This Star Wars article contains spoilers.
Since his debut in The Phantom Menace, Darth Maul has demanded the attention of Star Wars fans everywhere. In 1999, Maul looked unlike any villain that had come before in the saga, and the movie’s high-energy lightsaber duel is still one of the most memorable parts of the Prequel Trilogy. It’s unfortunate, then, that Maul was originally created by George Lucas as a one-off character, present only to re-establish the threat of the Sith.
But you can’t keep a good character down. Maul returned in The Clone Wars season 4 to introduce even more chaos to the galaxy. Infamously unkillable, his obsession with killing Obi-Wan Kenobi and reuniting with Palpatine kept him going for much of the galactic conflict and well after the rise of the Empire.
Maul has been a Sith apprentice, a ranting hermit, and a powerful crime lord throughout his strange and storied life. Maul failed to become a Sith Master, as Palpatine tossed him to the side once his role in Anakin Skywalker’s story was over, but Maul never stopped trying to clamber to the top. As you’ll see in The Clone Wars season 7 and the Rebels animated series, Maul will fight until the very end to get what he wants.
As we say goodbye once again to one of Star Wars‘ greatest villains, let’s take a look back at the former Sith’s best moments from The Clone Wars, Rebels, the comics, and beyond.
Duel of the Fates
The Phantom Menace is not a perfect movie, but the two-on-one lightsaber duel in the third act is a great example of the kind of action and physical storytelling that makes Star Wars such an effective and enduring movie franchise. Maul is a nearly voiceless demon dogging the heels of the good guys for most of the film, his powers obscured until he finally reveals himself on Naboo. For the audience watching this duel on the big screen, this was the first chance to see a full-fledged Jedi of legend dueling a Sith Lord.
Actor Ray Park was hired primarily for his ability to do the stunts and fight work. Choreographed by Nick Gillard, the lightsaber fight was acrobatic and wide-ranging, mixing in more melee than had been possible in the Original Trilogy. The climactic duel also introduced the double-bladed lightsaber to the Star Wars galaxy. The weapon and the character would be inseparable in fans’ minds for years to come.
How do you revive a character who has been cut in half? Just as in the world of comic books, Star Wars offers plenty of options. Since the Original Trilogy, Star Wars has made it common practice to rebuild mortally wounded and horribly mutilated villains, shaping them into a whole new threat. In 2012, The Clone Wars confirmed that there was more to Maul’s story than The Phantom Menace. Season 4 episode “Brothers” opens with the horror movie atmosphere of the scrapyard on planet Lotho Minor, where Maul has been living since his defeat on Naboo.
He fashions himself a new, arachnid-like body out of trash, and it fits the frightening philosophy of the Sith as well as Maul’s gruesome fate. Spider legs twitch and stab, allowing Maul to climb around his trash-filled cave. Maul has become a hybrid of person and machine, human and animal. He doesn’t keep the spider legs for long, only for a few episodes, but it’s one of the most dramatic changes to his look, and a frightening new possibility when it comes to what cyborgs in Star Wars can become. Spider Maul will haunt your dreams.
Rematch with Obi-Wan
Obi-Wan Kenobi is skeptical when he hears Maul is back from the dead. But their confrontation is certainly real. After his surprise return in “Brothers,” Maul beelines for Obi-Wan in the next episode, suitably titled “Revenge.” This is the first chance to see the Sith’s rebuilt legs in action. It also shows Maul’s ruthlessness, as he destroys an innocent settlement just to draw Obi-Wan to his location. With the help of Savage Opress, his newfound brother, Maul captures Obi-Wan and kicks off a couple of action-heavy episodes that re-establishes Maul as a force to be reckoned with.
The Shadow Collective
Try as he might, Maul can’t get back into Sidious’ good graces, so he throws the Star Wars villain version of a tantrum: he forms a gang. With the help of the Mandalorians, he goes on a killing spree in season 5 to take out rival criminal organizations in the name of his new Shadow Collective. It’s a sequence of slaughters where there are no good guys.
Maul uses his Force powers, intimidation, and overwhelming force to destroy or intimidate the Black Sun gang, the Pyke gang, and the Hutts, including Jabba himself, into joining him. Maul is back on top.
Taking Over Mandalore
After recruiting a group of rogue Mandalorian warriors known as Death Watch to his side, Maul has bigger ambitions: to take over the entire planet of Mandalore. In season 5’s “The Lawless,” he slaughters the planet’s reigning leader, Duchess Satine Kryze, as well as the leader of Death Watch, and claims the symbolic weapon of Mandalore, the Darksaber, for himself.
It’s a visually striking episode, with much of the action set inside the Mandalorian throne room. The Darksaber is also the perfect example of silly Star Wars lore taken to the extreme. It also, somehow, works, even when it returns in live-action in The Mandalorian.
