Whether you are new to Star Wars or well-versed in its mythology, The Mandalorian is the type of show anyone can enjoy. In the final scene of the first season, however, an item with strong ties to the expanded universe made its first live-action appearance.
Spoilers ahead for Chapter 8 of The Mandalorian
After his tie fighter is brought down by Din Djarin, Moff Gideon cuts his way out of of the ship’s smoldering hull with the legendary Darksaber. For those who’ve never seen The Clone Wars or Rebels animated series, it probably just looked like a cool new weapon. But there is much, much more to the black glowing blade than its impressive aesthetics.
Over a thousands years before the events in Episode IV, the Darksaber was constructed and wielded by Tarre Vizsla, the first Mandalorian ever inducted into the Jedi Order. He was also a member of House Vizsla, which was one of the most prominent (and squirrley) factions of Mandalorian society.
It’s still unclear why or how Tarre was able to obtain a black kyber crystal, especially since all the other colors we’ve seen for lightsabers–blue, green, red, purple, white, yellow, etc–all have distinct reasons for why they look that way (and would take a whole separate article to explain). In addition to its unique color scheme, the blade is angular, appearing more like a traditional sword than a standard lightsaber. Staying with the standard sword theme, its hilt also features a guard, grip, and pommel.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about the Darksaber is its sensitivity to the wielder, growing in power and intensity in response to an agitated/heightened emotional state.
Upon Tarre Vizsla’s passing, the Darksaber was kept in the Jedi Temple until it was “liberated” (i.e. stolen) by members of House Vizsla. The weapon remained with House Viszla for generations, serving as a representation of their might as they united all of Mandalore into a race of the best warriors in the galaxy. It was also used to kill a fair amount of Jedi, which probably strained things between the two factions quite a bit.
The Darksaber’s origins are explored in the Star Wars: Rebels episode entitled ‘Trials of the Darksaber,’ a clip of which you can watch below.
After years of warmongering, the Mandalorian government evolved into a pacifist regime. While Mandalore prospered during its era of peace, there were still plenty of old school Mandos who wanted to go back to kicking ass and taking names across the galaxy.
Around 20 years before Episode IV, the Darksaber was wielded by a man named Pre Vizsla. In addition to being a colossal douche, he was also the leader of Death Watch, a Mandalorian splinter who aspired to overthrow the pacifist government and restore Mandalore to its previously fearsome glory.
Despite Mandalore being officially neutral in the Clone Wars, Death Watch enlisted the help of the Separatists in pulling off their coup, which brought them into conflict with Republic Forces (who weren’t supposed to be helping, but that’s a whole other story).
Thankfully for the good guys, Vizsla’s bark was much bigger than his bite. After repeatedly failing to stage a Separatist-backed coup, he turned to Darth Maul (now just Maul) for assistance. Maul was already amassing a large amount of power with the assistance of his brother, Savage Oppress, and a Shadow Collective of bad/evil characters. For him, this was the logical next step to attaining what he saw as his rightful claim to a seat at galaxy’s table.
With Maul’s assistance, Vizsla was able to successfully overthrow the government. He even managed to garner enough support to name himself as Mandalore’s Prime Minister.
Predictably, this alliance between two men with unquenchable thirsts for power and severe anger management issues did not last long. Maul challenged Vizsla to a duel for control of the planet, which he accepted…and lost.
Oof…beheaded by your own Darksaber.
The Darksaber remained in Darth Maul’s possession while he ruled Mandalore from the shadows with Mandalore’s former/disgraced prime minister, Almec, as his puppet figurehead.
Meanwhile, a splinter group led by Bo-Katan Kryze refused to recognize Maul’s leadership, instead plotting to overthrow him and retake Mandalore.
There’s a whole lot that happens here–and we’ll come back to some of it later–but most of the events don’t directly involve the Darksaber. If you want to learn more about the Death Watch coup, check out Season 5, Episodes 14-16 of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. You will not regret it.
But back the the Darksaber.
Things for Maul and his brother Savage Oppress appear to be going well until they get a visit from Emperor Palpatine, who is none to pleased that his former apprenticed (who he’d understandably assumed to be dead) had reformed himself into a rival.
