This Star Wars article contains spoilers for The Mandalorian.
Throughout Star Wars history, Mandalore has long been ravaged by conflicts that have devastated the planet. During the time of The Mandalorian, the planet has been abandoned after being destroyed by the Galactic Empire in an event known as the Great Purge. Their planet glassed and cities destroyed, the surviving Mandalorians were forced to scatter throughout the galaxy. After this final apocalyptic event, many survivors believed the planet to be cursed and the surface poisoned. While Din Djarin’s journey to the surface of the planet in The Mandalorian season 3 episode “The Mines of Mandalore” reveals that the surface isn’t as toxic as once thought, it still begs the question of how and why Mandalore was left a wasteland in the first place.
It’s no secret that the Galactic Empire is open to destroying entire planets to further their totalitarian agenda – Alderaan was obliterated by the Death Star in A New Hope – and Mandalore is no exception. Mandalore may have a long history of violence that triggered the deterioration of the planet’s surface long before the Original Trilogy, but its people had found refuge in domed cities that allowed the planet to remain habitable during the Clone Wars and some of the Galactic Empire’s reign.
By the end of the Clone Wars in 19 BBY (Before the Battle of Yavin), Bo-Katan Kryze had regained control of Mandalore from Darth Maul with the help of Ahsoka Tano and other Republic forces. However, not long after, Chancellor Palpatine executed Order 66 and transformed the Republic into the Galactic Empire. Rather than turning over control of Mandalore to Bo-Katan, Palpatine ordered the remaining clone troopers to occupy the planet for good.
Bo-Katan, of course, would not stand for Imperial rule of her homeworld, so Palpatine named one Darth Maul’s former co-conspirators Gar Saxon as ruling Governor of Mandalore. Even though many clans remained loyal to Bo-Katan, they were weakenecd by years of civil wars fought before and during the Clone Wars. The Empire controlled Mandalore through its puppet governor for years.
However, things changed in the years leading up to the Battle of Yavin. In the Rebels animated series, a young Mandalorian from Clan Wren named Sabine joins the Rebellion after a weapon she designed while in school as an Imperial cadet was used against her people. While she spoke out against the Empire’s actions, her family remained loyal to the Empire. During her adventures away from Mandalore, Sabine obtained the Darksaber, which has been thought lost. While she didn’t want to wield the weapon at first, she eventually decided to use the legendary blade to unite Mandalore against the Empire.
While some clans remained loyal to Clan Saxon, others, including Clan Kryze, joined forces with Sabine to overthrow the Saxons and regain control of Mandalore in 2 BBY, two years before the events of A New Hope. Once the battle was won, Sabine gifted the Darksaber to Bo-Katan, hoping that she could continue to unite clans and drive Imperial forces off of their planet for good. Even though many clans were eager to follow Bo-Katan, Din’s clan of religious extremists, the Children of the Watch, believed that she didn’t earn the right to wield the Darksaber since she didn’t win it in combat, and therefore cursed Mandalore to fall further into ruin.
In the years that followed, Bo-Katan and the Mandalorian resistance fought against the Empire until the Night of a Thousand Tears a.k.a. the start of the Great Purge. Not wanting to give up control of Mandalore, the Empire decided to destroy the planet beyond recognition at some point right before or during the Original Trilogy. Led by Moff Gideon, the Empire bombed the domed cities of the planet until the desert sands crystallized. They fired repeating blasters upon fields of people, not wanting any Mandalorians to escape. They destroyed the mines of Mandalore, taking the beskar for themselves to melt into Imperial ingots. And as if that weren’t enough, the Empire sent droids into the wreckage to kill any remaining survivors.
Bo-Katan and a few other Mandalorians were able to escape the near-genocide of their people, but most weren’t that lucky. Bo-Katan lost the Darksaber in the chaos of the Great Purge, which is how Moff Gideon gained possession of the weapon. This is why Bo-Katan won’t just accept the Darksaber from Din Djarin. Even though she doesn’t necessarily follow the Mandalorian Creed as strongly as he does, she accepted the Darksaber as a gift once before and then the planet was destroyed under her rule. It’s too big of a coincidence for her to take lightly. Bo-Katan knows she’ll need to fight Din if she ever wants to get the weapon, and control of Mandalore, back in the years after Return of the Jedi.
The Mandalorian season 3 streams on Wednesdays on Disney+.