Darth Maul has throughout the years gone from being a very badass character but without much background to what I believe to be one of the most complex characters in the starwars universe. We were introduced to him in the Phantom menace and he immediately captivated audiences with his completely different fighting style (more martial arts infused), his terrifying appearance and of course his – way too early – end. Now before we continue to delve into the mystery surrounding this sith lord I want to warn you that there of course will be SPOILERS ahead. If you haven’t seen any of the Clone Wars, Rebels or Han Solo and want to preserve the possible shock elements when watching it then click away!!
With all the formalities out of the way I first quickly wanted to brush on why I decided to write this post. I had wanted to write this post for a while, while watching the Clone Wars and Rebels I became more and more attached to Maul and his lifestory and he quickly became one of my favourite characters. Whether this was due to the fact he was so similar to Asajj Ventress (who had in fact become my favourite character in the Clone Wars series) because they are both descendant from Dathomir and of course Maul belongs to the Nightbrothers and Asajj to the Nightsisters or because of the love that had grown for him while watching the Phantom Menace, I can’t say. His – shocking – appearance at the end of Solo really solidified the idea of starting an in depth look at what and who Maul had become. Some of my friends had messaged me after seeing Solo as they were perplexed he was still alive! They hadn’t seen any of the Clone Wars and hence this came as a total shock to them. This really started my writing process as I thought there must be many more out there who really had no idea what Maul had been up to. So….who is Maul? What does he want? Let’s start at the beginning…
A child led astray
Maul was born on Dathomir under the wing of Mother Talzin who most of us Clone Wars watchers are very familiar with. Talzin was working with Darth Sidious and had made a deal with him for her to become his new apprentice eventually. However Sidious saw the young Maul and felt his power and saw his potential and hence took him for himself as his new apprentice and leaving Talzin behind. Sidious took maul under his wing but don’t be fooled this wasn’t a master-apprentice relationship as it is between Jinn and Obi. Sidious forced maul to breathe in the ashes of slain Sith lords, Maul felt their pain and suffering as he breathed in their remains, feeling the slashes of a lightsaber wielded by a Jedi. This fuelled Maul’s hatred towards the Jedi and increased his bloodthirst which is something that is very prominent throughout his appearances in the Star Wars films/series. Sidious had seen his bloodthirst and tried to quench this by sending him on missions however nothing could and he remained driven by pain and anger.
An apprentice left to be forgotten
This is where we the audience are officially introduced to Maul as he makes his first appearance in the Phantom Menace. Sidious has sent his apprentice to Tatooine to follow the two Jedi; Qui-gon Jinn and his apprentice Kenobi. Maul allows himself to be seen eventually in his first duel against Jinn where he clearly dominates Jinn who only narrowly manages to escape. From this first fighting scene it is immediately clear how much of a threat Maul really is as he is completely driven by a lust for power, dominance and revenge. This is something that stays very prominent throughout his appearances and in the end is what causes his downfall.
One of the most defining moments if not THE most defining moment in Maul’s life is his meeting with Obi-Wan Kenobi when they duel on Naboo. It is clear to see the pleasure Maul takes in teasing Obi-Wan with the laser gates and really distressing the young Padawan to a breaking point, which comes when he fatally impales Qui-Gon Jinn with his lightsaber. This is a crucial moment not just for both of them individually (as for Obi-Wan it means he is now without master and for Darth Maul it is the beginning of what we thought was his end) but also for the relationship between the two. Maul tries to anger Obi-Wan, taunt him, almost seduce him to let his anger determine his actions and not his training. Kenobi manages to slice Maul in half which should have been the end…but it wasn’t. Maul managed to hang on to an air vent and slide down a reactor shaft and made his way to Lotho Minor.
A brother in a time of need
Maul spends the next few years of his life on Lotho Minor, trading his leftovers for food with a local. A spider leg body is placed onto his torso allowing him to move around but without much control leaving a once powerful Sith apprentice looking like a mad man. I have to say I found this very daring of the creators of the Clone wars, we had never before seen a design like this or almost a form of torture like this. Maul looked like an experiment, his new image completely destroyed the Maul many of us had come to love over the years. However it paid off, it was beautifully executed and really almost justified the mental state Maul was found in by none other than his own brother Savage Opress. Maul makes his intentions clear from the start which are pure revenge on the Jedi. Savage takes his brother home where Talzin performs a ritual and removes the mind block on Maul’s mind allowing him to remember everything, she also removes his spider legs and creates new mechanical legs out of scrap. The newly arisen Darth Maul has a clear view of what he wants, which is to inflict the pain he himself suffered over the years, on none other than the person he believes is responsible for putting him there; Kenobi. Through the course of the clone wars series the bond between the two brothers becomes very intrinsic and changes over time. What at first is a brotherhood soon has to become a master-apprentice relationship as the both of them seek power in the ways of the Dark side of the Force. Maul seeing himself as the leader appoints himself master which eventually causes friction between the two.
