Beware–spoilers for Solo: A Star Wars Story below.
*This article will be retitled after the opening weekend of Solo: A Star Wars Story. Please don’t spoil the cameo on social media for people that may not have had a chance to see the film yet.
Party Like It’s 1999!
In 1999 we all sat in a darkened theater watching The Phantom Menace for the first time. The crowd cheered when a young Obi-Wan Kenobi sliced Darth Maul’s lightsaber in half and soon after did a sweet flip from the side of a long, deadly shaft to cut him in half, bisecting the Sith Lord and sending him to his death. Before both Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, fans cultivated and shared some wild theories of how Darth Maul would return but George Lucas firmly stated he was dead and to get over it, essentially.
The titular villain of the film, a new alien species called a Zabrak, would never be known as “Darth” again. After this point, he is only known as Maul because of the strict “rule of two” doctrine the Sith Lords adhere to. But how and why is Maul stripped of his honorary Sith title if he’s dead? George Lucas changed his mind because he’s George Lucas and he can do whatever he wants in his sandbox and he did.
The journey of Maul’s return to notoriety and power is swift and deadly. The following is a detailed description of Maul’s story through Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Marvel Comics’ “Son of Dathomir” arc and Star Wars Rebels.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Brother of Another Mother
If you weren’t following Star Wars closely in the late 2000’s, you may have missed Dave Filoni’s first foray into Star Wars animation with Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Lucas was heavily involved with the CGI animated series which aired on Cartoon Network from 2008-2013. Maul’s resurrection began with the idea to introduce his “brother,” a male of Maul’s bloodline named Savage Opress to The Clone Wars. The Sith Lords are known to take secret apprentices so when the time comes to kill the master, they have a little help and their first apprentice lined up. Darth Tyranus aka villain Count Dooku first introduced in Attack of the Clones, worked with Asajj Ventress but she failed him one too many times and he cut her off. Scorned, Ventress returned to her homeworld Dathomir where the Witches of Dathomir resided. Their leader, Mother Talzin agreed to help Ventress get revenge on Dooku. Together they picked a warrior who ended up being Maul’s brother, Savage, to replace Ventress as Dooku’s apprentice. The idea being that when the time is right, Savage will turn on Dooku, murder him, and Ventress will have the last laugh.
In a three-episode arc written by Katie Lucas, Ventress goes to Savage’s dojo on Dathomir where other Zabraks are practicing something like Teras Kasi aka Star Wars martial arts. Ventress hand picks a few warriors to challenge, and bests all but Savage who was the only real contender. She takes him to Mother Talzin and the witches perform their dark magic on him. Savage becomes hulked out, grows in stature and his demeanor changes from that of a calculated and vicious warrior like Maul to a savage Frankenstein’s monster. Ventress and the power of the witches make Savage, now imbued with their green evil power, kill one of his brothers against his will.
Savage is presented to Darth Tyranus and becomes his apprentice. Savage and Tyranus train in what can only be described as an inversion of Luke Skywalker training with Yoda. Savage isn’t a great student and doesn’t listen very well. When ordered to capture and bring King Katuunko to Tyranus, Savage murders the Toydarian king and brings his lifeless body back to Tyranus who tortures Savage with Sith lightning to teach him a lesson about following instruction.
Ventress shows up to Dooku’s castle interrupting Darth Tyranus’ torture session with his new apprentice. The Sith Lord tells Savage he can murder Ventress and make up for his insolence. Ventress asks Savage who he is with and he says he’s with Ventress. A big fight breaks out and during the battle Savage gets “savage” and fights both of them, deciding he serves neither of them. When the Jedi arrive to break up the fight, the battle ends in a draw.
Savage, now free of any master, returns to Mother Talzin on Dathomir. Mother Talzin having her own designs, tells Savage not all of his brothers are dead. He still has one. Savage sees Maul’s face in a crystal ball. Mother Talzin gives Savage an amulet that will act as a compass, one that will lead Savage to his long lost brother, leaving us with one of the most exciting cliff hangers in Star Wars animated history.
Looking for revenge, Darth Tryanus, General Grievous, and the Trade Federation army land on Dathomir and murder most of the witches. Meanwhile, Savage travels the galaxy beating up diner patrons while the glowing amulet points him in the right direction towards his brother. The amulet leads him to a junk filled trash planet called Lotho Minor.
