Though their initial encounter on the big screen only lasted one scene in The Phantom Menace, Darth Maul and Obi-Wan Kenobi's rivalry has continued in Star Wars Rebels. The show teased an eventual rematch between the two lightsaber-wielding foes, with the biggest question being how things would ultimately play out for the tattooed Sith.
Much of Rebels season 3 has led up to that very confrontation with what was assumed would be yet another lightsaber battle. But that proved not to be the case, as executive producer Dave Filoni demonstrated when the two finally squared off in 'Twin Suns'.
Filoni spoke to io9 about the episode, touching on everything from expectations to the duel's outcome. And as Filoni puts it, he wanted to make sure this was a fight that was about more than just the action:
"The instinct would be, and probably, I admit, the expectation, is for some kind of prolonged lightsaber battle. But I’ve done a lot of prolonged lightsaber battles over the years and I think what’s most important about any kind of confrontation is what’s riding on it. What’s the tension going into it? It starts to matter less and less how you swing a sword or how creatively you do it if there’s not a lot riding on it.
It really is to express the difference between the Jedi and the Sith. Which is the Jedi become selfless and the Sith remain selfish. When pressed, because Obi-Wan is protecting someone else in the end, he does fight. But because he is so true and knows who he is in that moment, you can’t defeat that. So Obi-Wan is going to strike down Maul because Maul is such a broken and lost person, which I think is why in the end you see Maul being cradled by Obi-Wan.
This idea is that Obi-Wan is willing to forgive this person who is so cruel and terrible because he feels pity for him. To his dying breath Maul is hoping there will be some revenge exacted upon his enemies. And in my mind, Obi-Wan expresses sadness there because that means that Maul has never grown and will never be released from his suffering. So I felt that moment had to be beyond a lightsaber fight and had to be more an expression of their characters."
Even though it is relatively short, the battle nonetheless leaves an impression -- perhaps due as much to its brevity as to the ideas Filoni discusses. The differences between the Jedi and Sith are apparent, but so is the evolution of these characters since their first encounter. The Phantom Menace featured a far more elaborate and prolonged battle; here the conflict is more about revealing who each man has become since the first crossed lightsabers.
As the Star Wars universe continues to expand, hopefully other lightsaber battles will focus on more than the skill of those wielding the weapons. The Ahsoka/Vader fight from last season stands out, and Rebels could deliver again if Kanaan and Ezra clash down the road. Either way, this seems to be a fitting end for Maul and the explanation behind the short battle from Filoni makes perfect sense.
Star Wars Rebels airs Saturdays at 8:30 p.m. EST on Disney XD.