“Always two there are my brother, a master and an apprentice – and you are the apprentice”
As apprentice and master the two continue their journey to find Kenobi which they do on several occasions. The first encounter between the two is on Rydonia where Maul unveils himself to still be alive to Obi-Wan and even manages to capture the Jedi, wanting to not just kill him but completely tear his sense of self apart. Asajj Ventress comes to rescue Kenobi which creates a very interesting dynamic. The four of them fight each other in a highly emotionally fuelled fight as we get a duel between former master and servant (Asajj and Opress) and of course a duel between the killer of his opponent’s master. Kenobi escapes however it is clear that maul has struck a nerve with him, he can see that Maul did not set out to simply ‘finish the job’. He wants to demoralize Kenobi and try to once again bring out this darkness in him that allowed him to nearly fatally wound Maul in the Phantom Menace. They meet again on Florrum where Kenobi manages to severely wound Savage – cutting off his arm – and the two brothers flee (believed to have died by others like Hondo, but Kenobi suspects they survived).
Maul’s reign over Mandalore
Maul and Savage make their way to Mandalore after having been picked up and repaired. Maul sees the potential in an alliance with the death watch, potentially allowing them to completely overthrow the government on Mandalore and seize power. Maul forms the Shadow Collective consisting of multiple families like the Hutt’s who pledged their allegiance to Maul. This is where Maul’s lust for power really starts to come in more and more as he seeks to control not just his apprentice but a whole planet and hence defeat both the Confederacy of Independent Systems and eventually the Galactic Republic. It shows how much his bloodthirst has gone to his head and really how uncontrollable he is which is something Sidious also picks up on ( more on that in a minute ). Maul is aware that seizing control over Mandalore will get Kenobi’s attention as Satine (Kenobi’s secret love) is held there, but he also realises Kenobi will receive no backup since Mandalore stayed neutral throughout the war. Kenobi makes his way and Maul prepares for his ultimate revenge, to kill another highly important person in Kenobi’s life. Maul had taken Satine and Kenobi hostage and taunted him with her possible death. He once again tries to demoralize Kenobi and get him to fuel his darkness. Kenobi strikes back claiming Maul never CHOSE to join the darkside but the Nightsisters chose for him. This agonises Maul in a way it had never before, he was made a fool of and told once again he had had no control over his own destiny. Maul takes the Darksaber as his own and in front of Kenobi fatally impales Satine with it.
” I will make you share my pain, Kenobi.”
Kenobi gets away with the help of Bo-Katan and Maul has once again failed to defeat his opponent. However he knows he has hit Kenobi in a much more effective way than to just simply killing him. It is so clear that Maul’s need for revenge is so overpowering that all his decisions are made out of emotion and are out of this search for justice which causes him to lose sight of the bigger picture. As mentioned earlier Sidious has noticed the growing power of the two brothers and comes to Mandalore to correct them. In the battle between Maul, Savage and Sidious, Maul’s brother is fatally wounded and exclaims “Brother I am an unworthy apprentice. I’m not like you, I never was”. Maul has once again lost a part of him (no pun intended) due to the hands of evil, this time coming however in the shape of his former master. I think this is a very important point in Maul’s journey as now immense pain has been inflicted to him both at the hands of a Jedi and a Sith lord, so where does that leave him? Can he still side with the darkness when it has betrayed him in such a way and caused the loss of his brother. It could be argued that it was Maul’s ego that really saw the end of Savage however Maul will never see it like this. The clone wars really leaves us on a cliffhanger when it comes to Maul’s story as the last we see of him is Sidious electrocuting him and stating he has other uses for him. As an audience we all thought this was the last we would see of the conflicted former Sith lord, but boy were we in for a surprise.
The search for a new apprentice
Not shown on screen but mentioned in the comics, Maul is led to the Spire and tortured for information which he refuses to give out. Maul is released in the hope he will send them to mother Talzin which the Nighstister foresees as she sends Maul to Ord Mantell where Grievous and Dooku follow him. Maul captures the two sith apprentices and instead of following orders to kill them he tries to convince them to join him in his plot to avenge his brother and kill Sidious. Throughout all the comics, films and shows it is clear that Maul is in the search for an apprentice of some sorts, allowing him to assert dominance over someone else and really show off his powers. Grievous manages to slip away but Dooku eventually joins Maul and the two manage to escape once Kenobi shows up (once again). Maul’s plan for Dooku was to use him as a sacrifice in a ritual to bring mother Talzin back in a physical form. Once the ritual is complete however they are interrupted by Grievous and Sidious and the four of them duel until Sidious manages to release Dooku’s life spirit and Talzin is struck down. She orders Maul to flee before being fatally stabbed by Grievous.