Savage scours the junk fields eagerly expecting to find the man he saw in the crystal ball back on Dathomir, and a serpent acts as Savage’s guide, promising to help him. The world is inhabited by junkers that use the junk to rebuild their bodies and when the serpent brings Savage to them, Savage murders most of the junkers and the rest flee in fear. Savage tells the serpent that he’s been looking for his brother. The serpent says he’s heard legends of the thing that drives people beneath the surface but they never return. Acid rain begins to fall and the serpent and Savage enter a dwelling with a tunnel leading underground. Savage spies dead junkers hanging from the rafters. Savage is suspicious of this place but also determined and fearless in his quest to find his brother.
Savage proclaims the whole thing a setup and believes Mother Talzin has betrayed him. The serpent says she’s not the only one and the ground gives way and Savage falls down into a deep hole in the ground. The serpent says his master will be pleased and he gets to eat the leftovers while he cackles like the Tales from The Crypt’s Crypt Keeper.
Savage is stalked by a spider made of junk. The scenes are dark, and the creature is menacing. Like the junkers of Lotho Minor, Maul has remade the body stolen from him by Obi-Wan Kenobi out of junk, but his form is that of a giant spider. Spider Maul attacks Savage and they wrestle. The amulet begins to glow and it catches the crazed Maul’s eyes. He runs from his brother and begins to cry in agony, holding his head. Savage calls him brother and Maul rejects the notion. Maul is mad and cackling when the serpent shows up to eat Savage aka the leftovers and Savage murders the snake. A weeping Maul decrees a lot of random Sith teachings. Savage demands to know who did this to his brother and Maul says the Jedi did it. He tells Savage he must have revenge.
Maul Gets His Legs Back
Maul’s memory and mind is not yet fully restored. Savage loads spider Maul into the back of a freighter and flies him to Dathomir where Mother Talzin is to restore him. They return to Dathomir devastated by Tyranus and the Trade Federation. Mother Talzin is now more invested in the revenge plot against the Sith. Savage tells Talzin that Maul is obsessed with Kenobi. She sends a green ball of energy that Maul chases like a moth to a flame, drawing him to the witch’s altar.
Talzin begins the work of restoring Maul to his former self. His junk spider legs fall away as he sleeps, put under by the witch’s magic. Talzin uses her magic and parts from the remnants of defeated Super Battledroids to make Maul a set of centaur legs, claws and all. This is not ideal but he can walk and his mind is restored. The hatred that consumed him is no longer controlling his mind. Maul takes his first steps, learning to walk again. He then runs saying “of course I survived.” His hatred kept his spirit intact even though his body was not.
Maul senses conflict in the galaxy. The Clone Wars have begun. Maul was supposed to be the person that Tyranus became. Savage tells Maul he can begin again, and intent on joining his brother on his path, Savage hands Maul a lightsaber, the one cut in half by Kenobi in The Phantom Menace. Maul and Savage then go on a killing spree, murdering innocents on Felucia to get attention of the Jedi and to let Kenobi know that Maul is back and he’s here to make everyone pay.
Seeing the brutality enacted on the innocents by Maul and Savage, Kenobi is determined to go after Maul. He tells Mace Windu and the council that he must go alone. He must finish what he started. Meanwhile at a cantina bounty hunters watch as the bounty for Savage Opress is listed. We then see Ventress take the bounty for herself, telling the bounty hunters she has this one, don’t bother. Ventress, once a potential Sith, then a witch before they were wiped out, has now become a bounty hunter and she’s going to get revenge (that’s kind of her thing).
Meanwhile Kenobi catches up with Maul on a world Maul has massacred and burned. And similarly Asajj Ventress catches up with Savage Opress as well. Ventress and Kenobi team up to duel Maul and Savage in a beautiful and well orchestrated lightsaber fight. Maul taunts Kenobi about having killed his master Qui-Gon Jinn. Obi-Wan is stunned it actually is Maul. Maul tells Kenobi that while he may have forgotten him, but he will never forget or forgive him as he is fueled by a singular hatred of Kenobi. Kenobi is ready to duel when the stakes are higher as there are two of them now. The brothers take Kenobi to their ship where they beat him. Obi-Wan says to Maul that when he cut him in half he should have aimed for his neck instead and he likes his new legs, they make him look taller. Kenobi is nearly killed by Savage and Maul when Ventress arrives to collect on their bounty, saving Kenobi’s life. They team up and she rescues Kenobi after a brief fight with the dark side brothers via the ship’s escape pod.
Maul’s Shadow Collective
Frustrated by Kenobi’s escape, Savage wants to go after Kenobi but Maul says he’s waited many years for this and he can wait a little longer. This is when Maul begins the next step to his plan and he shakes down all the crime organizations and begins to build his army. Maul murders Hutts until they fall in line, takes out the leadership of Black Sun and makes the Pykes bend to his will. He is very sure of himself as he feels his power grow. With all of these criminals under his foot, Maul’s Shadow Collective is formed.
