For MANDALORE! For MANDALORE! For MANDALORE!
This is the way *wink* The Mandalorian season 3 signed off for Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackoff), the new leader of her reclaimed home planet. That war cry tells you everything about Bo-Katan’s prime motivation. Everything that she does is in service of patriotism; for the love and greater good of Mandalore.
What it doesn’t tell you is why that makes her one of the greatest characters in the Star Wars universe.
You may think that one overriding motivation would make a character boring, but you’d be wrong. Bo-Katan’s character arc is dense and interesting. Her drive to make Mandalore great takes interesting and shocking turns. Whether it be her successes or her failures, Bo-Katan is an enigmatic figure that I always look forward to watching.
Bo was born into a royal house, a progeny of privilege. Her family was the royal family of Mandalore, the ruling elite. When her father was killed in defense of the planet, her sister Satine became Duchess, and Mandalore became a neutral, peaceful planet, far from their traditional warrior background. Bo-Katan dissents and joins Death Watch, a splinter group dedicated to returning Mandalore to its warrior roots.
Yes, Death Watch. Lovely name for a group. No evil connotations there, right? It was a misguided decision but motivated by patriotism, believing that a peaceful Mandalore would make it susceptible to outside forces.
And she was right.
In service to Death Watch, she formed an elite group called the Nite Owls, the markings of which can still be seen on her armor. This shows her leadership, strategy, and expert combat skills. Morality, however, was questionable. But, again, she thought it was in service of building a greater Mandalore.
Those actions eventually led Death Watch to overthrow her sister Satine, accidentally installing Darth Maul as the leader in the process. Bo-Katan realizes her mistakes too late, and after the Nite Owls turn against Maul, Satine is executed. Bo had inadvertently caused her own sister’s death and handed the throne of Mandalore to an outsider.
The guilt was almost unbearable, and her confidence was shaken. That didn’t stop her from fighting bravely to overthrow Maul and his followers, showing the leadership of a champion. She became regent of Mandalore, but something held her back from being formidable, and The Empire easily wrestled control from Kryze. It was another blemish on her spotty record.
But Bo-Katan is persistent and scrappy. She doesn’t give up and always acts in service of what she believes is best for her homeworld. Bo and the remaining Nite Owls formed a resistance against The Empire and its puppets.
It took over two decades, but Bo-Katan and select other influential members of royal clans managed to push back The Empire. After important skirmishes, Sabine Wren gifted the Darksaber to Bo-Katan, a weapon reserved for leaders of Mandalore. It was an honor and a curse.
She felt unworthy, both of leadership due to her past failures and the Darksaber, which would traditionally only change hands after victory in battle with the previous owner. The responsibility of being chosen to lead the continuing fight against The Empire was a heavy burden. Feelings of inadequacy flooded her, but an obligation to the planet motivated her to accept the position.
Sometime later, The Empire won decisive battles against Mandalore. The Great Purge had begun, and it fell to Bo-Katan to make a deal with Moff Gideon to save what remained of her people. But she had to give up the Darksaber, the totem that her people revered the most. Another failure and another reason to feel unworthy of the faith that Mandalore had in her.
The question remained: was she fit to lead? Not only was she indirectly responsible for her sister’s death, but she also led an outsider – a freaking Sith – to the throne. Neither had she won the famed Darksaber in combat, causing the Children of the Watch to exile themselves when it was gifted to her. This was only exacerbated when control of the weapon was lost to Moff Gideon, an act that no doubt saved countless lives but nonetheless made her look weak to her people.
In a quest for redemption, she hunted down Moff Gideon with surviving Mandalorians to avenge her fallen planet and retrieve the symbol of power she needed to prove she was worthy. Although she managed to defeat Gideon, it was Din Djarin, another Mandalorian, who fought and won the Darksaber.
This caused her people to turn against her, and she was ousted as leader. It was a sign that she was unfit for command and a further knock to Bo’s confidence. But it was a necessary setback for Bo to finally live up to her full potential. She won the Darksaber in battle with a creature who had captured Din Djarin, and then she united the disparate clans of Mandalore and took back her homeworld. In the process, the Darksaber was destroyed.
Now that the Darksaber (Mandalore’s crutch) was gone, nothing was holding her back from becoming the leader she was always meant to be. There’s no magical item that tells people she’s fit to command them. Her ability to unite disparate Mandalorian forces and her victorious return to her homeworld perfectly displayed it.
So why is Bo-Katan Kryze one of the best characters in Star Wars?
Yes, she’s not a space wizard. She has no magical powers or any affinity with the Force. However, she’s one of the most densely written characters in all canon.
We’ve seen a villain’s redemption story. We’ve seen tragedy in her family avenged. There’s a reluctant hero and leader arc and a struggle with confidence and overcoming adversity. And, crucially, the character’s motivation has been strong and consistent throughout. It’s all FOR MANDALORE.
Bo-Katan Kryze is the only person who can lead Mandalore. She’s possessed the leadership skills, courage, charisma, and persistence needed all along. Her guilt and feeling of inadequacy held her back from fulfilling her full potential for decades, and now it’s time for her to ascend.
She’s extremely well-written, a hero and villain, and someone I’m always happy to see on the screen. Katee Sackoff deserves a crap-ton of praise for bringing this character to life in both The Clone Wars and Rebels cartoons and in live-action.
And, guys? Her story’s not over!