Star Wars paints on a vast canvas, with many characters having their moment to shine. But one of the most unique is in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Duchess Satine Kryze of Mandalore. Duchess Satine is unusual for being a pacifist – the series is called Star Wars, after all – but she’s even more unusual for actually sticking to her principles even when facing death.
Throw in a tragic romance, a family torn apart by civil war and a battleground for one of the coolest worlds in Star Wars, and you have a pretty awesome character. Let’s get to know Duchess Satine Kryze.
The Improbable Ruler of Mandalore
Satine, of Clan Kryze and House Kryze, was born on the Mandalorian world of Kalevala in about 54 BBY.
I’d like to log a complaint…
By the way, I get that Star Wars needs a dating system, and it’s convenient to reference everything to the original movie – thus BBY, Before the Battle of Yavin. No argument with their choice of years to set as the reference point. But really… an entire dating system based on a pretty small battle? True, it was strategically important, but was it really that pivotal? The Battle of Endor actually marked the end of the Empire and the beginning of the New Republic…
I know, I know – its because we want to date everything to Star Wars Episode 4. Cool. But I’d like to point out that there was a far more significant event, the day before the Battle of Yavin: the Destruction of Alderaan. I mean, holy crap: they blew up a planet! And not just any planet, but one with great history, culture and influence throughout the galaxy. (Plus, Dantooine was too remote for an effective demonstration…)
If Star Wars wants a dating system with some oomph that doesn’t sound like an awkward retcon, I say we make all the years BDA (Before the Destruction of Alderaan) and ADA (After the Destruction of Alderaan). Someone should talk to Lucasfilm about this.
Back to Duchess Satine
Anyway, Duchess Satine Kryze was born in about 54 BDA (see what I did there?) into one of the major warrior houses of Mandalore. But in Satine’s youth a movement arose called the New Mandalorians, who espoused the idea of peace instead of war. Young Satine was quite taken with this radical pacifism and worked to convince others to follow her ideals.
It didn’t go well. Mandalore was in the middle of a civil war, and pacifist Satine became a prime target. The Jedi even sent her a bodyguard: Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn, who brought his promising padawan, Obi Wan Kenobi. Young Kenobi had perhaps his first trial as a Jedi, struggling to remain true to his code despite his growing feelings for Satine.
Young Lady Kryze shared these affections, and over the course of many adventures the two youngsters grew close. Eventually, though, the Jedi were called away, leaving Satine and Obi Wan with little time to exchange heartfelt goodbyes.
Satine rises to power
The details of history after that are a bit shaky, but we know that Duchess Satine Kryze became the ruler of Mandalore at the end of the civil war, when the New Mandalorians defeated the conservative factions.
(How a bunch of pacifists “defeated” heavily armed bands of warriors trained from birth for battle is an interesting question, and one which has never been addressed in Star Wars canon. I think it would be an interesting thought experiment: how can pacifists defeat violent opponents? Ideas welcome…)
In any event, Duchess Satine Kryze was universally recognized as Mandalore’s ruler and she set out with purpose to rebuild her system from the ashes of the devastating conflict. Although most of her people supported her and her many community-focused initiatives were popular, one doesn’t undo a thousand years of violent history in a single generation. Duchess Satine’s most vocal opponents were the Death Watch, a breakaway group of rebels (bad rebels, not good ones) who vowed to take back Mandalore.
The shining example the entire Republic ignored
At this point Duchess Satine begins to show her strength of character. Most rulers, when faced with radicals bent on overthrowing the government, would resort to violence. Oh, they’d bemoan the use of force and wring their hands at the idea of conflict, but they’d justify their actions as necessary to maintain peace – and then send in their goons.
But not Duchess Satine. Despite several assassination attempts she never wavers in her commitment to peaceful actions. She refuses to be baited into armed conflict, and she continues to preach pacifism over violence. She is, in some ways, a better student of the Jedi Order than many Jedi. For as much as we love them, Anakin Skywalker and Ahsoka Tano are pretty quick to ignite their lightsabers, and even that great diplomat Padme Amidala is content to conduct “aggressive negotiations” with a blaster.