Maul’s first mistake begins when he attempts to add to his collective the wiley pirates of Hondo Onaka. Any pirate that won’t turn and join Maul is killed and the pirates quickly fall in line. Maul sends a message to Hondo so Hondo retaliates by calling Kenobi who answers the call in his hunt for Maul. Hondo knows Kenobi as they have had many skirmishes during The Clone Wars but they are far from friends. A pirate war breaks out as half the pirates are aligned to Maul and the other half Hondo and Kenobi. Kenobi once again faces Maul and Maul is eventually forced to flee and his brother Savage loses an arm. Kenobi reports to Supreme Chancellor Palpatine who ignores the severity of Kenobi’s testimony. However, unbeknownst to all, Palpatine is Darth Sidious and now Darth Sidious is aware his old apprentice has survived.
The Invasion of Mandalore
With an army of criminals Maul aligns himself with a terrorist organization called Death Watch who are hell bent on returning Mandalore to a warring planet and overthrowing the current peaceful leadership. The planet is lead
by Duchess Satine, a woman that Kenobi loved and almost left the Jedi Order for during his padawan years. Maul invades the planet. As his plan is successful and they take the world, Maul turns on the leader of Death Watch Pre Vizsla (voiced by Solo: A Star Wars Story’s Jon Favreau) and bests him in a lightsaber duel. Many Mandalorians kneel before Maul as he has killed their leader and is the rightful new leader. However, many Mandalorians refuse and they revolt against Maul but are forced to flee Mandalore. Maul puts puppet politicians in power on Mandalore while he secretly sits on his throne in the shadows.
Kenobi arrives to try and save Satine who is now on the run after Maul’s conquest of Mandalore. The rebelling Mandalorians fight against the new crimson Mandalorians who’s infamous Mandalorian armor now mimics Maul’s red tattoos and horns. Satine is captured and jailed but broken out by Kenobi. However, they are caught and brought to Maul’s throne. Maul informs Kenobi he’s going to give him a taste of the suffering he’s felt. Maul lifts Satine in the air with the Force and chokes her as Mandalorians hold Kenobi back. Maul then stabs Satine, killing her right in front of Obi-Wan.
Maul orders Kenobi to be placed in a prison cell so he can feel the effects of the suffering Maul has inflicted upon him. Meanwhile back on Coruscant, Palpatine has been made aware of the situation on Mandalore and he quickly gets into his Darth Sidious robes and seeks out his long lost apprentice. Rebelling Mandalorians intercept Kenobi before he is brought to prison and save him from capture, while Mandalore burns.
Maul sits up on his throne talking to his brother when he is startled by a tremor in the Force. He tells his brother his master has returned. Darth Sidious quickly dispatches all of the Mandalorian guards. A cowardly Maul bows before Sidious and tells him he has done all of this to hopefully return to his side as his apprentice. Sidious looks at Savage and then to Maul and declares it a deception. Kenobi and the rebelling Mandalorians escape the wartorn world as Sidious armed with two sabers begins to attack Maul and his brother.
Darth Sidious stabs Savage Opress and Force pushes him a very long distance. Maul is devastated and actually did care for his brother. As his brother dies, the Nightsisters’ green magic leaves his body we see Savage Opress returns to his smaller, less intimidating self. Sidious declares no mercy and tortures Maul with his Force lightning. Sidious tells Maul not to worry, he’s not going to kill him, he has other uses for him.
Marvel’s “Son of Dathomir” – Maul’s Mommy
The next time we see Maul he is imprisoned on the planet Stygeon, home to a prison “known only to a few.” Sidious tortures Maul. Count Dooku walks into the room and Maul’s hatred intensifies. Maul was supposed to be the man Count Dooku is now, leading the Trade Federation army in a manufactured war against the Republic’s Clone army. Sidious and Dooku talk and Sidious tells Dooku he knows that Mother Talzin lives, General Grievous failed to dispatch her when they invaded Dathomir. Sidious says that as a young boy Maul came to Sidious as a gift from Mother Talzin but her spite runs deep for him. He plans to end her life and vanquish one of his most powerful foes.
Back inside the prison, Shadow Collective Mandos take down Battledroids in an attempt to free their once Sith Lord now crime boss from his cell. They break Maul out as Count Dooku allows it to happen as he will be the catalyst that brings Mother Talzin out of the shadows so Sidious and enact his revenge.
