Lucasfilm has been pretty good about keeping some of the big surprises in its Star Wars films a secret before they begin screening for audiences and this weekend’s Solo: A Star Wars Story is no exception. And that is why audiences are being caught off guard by the appearance of a villain most probably thought of as dead.
Big spoilers ahead for Solo: A Star Wars Story. Obviously.
Towards the end of the film, Han’s former love interest Qi’ra (Emila Clarke) appears to assume some control of the Crimson Dawn crime syndicate by killing off Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany) only to send a message to the real power behind the scenes of the organization – former Sith Lord Darth Maul.
Now the last time we saw Maul in a Star Wars film, it was in the first installment of the prequel trilogy and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan Macgregor) had just sliced in half at the waist and he was falling down what looked to be a deep, almost bottom-less shaft on the planet Naboo. Seems like a pretty fatal thing to be inflicted on a character, right? But this is Star Wars so Maul survived.
As shown in the animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars – And yes, even though it happened in the cartoon, Lucasfilm still treats events in both Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels animated series as canon – Maul managed to stop his fall by grabbing onto air vent on the side of the shaft. Using his anger and pain to fuel his Dark Side of the Force powers to keep himself alive, Maul was able to escape Naboo and make his way on a garbage scow to Loyho Minor, where he is joined by his brother Savage Opress and has some robotic legs created for him.
Later, in events that take place between Prequel Trilogy films Attack Of The Clones and Revenge Of The Sith, Maul and Opress take control of the Shadow Collective, a criminal group who are opposed to both sides of the Clone War, unite a number of other crime families and ultimately take over the planet Mandalor. The pair clash with Kenobi a few times, but no clear winner ever emerges. Maul eventually has a show down with his former master Darth Sidious, but loses and Opress is killed in the process. Maul goes into hiding after Anakin Skywalker’s padawan Ahsoka leads a Republic army to free Mandalor.
Fast forward some nine years or so, and Solo shows us Maul as in command of Crimson Dawn, but the film gives us no clue as to what his ultimate plan is in regards to controlling the crime syndicate. But given his hatred towards his old master Sidious, whom the galaxy knows as Senator-turned-Emperor Palpatine, he probably is working against the Empire is some way.
So when will this bit of storyline get picked up next? That’s hard to say. Solo star Alden Ehrenreich is signed for more than just this one film, so it is possible that a future Solo Star Wars film could feature some more of Han’s interactions withe the Crimson Dawn crime syndicate amd by extension Maul. It is possible that this plot thread could be addressed in either a novel or comic book. The rumored Boba Fett spinoff film mat also be a place where some of Maul’s story will be told, given Maul’s connection to the planet Mandalore, which is also the source of Fett’s bounty hunter armor.
We do know this – thanks to Star Wars: Rebels which takes place in a time span starting about five years after Solo and ending just short of Rogue One/ Episode IV: A New Hope – that Maul will eventually become stranded on the planet Malachor while hunting for a Sith weapon after his ship crashes. Maul manages to manipulate Rebel’s hero and Jedi-in-training Ezra Bridger to escape Malachor. The two have several encounters with Maul trying to learn the location of Kenobi, who at this point is in hiding on Tatooine keeping a watchful eye on a young Luke Skywalker. But as for what Maul has been up to in between his Solo and Rebels appearances is a story yet to be told.