This is the biggest spoiler of Solo: A Star Wars Story — so if you haven’t seen it yet, don’t go any further.
If you have already watched the film, you know there is a surprise character who turns up at one point, hidden beneath a cloak.
Once the hood is pulled back, a gasp rises from the audience. Some people recognize this individual right away — others (perhaps less steeped in expanded Star Wars lore) may not.
And some in the middle may be asking, “Okay, I know who that is. But how?”
To shield the spoiler, let’s talk about the hooded figure from Solo — and what it may mean for future movies — on the next page.
Okay, if you’re here, you’ve vaulted over all the spoiler warnings. Proceed at your own risk.
Darth Maul has absorbed a lot of pain over the years, and he clearly has much to give back.
The demonic former Sith apprentice is the mystery villain of Solo, the unseen hand guiding the gangster Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany) in his quest to secure a cache of hyperspace fuel.
“Bring the ship and come to me on Dathomir,” his hologram tells Qi’ra at the end of the movie. Then he ignites his lightsaber. “You and I will be working much more closely from now on.”
This is setting up not just potential sequels to Solo, but could also factor into the Lucasfilm effort to create a standalone film around middle-aged Obi-Wan Kenobi.
We last saw Maul on the big screen in The Phantom Menace, being severed in half at the waist by Kenobi during “The Duel of the Fates” on the planet of Naboo.
So how is Darth Maul still alive?
Those who have followed the animated shows The Clone Wars and Rebels already know the answer, but it’s a good story, worth retelling.
In fact, the Maul in the film is played by original stunt performer Ray Park, but he’s not voiced by Peter Serafinowicz, who performed the growling lines of the prequel film. Instead, Sam Witwer, who voices Maul in the animated shows, speaks his lines.
Here’s how Maul survived — and what he’s been up to.
Obviously, the bisected Maul was gravely wounded, but still clinging to life. His ruined body was discarded with the trash on a landfill world where the half-insane Maul built his own spider-like mechanical legs out of discarded droid parts.
Living like an animal, he was tracked down by his fellow Nightbrother, Savage (pronounced Suh-VAWJ) Oppress, who returned Maul to their blighted world of Dathomir. There, leader Mother Talzin used her Dark Side powers to heal his tortured mind and restore him to a bipedal state.
Notice in Solo, the first image we see of his hologram are of his large, robotic feet.
From there in The Clone Wars series, Maul was on a mission of revenge to torment and murder Kenobi, but by then, he had been cast aside by Sith overlord Darth Sidious, who had risen to the position of Emperor. Like many outcasts trying to survive under the brutal rule of the Empire, Maul turned to crime.
But it was just him and his brother. Crime bosses need someone to command, or else they’re just lone hoodlums. So the two Nightbrothers formed a syndicate known as the Shadow Collective and made an alliance with the outlaw Mandalorians known as Deathwatch.
From there, the two groups began muscling other existing crime families. This story arc picks up in “Eminence,” episode 14 of The Clone Wars’ fifth season. The Hutts were brought aboard by force, so were the green-skinned, black-ponytailed crooks of the Black Sun, and the Pyke syndicate voluntarily joined up.
Remember in Solo when Dryden Vos says going to the Kessel mines to steal fuel would violate his partnership with the Pyke — and Solo and Tobias Beckett say they can do it as free agents since that syndicate doesn’t know they’re working for Vos?
Maul is essentially robbing his own partners, although the Pykes and the Shadow Collective had supposedly fallen out some time before. The new Crimson Dawn crime syndicate Maul oversees apparently reestablishes the partnership.
Flash forward a few years to Rebels, which is about the dawn of the Rebellion (the one the stolen and re-stolen fuel in Solo will eventually help). By then, Maul is a loner again, having lost his criminal empire and been reduced once more to the role of scavenger, hunting for discarded relics of Sith origin.
The space in between is where whatever future movie have free reign to explore new tales of Maul’s crime and punishment.
We may think we know how his story ends, but… we have thought that before.