Even by Star Wars standards, the history of the Mandalorians is pretty complicated. Luckily, the series The Mandalorian has made it pretty easy for everyone to understand without reading a bunch of old comic books or watching episodes of the animated Star Wars shows. But what if you want to know a bit more about the history of this culture? There are still a few missing pieces between the prequel eras, the classic trilogy and the events of The Mandalorian, so rewatching key episodes of The Clone Wars and Rebels won’t answer every lingering question about Mandalorians, but it’s certainly a great place to start.
From the era of Anakin Skywalker to just a few years before Luke Skywalker joined the Rebellion, Mandalorians have been a big deal in the Star Wars galaxy. Here are 13 in-canon, totally essential animated series episodes from both The Clone Wars and Rebels; featuring and delving into the vast culture of the Mandalorians. (Plus, links to each episode on Disney+ are included!)
The Clone Wars Season 2, Episodes 12, 13, and 14; “The Mandalore Plot,” “Voyage of Temptation,” and “The Duchess of Mandalore”
The retconning of Mandalorians from what fans knew of them in the ‘90s comics and books doesn’t start with Attack of the Clones in 2002, but rather these early 2010s episodes of The Clone Wars. One thing is very clear in these episodes: the Mandalorians of the prequel era were largely pacifist, while the traditional warrior caste had been relegated to the moon Concordia, where they eventually formed the splinter group Death Watch. These three episodes lay the groundwork for this schism, and set up the divide between good Mandalorians and bad Mandalorians. (Turns out, whether they wear the armor is kind of unrelated to all of that.)
This three-part arc also sets-up Obi-Wan’s romance with the ruler of Mandalore, Duchess Satine. Finally, it also subtly retcons Jango Fett as an outcast Mandalorian, and contemporaneous with the prequels, not being recognized as a true Mandalorian, by either Death Watch or the New (pacificist) Mandalorians.
The Clone Wars Season 4, Episode 14; “A Friend in Need”
In this Ahsoka-centric episode, Mandalore is the site for negotiations between the Separatists and the Republic. But one of Ahsoka’s old buddies named Lux tries to get Death Watch (the badass Mandalorians) to take vengeance on Count Dokku for his mother’s death. This episode won’t make you like Death Watch or the warrior variety of Mandalorians, but it does prove how formidable they are. Relative to all the complicated Clone Wars-era politics, this episode establishes the more vicious aspects of Death Watch, which is relevant when the group splinters later in the series.
The Clone Wars Season 5, Episodes 14, 15, and 16; Eminence, Shades of Reason and The Lawless
Of all the Clone Wars arcs about Mandalorians, this one is by far the best and most important. When Darth Maul starts to build his criminal syndicate, he uses the neutral planet of Mandalore as his base of operations, which means, yes, a ton of Mandalorians loyal to Death Watch start fighting for Darth Maul. Things get interesting during this arc when Death Watch splits into two factions. Basically, it’s at this point when the heroic warrior caste of Mandalorians is established, led by Bo-Katan. If you’re a fan of Battlestar Galactica, Bo-Katan is voiced by none other than Starbuck herself, Katee Sackhoff.
Rebels Season 2, episode 13; “The Protector of Concord Dawn”
Because a Mandalorian Rebel — Sabine Wren — is a regular character in the series, you could argue that nearly the entire four-season run of Rebels is essential viewing if you want to know more about Mandalorians. But in terms of Mandalorian mythology and culture, this episode is a great place to start. It’s also the start of the retcon of the planet Concord Dawn, which, is yet a third planet where Mandalorians live. Prior to the new Disney-era canon, Concord Dawn was thought to be the origin planet of Boba Fett. But now, this planet is a place where Jango Fett claimed he was from.
Rebels Season 3, episode 7; “Imperial Supercommandos”
In essence, the idea that some Mandalorians worked for the Empire echoes Death Watch working for Darth Maul in The Clone Wars. Conversely, for whatever reason, getting Mandalorians to fight for the Rebellion feels high stakes in this episode. Mandalorians working as thugs or bounty hunters is one thing, but having an entire group of super commandos on the side of the Empire is pretty crazy. In The Mandalorian, we’ve seen several members of the clan furious with the Empire for its various betrayals. Some of that begins here.
Rebels Season 3, episodes 15 and 16; “Trials of the Darksaber,” and “The Legacy of Mandalore”
In addition to explaining some really deep-cut history of Mandalorians who were also Jedi (yes, really) this episode sees the reappearance one of the coolest and little-known Star Wars weapons: the Darksaber. Initially introduced in The Clone Wars, this two-part arc delivers the weapon into the hands of Sabine Wren. This is something to keep in the back of your mind relative to the events of what is happening on The Mandalorian. If Mando has sympathy for Force-using Jedi, some of that could be wrapped-up in Darksaber lore. If the new series wants to avoid regular lightsabers, that’s fine. But with the Darksaber, the Mandalorians have got the next best — and arguably even better — thing.
Rebels Season 4, episodes 1 and 2; “Heroes of Mandalore Part 1” and “Heroes of Mandalore Part 2”
This two-part epic brings together nearly every aspect of Mandalorian culture previously glimpsed on both animated Star Wars series. It also features the return of Bo-Katan, and clearly explains why the Mandalorians of the Disney+ show really hate the Empire. (Hint: a super-weapon is involved, but not the one you think.)
In addition to the remaining four episodes of Season 1 of The Mandalorian, next year will see the long-delayed Season 7 of The Clone Wars hit Disney+, which will almost certainly feature the siege of the planet Mandalore, which would have happened around the same time as Revenge of the Sith. Because of the chronology, this storyline could very well explain the backstory of the titular Mando on the live-action show and might shed some light on why this particular group of Mandalorians lives in secret.
The Mandalorian is streaming now on Disney+.
The Clone Wars: Season 7 airs on Disney+ in early 2020.