Despite Maul’s initial attempts at deference, Palpatine whips out two red lightsabers and proceeds to kill Savage Oppress while thoroughly kicking Maul’s ass.
While Maul was getting tasered with hand lightning, the Darksaber was lost and forgotten…which is weird, right? You’d think something like that would interest Palpatine. Maybe he was enjoying himself too much watching Maul scream for mercy.
Whatever the case, Maul managed to escape capture, thanks in part to Almec and Deathwatch. They also recovered the Darksaber for him, which was pretty solid. From then on, Maul continued to wield the blade along with his red lightsaber to
look cool make himself an even deadlier fighter in his quest to acquire power, hunt down Kenobi, and work through his Palpatine daddy issues.
Stuff Gets Weird
There’s a lot more to Maul’s story from there, but not the Darksaber, so we’ll skip ahead about 15 years.
I should also note that for this portion of the article, it will help if you know at least a little about Star Wars: Rebels. That being said, I’ll try my best to streamline the information down to what we need to know about the Darksaber.
Years after the rise of the Empire (and a few years before Episode IV), Maul ends up becoming a weird/abusive teacher to a force sensitive boy named Ezra Bridger. One of Ezra’s friends/crewmates is Sabine Wren, a Mandalorian who is also a member of the newly formed (at the time) Rebel Alliance and descended from the Mandalorian Clan Wren.
One day while Ezra is hanging out with Maul on Dathomir (Maul’s home planet), he sees the Darksaber. Later, Sabine (who had followed him to Dathomir to take him back) is possessed by the spirit of a Nightsister and tries to kill Ezra with with it.
Once everyone’s good and exorcised, Sabine leaves with Ezra and takes the Darksaber with her. She initially wants nothing to do with the ancient relic, but is convinced by fellow Mandalorian Fenn Rau to wield it for the sake of uniting their people against the Empire.
A lot happens from this point, but all you need to know (with regards to the Darksaber) is that Sabine trains with the weapon, gets really good at wielding it, and succeeds at unifying the Mandalorians as a fighting force against the Empire.
She also gives the Darksaber to our old friend Bo-Katan, who she sees as the most worthy of all her people to lead the Mandalorians into a new era.
…and that’s where our knowledge of where the Darksaber was before Moff Gideon got his hands on it ends.
The only other mention of the sacred weapon we have is in Star Wars: Rogue One. While Jynn Erso and Cassian Andor are searching through an Imperial database on Scariff, they breeze by a file labeled “Black Saber.”
This could mean something significant, but it’s just as likely an easter egg that was easy to throw into that particular scene. It could also be a reference to the currently noncanonical (i.e. Legends) 1995 Star Wars novel Darksaber, which was about a Death Star-type superweapon rather than a sword/lightsaber.
Whatever the case, we’re still left with the question of how Moff Gideon ended up with the Darksaber and why he wanted it in the first place. We also don’t know if he took the Darksaber directly from Bo-Katan or if the blade had passed through other hands since Sabine gave it to her.
The Mandalorian has repeatedly mentioned the yet-to-be-seen purge of Mandalore by the Empire, aka The Great Purge. From his dialogue in Chapter 8, it’s clear that Moff Gideon is intimately familiar with this event, going so far as to wax poetically about Mandalorian recruits who were slaughtered during the The Night of Thousand Tears. It’s also extremely likely that he was heavily involved in the purge and/or its immediate aftermath. This is confirmed when Djarin says he remembers Gideon being an ISB (Imperial Security Bureau) at the time.
Also, did you see the look on Gideon’s face when he realized that he had a clear shot at the Mandalorian?
Dude was excited–and not because Djarin was mowing down his troops with an E-web. This is a man who is clearly enamored with Mandalorian culture and lore. Whether he took the Darksaber from Bo-Katan or someone else, it was likely done as a symbolic gesture of dominance over the Mandalorian people who he played a part in slaughtering and enslaving.
Of course, we could be completely wrong about this, but one thing’s for sure: When The Mandalorian‘s second season debuts next fall, it’s going to have a lot of fun figuring out why he’s carrying one the most storied weapons in of the Star Wars’ lore.