By Christian Blauvelt
August 26, 2012 at 08:55 PM EDT
Lucasfilm
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The big question we were all left pondering after Star Wars: The Clone Wars did the impossible and resurrected Darth Maul: What’s next?

Well, fans this weekend at Star Wars Celebration VI in Orlando were treated to at least part of the answer in an epic new trailer for season 5 that shows what happens when Maul and his Mandalorian allies are unleashed on that Galaxy Far, Far Away.

“I’d say these are the most thought-provoking episodes we’ve done, for sure,” supervising director Dave Filoni says of the new season, set to debut on Cartoon Network on Saturday Sept. 29 in its new 9:30 a.m. timeslot. “Is there a benefit of having seen the previous four seasons? Yes. Season 5, more than any other we’ve produced, is geared to the loyal viewer.”

EW has the exclusive online debut of the three-and-a-half minute trailer, and it’s a cosmic corker featuring not just Maul, his brother Savage Opress, and director Jon Favreau’s Mandalorian Death Watch leader Pre Vizsla, but Asajj Ventress, Mark II tech, and a lightsaber-wielding Darth Sidious. Check it out after the page break (if you’re coming from the Inside TV blog main page):

It’s as if legions of Star Wars fans cried out in joy, then were suddenly silenced in awestruck amazement. The Clone Wars has developed into such a strong series for fans young and old—combining the political edge of the prequels with the action and humor of the original trilogy—but season 5 looks to take the show to a whole new level.

“The first season 5 trailer we released back in June was about the most limited version possible of what you could see,” Filoni says. “It didn’t have any of the good stuff in it, because there’s so little that we could show that wasn’t going to give our secrets away. So for this new trailer I said to our editor Kevin Yost, ‘I’m giving you all of the footage, and the only thing you can’t show or talk about is this one thing. But everything else, put it in, and I’ll tell you if you went too far.’ Except for one thing, everything was fair game.”

Could this “one thing” that’s completely off-limits be a galaxy-shattering revelation on par with Darth Maul’s resurrection that’ll have fans’ heads spinning? “Oh yeah,” Filoni says. “Oh yeah.”

But until we can talk about that at some future date, there’s more than enough in this new clip to keep us occupied. Here are 10 things we noticed in the new trailer:

1. It’s the “Clone Wars,” not “Clone War,” for a reason

After Maul’s resurrection in the season four finale, everyone wondered what would be the ex-Sith Lord’s new endgame. Would he try to take his rightful place by Darth Sidious’ side? Or would he resent that his Sith Master had abandoned him in favor of Count Dooku after he was cut in half? The latter now seems very much the case. Maul’s definitely not joining the Separatists in their fight against the Republic and the Jedi but intends to establish himself as a third party in the galactic conflict. And to do that, he’ll need some powerful allies: Pre Vizsla and the Mandalorian Death Watch, who were also betrayed and abandoned by the Sith in their fight to reclaim Mandalore.

Maul vows to help the Death Watch overthrow the pacifist Mandalorian leader, Obi-Wan’s old girlfriend Duchess Satine. It even looks like Maul may sport some red Mandalorian armor with additional helmet-space for his horns. Still, all may not be perfectly friendly with his new colleagues. It looks like Vizsla duels Maul with his darksaber at one point in the trailer, but whether that’s at the beginning of their relationship or at its end is unclear. It also looks like Maul’s now associating himself with the green-skinned Falleen of the Black Sun criminal cartel, which he fought against years before when still an apprentice to Darth Sidious. But again, in the trailer released in June, Maul threw his lightsaber at one of the Falleen, so maybe he’s prepping a hostile takeover? No matter what, Maul is here to stay as a long-term nemesis.

And don’t just think he’s an unthinking force of unstoppable rage. “Season 5 explores what an intellectual character Maul really is,” Filoni says.

2. Growing Anti-Jedi Sentiment

Not only does one new character say that she feels the Jedi are not the same guardians of peace and justice that they used to be, it looks like there’s an Occupy Jedi Temple protest outside their fortress on Coruscant. “We’ve got some critical set-up this season to explore why the Sith triumph, why the Empire replaces the Republic, the kind of things that fans have always wondered about regarding this period,” Filoni says. “What do people really think of the Jedi? How is it that Palpatine had the Jedi eliminated and the galactic populace seems fine with that? What does it mean when Mace Windu walks in to the Chancellor’s office and tries to arrest him? Would the people be for that or against that? Palpatine makes it look like the Jedi launched a coup. How is it that people would accept such an explanation?”

