In 'Chapter 22: Guns for Hire' of The Mandalorian, Bo-Katan Kryze and Din Djarin take their first steps in uniting their people by trying to bring the considerable firepower of Bo-Katan's former clan back into the fold. Their quest takes them to the planet Plazir-15, where the new leader, Axe Woves, has taken a contract.Spoilers for The Mandalorian season 3 episode 6 below.
Much can be said about the guest stars of The Mandalorian series so far, but imagine the surprise when we see actor Jack Black and singer Lizzo as the leaders of this planet (Captain Bombardier and the Duchess respectively). Bombardier and the Duchess send the Mandalorian duo on a side quest to investigate some malfunctioning droids, and with this new task, we receive Star Wars' version of a crime procedural-- filled with sharp back and forth between the lead detectives and even some good cop, bad cop.
Another big name appearing in this episode is Christopher Lloyd, who might be best known as Dr. Emmett "Doc" Brown from the Back to the Future trilogy. Following a trend that what often happens in a televised crime procedural, the famous guest star turns out to be the culprit. When Lloyd's Commissioner Helgait is found out and reveals his true motives, we learn he is a former Separatist, a member of the group who fought against the Galactic Republic in the Prequel trilogy and the Clone Wars.
Let's refresh our memory on these classic Star Wars antagonists.
Who were the Separatists in Star Wars?
Though the seeds were planted earlier, the Confederacy of Independent Systems (CIS), or the Separatists, didn't form until Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones. The group was a confederation of planets across the galaxy who withdrew from the Galactic Republic. Many of its members grew disillusioned with the Galactic Senate due to beliefs of corruption. They also became disgruntled over excessive taxation and a feeling of neglect by the wealthy and more influential Core Worlds.
Former Jedi Master Count Dooku spearheaded the secessionist movement and served as the head of state for the CIS. Although many within the Confederacy, including its leadership, did not want to resort to war, it seemed inevitable when the CIS capital planet was attacked in the Battle of Genosis. The battle would serve as the largest deployment of Jedi since the High Republic Era, and would be the opening salvo of what would become the Clone Wars.
The Separatists' government would be short lived, only lasting three years. At the decisive Battle of Coruscant, they lost many of their starships as well as their leader Count Dooku. Several days after the battle, the commanding officer of the army, General Grievous, was killed on the planet Utapau by the Jedi general Obi-Wan Kenobi.The remaining influential members of the CIS gathered on the planet of Mustafar under the guise of making peace with the new Galactic Emperor. Instead, they were slaughtered by Darth Sidious's new apprentice, Darth Vader. Even though the Separatists were defeated, their ideals carried on in many of their members including Commissioner Helgait.
Who were the Separatists upper leadership in Star Wars?
While the CIS had its own government and senate comprised of its many members, there were still many players vying for power behind the scenes. Several galactic corporations served as shadow supporters of the movement. Viceroy Nute Gunray and the Trade Federation were the group behind the Naboo conflict in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace.
Count Dooku served as the figurehead of the Separatists. He was a wealthy nobleman whose membership in the Jedi Order exposed him to the corruption of the Galactic Senate. He eventually left the Order and returned to a private life on the planet of Serenno only to reappear during the Clone Wars. However, he serve his own agenda, turning to the dark side of the Force and conspiring with his Sith master.
The puppet master manipulating the strings of the Separatists was the Sith lord, Darth Sidious. We learned in The Phantom Menace that Sidious was in direct contact with Nute Gunray and the Trade Federation during the blockade of Naboo. Later, he teamed with Dooku, who took the name Darth Tyranus, to orchestrate and escalate the Clone Wars. While his apprentice managed things on the Separatist end, Sidious, under his true identity of Chancellor Sheev Palpatine, made sure everything ran according to plan on the Galactic Republic side. In the end, the entire war was a power grab to make Sidious the Emperor.
The Separatists' legacy in Star Wars
Despite being painted as the villains, it's difficult not to sympathize with what the Separatists were fighting for. The feeling of being ignored combined with the perception of corruption can cause anyone to lose faith in their government. Plus, there was a desire in the group for a true democracy. It's these tenets that Commissioner Helgait thought he was upholding when he reprogrammed the droids at Plazir-15.
However, as can happen, powerful interests overtook the movement and twisted them to fulfill their own selfish agendas. Corporate entities looked to exploit the situation to gain access to important trade routes and line their pockets. Worse yet, the Sith used the distraction of a galactic war to consolidate power for a complete takeover.
In the end, the Separatists were a means to an end; pawns and patsies moved around to serve someone else's greater purpose. They were partly responsible for ushering one of the darkest eras in Star Wars, but at the time of The Mandalorian, many people have already moved on, except for an old man yammering about the better days from the past.