5 Clone Wars and Rebels Episodes to Watch Before The Mandalorian

We’re less than 12 hours away from The Mandalorian’s premiere on Disney+. While the show requires no direct knowledge of the greater Star Wars universe, knowing the little details and history behind the Mandalorians will certainly enhance your watching experience. With that in mind, I present 5 episodes of The Clone Wars and Rebels that will deepen your knowledge of Mandalorian culture and the Mandalorian people.

NOTE: Everything discussed in this article is based on official canon sources. While Legends material may come into play during the series, we have no way of knowing what the Lucasfilm Story Group will take into account. For example, everything referring to the Mandalorians in the Old Republic era (as defined by the video games) is not mentioned here.

5. The Mandalore Plot

Duchess Satine watches a holovid of a Death Watch attack

What Happens?

The one that started it all is first on our list. Airing as episode 12 of season 2 of The Clone Wars, “The Mandalore Plot” introduces several key players in the Skywalker Saga era of Mandalorian history including Duchess Satine Kryze and Governor Pre Vizsla. The episode itself starts off slow, exploring the politics of Mandalore and addressing how the formerly warrior-focused culture is now committed to pacificism and neutrality. It is also noted in conversation that Jango Fett, father of Boba Fett, is not considered a Mandalorian at all, at least by government officials.

The action shifts from Mandalore proper to the planet’s moon, Concordia, home of Governor Pre Vizsla. We quickly learn that Vizsla is the head of the terrorist group Death Watch, and is attempting to overthrow the government and return Mandalore to its warrior culture roots. After a duel between Vizsla and Obi-Wan Kenobi that also introduces the Darksaber – a black, flat-bladed lightsaber that plays an important role in Mandalore’s history – Kenobi and Satine escape and flee the planet.

How Does It Relate to The Mandalorian?

People with a basic understanding of Mandalorians through the films think of Mandalorians as these helmeted and armored warriors that were the basis for the clone troopers in the prequel trilogy, but as The Clone Wars reveals in this and future episodes that’s just not the case for most Mandalorians. The system, which itself is vast and a collection of multiple planetary cultures, has over its history become an independent, pacifist regime keen to stay out of the war between the Republic and the Separatist Alliance. While Death Watch proves that the warrior culture hasn’t died out completely, the idea that all Mandalorians were raised to be warriors simply isn’t true.

The trailers for the series reveal some Clone War-era battles happen on the show, presumably in flashbacks. These events and the Mandalorian government’s refusal to take part in the war will likely inform the main character’s ideology, at least early on. Is he a bounty hunter that reluctantly uses violence as a last alternative, or is he a descendant of one of the more war-focused clans like House Vizsla or Clan Wren? We’ll know soon.

4. Shades of Reason

What Happens?

While a few other episodes of The Clone Wars would further explore Death Watch and their role on Mandalore, their story really picks in episode 15 of season 5. Here we see the Shadow Collective, an underground criminal organization by Maul (formerly Darth Maul) that would later provide a template for success for the Crimson Dawn organization seen in Solo: A Star Wars Story, form an alliance with Death Watch to take over Mandalore and use it as their base of operations.

Vizsla and Death Watch use deceptive tactics and false flag attacks to ingratiate themselves with the people of Mandalore and overthrow the government. Vizsla attempts to imprison Maul and his apprentice, but they escape. Maul challenges Vizsla to a duel for control of Death Watch and wins. Vizsla’s death is used by Maul and Death Watch to imprison Duchess Satine and install disgraced prime minister Almec as the ruling face of Mandalore, while Maul controls from the shadows.

How Does It Relate to The Mandalorian?

The trailers for the show feature Werner Herzog’s character questioning The Mandalorian about whether or not the world is more peaceful since the revolution. While it’s easy to assume he’s referring to the Rebel Alliance’s victory over the Empire, he could be referring to the constant state of civil war on Mandalore brought on by this episode’s events. How this affects our titular character’s upbringing remains to be seen, but it’s clear Mandalore is no longer the peaceful place we saw prior to the rise of Death Watch. That kind of conflict shapes a person, and the Mandalorian is not likely to be an exception to the rule.

3. Imperial Super Commandos

Sabine fights with Gar Saxon

What Happens?

While Rebels was largely concerned with the story of Lothal and how one planet’s small group of rebels became part of a larger Rebel Alliance, one of the members of the group was a Mandalorian. Sabine Wren was part of Clan Wren, House Vizsla. Yes, that Vizsla. While not directly related to the former leader of Death Watch, Sabine’s family was aligned with them. Sabine’s backstory deserves its own piece, but suffice to say her history with both Mandalore and the Empire is complicated. What it is relevant in this episode, number 7 of season 3, we learn that Mandalore is now completely under Imperial control, with several Mandalorians serving as a jetpack-wearing Imperial special forces team.

The events of the episode are part of a larger setup to a growing conflict among Mandalorian factions. In the previous season, Fenn Rau and his Protectors of Concord Dawn are defeated by Sabine and Kanan, resulting in Concord Dawn becoming a stopping point for the rebel fleet. When Rau sees what Viceroy Gar Saxon, himself a Mandalorian, has become, it motivates Rau to join the rebels completely.