NEXT: The birth of the Rebel Alliance? The return of Asajj Ventress as a villain? Darth Sidious gets hands-on?

3. A huge campaign on Onderon that may be the beginning of the Rebel Alliance

This is the first time we’ve met the leader of the Onderon rebels, Steela, who’s fighting for her planet’s independence from the Separatists—and maybe also from the Republic. Unconfirmed rumors suggest that this storyline may set up elements of the Rebel Alliance.

4. The return of Asajj Ventress as a villain?

We see a mysterious masked figure wielding two crimson lightsabers throughout much of the trailer, only at the very end to see that it’s in fact Asajj Ventress who’s taken to obscuring her face. In the Season 4 finale, Ventress, long a nemesis of the Jedi, and of Obi-Wan Kenobi in particular, teamed up with Obi-Wan to fight off Maul and Savage Opress. Was that the beginning of a beautiful friendship? Considering how relentlessly she pursues Ahsoka with her twin blades, I’d guess not.

5. More scum and villainy!

Filoni says the Clone Wars animation team has been coordinating with the designers behind the upcoming LucasArts videogame Star Wars 1313 about the look of the Star Wars galaxy’s criminal underworld. “We wanted to be on the same page, since some of the settings of The Clone Wars and 1313 overlap,” Filoni says.

6. Never count out a droid.

The Lucasfilm Animation team recognizes that all ages watch The Clone Wars. The youngest Padawan viewers of the show have been huge fans of the storylines involving R2-D2 and C-3P0, and it seems like they won’t be disappointed this season. Threepio is AWOL, but Artoo appears to be tasked with a daring mission along with several other astromechs to infiltrate a Separatist battleship and steal an encryption matrix.

7. Clone Commandos.

We’ve seen plenty of clone troopers and their more highly seasoned brethren, the Arc Troopers. But finally the clone commandos, the true black ops forces of the Republic, are going to take the spotlight. They gathered a huge following from Karen Traviss’ Republic Commando novels, though the Clone Wars series has differed largely with the canon established in those books.

8. Anakin shows more of his dark side.

When a Season 2 storyline called on Padmé Amidala to be betrayed by an old flame, Filoni considered having her former lover be Paolo, the boyfriend Natalie Portman’s Padmé describes to Anakin in Attack of the Clones. “We thought that would be a great way to link up with the movie,” Filoni says. Ultimately, he chose to have that character in Season 2 be somebody else. However, there seems to be a boyish, dark-haired dude in Padmé’s Coruscant apartment in this trailer. A boyish, dark-haired dude who Anakin promptly Force Chokes. Lucasfilm hasn’t confirmed who that character is, but could it be Paolo?

9. Mark II Tech!

Showing that The Clone Wars is now closer to Revenge of the Sith than Attack of the Clones, Season 5 will introduce the Grand Army of the Republic’s Mark II tech, including upgraded clone trooper helmets and the Eta-2 Actis-class light interceptor starfighters Obi-Wan and Anakin pilot at the beginning of Episode III. The shroud of the Dark Side is falling!

10. You don’t mess with Darth Sidious.

Who else got chills at the site of Darth Sidious cackling beneath his Sithly hood? We’ve seen so much of Palpatine as the placid politician that it’s a major thrill to see him dive deep into his Dark Side persona, pulling out two red lightsabers to challenge Maul and Savage. “Remember, there can only be two,” Sidious says, referring to Darth Bane’s Rule of Two, stipulating that there should be only a Sith master and an apprentice at any given time. “And you are no longer my apprentice.” If Maul resents Sidious for abandoning him, Sidious resents his former apprentice every bit as much for the challenge he now represents to his ultimate endgame. Only Dooku knows Sidious’ alter ego as the Republic’s Chancellor…and probably Maul too. Could Sidious be worried that Maul might even expose his true identity? The only solution to this problem is a heavy dose of Force Lightning.

Will you be tuning in when Season 5 starts on September 29? In the meantime, be sure to get all caught up on where the galaxy stands by reading my Clone Wars recaps.

More from EW.com:

All Clone Wars recaps

‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars’: First look of Darth Maul in Season 5 — EXCLUSIVE VIDEO

‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars’ Season 5 trailer: Darth Maul, Death Watch battle over the galaxy — EXCLUSIVE

10 Mash-Up ‘Star Wars’ Helmets

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