If Star Wars Rebels has proven anything over the course of its past two seasons, it’s this: TV fans should never underestimate what they assume to be children’s television. The heart-stopping show will be moving to a Saturday evening spot when it returns for its third season, and that might be for good reason. With huge, dangerous players like Darth Maul, Darth Vader, Grand Moff Tarkin, and Grand Admiral Thrawn all part of the fray, things are going to get a little bit more “adult” than they already are.
If season 2 didn’t put our heroes in enough peril — including Kanan being blinded by Darth Maul by lightsaber as well as Ezra’s extreme struggle between the light and the dark — what they’re about to face is something bigger than ever before. With all of this excitement ahead of fans, show creator Dave Filoni took some time out this summer to lay out a picture of what fans can expect from the likes of Thrawn, Maul, and the future of the Rebels as they fight against the unpredictable villains.
Filoni spoke to IGN about new villain Grand Admiral Thrawn, who has long held a place in Star Wars mythos as one of the greatest villains of what is now known as the Legends saga:
“After having the material so long ago, there were things that stuck with me about the character. The biggest one for me was the art. The [analysis] and culture of art was how he dissected and defeated his opponents. We kept that very much alive.”
Filoni also spoke about what went into casting the voice of the character, who (due to primarily existing through books) has never truly been heard for an extended period of time. “He couldn’t be a loud villain. I never saw him as someone in the books who shouted. His crew seemed to have a lot of faith and trust in him because he was so brilliant a tactician,” Filoni explained. “And that was the hardest challenge of all … so, I have the responsibility of saying, ‘this is his voice’.” The role ultimately went to Lars Mikkelsen, the brother of Rogue One‘s Mads Mikkelsen, whose character Galen Erso has been tied to the creation of the Death Star.
Filoni also touched upon the subject of Darth Maul, the relentless prequel villain who has returned many times over the course of both The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels. Filoni explained at first that Maul was never supposed to make it as far as he has — in fact, he was supposed to die on Malachor at the hands of Vader. “A lot of the Malachor arc was originally more about Vader confronting Maul,” said Filoni. “It became clear to me as the emotional content of the stories developed and we worked on it more that that was going to be wrong … if anything was going to happen to Maul, it would have to happen at its proper time and proper space.”
Plus, Maul has plans for Ezra this coming season, if that holocron scene wasn’t enough of an indicator. “We wanted to play that more,” said Filoni. “So you’re going to see this kind of push-and-pull on Ezra. And Maul is kind of that influencer that’s saying maybe power has a means to an end.” Maul is a villain all on his own, Filoni explained, and is one of the few not associated with the side of the Empire anymore — all he wants is power.
As far as Vader and Maul eventually coming face to face, Filoni said that it’s still unlikely. “It sounds like a great idea, and then you start to develop and you worry it’s a little more fan-service-y,” said Filoni. Pair that with the rumor that Vader may not even return during season 3, and you can see who the primary villains this time around will be. Between the articulate Thrawn and the wild “free agent” Maul, the heroes of Star Wars Rebels have enough problems as it stands.
Star Wars Rebels season 3 premieres on Disney XD on September 24th, 2016 at 8:30 pm EST.