Star Wars: The Clone Wars season finale recap: Darth Maul vs. Obi-Wan
“The Dark Side of the Force can be a pathway to many abilities some consider to be…unnatural,” Chancellor Palpatine once said. He was talking about Darth Maul, right?
It’s been 13 years since The Phantom Menace, when a bisected Maul fell down that reactor shaft on Naboo. But last night, in The Clone Wars’ epically dark season four finale, the fans finally got what they’ve been waiting for ever since. Maul’s wits, legs, and anti-Jedi bloodlust were restored at the very beginning of “Revenge,” setting the stage for “Duel of the Fates, Part II,” or as the Sith Lord’s voice actor Sam Witwer prefers to simply call it, “Live from the Outer Rim! Obi-Wan vs. Maul: The Rematch.” A huge Thank You to both Sam and James Arnold Taylor for trading verbal barbs last night during our EW.com live chat as their characters traded blows onscreen.
Before we dive deep into the canon-shattering revelations of “Revenge,” a bit of housekeeping is in order, first, for the more
literal continuity-minded of you. Some nagging questions have popped up surrounding Maul’s return that need to be addressed. First, how did Maul survive being cut in half? See the epigraph from Palpatine that opened this recap. But also, as I mentioned last week when Savage Opress first discovered Maul as a spider-creature in a cave on junk planet Lotho Minor, other Sith Lords like Darth Nihilus, Darth Sion, and even Darth Vader, have used their hate to keep their physical selves intact, when by all reasoning they should have died. Second, how do the Jedi know Darth Maul’s name? Um…easy. The Republic took Nute Gunray into custody following the Trade Federation’s defeat on Naboo and during the course of his trial, he, not being a particularly strong-willed soul, spilled the secrets behind everything that happened there. The identity of the assassin who killed Qui-Gon Jinn might be something they’d ask him, don’t you think? Third, how does Darth Maul know Obi-Wan’s name? His master Darth Sidious was pulling all the strings behind the invasion of Naboo! You don’t think he would have told his apprentice the names of the two Jedi he needs to eliminate to achieve his goals?
As “Revenge” opened, Savage had decided to fly Maul back to Dathomir to experience some of Mother Talzin’s rejuvenating green magick mist for himself. She really needs to bottle that stuff! It puts bacta to shame, and she could really use the credits to rebuild her planet after Grievous turned it to molten slag.
Poor Maul was raving like a lunatic in the cargo hold of Savage’s stolen freighter, muttering things like “Far above, far above, we don’t know where we’ll fall. Far above, far above, what once was great is rendered small!” Witwer tells EW that supervising director Dave Filoni imagined Maul pondering riddles in the dark like Gollum in The Lord of the Rings. There’s really nothing like one-off rhyming couplets to make you seem crazy, is there?
NEXT: “Why would you want to go to Dathomir? There’s nothing there but fog…and witches.” “Precisely.”
To paraphrase C-3PO, the damage didn’t look as bad on Dathomir as you might have expected. Savage really didn’t get twenty paces away from his ship before he was encircled in Mother Talzin’s trademark verdant glow. I guess she really just wanted to cut Ventress loose, because on some level she did blame her for the destruction of the Nightsisters. And so she’s put her faith in Savage and Maul to avenge her people instead. She told Savage, “Dooku sent his minions to destroy us. But we will survive. We always have.” Talzin’s right! Those of you familiar with Dave Wolverton’s The Courtship of Princess Leia know that the Nightsisters are very much revived and kicking as of about four years after Return of the Jedi.
Maul didn’t seem like the best candidate to kickstart that revival, however, because he wasn’t even willing to come out of the ship. He was too busy repeating the name “Kenobi” over and over. Talzin lured him out with her magic. Maul was drawn to that green fireball like a moth to flame, or like an Ewok to anything shiny. (Yes, I went there!) Like she did with Ventress and Savage before him, she knocked him out with one touch of her bony finger to his forehead. And then she began. Enveloped in her magick, Maul got a complete makeover, including new metallic legs that Talzin had set aside just for this occasion. They fused to his body with volcanic force, smoking and fuming like he was some Sithly Phoenix being reborn from the ashes of his old life. Talzin even gave Maul’s horns a much-needed trim! And when her work here was done, she vanished.
NEXT: Maul. Reborn.