If we now look at Maul’s timeline for a second we see that at this point in time he really seems to have lost all his roots as both his brother and mother have now been taken from him by the Sith. His lust for revenge and need to assert himself has lost him his family, he has at this point lost Mandalore and so really is back to square one but now with less people to support him. He starts the Crimson Dawn criminal organization which is where he suddenly returns to the big screen in Solo: A Star Wars story
His return to the big screen shocked many fans, both the ones that had and had not seen the Clone Wars series. We really don’t know much about his relationship with Qi’ra and where they go next, it’s still something that needs to be explored. However what we do see is that he has his sights on using her as either an apprentice or some kind of servant, sound familiar? Those who have seen Rebels will know that Qi’ra is (as far as I am aware) never mentioned and Maul has his eyes set on claiming Ezra as his own apprentice so what happens in the time between Solo and his appearances in Rebels? We don’t really know at this point yet but I’m sure will find out soon
One final attempt at power
We have come to the last chapter of Maul’s life as we delve into the relationship between Ezra and Maul. When Maul introduces himself to Ezra for the first time, he seems a lot weaker than the last time we saw him and it is clear he has aged and not had an easy few years. He convinces Ezra to help him retrieve the Sith Holocron and eventually to even open it up. Throughout Rebels, Maul’s intentions usually stay unclear as we don’t know why he so desperately needed the holocron, however one thing is very obvious; he wants Ezra to become his new apprentice. He is convinced together they could destroy Sidious and start a new order. It is unclear as to what exactly Maul had hoped to see when combining the two holocrons together, however in the process Ezra is led to Tatooine as he claims he saw the twin suns. While at first it seemed Maul saw nothing, he later on realizes he had heard the sentence “He lives”, this refers to Kenobi being alive and relates to Ezra’s vision of the twin suns as this is where Kenobi is hiding out. At this point Maul has already continuously referred to Ezra as his apprentice, who is slowly starting to be more and more attracted to the Dark Side. Maul is convinced that binding their minds once again in a second ritual will allow them to see the ways to destroy the Sith. They perform the ritual and Maul’s suspicions are confirmed that Kenobi is alive and well on Tatooine and holds the key to the destruction of the Sith (Luke Skywalker) . He asks Ezra to join him and become his apprentice once and for all however the young boy declines and flees with his crew. This is a big turning point for Maul as he has failed for the final time to really become the master of an apprentice and assert himself in the rule of two. In anger he sets out to Tatooine and (without Ezra’s knowledge) is led to Kenobi by Ezra.
His final mistake
Maul finds Kenobi and is convinced of his victory as he strolls around mocking Kenobi trying to taunt him and flaunt the overwhelming power Maul believes he has over him. We have mentioned Maul’s ego and pride getting in the way before and this was no exception. His need to constantly flash his power and take pride in his ability to strike down his opponents lead to Kenobi making the statement;
“If you define yourself by your power to take life, a desire to dominate, to possess, then you
This aggravates Maul as these are the qualities he takes pride in the most. He has seen Kenobi’s living conditions (which really aren’t that glamorous) and refuses to be made a fool off by a fallen Jedi knight in hiding. The two prepare for battle as Kenobi eventually takes the Ataru stance, the same stance his former master Jinn had taken moments before he was fatally wounded by Maul. In his arrogance, Maul fails to see that this is a premeditated move, and he continues to attack Kenobi in the same way that allowed him to defeat Jinn. Having foreseen this, Kenobi strikes him and the duel is over in less than a minute. This caused quite a stir between fans as this seemed to have been the penultimate moment between two nemeses. However looking back on it now, it is perfect and makes complete sense. By this point Maul isn’t thinking straight anymore, he just wants Kenobi to fall and for him to finally show his dominance over the Jedi. Maul falls down but before he falls to the floor Kenobi catches him. It is an almost amicable moment between the two as Kenobi holds Maul in his final moments and confirms that he believes Luke is the chosen one.
“He will avenge us.“
Maul’s final words are words still fuelled with a lust for vengeance, something he seems to have never been able to let go. It is almost a tragic moment as we see such a torn character be laid to rest. While Maul has made so many mistakes in his life, it is sad to see his inability to let go of the past and go into death in peace.
The title of this article asks the question; was Maul just pure evil or was he ripped of the choice of choosing the right path as a young child? Having looked at his entire story arc it seems to me that his lust for death, power and dominance originates from the training he endured as a child, that forced him to feel the pain inflicted on others at such an extreme level. It was something the young Maul did not choose to participate in but that was thrown his way and the choice was taken out of his hands. That being said, there were many opportunities later in life to change his ways but think about this. Before the Phantom Menace, Maul was at a peak in his career, he was the apprentice of a Sith Lord and well on his way to becoming one himself. After his fait in TPM he seems to have just been left behind, an experiment gone wrong, a mistake to be forgotten. He has been replaced in no time and is reminded of the fact on multiple occasions. Everything he held dear and was trained to care about had been stripped, taken from him and it all started with the young apprentice Kenobi slicing him in half. This was the start of his journey for vengeance and it seemed inevitable that it could only end with the death of either Maul or his nemesis.
“At last we will reveal ourselves to the Jedi. At last we will have revenge”
What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!