The darksaber plays a major theme in the mythos of The Mandalorian, culminating in the season three finale, “Chapter 24: The Return”, which sees Bo-Katan Kryze wield the legendary blade in combat as she leads united Mandalorian forces.
Yet the outcome of that, particularly as it pertains to this weapon, is shocking. It’s a daring move for the series, but one that actually makes plenty of narrative sense, both in this story and considering the history of the weapon and what it symbolizes.
The darksaber was created by the first Mandalorian to ever join the Jedi Order, Tarre Vizsla, a full millennium before the events of the Skywalker Saga. Upon his death the unique weapon was kept in the Jedi Temple Archives, but members of House Vizsla broke into the Temple to retrieve it. After that, the blade became a powerful symbol used by the leader of House Vizsla to rule Mandalore.
It first shows up in the course of the more familiar Star Wars timeline in The Clone Wars, where it’s revealed that one of Vizsla’s descendants, Pre Vizsla, wielded the weapon. He fought with the blade against Jedi High Council Member Obi-Wan Kenobi during the war, and at a later point also briefly dueled talented Jedi Padawan Ahsoka Tano with it. Vizsla’s downfall was not far behind, though, as he allied his forces with Maul’s growing Shadow Collective. Thinking he could rule Mandalore, however, he turned on Maul – and the former Sith defeated him in combat, killing him and claiming the darksaber.
Maul retained possession of the weapon throughout the remainder of the Clone War and kept it among his personal collection on Dathomir. A few years prior to the Civil War, the Mandalorian Sabine Wren found it and took it. She was reluctant to wield the blade, knowing all that came with it, but the Jedi Knight Kanan Jarrus trained her both in how to use it and how to deal with her personal demons. It was then briefly taken by the Empire’s Mandalorian regent, Gar Saxon, but Sabine dueled him for the weapon and won. She used it to lead Mandalorian forces against the Empire on Mandalore, but she soon passed the blade onto Bo-Katan Kryze, whom she viewed as a true ruler for her people.
Bo-Katan took the blade, but the Empire stepped in. ISB agent Moff Gideon launched an offensive against the planet and, in an attempt to save her people, Bo-Katan handed over the darksaber. Gideon betrayed her and inflicted devastating damage upon the planet, ushering in the great purge of the Mandalorian people during the Night of a Thousand Tears. With their home ravaged, Bo-Katan and the other Mandalorians scattered across the galaxy.
She never gave up on her quest to lead Mandalore, however, and focused on accumulating forces. As she assembled an army and a fleet, she was missing one thing: the darksaber. So she allied herself with Din Djarin to find Gideon, and Djarin came into possession of the blade. She refused to take it from him, having learned before that it must be won. That happened when, rescuing Djarin from danger on Mandalore, she disarmed the creature that had disarmed him. Djarin presented her with the darksaber, and she used it to lead the re-united Mandalorian forces into battle, driving out the Empire and killing Moff Gideon.
Yet during her fight with Gideon, the blade was destroyed by Gideon in his advanced darktrooper armor. Because of this, Gideon assumes that he’s defeated Bo-Katan again since she no longer has the unifying weapon, but she defies him and responds that “Mandalorians are stronger together.” Kryze, together with fellow Mandalorians Din Djarin and Grogu, proves victorious.
Gideon thinks that by destroying the blade he’s also destroyed the unity of his opponent, and there would have been a time where he was right. There would have been a time where Bo-Katan would have agreed with him, but not anymore. And it’s because she’s had to come to learn that it’s not ultimately the weapon that makes the leader.
It’s a shocking move to have the darksaber destroyed, and though I do think it’s permanent, it would be par for the course for this series to undo those stakes in a later season, so it could still pop back up. The reason I think it’s permanent, though, is because of what it represents. Throughout all that we know of the darksaber it’s been clear that this is a powerful symbol that could unite Mandalorians. It happened long before with House Vizsla, and it could happen again. That’s what drives Bo-Katan from the first time we’re introduced to her in this series (and, for those who watched Rebels, even before The Mandalorian). She has a desire to lead her people, but believes she needs the weapon in order to do it. Surrounding her are people who don’t share that same desire, first with Sabine Wren and then with Din Djarin, but both of whom recognize in her the potential to lead. Yet they aren’t looking at her as the leader for their people because of the darksaber, but rather viewing her as the rightful heir to the darksaber because she’s the worthy leader.
That all culminates in a conversation between Bo-Katan and Din on the night before the fight against the Empire. Bo-Katan confesses to him that she’s concerned. “I don’t know if I can keep everyone together,” she admits. “There’s too much animosity, and this blade is all I have to unify our people.” But to this, Djarin refutes that notion. “I only know of this weapon what you taught me,” he tells her. “To be honest, it means nothing to me or my people. Nor does station, or bloodline. What means more to me is honor, and loyalty, and character. These are the reasons I serve you, Lady Kryze. Your song is not yet written. I will serve you until it is.”
The story of the darksaber that has been told in The Mandalorian is really the story of Bo-Katan and her growth as a leader. The darksaber matters, but it’s not ultimately what makes a worthy leader for Mandalore. No, that’s about honor, loyalty, and character, and just as Din Djarin has to come to learn that being a Mandalorian isn’t just about the traditions, so too does Bo-Katan. The darksaber does not a Mand’alor make.
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“Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.” -Monty Python and the Holy Grail