Savage was overcome. “Brother?” he asked, with an eagerness surprising for someone who had killed another of his brothers last season. Maul grabbed Savage’s square jaw in his bony hand. “Brother?!” he asked in return. It took Maul a moment, but he realized that after his long darkness, he’d finally been recalled to life. “It has been so long and my path has been so dark,” Maul said. “Darker than I ever dreamed it could be.” It took him a moment to get used to his new mechanical legs, flexing each new servo like a newborn bantha first learning to walk. (An aside for those of you wondering…this is definitely the first canonical depiction of Maul’s resurrection we’ve ever had. There was a one-off comic-book that showed a reborn Maul with similar mechanical legs, but that was a part of the (mostly) non-canon Star Wars Tales line.)
Maul got the hang of his new legs pretty quickly, though. And he launched into a sprint across the still-smoldering Dathomiri terrain. “My hatred kept my spirit intact, even though my body was not,” he said. But Maul could sense that the Force was out of balance. Something was happening in the galaxy. Savage said that it was the Clone Wars, which by this time has engulfed pretty much anyone and everyone. Maul couldn’t help feel a twinge of sadness at hearing this, because the Clone Wars were supposed to have been his kriffin’ party, for the Force’s sake! All that conflict and carnage, all those innocents slaughtered, that was a Sith’s dream! And it had started without him. “I was apprenticed to the most powerful being the galaxy once,” Maul said. “I was destined to be…so much more. But I was robbed of that destiny by the Jedi. By Obi-Wan Kenobi.” Like King Theoden, Maul’s fingers would regain their old strength if he grasps his sword. So Savage offered him his lightsaber. Just one blade this time. He’s not quite ready for two, just yet. And Maul used the Force to grab it. Revenge? Yes, they would start with revenge…
NEXT: Slaughter of the innocent is indeed the best way to get the attention of the Jedi. Too bad one of the innocent has to be a colonist voiced by Ashley Eckstein!
Maul and Savage took their freighter to the Outer Rim planet that was supposed to have been the ship’s original destination. A colonist voiced by Ashley Eckstein was particularly excited that her settlement was to get new supplies. If only she knew she was going to get two crimson lightsabers instead. I’m so glad to hear Ashley voice a character like this, if even just for one line. Because in our live chat during “The Box” last month, Ashley said that, other than Ahsoka, she usually only gets to voice slaves or bar patrons on The Clone Wars. Though perhaps those kind of characters would have a better fate than that which met her colonist!
Maul knew that in a galaxy at war there was only one way to get the attention of the Jedi, if he hoped to face Obi-Wan again: “Slaughter of the innocent, mercilessly and without compromise.” On the Holonet, Maul challenged Obi-Wan to come face him, then publicly executed a whole bunch of colonists with a casual throw of his blade.
Back at the Jedi Temple, Obi-Wan was horrified. He knew that he’d have to face Maul alone, even if it likely was a trap. If the Jedi sent a full task force, Maul would find even more innocents to slaughter. This had to be mano-a-Zabrak. And even Yoda knew as much…though he did suspect that Obi-Wan might discover an unexpected ally. The moral that opened “Revenge” was “The enemy of my enemy is friend” after all. But who could it be?
Cut to Chalmun’s Cantina in Mos Eisley. A bartender droid told a group of bounty hunters to stop monopolizing the Holonet transceiver. Ah, so maybe it’s because of this by-the-book droid that the cantina will later adopt its strict, no-droids-allowed policy? Or is it just because of the general anti-droid sentiment that would emerge from the Clone Wars? These bounties that the mercs were looking through were pretty weak. Except for one. A bounty had been posted worth one million credits for a dude named Savage Opress. From a shadowy corner of the bar, downing a last swig of a ruby bliels, came the velveteen purr of Asajj Ventress: “Don’t even consider it boys. I’ve got this one.” Sitting in a corner with his anooba, even Embo knew better than to speak up. Ventress would finally be able to rein in the monster that she herself had created. An ally for Obi-Wan indeed!
NEXT: Obi-Wan meet Maul. Maul meet Obi-Wan.
Obi-Wan landed on the colony, now engulfed in flames. Ann astromech droid was running over and over into a wall. Apparently droids can suffer PTSD as surely as any organic. Obi-Wan put it out of its misery with a flick of his wrist. This place looked like the village Sanjuro the bodyguard stumbles upon in Yojimbo. I’m kind of surprised, given Star Wars’ general proclivity for dismemberment, that an anooba or nek didn’t come trotting down the street clutching a severed human hand in its teeth. What would Cartoon Network have thought about that! I did like the telephoto-style long-shots from inside an abandoned store of Obi-Wan making his way through the debris. This place was dripping with Kurosawa vibes. And then, appearing out of the crepuscular smoke that engulfed the far end of the street, came a new mechanical monster for Obi-Wan to face. “I am surprised you could have forgotten me so easily after I killed your master and you left me for dead on Naboo,” Maul said. Obi-Wan realized that this indeed was the Sith Lord he’d faced 10+ years ago. But if he defeated him before, surely he could defeat him again, right?
