This Star Wars: The Clone Wars article contains spoilers.
Maul returns to the forefront of Star Wars in The Clone Wars season 7, facing off against young hero Ahsoka Tano on Mandalore and later “helping” her and Rex escape Order 66. Fans will find a lot to love about Maul’s return in the final arc of The Clone Wars, especially when it comes to his duels on the show, which were performed by original Maul actor Ray Park himself through the magic of motion capture.
But even if you loved seeing Maul on screen again, you might be wondering how it’s possible that he’s alive in The Clone Wars after being cut in half and tumbling down a reactor shaft in The Phantom Menace? Well, the answer can actually be found earlier in The Clone Wars!
After the events of The Phantom Menace, you need to fast forward to The Clone Wars season 3, specifically the episode “Brothers,” which follows Maul’s long-lost sibling, the Dathomirian Nightbrother Savage Opress (whose name is indeed that laughably extra), on a quest to find the former Sith lord. His search leads him to a junkyard planet called Lotho Minor, where Maul has been living as a half-crazed hermit with cybernetic spider legs he fashioned for himself out of trash. It’s pretty metal.
How did Maul survive his fall on Naboo in the first place? It’s explained that his sheer will to live and his dark side powers allowed him to survive as a mutilated torso, grabbing an air vent at the last second as he fell. Maul ended up in a trash container that was then discarded on Lotho Minor.
After being reunited with Savage, the brothers travel to their homeworld of Dathomir to meet with Mother Talzin, the matriarch of their clan of Dathomirians. Mother Talzin used her magic powers to fit Maul with new cybernetic legs and give him back his sanity.
Restored and ready to take back what he lost, the season 3 finale “Revenge” and season 4 premiere “Revival” focus on Maul luring Obi-Wan Kenobi into a trap. In fact, for the rest of his time on The Clone Wars, Maul has two distinct motivations: to get revenge on the Jedi who cut him in half in The Phantom Menace and to return to Darth Sidious’ side and become a Sith lord once again. But if Maul’s story has one common theme across all of his appearances in the movies and on The Clone Wars and Rebels, it’s the failure to attain the things he wants the most.
While Maul is able to take things from Obi-Wan, such as Qui-Gon Jinn and later Duchess Satine Kryze, a friend of Obi-Wan’s and ruler of Mandalore who Maul murders during his conquest of the planet, he never manages to kill the Jedi Master. In fact, Maul is finally taken down for good during his final duel with Obi-Wan on Tatooine in the Rebels episode “Twin Suns.” Maul dies cradled in Obi-Wan’s arms.
The villain doesn’t fare that much better with his former master, who has already moved on to another apprentice, Count Dooku aka Darth Tyranus. When Darth Sidious and Maul finally meet again during the coup on Mandalore — The Clone Wars season 5 episodes 14-16 — the Dark Lord of the Sith rejects Maul, citing the Sith Rule of Two that says that there can only be two Sith lords operating in the galaxy at any given time: a master and an apprentice. Sidious already has Dooku — and will soon have Anakin Skywalker. There’s no room for Maul in the Sith hierarchy anymore.
The former Sith duels Sidious with the help of his brother, who Maul has made his own “Sith” apprentice. But Maul and Savage are no match for a true Sith and are quickly dispatched. Sidious kills Savage and only allows Maul to live because the Sith lord may still have some use for him. Sidious’ secret plan for Maul reveals itself in the comic book Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir, which shows how the Sith lord uses his former apprentice to find Mother Talzin and kill her.
Feeling used and betrayed by his former master, Maul dedicates his efforts to thwarting Darth Sidious’ ultimate plan, but fails at every turn, suffering many defeats at the hands of the superior Sith lord.
His plot against his master comes to a head in The Clone Wars season 7 during the Siege of Mandalore (episodes 9-12), which he incites in order to lure Obi-Wan and Anakin to the planet. After seeing a vision of Anakin becoming Darth Sidious’ new and most powerful Sith apprentice, Maul plans to kill Anakin and stop Revenge of the Sith from ever happening. Yes, he’s SORT OF acting as an anti-hero here, but he’s really trying to stop Anakin for his own gain as opposed to save the galaxy. Of course, the Jedi never actually show up, and it’s Ahsoka who arrives with the Republic army to take down Maul once and for all.
Maul reveals his vision to Ahsoka but she refuses to believe that Anakin could turn to the dark side. But she’ll learn the truth eventually in the Rebels season 2 finale “Twilight of the Apprentice.” As for Maul, he manages to survive Order 66 and continues to build his crime empire during the age of the Empire.
Yes, despite his failures in The Clone Wars, Maul does establish himself as one of the most powerful criminals in the galaxy, amassing power by creating a network of crime organizations known as the Shadow Collective. Among the gangs that Maul rules from the shadows are the Hutt clan, Black Sun, the Pyke Syndicate, Death Watch, and Crimson Dawn. The latter organization is, of course, the one at the center of Solo: A Star Wars Story. You all probably remember Maul’s brief cameo in the movie, revealing himself as the true leader of Crimson Dawn after Qi’ra kills Dryden Vos.
By the time he shows up on Rebels, it seems like Maul has somehow lost it all. We never see how this happens but “Twilight of the Apprentice” reveals that Maul has been trapped inside an ancient Sith temple on the wasteland planet of Malachor for an unknown amount of time.
Why is he there in the first place? To find a holocron that he believes will show him the way to defeat the Sith once and for all. Yeah, he’s still obsessed with his master after all of this time. But the Sith holocron doesn’t lead him to Emperor Palpatine. Instead, it points him to his old nemesis, Obi-Wan, and his eventual death.
Like Darth Plagueis’ story, Maul’s arc is ultimately a tragedy. He’s a protege abandoned by his teacher who wants nothing more than to prove that he’s still of use to the Sith. Don’t get me wrong: Maul commits terrible atrocities and is an all-around evil guy, but like all great villains, you can’t help but kind of pity him by the end. And that fits the sad-sack, miserable character, too. The petulant and self-absorbed Maul would be really annoyed by your pity.