Darth Maul: Sympathy for the Devil 

Darth Maul: Sympathy for the Devil 

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.

Well…

Darth Maul | The Clone Wars

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.
– Maul

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.

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Young Maul and Sidious | Son of Dathomir

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.

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Ben Kenobi vs. Maul | Star Wars Rebels

“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.

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Kenobi holds a passing Maul | Star Wars Rebels

“Tell me… is it the Chosen One?”

“He is.”

“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.

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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!

 

 

 

The Steadfast, Heartbroken Knight

Spoilers, as always. 

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“If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine.”

As mentioned in an earlier post, Luke Skywalker is my favorite Star Wars character. However, there is another Jedi that I am also very fond of. Today I’d like to take a look at the man who started Luke on his path to become a Jedi Knight—Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Nicknamed “the Negiotiator” by his Jedi peers, Kenobi is everything I admire in a hero. He is selfless and kind, brave in the face of danger or tragedy, and he never lost his faith in the light side of the Force.

Did I mention tragedy before? Yeah. This character has one of the suckiest lives in all of fiction. Let’s count the ways in which Obi-Wan has experienced hardship or heartbreak, shall we?

1. The death of a beloved mentor 

No getting around this one. The death of Qui-Gon had a huge impact on the young Kenobi. Jinn’s final wishes (the training of Anakin) acted as a catalyst that would change the course of the galaxy forever.

Anyone who saw the Phantom Menace as a kid knew how cathartic it was to see Obi-wan slice his master’s killer in half. Well, unfortunately for Kenobi…

2. Darth Maul survived

“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.”

Yep. One of the most controversial (and my personal favorite) twists in The Clone Wars was the decision to bring Darth Maul back from his supposed death on Naboo. Maul used his hatred for Kenobi (and perhaps his Zabrak physiology?) to keep himself alive.

The years on Lotho Minor were not kind to our favorite tattooed Nightbrother. He was driven insane by thoughts of revenge and the shame of his earlier defeat. His mind was finally restored when his brother, Savage Opress, brought him to their birth mother – the head Nightsister, Mother Talzin. Talzin also used her magicks to forge Maul a new set of cybernetic legs.

Darth Maul then set out on his mission to lure out Kenobi. To achieve this, he began sending the Jedi Order holovids of his wanton butchering of innocents (including children. This show got really dark toward the end). Knowing that Maul would murder more if he did not come alone, Kenobi made the decision to relive his old nightmare and once again face the demon he had failed to slay so long ago.

“You know, when I cut you in half, I should have aimed at your neck instead!”

Maul and Obi-wan would have a few skirmishes after their reunion, but their encounters would ultimately culminate in more heartbreak for Obi-Wan. That brings me to…

3. The death of a duchess

 

“Remember my dear Obi-Wan, I loved you always… I always will.”

– Duchess Satine Kryze 

Maul conspired with the terrorist Mandalorian group Death Watch in order to oust the pacifistic leader of Mandalore, Duchess Satine. After the duchess escaped from her prison cell, Maul correctly anticipated that Satine would contact her knight in shining armor, Obi-Wan, for assistance. Since Mandalore was a neutral world in the Clone Wars, the Jedi Order had no jurisdiction to intervene. Kenobi chose to travel alone and incognito in defiance of the Council’s wishes.

Long story short, Maul captured Kenobi and realized he had the perfect instrument with which to exact his revenge – Duchess Satine. After Obi-Wan tried to appeal to Maul’s inner goodness and sympathized with him (“I know the decision to join the dark side wasn’t yours”), Maul proved how very wrong Kenobi was by running Satine through with his lightsaber.

As the woman Obi-Wan once claimed he would have left the Order for died in his arms, she professed her love for him one more time. Kenobi was visibly broken by her death which greatly pleased Darth Maul. He was content to let Kenobi “drown in his misery” while he was left to rot in a cell.