Maul flees to Zanbar where The Shadow Collective have a base. Dooku orders General Grievous to spare Maul’s life but injure his pride. The Shadow Collective troops are quickly destroyed by Grievous and his Magna Guards. Maul thinks Dooku and Grievous care about destroying his base and interrupting his criminal enterprise. But they really want to track him to Mother Talzin.
While in hyperspace Maul meditates and calls upon Mother Talzin. She appears and tells him not to underestimate Sidious as with him nothing is ever as it seems. Talzin tells Maul that Sidious will expect him to search her out so instead take his fleet to Ord Mantell where Black Sun has a stronghold. Black Sun and the Pykes join Maul and begin to ready for his next move when the Night Brothers arrive to stand with Maul as ordered by Mother Talzin. As Count Dooku’s forces begin to fight Maul’s forces, Maul makes a surprising move and attacks Count Dooku believing if he can take Dooku’s head he can just shut down the droid army fighting his forces. Maul fights to General Greivous’ command ship.
The droids round up all of Maul’s Shadow Collective on the surface of Ord Mantell and as it looks like Maul and his forces are about to lose, Maul succeeds in his attack and the droids fall down dead. Maul’s forces then attack the helpless droid army. Maul’s troops on Grievous’ ship arrest Dooku and Maul summons Mother Talzin who appears in a big green cloud of smoke and instructs Maul on his next move.
Maul contacts Darth Sidious via hologram with both Darth Tyranus and General Grievous on their knees arrested by the Shadow Collective. Maul essentially tells Sidious he has captured his apprentice, his general and soon Maul will crush all of Sidious’ “plans”. Sidious says that only proves his apprentice is weak. That’s when Maul tells Sidious Mother Talzin will have her revenge. It is revealed that Talzin was once Sidious’ ally but Sidious used her just as he used Maul. Sidious’ response is to kill Darth Tryanus and General Grievous he has no more use for them.
Before Maul executes Darth Tyranus, putting an end to Count Dooku he attempts to turn him. He suggests Tryanus “abandon Sidious” and serve him. Even Talzin appears and attempts to talk some sense to Tyranus. She explains to Tyranus that Sidious promised to exchange secret wisdom in which she would become his right hand. However, Sidious stole the Nightsisters’ magicks and her son… Maul. Sidious realized he could take her son and train him to be a Sith instead. Talzin tells Dooku to look at her son and see his future.
The confrontation is interrupted by Kenobi and the army of the Republic who are hunting Maul and The Shadow Collective. Kenobi and his forces board their ship as General Grievous breaks out of his cell. Maul asks Tyranus to be allies or face death and Tyranus agrees to kill Jedi with Maul. Kenobi is stunned to walk in and see Tyranus and Maul have teamed up. A fight breaks out and another Jedi is killed and Kenobi is forced to flee with her body. Maul and Dooku retreat to Dathomir to meet Mother Talzin.
As the Sith apprentices arrive on Dathomir, Maul being no fool has a gun trained to Tyranus’ head knowing that this is Sidious’ will. Mother Talzin tortures Darth Tyranus with her green magick knowing that his death will weaken Sidious. Meanwhile General Grievous and Darth Sidious arrive just in time to save Tyranus. However, it is trick and Talzin has possessed Tyranus to attack Sidious while Grievous attacks Maul.
Darth Sidious uses Force lightning to shock Tryanus’ body and eventually Talzin is forced out of Dooku’s body. She becomes whole again. Meanwhile the Shadow Collective breaks down and Black Sun and the Pykes pull out of the deal leaving Maul vulnerable and without the troops he needs. Sidious and Dooku use their Sith lightning on Talzin and Talzin fights back with her magic. Talzin holds Sidious at bay but Maul’s Mandalorians inform him that Dathomir is lost and they must retreat. Talzin tells Maul to go and she sacrifices herself to save her son. She pushes Maul to safety and General Grievous stabs her with his lightsabers. Maul then flees with his armies lost, his mother dead and only a few Mandalorians still loyal to him.
Star Wars Rebels – A Marooned Maul on Malachor
What happened to Maul next is somewhat unclear. After escaping death again, Maul is trapped in a Sith temple on the planet Malachor. Maul first appears to the heroes of Star Wars Rebels in the season 2 finale “Twilight of the Apprentice”. Ezra Bridger essentially frees him from the temple he’s been trapped in. Maul tells Ezra that his shipped crashed and he was stuck there but it isn’t clear if he was lying. At first Maul pretends to be old and less than agile to Ezra but as their adventures go on Maul’s true power and self become more evident and it becomes clear that he was deceiving Ezra making it likely there was more at play.
