This article contains spoilers for Solo: A Star Wars Story
Solo: A Star Wars Story director Ron Howard was a huge advocate for Darth Maul's surprising cameo at the end of the film. Few would have predicted the prequel trilogy villain would pop up in the spinoff, but Solo revealed the former Sith Lord is the mastermind behind the Crimson Dawn crime syndicate. In his one scene, Maul summons Qi'ra (who assumed Dryden Vos' position) to Dathomir so they can discuss their next order of business. It was shocking to see this particular character on the big screen, and it's proven to be one of Solo's more divisive elements.
The sequence has the feeling of a Marvel Cinematic Universe post-credits scene in the sense that at first blush it looks to be intentional sequel set-up. Some may have thought Darth Maul's inclusion was a mandate by the Lucasfilm story group, it actually was the idea of co-writer Jonathan Kasdan. But in a twist, Howard had a big role in making Maul a part of Solo himself.
Related: How Is Maul Still Alive In Solo?
In an interview with /Film, Howard talked about Maul's scene, revealing that in the script, it was a nameless character referred only as "Boss." The creative team hadn't decided on who the kingpin would be yet, but Maul was one of the possibilities. When Howard heard about that, he pushed to make it happen:
It just sort of said “Boss”. And I thought when I came in, I assumed they knew who it was and they were just keeping it under wraps. And they didn’t. But Maul was listed as one of the candidates. And I lobbied hard for that. I thought that made a lot of sense to me. I found that character to be really effective. And I knew for a fact, without asking directly and giving anything away, my son Reed who just turned 31, who’s a dedicated Star Wars fan, he’s a golfer. He’s not in the business. Dedicated Star Wars fan. I just whispered that possibility and he just thought that would be incredibly cool. And so for that generation, I thought, well that was gonna be a pretty interesting idea. And doing a little more research and understanding sort of how the character had worked elsewhere, I thought it was good. And the Kasdan’s were on board with that.
The reason the Kasdans were on board with this decision is because in the back of Jonathan's mind, he always intended for it to be Maul, peppering subtle clues in the script to try to convince others. It's interesting that everyone involved settled on Maul, but it does line up with the rest of Star Wars canon. In The Clone Wars, Maul led the Shadow Collective, which was a criminal alliance of different groups looking to take down the Separatists and the Republic. The Shadow Collective fell apart during the war, though it does make sense for Maul to continue his underworld activities. To what end remains to be seen (Maul has no love for the Sith at this point), but his time with Crimson Dawn is ripe for a novel or comic series.
While Maul's inclusion in Solo doesn't contradict canon, the fact the mysterious boss is Maul is seen by many as the larger issue. Arguably, the shock of seeing him undercut key beats in Solo's third act and sucked the air out of Han's character arc. Some criticized the choice for being empty fan service, since it sounds like for a while it really could have been anybody. It'll be interesting to see if the other names on the list are ever revealed, giving fans some insight into what could have been.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018