Showrunner Dave Filoni has never been shy about introducing popular Star Wars characters to his animated series. There’s been Lando Calrissian, Grand Moff Tarkin, Darth Vader, and even Grand Admiral Thrawn. One character he reintroduced in the Rebels season 2 finale, Darth Maul (now known as Old Master or simply Maul), was marked for death.
Speaking to IGN, Filoni revealed his original idea for Darth Maul. Says Filoni:
It’s interesting. This is a little bit inside, but Maul wasn’t meant to survive the Malachor episode. There was a lot of thought given to taking him out there because a lot of the Malachor arc, originally, was more about Vader confronting Maul and it was going to be a story about that. It became clear to me as the emotional story developed and we worked on it more that that was just going to be wrong, that if anything happened to Maul it needed to have its proper time and its proper space. That’s how he kind of got a pass and survived to this season.
Maul vs. Vader has been a nerd fantasy since the Zabrack Sith Lord was first introduced in The Phantom Menace. While it would’ve been great to see these villains finally face off in Rebels, I agree with Filoni that it made a lot more story sense to have Ahsoka Tano finally confront her former master. If fan reaction is any indication, it was the right choice.
Still, could we see Maul duel Vader in the future? We know for a fact that Maul is in season 3. The “proper time and space” for Maul’s demise might be next season. Filoni is not sure it’ll be at the hands of Vader, though. Says Filoni, “Not necessarily. It sounds like a great idea and then you start to develop it and you worry it’s a little more fan service-y. If it makes sense, it would happen but I’d say it’s a little unlikely.”
So what should we expect from Maul in season 3? Well, Filoni teases that we’ll definitely see more of the villain’s relationship with Ezra, who became his “apprentice” in the season 2 finale:
You learned more about the character and more things developed. His relationship with Ezra in last season’s finale was planned but also surprising because Sam [Witwer] is so good at being that coercive person and then Taylor [Gray] fed off of it. Because Taylor lives in a world where he’s not as knowledgeable about Star Wars as some of the more veteran fans like Sam and I and Freddie [Prinze Jr.]. The pull between Freddie’s knowledge of Star Wars and Sam’s knowledge of Star Wars is very real or Sam’s knowledge of the dark side or Kanan’s knowledge of the Light side – or Maul’s knowledge of the dark side. We wanted to play that more. You’re going to see this push and pull on Ezra and Maul is kind of that influencer that’s saying maybe power is a means to the end.
Definitely expect to see Maul continue to manipulate the Rebels next season. Filoni suggests that Maul will use the Rebels again for his own ends:
What’s interesting is it’s not necessarily the Empire’s side he’s fighting on. He’s just fighting straight on the side of the power and darkness and the dark side. So it’s a bit different than something we’ve seen before which makes Maul a different villain than we’ve ever seen before. He’s not straight out with the main bad guy group. If the main bad guys saw him, they’d probably go after him too so he has to be real shady and shadowy with everything he’s doing and he’s almost better off trying to hang with those Rebels because they have morality which he can work to his advantage.
You can already see this happening in this clip from season 3 that was released last week during Star Wars Celebration 2016:
Star Wars Rebels season 3 premieres this fall.