Despite having only a small role in 1999’s Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace, the Sith Lord Darth Maul made a huge impression on Star Wars fans. The Zabrak Sith apprentice‘s background was heavily featured in the Expanded Universe, before the Star Wars: The Clone Wars TV series resurrected the character in 2012 and, in doing so, rewrote his origin story. I expected that Star Wars: The Clone Wars would be the last time that I saw the slippery Sith Lord, but it turned out that he survived the Clone Wars.
Fans of Star Wars television know that Maul (who dropped the “Darth” title from his name) had a major role in the Star Wars Rebels second season finale, “Twilight of the Apprentice,” in which he was partly responsible for Ezra Bridger‘s increased intimacy with the dark side of the Force, and fully responsible for blinding Kanan Jarrus.
While I’m a huge fan of Sam Witwer (the voice behind Maul in both TV shows), as well as Ray Park (the stuntman who brought him to life for The Phantom Menace), I’m disappointed that the character’s story has been dragged out this far. Here’s why I believe that Maul needs to die when he returns in the third season of Star Wars Rebels.
Maul Had a Hard Time Getting His “Revenge“
The third season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars sowed the seeds for Darth Maul’s return by giving him a brother, the failed Sith apprentice Savage Opress, and also by revealing his origins as a Dathomirian Nightbrother of the planet Dathomir, the home of the Nightsisters. Maul didn’t make his actual return until the series’ fourth season. In the episode “Brothers,” Savage finds Maul on the junk planet Lotho Minor with only half of his mind — and body — remaining, since Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi sliced Maul in half during the events of The Phantom Menace. The next episode, “Revenge,” is when Maul truly makes his return, as Mother Talzin of the Nightsisters heals Maul’s mind and restores what remains of his body, melding it with cybernetics.
“Revenge” is one of my least favorite episodes of The Clone Wars. Maul had only three lines of dialogue in The Phantom Menace, but when he got to “Revenge,” he was suddenly chatting away a storm. He didn’t need to say that much to make an impact. Sometimes, less is more, and the episode didn’t seem to understand that.
The other reason problem with “Revenge” was that it was plagued by plot holes. Maul makes his return known to the Jedi Order by broadcasting a holorecording of him massacring a village on Raydonia, and Obi-Wan witnesses that hologram. Yet, when Obi-Wan later goes to confront Maul on Raydonia, Obi-Wan doesn’t recognize him. Not initially, at least. Furthermore, Maul essentially achieves nothing. He and Savage give Obi-Wan a good beat-down, but Asajj Ventress — currently a bounty hunter, formerly Count Dooku‘s Sith apprentice and Savage’s master — turns up to rescue Obi-Wan. For me, the only highlight of the episode was seeing Obi-Wan and Ventress be forced to work together despite their long history of being enemies.
The era of the Clone Wars largely belonged to Obi-Wan and Anakin Skywalker, and almost every Jedi-related story arc on The Clone Wars focused on them. As a result, Anakin and Obi-Wan’s impact as characters got a bit diluted over time. The same thing happened with Maul, as he turned into a recurring character on The Clone Wars. Resurrecting Maul wasn’t necessarily a bad choice, but perhaps it wasn’t the best direction to go.
Maul Lost the Clone Wars
Maul’s entire life has been a story of failure and loss. He killed Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn but failed to defeat Obi-Wan during The Phantom Menace, which cost him his legs. He failed to defeat Obi-Wan in their encounter in “Revenge,” and he didn’t achieve much more throughout the rest of The Clone Wars.
Maul built a criminal cartel known as the Shadow Collective, which was comprised of groups like Black Sun, the Pyke Syndicate, and the Hutt Clan. Yet, Darth Sidious and Count Dooku dismantled the Shadow Collective during the events of the comic Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir. Maul conquered the neutral planet Mandalore and co-opted the Mandalorian splinter group known as the Death Watch, but he ultimately lost control of Mandalore after the Galactic Empire seized it at the end of the Clone Wars. Maul trained his brother, Savage, as a Sith apprentice, but Sidious killed Savage on Mandalore. Maul even helped bring back his mother, Talzin, after she lost her physical form, but General Grievous butchered her on behalf of Sidious.
