This Star Wars article contains major spoilers. Seriously, don’t read on if you don’t want to know the film’s big twist before you see it…
Solo: A Star Wars Story delivers the origin story of the greatest smuggler in the galaxy as well as how he met his friends Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian. Well, friends might be too strong a word for this specific movie, but they will be best buds eventually! We also meet two important characters from Han’s past: his sketchy, gunslinging mentor Tobias Beckett and Qi’ra, dangerous Crimson Dawn lieutenant and the scoundrel’s first love and childhood friend.
Qi’ra, after being separated from Han for three years, spends most of the movie working for the bad guys. She’s helping Han, Lando, Chewie, and Beckett pull off a big heist on Kessel, the location of a big stash of coaxium — the valuable fuel used to power hyperdrives — but in the name of Crimson Dawn, a criminal organization led by the ruthless Dryden Vos. Her orders are to eliminate Han and the rest of the crew if they fail to deliver the goods.
However, in a third act twist, Han and Qi’ra ally themselves to Enfys Nest and the Cloud-Riders, a group of marauders who actually turn out to be a rebel group who need the coaxium to make bombs to fight the Empire. So Han and Qi’ra hatch a plan to distract Vos and Crimson Dawn long enough for Enfys Nest to escape with the coaxium. But Beckett betrays Han and Qi’ra and reveals their plan to Vos — and then all hell breaks loose.
Han and Qi’ra fight Vos while Beckett makes his escape with Chewie as a hostage. After a few minutes of Teras Kasi martial arts and some clumsy blaster fire courtesy of Han, Qi’ra is finally able to eliminate Vos, freeing herself from his sinister clutches. Now, Qi’ra has the chance to ascend to true power alongside the real leader of Crimson Dawn, the shadowy figure who has been pulling the strings all long: Maul.
If you’re wondering how this is possible, remember that Maul survived his defeat at the hands of Obi-Wan Kenobi through sheer force of will. He made his return in The Clone Wars animated series after being dumped on a junkyard planet and fashioning himself spider legs out of trash. He slowly rose to power once again, fueled by his thirst for revenge against Darth Sidious, the master who abandoned him, and the Jedi who almost killed him.
At the height of his power during the Clone Wars, Maul was the leader of the Shadow Collective, an alliance of criminal organizations, which he used to wage war against both the Republic and the Separatists. He also became ruler of Mandalore at one point.
Not much is known about what Maul got up to after the end of the Clone Wars and before his return on Rebels, but Solo confirms that the former Sith apprentice was still leading at least one criminal organization in those years. Maul is only on screen for about a minute or two in Solo, played once again by The Phantom Menace actor Ray Park and voiced by Sam Witwer, who also voiced the villain in The Clone Wars and Rebels. He gives Qi’ra a mysterious new assignment and she accepts, flying off on the Crimson Dawn ship to parts unknown.
Lucasfilm had signed Han Solo actor Alden Ehrenreich for three movies and had planned to make a trilogy of films around the character, but that might no longer be the case after Solo fared poorly at the box office. That said, Qi’ra’s connection with Maul is clearly meant to carry over to another movie. The big question is whether Qi’ra, now closer than ever to true power, will turn to evil? Or, has she been playing both sides all along? And what exactly is Maul’s plan for the coaxium he’s been seeking the entire movie? Hopefully, we’ll get to see how this plays out in a future installment.
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