Warning: Spoilers for Twin Suns
“The Sith…the Sith took everything from me! Ripped me from my mother’s arms, murdered my brother, used me as a weapon and then cast me aside! Abandoned me! Once I had power, now I have nothing.” – Maul
I still remember seeing The Phantom Menace all the way back in 1999. One of the characters that really made an impression on the 12-year-old version of me was the tattooed, red and black Zabrak Sith Lord known as Darth Maul.
Maul just oozed awesome from the moment he appeared on screen. Even though he had very limited dialogue, his ferocious looks and double-bladed lightsaber (previously only seen in Legends stories e.g. Exar Kun) more than made up for it. Unfortunately for the Sith apprentice, he soon met his end at the hands of a young Padawan by the name of Obi-Wan Kenobi. Our poor villain was bisected at the waist and fell into a deep pit in the bowels of Theed Palace.
I vaguely recall thinking that we barely knew anything about this guy before his demise. Kind of a waste to include such a popular villain only to off him after one film.
You may have forgotten me, but I will never forget you. You cannot imagine the depths I would go to to stay alive, fueled by my singular hatred… for you.
I won’t touch on Dave Filoni and George Lucas’s decision to bring back Darth Maul in The Clone Wars too much as I have already covered that aspect of Maul’s vengeful crusade against Kenobi culminating in Duchess Satine’s murder.
What I do want to mention is that Maul’s reentry into the Star Wars mythos started him on a path of meaningful character development and it gave him actual sympathetic qualities. I know I’ve mentioned many times how much I love Dave Filoni for fleshing out events or characters from the films and Maul’s persona is no different.
I know where you’re from, I’ve been to your village. I know the decision to join the dark side wasn’t yours. The Nightsisters made it for you.
– Obi-Wan Kenobi
Although The Clone Wars showed that Maul was more than a blunt instrument and genuinely came close to emulating his former master’s more cruel and cunning ways, the writers also began to drop hints that perhaps Maul wasn’t just a hate-driven tool of the dark side. I’m obviously not excusing all of his obviously evil actions, (i.e. butchering colonists and their children on Raydonia to get the attention of Kenobi) but there was no denying that Maul’s dark persona was at least partially a result of being raised by one of the most sadistic individuals in the galaxy. Maul’s tale could definitely fall into one of those psychological nature vs. nurture debates that are all the rage these days.
By the time Maul reappeared on Rebels, he was a broken soul with nothing but revenge to sustain him. His initial ire and vengeance was targeted at Sidious, but once his plans on the Sith world of Malachor were thwarted he realized just how much he was outmatched by Vader and Palpatine. He then settled on seeking out his old Jedi nemesis on Tatooine.
“Look at what has become of you. A rat in the desert.”
“Look at what I have risen above.”
“I have come here to kill you, but perhaps it’s worse to leave you here, festering in your squalor.
If you define yourself by your power to take life, your desire to dominate, to possess, then you have nothing.”
– Maul and Ben Kenobi
Spoiler warning #2. I’m serious.
The decision to have Kenobi end Maul’s life (and swiftly!) was one that I commend the writers for. I know some people complained that they wanted a long, drawn-out duel but honestly that would have been sheer fanservice. Maul was a shattered individual, left a husk by the dark side and I think on some level he wanted to die at the hands of someone who would show him respect. It makes sense on a deeper level too. Maul is what you would call a shadow archetype to Kenobi. Think about it, both of them were skilled warriors who lost people close to them. Both of them lost their apprentices to Sidious (one had a literal death, the other a death of personality.) Maul and Kenobi also watched a woman they loved die in front of them (Mother Talzin/Duchess Satine Kryze)
I could go on, but there’s no denying that despite their diametrically opposed moral alignments, Maul and Kenobi shared more similarities than either of them would care to admit. The key difference is that Kenobi never hated Maul and actually pitied him. One final symbolic gesture from their last meeting is how Kenobi held Maul as he died. It’s near-identical to the way he cradled Qui-Gon at the end of The Phantom Menace.
“Tell me… is it the Chosen One?”
“He will avenge us…”
As Maul died, I found myself getting misty-eyed. It was at that moment that I stopped and said to myself, “did I really feel sadness over this monster’s death?” The answer to that is yes. Like Kenobi, I felt sympathy for this once-butcher of a Sith Lord. But isn’t that the mark of good writing and character development? The best bad guys aren’t the mustache-twirling, evil for the sake of evil villains, but the ones whose motivations are at least somewhat relatable or sympathetic.
So with Maul’s arc finally done, I just want to say thank you to a few people. Thank you to Dave, George, and the Clone Wars (eventual Rebels) team for bringing this once-wasted character back from the brink of death. I also want to give a huge thank you to the ever-talented Sam Witwer for providing the deliciously evil (and often broken) Maul with his voice. You also do such a fantastic Palpatine and I hope you get many more Star Wars VA gigs.
Anyway, thank you for reading! I apologize for the huge delay in posting another entry here (June?!) Life has been so busy and I really needed the break in writing to get my motivation back.
May the Force be with you!