Warning: the following contains spoilers for Star Wars Rebels season 3, episode 20, 'Twin Suns'.
After nearly twenty years since his initial appearance in The Phanom Menace, Darth Maul’s character arc has been brought to a close in Star Wars Rebels episode 20, ‘Twin Suns’, with his unquestionable death at the hands of Obi-Wan Kenobi.
The fight didn’t last long. Maul and Kenobi had fought so many times before that there was no need for a drawn out encounter. After an intense staredown, they briefly engaged before Obi-Wan made the killing blow. The Jedi Master held the former Sith as he died. Knowing Kenobi was on Tatooine with a purpose, Maul asked “tell me, is it the chosen one?” Obi-Wan replies simply. “He is.” and Maul sighs, telling Obi-Wan “he will avenge us” before breathing his last.
Needless to say, this brief exchange is loaded with questions from most fans. Obi-Wan's suggestion that he believes Luke is The Chosen One, not Anakin, is obviously getting a lot of attention, but Maul's statements also deserve examination. He clearly knows about the prophecy of The Chosen One, and is pleased to know he will defeat the Sith. This may seem like a major deviation from what we know of Maul, but it's actually a very fitting end to his arc. To understand this fully, we'll need to take a look at Maul's involvement in Rebels and place in the context his larger character arc that began in Episode I.
Maul the Scholar
Maul’s explicit mention of ‘The Chosen One’ feels very different for Star Wars. The prophecy has only been mentioned a few other times in the franchise, but it was always by the Jedi. Maul’s acknowledgment of the fabled Force user means that knowledge wasn’t exclusively held by the Jedi.
Regardless, Maul’s re-introduction through Rebels had him following a different path from what we’d seen from him in the past. When he was last seen in The Clone Wars, he was pursuing conquest, having taken over Mandalore and formed the Shadow Collective, but now he was on his own in search of knowledge.
One of the more interesting facets of Maul’s newer persona is his seemingly more academic approach, delivering dialogue regularly laced with elements of both the Jedi and Sith code, even occasionally saying something that might sound more like something that could come from Bendu. He also wields a level of historical knowledge that's not as common with other characters in this universe.
It makes sense, because Maul was the apprentice of Palpatine, meaning a big chunk of his training would have been in history, politics, culture, and other less violent pursuits (in addition to the violent pursuits, obviously). While Maul has used his lightsaber to do a good chunk of his talking in the past, it’s very clear that he’s also very educated, and in Rebels he’s seeking specific knowledge, knowledge he tells Ezra can destroy the Sith. Is that knowledge supposed to lead him to The Chosen One?
If he plans to destroy the Sith and is delving into ancient Jedi and Sith history to find the means to do it, tracking down holocrons and other historical artifacts, there's no way he hasn't seized upon the prophecy of the one destined to bring balance to the Force.
As the apprentice of Darth Sidious, Darth Maul was raised with promises of a grand destiny. Palpatine had no shortage of ambition, he had his plan for galactic domination plotted out in detail from an early stage, and Maul believed he would be at his side the entirety of his rise to ultimate power.
Unfortunately, that’s not what happened. While he survived his initial confrontation with Obi-Wan on Naboo, Palpatine didn’t seek him out, making Count Dooku his new apprentice instead. When Maul regained his mind, had his legs replaced, and returned to the galaxy, he discovered that his master’s plan had continued to unfold without him, and a new apprentice was filling his role as the leader of the Separatist forces.
He was originally enraged at Kenobi, believing the Jedi had stolen his prominent place in the Clone Wars, but as Palpatine’s plan continued to unfold, Maul saw his former master replace his apprentice once again, this time with Darth Vader. Vader was far more powerful than Maul or Dooku ever were, and Maul realised he had been used. Vader was always destined to replace him, and Palpatine was merely using him as a placeholder. All his ambitions and dreams of grand purpose were a sham. He had no destiny.
In Search of a Purpose
Seemingly deprived of purpose, Maul sets out in search of one. When Ezra finds him on Malachor, he says the Sith took everything from him and that he wants to find a way to destroy the Sith. Maul and Ezra collect the Sith holocron from the temple on Malachor, and Maul later has Ezra help him combine the Jedi and Sith holocrons to grant each of them momentary clairvoyance. Ezra says he’s looking for means to destroy the Sith, but Maul says he’s looking for “something much simpler. Yet, equally elusive…hope.”
While this “hope” is posed as an alternative to Ezra’s objectives, Maul has declared his desire to destroy the Sith as well, and the word hope is understandably a very charged word in Star Wars, often treated as a synonym for Luke Skywalker. Is he searching for The Chosen One himself, hoping to use him to defeat the Sith?
If the holocrons showed him Luke on Tatooine (the "hope" Maul may have been seeking), the holocrons would have also revealed the location of his old nemesis, Kenobi, since he was watching over Luke. Not realizing the significance of Luke, Maul may have realized he could have interpreted the holocorons' message as confirmation that his role in life was to battle Kenobi to the death. His pursuit of the Jedi isn't necessarily because of any lingering hatred - it’s been a decade and a half since they’ve seen each other, and Maul realized Obi-Wan didn’t steal his destiny since it was never his in the first place - but because hunting Kenobi could give his life purpose again.
The alternative is that the “hope” he was seeking was hope that he could still have the opportunity to kill Kenobi, in which case his vision in the holocrons was a little more direct. Either way, Maul doesn’t appear to be driven by desires of rage and revenge, but by a quest for meaning and fulfillment. Either he kills Kenobi, proving his own strength and power, or Kenobi kills him, putting him out of his misery.
The duel itself was not long and Maul's end came quick, and Obi-Wan held his former enemy as he died. Knowing Obi-Wan has a purpose on Tatooine, Maul says “tell me, is it the chosen one?” Obi-Wan answers: “He is.” and Maul’s last words are “he will avenge us”.
These 3 lines may be more cause for speculation than many others in recent Star Wars, especially Obi-Wan’s statement that Luke in “The Chosen One”, but we’ll break that down in another piece. The part of interest here is Maul’s last words: “he will avenge us.”
After spending so much of his life hating Kenobi and seeking his demise, many fans may be confused by what seems like a last second change of heart, but as mentioned previously, at this point, Maul is only seeking Kenobi because he must. It is what he perceives as his destiny, and in a life devoid of meaning, Maul feels compelled to pursue this perceived destiny.
The thing is, Maul and Kenobi lost all the same things at the hand of the Palpatine. Given, some of Kenobi’s losses were to Maul, but that was when he was still acting on the will of Palpatine. When Maul first meets Ezra at the end of season 2, he tells him “the Sith took everything from me. Ripped me from my mother’s arms, murdered my brother, used me as a weapon, and then cast me aside. Abandoned me. Once I had power. Now I have nothing.”
Likewise, Kenobi lost his master, his apprentice, Satine, the Jedi Order, and his past life. The difference between the two of them is that Kenobi has found a purpose outside of himself, and Maul has not. Upon learning that there is hope to destroy the Sith, in that last moment, Maul’s objectives align with his lifelong nemesis.
Despite this poignant moment, it’s hard to say Maul was redeemed, or even became “good” in his final breaths. After all, his last words were still a quest for vengeance. Even so, after a lifetime of isolation and loss, it was the man he thought he hated most that held him when he died, giving him one last glimpse of hope that the Sith would pay for what they’d done.
What did you think of Maul and Kenobi's final confrontation? Do you have any thoughts about Maul's last words? Let us hear about it in the comments!