The criminal underworld is as integral to the Star Wars universe as the Jedi, the Empire, and the Rebels. From the original trilogy to brand new animated projects like Star Wars Resistance and Star Wars: Visions, crime families, smugglers, and bounty hunters have made their mark all over the galaxy. The latest addition to the franchise to delve into this shady underground is the new Disney+ live-action series The Book of Boba Fett. Taking place in the aftermath of the events of The Return of the Jedi, the show centers around the fan-favorite bounty hunter in two different stages of life, as he learns the way of the Tusken Raiders and takes control of Jabba’s criminal empire. In Episode 2, “The Tribes of Tatooine”, the worlds of Sand People and outlaws collided with the appearance of a powerful crime family: the Pyke Syndicate.
In the Tusken Raider timeline of “The Tribes of Tatooine”, Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison) helps his former captors and newfound allies take down a mysterious hovertrain that had been passing through the Dune Sea and shooting at whoever comes close. Though the train’s owners remain nameless throughout the episode, the most devoted Star Wars fans may have noticed that they were sporting the unmistakable masks of the Pyke Syndicate. Introduced in the Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated show, the Pykes are rarely seen without facial coverage. As a matter of fact, “The Tribes of Tatooine” marks the first time a Pyke has shown his face in a live-action Star Wars story when the group’s leader removes his helmet to talk to Boba Fett.
But while die-hard fans are already in on all the galaxy’s criminal organizations and their telltale signs, those who take a more casual approach to their love for Star Wars might be asking themselves who exactly are the Pyke Syndicate, and what exactly were they doing with that hovertrain full of spice.
Let’s start with the basics: the Pyke are a half-humanoid, half-fish-like species from the planet Oba Diah, in the Outer Rim territories. Sometime during the Old Republic, a group of them formed a criminal organization known as the Pyke Syndicate, also referred to as the Pyke Family or simply the Pykes. The Syndicate first made its appearance on a Season 5 episode of The Clone Wars. Ever since, the organization has also shown up in Star Wars: The Bad Batch, Star Wars Galaxy of Adventures, and, most remarkably, Solo: A Star Wars Story, as well as in various books, comics, and videogames.
Though the Pykes' base of operations is located in their homeworld of Oba Diah, their main territory is the arid planet of Kessel, where the Syndicate runs the most important spice mines in the entire galaxy.
Likely inspired by the substance of the same name from Frank Herbert’s seminal sci-fi novel, Dune, spice was briefly mentioned by a few characters in the Star Wars original trilogy. Han Solo’s (Harrison Ford) issues with Jabba began when he dumped the Hutt’s spice shipment in order to avoid trouble with the law, and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hammil) grew up believing his father worked on a spice freighter. However, these and other similarly vague references were all audiences had to work with for quite some time.
It was only later, with the franchise’s expansion into other media, that the true nature of spice in the galaxy far, far away finally became known: obtained through mining, the substance can be used to produce both medicinal and recreational, illegal drugs. Though it can be found in multiple planets, including Padmé Amidala’s (Natalie Portman) homeworld of Naboo, it is mainly mined on Kessel. During the Empire’s rule, criminals and political prisoners alike were frequently sent to work as slaves on the Kessel mines under the watchful eyes of Pyke sentinels.
This slave labor deal suggests that the Pyke Syndicate had close ties with the Galactic Empire, something that is made even more obvious when we consider the organization’s past involvements in crimes such as the disappearance of Jedi Master Sifo-Dyas. Sifo-Dyas was the man Anakin (Hayden Christensen) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) discovered was responsible for commissioning the clone army in Star Wars - Episode II: The Attack of the Clones. He was later killed by Count Dooku (Christohper Lee). In the Clone Wars Season 6 episode “The Lost One”, it is revealed that the Pykes helped Dooku keep the death of Sifo-Dyas hidden from the Jedi.
