Sunday, March 19, 2017

How Darth Maul Found Redemption in 'Star Wars' Animation

Warning: MAJOR SPOILERS for the latest Star Wars Rebels episode, "Twin Suns."

Since his introduction in The Phantom Menace, Darth Maul has been known as one of the lesser Star Wars villains. Despite an intimidating appearance and cool, double-bladed lightsaber, he lacked the towering authority of Darth Vader, the pure evil of Emperor Palpatine, and even the acting prowess of Christopher Lee as Count Dooku. There was never any doubt that Maul was a real threat capable of dueling multiple Jedi at the same time, but he had very few speaking lines and virtually zero characterization.
However, his bisection at the hands of Obi-Wan Kenobi wasn't the end of his story. Fueled by pure hatred and a need for revenge, Maul survived, albeit without the lower half of his body. In Season 4 of The Clone Wars, his brother, Savage Opress, found him on the trash world of Lotho Minor, and Dathomir witch Mother Talzin (later revealed to be Maul's birth mother) restored his sanity and gave him a new pair of robotic legs. 
Brilliantly voiced by Sam Witwer (the voice and face of Starkiller in the Force Unleashed video games), Maul finally talked. He gave growling commands and spine-chilling monologues, paired with the same lightsaber expertise that he's always had. With no master to order him around and plenty of schemes of his own, Maul finally came into his own as a unique villain.

Although his first and foremost objective was – understandably – revenge against Kenobi, Maul's ultimate goal was to defeat the Jedi, the "Sith pretender" Count Dooku, and his old master, Darth Sidious. He would then rule the galaxy with Savage as the true Lords of the Sith.
In Season 5 of The Clone Wars, Maul's plan took shape as he formed his Shadow Collective of underworld organizations with help from the Mandalorian Death Watch warriors. He succeeded in taking over Mandalore, violently usurping Pre Vizsla as leader of the Death Watch, and even struck a major blow to Kenobi by killing the woman he loved, Duchess Satine, right in front of his eyes.
However, Maul was soon thwarted by his old master, Darth Sidious, who viewed him as a rival and used Count Dooku and his droid armies to crush the Shadow Collective. Barely escaping with his life, Maul would find his way back to Mandalore, where he would be overthrown by the likes of Ahsoka Tano and Captain Rex in "The Siege of Mandalore," the never-seen (yet canonical) Clone Wars series finale.

An older Maul returned once again in the Rebels Season 2 finale, having been stranded on the Sith world of Malachor after crashing his ship there many years ago. He was planning to find a new apprentice in Ezra Bridger and take control of the planet's ancient superweapon, and when that failed, he reverted back to his decades-old focus: finding and killing Obi-Wan.
It's at this point that you can really sympathize with Maul. He was ripped from his home as a child and trained in the Dark Side by one of the most powerful beings in the galaxy, and he was promised a place by his side in the next galactic order. If a measly Jedi padawan took that all away from you, you'd probably be just as revenge-obsessed as him.

In Season 3, Maul and a reluctant Ezra combined Jedi and Sith holocrons and later used Nightsister magic to gain the knowledge that Maul sought the most: the status and whereabouts of Kenobi. After all this time, after so many failed plots, this was his sole motivation. The only thing on his mind. The only thing he still had to live for.
In last night's excellent Rebels episode, "Twin Suns," Maul manipulated Ezra once again into leading him straight to Obi-Wan – or rather, old Ben – on the deserts of Tatooine, where they first informally met many years ago. He confronted his longtime nemesis, goading him into a fight by threatening to go after Luke. Despite years of mental preparation for this moment, Maul was slain after only a few lightsaber strokes.
As he died in Kenobi's arms, he asked if Luke was the Chosen One, and when Obi-Wan confirmed it, Maul made a surprising declaration: "He will avenge us." Because it was the Sith who filled Maul with such hatred, who killed Maul's brother and mother, who used him for their own purposes and then discarded him when they were done. And it was the Sith who turned Obi-Wan's best friend against him, who slaughtered so many of his Jedi friends and forced him into isolation for nearly 20 years.
At the end of the day, Maul and Kenobi's relationship was so much more complex than it seemed. They tried to kill each other over and over again, but the Sith were their real enemy. What would Maul have gained if he had won their last duel? Would he have finally felt satisfied, or – more likely – would he have instantly become depressed and even killed himself because he no longer had a purpose? 
The fact that we're asking questions like these just shows how much Star Wars animation expanded upon Maul. The fierce, one-note assassin in The Phantom Menace is utterly unrecognizable from the tortured soul who died beside the man he (supposedly) hated. 

The Clone Wars and Rebels essentially revived Maul's character, improved upon it 10 times over, and then brought satisfying, well-deserved closure to his story. If you ever needed a reason why these series are so relevant and necessary to the Star Wars universe, look no further.
What's your favorite Darth Maul moment? What did you think of the conclusion to his story in "Twin Suns"? Tell me in the comments or tweet to @SithObserver, and may the Force be with you all.

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