Duel Against Darth Sidious
Much of Maul’s story in The Clone Wars is about a student who wants to return to the teacher who discarded him. But Sidious isn’t going to accept him back so easily. “The Lawless” also features a duel between three dark side users: Maul, Darth Sidious, and Savage. This is a three-way clash of red lightsabers, ranging up and down the edifices of Mandalore. It’s one of many examples of The Clone Wars‘ elevated Star Wars action, and it’s one of the series’ most exciting sequences.
There are no good guys here, but someone has to win: Sidious kills Savage and defeats Maul, sparing his former apprentice so that he may feel the sting of rejection for the rest of his life. This is the reunion Star Wars fans had been waiting for since Maul’s return and it goes about how you’d expect.
The Son of Dathomir comic was adapted from unproduced episodes of The Clone Wars, so it’s closely linked to the events on Mandalore. It also features the entire rogues’ gallery of Prequel era villains, pitting Maul, Sidious, Count Dooku, General Grievous, and Mother Talzin against one another. The fight between Maul and Grievous, in particular, is the stuff of fantasy “What If” scenarios and it’s a visual delight, even if it happens off-screen.
The Siege of Mandalore
One of the most hotly-anticipated conflicts of The Clone Wars did not disappoint. The Siege of Mandalore, which shows how the Republic took the Mandalorian homeworld back from Maul, features a lightsaber duel between the former Sith and ex-Jedi Ahsoka Tano. Though both have left their old orders behind, they bring all the acrobatics and Force powers one could want from a Star Wars fight.
This duel in Mandalore’s throne room and high above its capital city is an amazing use of setting, as Maul and Ahsoka climb up the rafters of one of Mandalore’s domed cities and balance themselves on thin beams. The fight also feels mythic, the two characters’ viewpoints clashing as much as their lightsabers.
The episode “The Phantom Apprentice,” in particular, shows that, despite being banished from the Sith, Maul is still one step ahead of the Jedi in terms of Palpatine’s grand plan. In fact, Maul instigates the Republic invasion in order to lure Anakin to the planet and stop him from becoming Sidious’ new apprentice — something he’s already seen in a vision before the Jedi even begin to suspect that Palpatine might be an agent of the dark side.
Maul’s Solo Cameo
Solo: A Star Wars Story spends plenty of time with the galaxy’s underworld. Throughout the movie, Han Solo and Qi’Ra tangle with rogues, thieves, smugglers, con men, and drifters, all leading to a big standoff with Dryden Vos, the leader of criminal organization Crimson Dawn. But Vos isn’t the true villain pulling the strings of the movie.
A big reveal is left for the end: Maul has been in charge of the criminal syndicate Crimson Dawn all this time, manipulating others the way Palpatine manipulated him. Maul doesn’t do a lot in Solo, appearing just for a few minutes to make Qi’Ra his new lieutenant, but he does ignite his lightsaber, showing he’s a step above most of the enemies the group has faced so far by virtue of his Sith legacy.
Maul’s Epic Death
Even though it seemed like he could survive anything, Maul had to die eventually. Luckily, the team behind Star Wars Rebels knew how to make Maul’s ending something truly amazing.
Maul has spent decades seeking revenge against his old Jedi enemy, while Obi-Wan has gone into hiding to protect Luke Skywalker, finding peace and coming to terms with the tragedy in his own life. The episode “Twin Suns” shows the final confrontation between Maul and Obi-Wan.
Although not a true adaptation, “Twin Suns” is loosely inspired by “Old Wounds,” a non-canon comic from the speculative comic series Visionaries. That comic, which was written and drawn by Aaron McBride, is also a great Maul moment unto itself, with a vivid lightsaber battle and the threat of Maul possibly discovering a very young Luke Skywalker. It gets to the heart of why Maul works as a frightening villain: a demonic-looking Sith with the drive to keep hunting you, even if you cut him in half.
“Twin Suns” chooses to go a more contemplative route than “Old Wounds.” While the basic setup is the same (Maul finds an older Obi-Wan on Tatooine), the lightsaber duel isn’t the focus in “Twin Suns.” Instead, one of the best Maul moments is actually an Obi-Wan moment. Their lightsaber duel is just one move, both of them considering their options but it’s Obi-Wan who actually finds the inner strength to carry it out.
In the end, Obi-Wan kills Maul, but also shows him pity, telling a truth that comforts both of them: Luke Skywalker, the one to bring balance to the Force, is still alive. Obi-Wan has escaped the cycle of revenge and ambition Maul has been stuck in his entire life, and he’s closer to the Force for it. It’s also a stunning farewell fit for a fan-favorite character like Maul.
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