He’s alive!

That’s right. As unlikely as it may seem, Darth Maul, the glowering Sith warrior who fell to Obi-Wan Kenobi’s blade at the end of Star Wars: Episode I—The Phantom Menace actually survived being cut in half and will return to George Lucas’s still unfolding space saga on Cartoon Network’s Star Wars: The Clone Wars (read our recaps here!) in spring 2012.

With his red-and-black tattooed face, Bronson-esque stoicism, Dervish-like mixed martial-arts moves (courtesy of Ray Park), and legendary double-bladed lightsaber—the coolest birthday present for 10-year-old boys in the summer of 1999—Maul was easily the most striking character in The Phantom Menace. (TPM is due to be released in theaters with a 3-D facelift February 10, 2012). And he only had three lines in the movie! Maul was a blunt instrument, a weapon of pure aggression to carry out the bidding of ūber Sith Lord Darth Sidious (a.k.a the future Emperor Palpatine), when he wasn’t yet ready to emerge from the shadows. Think of Maul like the Star Wars equivalent of Daniel Craig’s Bond. Only, did we mention he had a frickin’ double-bladed lightsaber?

When he was vivisected courtesy of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Maul immediately took his place among pop culture figures who’d also been cut in half: Bishop in Aliens, Quint in Jaws, Tony Goldwyn in Ghost, the Black Dahlia. Needless to say, we never expected to see him again, right?

Wrong! Last January a Clone Wars arc featuring a relative of Maul’s, the duped, sympathetic Nightbrother of Dathomir Savage Opress teased a hazy image of Maul in a crystal ball. Did this mean the former Sith Warrior was still alive? Indeed, and EW’s got an exclusive video first look at Maul’s animated form. Take a walk on the Dark Side and check it out after the break:

“I found it funny in The Phantom Menace when Darth Maul got cut in half,” Clone Wars supervising director Dave Filoni says. “I thought George was definitively saying to the fans, ‘There’s no way this character is coming back. This is not a Boba Fett/Sarlacc Pit situation where, because of fan love, Boba gets out of that thing any number of ways.’ Fast-forward ten-years, and I’m the one to bring Maul back.”

Well, mostly. Filoni acknowledges that the order to resurrect the Sith Lord came from George Lucas himself, who became more interested in his Phantom Menace creation while developing Savage Opress for the last season of The Clone Wars. Awesome as Maul was in the movie, he barely got to do anything before the old chop-chop. When asked if Maul’s return is motivated by the feeling that he was underutilized in The Phantom Menace, Filoni says, “I think in part.”

Filoni’s biggest challenge, though, will come from the legions of fans ready to shout “No way!” at the very idea of a Maul return. But addressing the (un)believability of his survival could make for some interesting drama. “First of all, how does he survive getting cut in half?” says Filoni. “Plus, he fell! And also, don’t forget Obi-Wan Kenobi is still around, so I’m sure Maul wouldn’t be very happy with him.”

Fans will note that there is precedent for this kind of resurrection. “The Dark Side of the Force is the pathway to many abilities some consider to be…unnatural,” Darth Sidious says in Revenge of the Sith. Sidious and his master found a way to use the Force to cheat death—that’s how he was able to keep Vader alive after that little swan dive into a lava field. Couldn’t Maul have picked up on some of that too? Says Filoni, “He’s suffered through a lot to keep himself alive and implemented the training of his master to do so.”

Once you get beyond the plausibility issues, what’s left is actually an amazing storytelling opportunity. The Clone Wars has featured other characters from the movies, but mostly original trilogy stalwarts like Chewbacca, Tarkin, and Ackbar. Those are all characters whose fates have already been decided. “Here, we’re moving forward with Maul,” Filoni says. “He’s more than ten years older than he was in The Phantom Menace. That’s immensely satisfying, because now nobody knows what’s going to happen to him. I know, but nobody else does.”

Who said all the biggest Star Wars stories have already been told? Fellow fanatics, are you going to hop along for the ride this spring? Until then, keep yourself up to date on all the latest Clone Wars news here. And every Friday night a new Clone Wars episode airs, watch it with us on viEWer!

More from

Latest Clone Wars Recap: Real Steel

Clone Wars Recap: Darth Maul returns?