Of course, being the strong individual he was, Obi-Wan didn’t let Satine’s death slow him down. As Satine’s peaceful Mandalore burned in open conflict all around him, Kenobi escaped to warn the Republic about what had transpired there.

The one positive for this episode is that the smug Maul and his brother get absolutely wrecked by Sidious later on. As much as I loved Sam Witwer’s portrayal of the sadistic, yet tragic Zabrak Sith Lord, I didn’t feel one bit sorry for him as he was being tortured by Palpatine.

4.  The loss of a brother 

 

“You were my brother, Anakin. I loved you.”

Forget the hammy dialogue. Forget the wonkiness of the lava-CGI. Forget the sometimes uneven script. There was one moment (shown above) in Revenge of the Sith where I felt the acting was genuine and heartbreaking. The moment where Obi-Wan dropped his calm persona and truly let the audience know how he felt about losing his friend.

Sure, the films never really showed much camaraderie between the two Jedi, but after watching The Clone Wars all the way through, the scene feels all the more powerful. The loss Kenobi must have felt there; I can’t even fathom it.

5. The loss of purpose/isolation 

 

“You never trained me for this, Master Qui-Gon. You never taught me how to fade away.”

I don’t know about you, but after all the aforementioned tragedy, I’d be looking to hide on a remote, tropical planet for the rest of my life. What does our hero do? He volunteers to keep watch over the son of the man who betrayed him and his Jedi family. Oh, and did I mention he has to live on one of the most miserable planets on the Outer Rim?

Two standalone Marvel Star Wars issues have given us glimpses of Obi-Wan’s transition from Jedi Master and general in the Republic Army to crazy old Ben, a hermit no one knows or trusts. He does not adjust well to doing nothing or being alone.

What’s saddest about these stories is that Obi-Wan wants to help the common people of Tatooine protect themselves from Jabba’s thugs, but because he needs to remain anonymous, he cannot overtly help them without drawing unnecessary attention to himself. Worse, Kenobi clearly sees all of Anakin’s best traits (piloting, bravery) manifesting in Luke, but Owen Lars forbade any Jedi training for fear that the boy would become his father.

Kenobi also carried guilt from believing that he failed to prevent Anakin from turning to the dark side. Not an easy burden to carry.

Conclusion 

So what can we learn from all of this? Like Luke, Obi-Wan never let any of his personal failures or tragedies stop him from doing what was right. He was committed to the tenets of the light all the way up to his heroic sacrifice on the Death Star. He was also notable for being one of the only Council members who opposed turning Ahsoka over to the Republic courts after she was framed for terrorism.

Was Kenobi perfect? Of course not. He once faked his death and didn’t tell Anakin (which severely shook his faith in Kenobi and the Council) and he also didn’t tell Luke the full truth about his father. But what good hero doesn’t have flaws?

Obi-Wan also wins points for his constant snark and sarcasm. Both Alec Guiness and Ewan McGregor played the dry humor card very well. In The Clone Wars, James Arnold Taylor turned the snark on full blast leading to some wonderful exchanges between friends and foes alike.

Finally, let’s talk about his lightsaber style: Form III – Soresu. Form III has always been my favorite because it essentially turns the user into a stone wall. It’s a highly defensive form that waits for an opponent to tire or make a mistake before ending the duel in a decisive blow. The Negiotiator he might be, but Grievous and the newly-christened Vader both learned the hard way what happens when you get on the wrong side of Kenobi’s blade.

As seen above, Obi-Wan also managed to hold off Maul and Savage at the same time using Jar’Kai (two sabers: his and the recently deceased Adi Gallia’s). He even sliced off Savage’s arm in the process, ending the duel. Basically, the guy was a beast in his prime.

Okay, thanks again for reading! Hopefully this was an interesting read. Just wanted to explore a few of the many events that shaped this man into one of the most influential Jedi in galactic history.

Let me know how I did in the comments below.

“The Force will be with you, always.”