How Does It Relate to The Mandalorian?

The important part of this episode as it relates to the new show is how it reveals at least part of Mandalore sided with the Empire. Were our hero’s parents part of that group? Since we don’t yet know The Mandalorian’s name we can’t say for sure which clan or house he aligns with. The trailer’s scenes of him shooting stormtroopers in the face would indicate he has no love for the Empire, but we also don’t know the full status of those troopers. 

2. The Lawless

Bo-Katan and Obi-Wan Kenobi fight off attackers

What Happens?

Shifting back to The Clone Wars, season 5’s sixteenth episode continues the story from “Shades of Reason” and more importantly sets the stage for Mandalore’s eventual occupation by the Empire. Duchess Satine is broken out of prison by former Death Watch members who broke from Maul. While the escape proves temporary, Satine is able to contact Obi-Wan Kenobi. The Jedi Master arrives against orders from the Jedi Council to save his friend, but the attempt proves futile when he is captured by Maul’s forces.

Maul, still looking to punish Kenobi for slicing him in half on Naboo, tortures Satine in front of him before killing her with the Darksaber. A distraught Obi-Wan is dragged to a prison cell, only to be rescued by the same former Death Watch soldiers who rescued Satine. They help Obi-Wan escape so he can inform the Republic that Mandalore has fallen. As Kenobi leaves, he reveals that the leader of the former Death Watch group is Satine’s sister, Bo-Katan.

A short while later, Maul is confronted by Chancellor Palpatine in his Darth Sidious disguise. Palpatine admonishes Maul for turning from apprentice to rival, and they battle. Palpatine kills Maul’s apprentice and defeats Maul, but imprisons him instead of executing him as he believes Maul may still be of use to him.

How Does It Relate to The Mandalorian?

The biggest piece here is this episode sets the stage for a Mandalore in crisis to be occupied by the Republic, who would go on to become the Empire. Bo-Katan would initially be installed as ruler and attempt to remain neutral as before, but Gar Saxon would later overthrow her to strengthen Mandalore’s ties with the Empire. This constant sense of occupation and chaos for a once-peaceful society happens during The Mandalorian’s formative years. We don’t know what traumas he faced throughout this childhood, but it’s likely that they are many. This wartime upbringing also prepares him for the chaos of galaxy without Imperial control, making The Mandalorian uniquely suited to the new “Wild West” lawlessness of the galaxy.

1. Heroes of Mandalore

Sabine shocks stormtroopers while holding the Darksaber

What Happens?

Our list rounds out with the Rebels season 4 premiere. An hour-long special, it tells the story of the Mandalorian uprising against the Empire to take back control of their system. It starts as a small skirmish to rescue Sabine’s father from the Empire, but during the battle, the Empire reveals a superweapon called The Duchess that specifically targets the Mandalorians’ beskar-based armor. The weapon, designed by Sabine during her time at the Imperial Academy on Mandalore, provides any armor-wearing Mandalorian within range with a most gruesome death.

Sabine leads a strike team onto Mandalorian governer Tiber Saxon’s Star Destroyer. Sabine is able to reprogram The Duchess to target stormtroopers. She uses it to defeat Saxon and then destroys the weapon before escaping. The weapon’s destruction also destroys the Star Destroyer and effectively ends the Imperial occupation of Mandalore, at least temporarily. Sabine ends the episode by giving Bo-Katan the Darksaber and declaring her the true ruler of Mandalore once again. Several clans back Sabine’s claim and Bo-Katan takes her place as the leader of the Mandalorians.

How Does It Relate to The Mandalorian?

This episode represents the last we know of Mandalore. Shortly after the Empire’s defeat, the Battle of Scarif and the Battle of Yavin result in the destruction of the Death Star I and the shifting of the tide during the Galactic Civil War that defines the Skywalker Saga. Did the Empire, while fighting off the Rebel Alliance, attempt to regain control of Mandalore? Did Mandalore return to its peaceful ways, or did they join the rebels as thanks for freeing their system from Imperial control?

This episode also reveals the importance of Mandalorian armor, and why the Mandalorians view Boba Fett and his father Jango as pretenders. The beskar-based armor is unique to Mandalorians and is passed down from generation to generation. The armor is part of the cultural identity. That the Fetts wear durasteel-based armor shows that they are not true Mandalorians. Our hero from the show, however, is attempting to reforge his armor by taking payments in beskar. How he lost his previous beskar-based set will hopefully be explored in season 1.

Additional Reading

This list doesn’t contain every Mandalorian-focused episode, just the key ones. For additional background and context, you’ll want to watch the episodes listed in the references section of this Wookieepedia article on Mandalore, as well as the comic Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir.

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We’ll have more coverage of The Mandalorian all week long, leading up to the premiere on Tuesday, November 12th!

Adam Soucie
Adam has been a Star Wars fan for as long as he can remember, dating back to watching the original trilogy on VHS and collecting his first action figures with the Power of the Force launch in 1995. His favorite character is Kanan Jarrus, and his favorite piece of Star Wars is the Rebels animated series.

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