But not Duchess Satine. Brilliant, motivated, strong-willed (to the point of obstinacy on occasion) she is above all principled, and she sets the example on how to rule with peaceful justice.
Death Watch are pushed to the edge of society rather than destroyed, a sign to the people that peace can work if the entire community accepts it. Unfortunately, it’s also a sign to her enemies that Duchess Satine Kryze is weak.
O sister, where art thou?
Duchess Satine’s position isn’t helped by the fact that her own clan is rent asunder by the new society she brings to Mandalore. Among Death Watch is none other than her own sister, Bo Katan Kryze, a fierce warrior who rejects Satine’s philosophy.
Bo Katan may go on to become a Star Wars fan favorite, but let’s not forget what a dark figure she originally was. We first meet her in Season 4 of Star Wars: The Clone Wars as a senior member of a terrorist group. If her trying very hard to kill Ahsoka wasn’t a sign of her viciousness, how about later, in Season 5, when she joins forces with former Sith lord Maul.
Don’t get me wrong, Bo Katan is an awesome character. She represents best how Star Wars can explore the complexity that real people have, especially in a time of conflict like the clone wars. But her embracing such a violent community and joining Maul’s sinister plan only makes her sister Satine shine that much brighter.
A true leader emerges
As if Satine doesn’t have enough on her plate – what with trying to gain popular support, deal with a recent outbreak of corruption, build a responsible government, and encourage her society to explore its past without falling into the same traps as long ago – the clones wars then erupt across the galaxy.
As the Republic breaks apart, systems begin taking sides and Mandalore seems faced with a choice: Republic or Separatists. But once again Satine demonstrates her character, creating a third choice and inviting other systems to join her. The Council of Neutral Systems emerges as 1500 systems declare their intent to remain outside the conflict, with Duchess Satine Kryze becoming the council’s leader.
Looking back, the Jedi could have adopted a similar position. All the Separatist worlds were former Republic systems, and many Jedi hailed from Separatist homeworlds (another neat idea yet to be explored in Star Wars: The Clone Wars lore…). The Jedi Order could have declared itself neutral in the galactic conflict, maintaining its traditional role as peacekeeper for both sides.
But no. Like so many Republic institutions the Jedi Order was static, weighed down by its own traditions and blinded by centuries of easy dominance. Perhaps no-one could see the truly insidious nature of the Sith plot, but surely some wise Jedi could have suggested an alternate path to keep the Order out of the war.
The Star-Crossed Lovers of Star Wars
And so Obi Wan Kenobi goes off to war. While peaceful at heart, he’s driven to increasingly violent acts by his friend and former padawan, Anakin. Their ongoing competition borders on a rivalry that sometimes brings out the best in each of them, but other times pushes them toward actions unlikely to be featured in a padawan training article.
Anakin is known to Star Wars fans as the Jedi who fell in love, but in Season 2 of Star Wars: The Clone Wars we learn that that little boy from Tatooine isn’t the only Jedi with a heart. The episode The Mandalore Plot introduces us to Satine and the sparks between her and Obi Wan are both obvious and intriguing. Anakin finds it all very amusing, but a wiser Jedi would keep his mouth firmly shut.
First rule of being a Jedi Knight: never embarrass your master, especially when he knows about every time you made a fool of yourself (and already suspects who you’ve got on the side).
Was Obi Wan in love with Satine?
It’s one thing for a civilian woman to fall for a dashing Jedi Knight. But a Jedi is supposed to reject any sort of attachment. Looking at most members of the Council, we see little sign that any of them even have a heart. How do we know Obi Wan considers Satine anything more than a friend? Simple: watch them interact.
Satine and Obi Wan have a wonderfully dramatic relationship. They trade barbs, get upset with each other and often disagree, but the genuine affection they share is clear. In episode after episode we see their personal strengths shine through, and we start rooting for their love to find a way out of the shadow. But we also understand how both of them put their duty first, and to do otherwise would be a betrayal of them both.
Actions from long ago can haunt the present
Even if Satine and Obi Wan have found their own peace, her planet has found anything but. And enemies from each of their pasts now return.
