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Star Wars: Bo-Katan's Backstory Explained

Contains spoilers for The Mandalorian season 2 episode 3 — "Chapter 11: The Heiress"

It may not have been the first familiar face Star Wars fans have seen pop up in the show, but the appearance of Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff) in Chapter 11 of The Mandalorian is undoubtedly the biggest name the show has brought in from Star Wars canon so far (though that seems all but certain to change soon).

Much of the recent history of the planet Mandalore centers around one key figure: Bo-Katan Kryze. As seen in the animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels, for which Sackhoff also voiced the character, Bo-Katan has led Mandalore twice and rebelled against its ruler more times than that. At the beginning of her appearance on The Mandalorian, it seems like she's left that all behind. She's leading a tiny contingent of just two other warriors, and recruits Mando (Pedro Pascal) to help them hit a single Imperial ship taking weapons off-world, something of a small fish for someone of her stature.

As the heist goes on, Bo-Katan reveals — unsurprisingly — that she has some bigger ambitions. She's trying to gain information on the whereabouts of Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) and the Darksaber, a symbol of Mandalorian power that she once held, which she tells Mando she needs if she is to rule Mandalore. How did she come by the Darksaber in the first place? And how did she end up here? These are the critical questions, and Bo-Katan's backstory goes a long way toward providing the answers.

Bo-Katan Kryze and the conquest of Mandalore

Bo-Katan's story was first introduced in the animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars, It's intertwined with that of her sister, Satine (voiced by Anna Graves), and their divergent beliefs on what the Mandalore of the future should look like. While Satine became the Duchess of Mandalore as the leader of the pacifistic New Mandalorians, Bo-Katan believed that the way forward for her people lay in a return to their militaristic past. She joins the Death Watch, a Mandalorian terrorist group who shares her beliefs, and serves as the chief lieutenant to its leader, Pre Vizsla (Jon Favreau).

Death Watch rescues a defeated Darth Maul (Sam Witwer) and his brother Savage Opress (Clancy Brown) from a drifting escape pod, and Vizsla and Maul enter into an agreement to facilitate the overthrow of Satine and the taking of Mandalore. Death Watch helps Maul recruit the galaxy's criminal syndicates into his army, the Shadow Collective, and using these creates a threat on Mandalore that Death Watch can then rescue the populace from, gaining the support of the people and ultimately overthrowing Satine's government. 

With Vizsla installed as the new leader, Bo-Katan takes Maul prisoner before he can betray them.

Bo-Katan Kryze and the Siege of Mandalore

Even a group as battle-hardened as the Death Watch can underestimate the difficulty of keeping a former Sith Lord in a cell. Maul and Opress escape, and Maul demands a duel with Vizsla for control of Mandalore, per the martial tradition Death Watch is so interested in upholding. Vizsla accepts, fighting Maul with the Darksaber, but loses both the duel and his head. Maul declares himself ruler of Mandalore.

Bo-Katan, unwilling to accept his rule, escapes and frees her sister. Mandalorians loyal to Maul fight those opposed to him in a civil war, but despite the intervention of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Bo-Katan is unable to overthrow Maul or prevent Satine from being killed by him. With the war itself over, Bo-Katan and her Nite Owls group continue to resist Maul's rule, and eventually recruit the former Jedi Padawan Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein) and the forces of the Republic to help remove him from power. This time they succeed, with Ahsoka besting Maul in lightsaber combat and allowing him to be captured.

Bo-Katan is made regent of Mandalore, just in time for the fall of the Republic and the rise of the Galactic Empire. Bo-Katan is betrayed by the former Shadow Collective commander Gar Saxon (Ray Stevenson) and his clan, who took power with the help of the Empire.

Bo-Katan Kryze against the Empire

With plenty of experience resisting rulers of Mandalore, Bo-Katan and the Nite Owls survive through nearly two decades of Imperial control before being brought back into the fray when Clan Wren rebels against the Empire and Clan Saxon, as shown during Star Wars Rebels. The Mandalorian Sabine Wren (Tiya Sircar) offers Bo-Katan the reclaimed Darksaber, and with it rule of Mandalore, but Bo-Katan refuses it, saying her time as regent was a failure.

But after continuing to fight alongside Clan Wren, and helping to destroy the Imperial Arc Pulse Generator capable of easily killing Mandalorians in their beskar armor, Bo-Katan comes to accept her leadership role, and once again accepts the Darksaber and the responsibility of wielding it.

Then The Mandalorian comes along and reveals that she no longer holds the weapon. She asks the captain (Titus Welliver) of the ship they're hijacking where it is and whether "he" has it, and he tells her if she's asking then she already knows the answer. 

The episode doesn't go into how Moff Gideon came into possession of this fabled weapon, as seen in Chapter 8. It would make sense for him to have obtained it during the Great Purge, the Imperial action against Mandalorians throughout the galaxy that drove them into hiding, but Mando doesn't stick around to get the whole story. He's pursuing another lead, one on the Jedi Ahsoka Tan, and so fans will have to wait to see if The Mandalorian reveals exactly how Bo-Katan was forced to give up her role a second time, and how she plans to get her revenge on Gideon.