Perhaps the only achievement of Maul’s that wasn’t later subverted by Sidious was his murder of Obi-Wan’s former love, Duchess Satine Kryze of Mandalore. It took place in the episode “The Lawless,” and it was one of the most heartbreaking moments of the series, as Satine dies in Obi-Wan’s arms. Maul’s revenge on Obi-Wan was indirect, since Maul killed one of his close friends instead of killing him. Sidious’s complete defeat over Maul took a similar form, as Sidious eliminated Maul’s mother and brother, as well as his power base and all other vestiges of his influence throughout the galaxy.
The missing piece of Maul’s story is an event known as the siege of Mandalore. This was to be the series finale of The Clone Wars before the series was cancelled in 2013. We don’t know what Maul might have achieved in this story. Ahsoka Tano, Captain Rex, and some other characters — perhaps Bo-Katan Kryze, Duchess Satine’s sister and the leader of the Mandalorian Resistance — would have hunted him down, but they probably got distracted by Order 66, which would have happened at the same time.
I realize that the intentional tragedy of Maul’s story is that he has been passed over, abandoned, and ultimately failed at everything he’s tried to accomplish. Yet, the longer he sticks around in the capacity of not being able to achieve anything, the more he loses his impact and relevance as a character. That’s why I wasn’t fond of his recent return on Star Wars Rebels.
Star Wars Rebels: Please, No Maul vs. Vader
When Maul appeared in “Twilight of the Apprentice,” I was skeptical. The pervading question throughout the season finale seemed to be whether Maul is relevant anymore. He’s completely out of the loop in regards to the current Sith-in-charge, Darth Sidious and Darth Vader. He’s trying to claw his way back to power after spending decades without it, and that’s in part why he turns to Ezra on Malachor, hoping to groom him into his new apprentice. As Maul admits, “Once, I had power. Now I have nothing.”
What’s the point of tying Maul’s story into the origins of the Rebel Alliance? When Ahsoka Tano showed up in the season one finale, fans had to wait a whole season for her much-awaited confrontation with her former master, Darth Vader. Since Maul appeared in the second season finale, will his (inevitable) duel with Vader happen in the season three finale? The problem with that showdown is that unlike the Ahsoka vs. Vader duel, I don’t want to see Maul go up against Vader.
A rather obscure non-canon comic, Resurrection, actually gave us a taste of what might happen between Maul and Vader. Yet, like the origins of Master Yoda, a Maul vs. Vader showdown — and the question of who would win — is a topic best left to a fan’s imagination. “Twilight of the Apprentice” thankfully delayed their showdown, but with Maul currently roaming the galaxy after escaping from Malachor, it’s only a matter of time before it happens.
Has Star Wars Rebels delved too far into the mythology of the Force? Throughout season two, the only real victory for the rebellion was establishing a permanent base on Atollon. Non-Jedi characters such as Hera Syndulla, Sabine Wren, and Zeb Orellios didn’t even have a role in the season finale because it had to focus on the Jedi. That’s not inherently bad, but the fact remains that Star Wars Rebels has become a juggling act between the Jedi and non-Jedi characters. It remains to be seen whether the show will be able to continue balancing these Force-related and rebel-focused story lines.
Ultimately, the third season of Star Wars Rebels needs to do what The Clone Wars didn’t: conclude Maul’s story for good. Pre-existing characters who are brought onto Star Wars Rebels need to have a palatable and satisfying impact on the show’s status quo. They can’t just be brought back for nostalgia — they need to be relevant to the story. I only hope that Star Wars Rebels is able to restore some of Maul’s impact before bringing his story to an end, in whatever form that takes.