Eventually Maul and Ezra retrieve a Sith holocron from inside the Sith temple. Maul and Ezra then merge the Sith holocron with a Jedi holocron, allowing Maul and Ezra to have a dual vision that would allow them to vanquish the Sith. Up until this point, Maul assumed that Obi-Wan Kenobi died either during Order 66, or by some other means. In the vision presented by the holocrons Maul sees that Kenobi lived and he sees the twin sons of Tatooine. The understanding was that the way to defeat the Sith was on the sand planet. Maul wandered the wastelands of Tatooine feeling helpless and wondering if this would be his end. Eventually Maul encounters Kenobi out camping alone in the desert. The two foes have a stand off and in a few strikes Obi-Wan Kenobi lands a fatal blow to Maul, finally ending the torment to both of them. As old Maul lay dying in Kenobi’s arms, he asks if Kenobi was protecting the chosen one to which Kenobi response that he is. There was a resolution between Maul and Kenobi in those moments as Maul knew Kenobi would succeed.
Solo: A Star Wars Story – Theories for the Future
My theories are just a fun exercise using the story elements we have in front of us right now. We now know that Maul in between the events of Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels formed another criminal organization. It seems probable that the remnants of the Shadow Collective helped Maul form Crimson Dawn, a criminal organization that devastated worlds and would lead to Enfys Nest and the Cloud-Riders becoming a sort of Robin Hood and The Merry Men of Star Wars.
After Darth Sidious killed Maul’s brother, Sidious told Maul he had “plans” for him even though he wasn’t to be a Sith Lord. During The Clone Wars we could see that Sidious and Dooku had plans not to dismantled the Underworld and in fact they wanted to control that too. This may mean that Maul was given control of the underworld under the complete control of Darth Sidious.
When Maul took over Mandalore he instated Almec as a puppet leader he was going to control. Did Maul take over Crimson Dawn and control Dryden Voss in the same way? Was Dryden meant to be Maul’s apprentice once he eventually killed Sidious? What’s up with Dryden’s face? Was that a product of something related to Maul? Also the use of Teras Kasi by Dryden and Qi’ra could imply they learned the art from Maul himself.
Recent rumors of an Obi-Wan film have huge implications for the future spin-off films. With Enfys Nest and the Cloud-Riders fighting Crimson Dawn and aiding the rebels, it would seem at some point they may uncover who is the real leadership of Crimson Dawn i.e. Maul. If they do discover it is Maul and inform the rebel leadership (Bail Organa) it could be the catalyst that brings Kenobi off Tatooine because as the last of the Jedi, Kenobi is the only one strong enough to stand up to Maul.
What if Maul was locked in the temple on Malachor by Kenobi? Perhaps unable to defeat him due to circumstances in a Kenobi film, Obi-Wan had to be happy with the idea that Maul was trapped, unable to hurt the universe for now, buying time for Luke Skywalker to mature and vanquish the Sith. If that man could do that, one could assume he could also destroy Maul when the time came.
The biggest problem this theory faces is that Maul is killed by Kenobi in Star Wars Rebels. However, Star Wars: The Last Jedi introduced the narrative device of the Rashomon effect. In Rashomon we see a crime committed from four different perspectives and the truth is pieced together by seeing all of those perspectives. In The Last Jedi, we see two perspectives of how Luke Skywalker attempted to murder a young Ben Solo sleeping in his bed. Does this mean we could see the events of the final duel between Maul and Kenobi retold and expanded? Perhaps what we saw through Ezra’s eyes in Star Wars Rebels wasn’t the whole story. And the film wouldn’t have to introduce Ezra to it because his story is fairly separate from that of Kenobi’s in the big picture. Could a Kenobi film have Obi-Wan lock Maul away, wait for him to find the Sith Holocron and find them on Tatooine where he would finally end him? The film could have Maul locked away and then a time jump with Kenobi in the wastelands of Tatooine waiting and then it could culminate in the final encounter. But they could show more than what Ezra saw but at the end have it come down to the two men in a stand off and it ending with a few master strokes, after all, Star Wars Rebels pretty much censored the death blows.
If on screen or off, I look forward to the future tales of Maul and how he once again became a devastator or worlds. Maul’s determination to rule the underworld and kill Kenobi make him one of the most fascinating and devilishly fun and farfetched Star Wars characters of all time and I love everything about him. In 1999 when we saw Maul “die,” I never could have imagined the epic story that would ensue over the next twenty years.
For more on Solo: A Star Wars Story, check out Jason’s spoiler free review.