But the Pyke Syndicate hasn't always aligned itself with the forces of the future Galactic Empire, though they haven't been frequently on the side of the Republic either. During the wars, they became members of Darth Maul's Shadow Alliance, an organization comprised of criminal families, militias, and Sith warriors that competed with Palpatine's (Ian McDiarmid) forces for the control of the galaxy. In the Clone Wars Season 5 episode “Shades of Reason”, the Pykes staged an attack on Mandalore as part of the Collective in order to aid the Death Watch militia and Darth Maul take control of the planet.
The Clone Wars were more than a little beneficial to the Syndicate’s operation. It was during this period that the organization rose to prominence, employing multiple smugglers and freighters to transport their produce and gaining control of all the main spice routes across the galaxy - including the famous Kessel Run, a 20-parsec hyperspace route that Han Solo managed to complete in impressive 12 parsecs with the Millenium Falcon.
By the time Palpatine became emperor, the Pykes were one of the main forces in the galaxy’s underworld. And even if the Empire had any kind of qualms about participating in illegal trade, they would've had to deal with the Syndicate either way. After all, not only did imperial scientists and medics have great use for certain kinds of refined spice, the Pyke Family also produced great amounts of coaxium in their Kessel mines. This expensive material also known as hyperfuel is essential for hyperspace traveling and was at the heart of Han Solo's first encounter with the Pykes.
In Solo: A Star Wars Story, Han (Alden Ehrenreich) and Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) were taken to Kessel by Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) in the Millenium Falcon. They were given as slaves by Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) to the Pyke leader Quay Tolsite (Dee Tails) as part of a plan to steal coaxium for the Crimson Dawn syndicate boss Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany). The heist was successful and left the Pykes to deal with a slave revolt as their foes escaped through the Kessel Run.
This rap sheet shows that the Pyke Syndicate is definitely a force to be reckoned with in the Star Wars universe and that anyone dealing in the galaxy’s underworld is bound to run into them eventually. But what about Tatooine? What were the Pykes doing there and why were they shooting Tusken Raiders at random?
Well, as Boba Fett soon found out, the hovertrain crossing the Dune Sea was carrying a large shipment of spice, and the men responsible for the cargo were probably ordered to keep any possible threat at bay no matter what. Considering Tusken Raiders are seen by many in the Star Wars universe as little more than savages and thieves, it’s safe to assume the Pykes simply decided it was best to shoot first and ask never - even if the Tuskens weren’t even interested in the spice load to begin with.
As for who they were taking the spice to, nothing is certain so far. Bib Fortuna sat as daimyo of Mos Espa at the time of the events, so it is possible that the Pykes were working for him. Another possibility is that they were taking the spice to the Hutt Twins that Fett has a less than friendly encounter with during the crime lord timeline of "The Tribes of Tatooine". But there's always the chance that the Pykes were working with someone else entirely and that The Book of Boba Fett will mark the return of the Crimson Dawn syndicate. Founded by Darth Maul during the raid on Mandalore, the organization became a crime syndicate after Maul and the Death Watch lost control of the planet.
During the events of Solo, the Crimson Dawn was led publicly by Dryden Vos, but the real leader of the syndicate has always been Darth Maul. The Sith’s reign ended only after he was killed by Obi-Wan Kenobi during the Galactic Civil War. Previously one of Maul’s most trusted lieutenants, Qi’ra rose to the head of the organization that has a lot of important business on Tatooine. Considering the prominence of the Crimson Dawn on the planet and Boba Fett’s current attempt to become a crime lord, it is very likely that he will cross paths with the syndicate sometime in the future, and possibly even Qi’ra or Darth Maul himself, depending on when exactly in the Star Wars timeline the show takes place. Who knows? So far, the only thing we can be sure of is we haven’t seen the last of the Pyke Syndicate.
New episodes of The Book of Boba Fett come out on Wednesdays, on Disney+.
Everyone needs some more Boba in their lives.