Under Maul’s leadership Death Watch becomes part of a criminal network known as the Shadow Collective. Maul brings together scum and villainy from far and wide, convincing the Mandalorian warriors that if they join him, he will hand all of Mandalore to them.
This brings a new civil war to Mandalore. Shadow Collective criminals are brought in secretly to Mandalore, striking the local community in a series of deadly attacks. As a pacifist, Duchess Satine has little ability to fight back, her lightly armed police force quickly overwhelmed. Then Death Watch soar in, fighting off the criminals and restoring order. It’s all a sham, but it works. Popular opinion swings to Death Watch and Duchess Satine is arrested. The traitors take her to the government jail, the past prime minister is brought out of the same jail, and Maul becomes the effective ruler of Mandalore.
Evil will always show its true nature
The new government has barely been established, however, when a new conflict erupts. Maul challenges the leader of Death Watch to a personal duel, and the Mandalorian is killed by the former Sith lord with his own dark saber. By Mandalorian custom this makes Maul the leader of Death Watch, but Bo Katan and other warriors refuse to accept him. A whole bunch of Mandalorian warriors point guns at each other and, well… you can guess where this is going.
More fighting, more people dying, the people of Mandalore made to suffer yet again. Bo Katan rescues her sister Satine from the jail and tries to escape, but they’re captured before they can get far. Satine, though, does manage to get a message off to Obi Wan Kenobi, who requests assistance from the Jedi Council. Yoda reminds Obi Wan of the neutral status of Mandalore and says that the Republic can’t intervene with Senate approval, despite the recent troubles.
What happens next can best be described as shocking: Obi Wan Kenobi reacts emotionally, and takes a ship by himself to Mandalore.
Why Obi-Wan Kenobi is a Great Jedi
Kenobi is a great Jedi for many reasons, but most of all because he’s not afraid to explore the full range of emotion that a person can feel. Rather than seeing emotions as a sign of weakness, he accepts them for what they are – a sign of his own humanity. He’s at his best when he lets his emotions show, and then takes his Jedi skill to the next level.
Obi Wan Kenobi is never as reckless as Anakin, nor as cold as Ki Adi Mundi. He lacks the flair of Quinlan Vos and the absolute serenity of Yoda. He’s somewhere between them all, able to take the best of the Jedi community and create something unique: a Jedi who feels, but who always puts the greater good before himself.
Who killed Satine Kryze?
Kenobi nearly succeeds in freeing Satine and escaping Mandalore, but the two are captured and sent back to the throne room. Maul relishes in the pain he can inflict on Obi Wan by making Duchess Satine suffer.
Maul’s efforts are ruthless, but once again both Master Kenobi and Lady Kryze show their quality. She never gives up, revealing strength many of the Mandalorians wouldn’t have expected from a pacifist. Obi Wan refuses to be baited, even mocking Maul for being weak by turning to the Dark Side. Made to look foolish in front of his Mandalorian warriors, Maul executes Satine with the dark saber.
It’s a touching moment, as Satine, gasping for breath, confesses her love for Obi Wan. He’s clearly upset, but he knows that now is not the time to fall apart. In one of the most underrated Big Moments in Star Wars, Obi Wan Kenobi is witness to his beloved being killed by his greatest enemy, and he keeps his cool.
It’s not that Obi Wan doesn’t feel pain; it’s that he knows how to channel that pain away from thoughts of anger or revenge. Oh, he may have had a quiet cry in his cell later, but by the time Bo Katan shows up to rescue him, he’s at peace and ready to do what has to be done. If ever there was a sign of his inner strength, this is it.
A Mandalorian Like No Other
Duchess Satine Kryze is a wonderful addition to Star Wars, and we can only hope that Lucasfilm will find a way to bring her back. Recent rumors suggest that she might appear at least in flashbacks in Star Wars: Kenobi, or perhaps we’ll see her in Star Wars: Ahsoka, or even in the next season of The Mandalorian. Many an article is speculating that she will return.
I hope so. Duchess Satine Kryze is a Mandalorian like no other.