duchess Satine and a member of Death Watch, led a faction of Mandalorians to splinter away from their new "outsider" leader.
Still seeking revenge on Kenobi, Maul uses Satine to lure Obi-Wan to her rescue. When the Jedi arrives, Maul kills Satine, intending to imprison Kenobi and savor his revenge, but Bo-Katan breaks him out and he escapes to inform the Republic of Mandalore's state.
Leading clone forces to retake Mandalore, Ahsoka Tano, the former padawan of Anakin Skywalker, lay siege to the Shadow Collective occupation. During the attack, Ahsoka faces Maul, ousting the former Sith and liberating Mandalore, placing the Mandalorians under the central authority of Chancellor Palpatine and the Republic right before it become the Galactic Empire. Along with the defeat of the Confederacy of Independent Systems, the Empire silenced all potential rivals in one fell swoop.
While Mandalore still functioned in a largely autonomous fashion, Emperor Palpatine installed leaders to corral many of Mandalore’s houses under a unified rule, recruiting the aid of several Mandalorian groups as their enforcers, tasking The Protectors with guarding the sensitive hyperspace route of Concord Dawn, and enlisting others as Imperial supercommandos. Tensions still ran high among the various houses, but most fell in line under Mandalorian Viceroy Gar Saxon, leader of the supercommandos and hand of the Emperor on Mandalore.
Some Mandalorians began attending the Imperial academies. At one such academy, Cadet Sabine Wren of Clan Wren, House Vizsla, joined a weapons development initiative, thinking the weapons would be used to ensure peace. When she realized her creations would be turned on the Mandalorian people to quell their independent spirit and encourage submission to the Empire, she spoke out, but the Empire had already struck fear into her mother, the Countess of Clan Wren, Ursa Wren, on the planet Kronos, who sided with the Empire.
Sabine fled, bringing shame to her family, who were ostracized by other Mandalorians. Her father was sent to Mandalore, where he essentially became a political prisoner, living in complete subservience to the rule of Gar Saxon. Her mother remained on Kronos to rule the rest of Clan Wren, and her brother, Tristan, sought penance by joining Gar Saxon’s supercommandos.
Sabine’s exile led her to joins the Rebels, where she became a part of Hera Syndulla’s crew aboard The Ghost. When the Rebellion wanted to find safe passage through Concord Dawn, Sabine was sent to negotiate with the leader of The Protectors, the Mandalorian group stationed in the system under the leadership of Fenn Rau. Upon their arrival, Rau declared his allegiance to the Empire, refusing to cooperate until the Rebels captured him forcing him to order his men to stand down. Gar Saxon always had a rivalry with Rau, so when he learned that the leader of the Protectors was in Rebel custody, he had his supercommandos attack Concord Dawn leaving no survivors. Rau saw that the Mandalorian leadership had lost its honor, unlike Sabine, leading him to finally form an alliance with the Rebellion.
When Sabine follows Maul and Ezra to the former Sith’s homeworld of Dathomir, she discovers Maul’s collection of relics from his past, including many from Mandalore, such as a portrait of Satine Kryze from the throne room on Mandalore and the darksaber. Seizing the sword of her ancestor, Ta Vizsla, Sabine begins to head down a path to finally face her heritage, training in saber combat with the Jedi Kanan Jarrus.
Sabine returns to her homeworld, Kronos, with Fenn Rau, Kannan Jarrus, and his padawan, Ezra Bridger, seeking to convince her mother to come to the aid the Rebellion. Countess Ursa is not so easily swayed. In an attempt to garner favor with Viceroy Gar Saxon, she reports the presence of the two Jedi. When Saxon arrives on Kronos, he demands Sabine also be turned over, causing Tristan to break rank along with with Countess Ursa to protect Sabine.
When Saxon seizes the darksaber, the Mandalorian exile confronts him to protect her family, facing Saxon in single combat with the lightsaber of Ezra Bridger. The training from Kanan pays off and she forces Saxon to his knees. Parting from the ruthless tradition of Mandalore, Sabine lets Saxon live, only for the Viceroy to attempt to shoot her in the back, earning him a blaster bolt through the heart, compliments of Countess Ursa.
With the death of Gar Saxon, Clan Wren is no longer at the fringes of Mandalorian hierarchy. Houses that oppose the Empire will unite with House Vizsla, while the Imperial loyalist houses will condemn her actions, putting the Mandalorian Empire on the brink of civil war once again, with Sabine Wren at the center of it all with the darksaber.
While the wielder of the darksaber normally stands tall as a ruler, Sabine seeks to find someone more worthy to wield the symbolic weapon, opting to leave the Rebellion to fulfill her responsibility to her family in hopes of uniting her people so they can one day stand strong against the Empire.
Clearly this separates Sabine from the Ghost Crew, possibly for the remainder of the season based on available episode descriptions. With no official confirmation of a fourth season, and more Star Wars animation definitely on the way, could Rebels be setting up a new animation project featuring Sabine and a Mandalorian civil war? There's clearly a lot going on behind the scenes at Lucasfilm, but any announcements about the future of Star Wars animation will likely arrive this April at Star Wars Celebration.
Star Wars Rebels continues next Saturday @ 8:30 p.m. with 'Through Imperial Eyes' on Disney XD.