Ah, but this time Maul had backup. Just behind Obi-Wan landed the equally fearsome Savage Opress, using one blade of his saberstaff in a fierce Makashi attack. Makashi is the preferred saber style of Count Dooku, who trained Savage, and its emphasis on de-centered, sideways slashes and full body pivots pretty quickly overwhelmed Obi-Wan here. Maul didn’t even have to do anything, though he launched himself into the fray with a towering flip. He just grabbed Obi-Wan’s lightsaber the moment Savage knocked him unconscious.
Luckily, Obi-Wan had his own backup coming for him. And he didn’t even know it! Ventress hyperspace-jumped into the system to the tune of a shrieking Morricone-style banshee cry. She vaulted herself onto Maul and Savage’s ship before they could take off. Inside, Maul got to work torturing Obi-Wan. First, a beating to tenderize him. Then, some taunts. (My favorite because it perfectly captures Maul’s simmering resentment? “And they call you…Master…”) And finally, Maul would make certain Obi-Wan stayed alive as he slowly cut him to pieces. “You know, when I cut you in half,” Obi-Wan said, “I should have aimed for your neck instead.”
Yeah, you know, Obi-Wan has an amazing to, um, not get the job done. He couldn’t put Anakin out of his misery on the shores of Mustafar—an act I more and more think was motivated not out of mercy but a sly sadism; Obi-Wan wanted Anakin to suffer everything that he had brought upon himself—nor could he properly dispatch Darth Maul. But whereas Vader’s survival meant Obi-Wan’s eventual doom, we know that’s obviously not going to be the case with Maul. But it also doesn’t mean that Obi-Wan has to defeat Maul, either.
NEXT: Ventress proves she’s a bad girl gone good.
Ventress decided to interrupt Obi-Wan’s torture session by announcing her presence and firing off some taunts of her own: “A brother? Looks like he’s half the man you are, Savage.” She challenged them both to a fight. She wants the bounty, sure, but she also wants revenge for Savage’s betrayal, since he thwarted her endgame of killing Count Dooku. And yet both Ventress and Savage still answer to Mother Talzin! How long before either of them realize that Talzin’s just pitting them against each other?
Ventress feigned her exit to lure the horned wonders away, but she really stayed behind to rescue Obi-Wan. “Kenobi, don’t tell me somebody’s finally knocked the fight out of you,” she said. Obi-Wan seemed a little taken aback to wake up to the sight of Ventress, and even more so that she was there to rescue him. Personally, I think he’s crazy. What could be better to wake up to than a hot bald babe with a glitterstim voice? Maul and Savage quickly returned, so Ventress gave Obi-Wan one of her own lightsabers for the fight. As long as he’d return it, of course. “That’s fine,” Obi-Wan said. “Red’s not my color.” I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Savage squared off with Ventress, while Maul targeted Obi-Wan for his long-awaited rematch. I feel like this could have been an Elle Driver vs. The Bride moment: “I killed your master. And now I’m going to kill you. With your very own sword! Which in the very near future will become…my sword.” Ventress quickly lost her blade, so she had to fight Savage hand-to-lightsaber, which involved climbing up on his shoulders and punching him in the head. Obi-Wan tumbled over Maul’s back and snatched away his own lightsaber from the Sith Lord’s belt, so that Ventress could have her own saber back.
NEXT: Duel of the Fates, Part II
Maul quickly isolated Obi-Wan in a cramped corridor, away from the other fighters. He taunted Obi-Wan about the fact that he killed his master. But, as Clone Wars fan Matt Gilbert said last night during our live chat with James and Sam, the biggest revelation here was something completely different. “My god….the biggest revelation of all!!! Obi-Wan’s hair… MOVES!” Gilbert said. “When my friends and I first saw TCW movie, we thought Obi-Wan had an ‘armored beard guard’ on because it was so stylized. Nothing like Dooku’s though – you could put an eye out with that beard!” That’s right…Obi-Wan’s hair moved. In response, Sam Witwer quickly clarified, “Obi-Wan has 1930s hair. Only when he’s angry or getting punched does his hair move. Like any old-time movie star.”
Maul used his trademark acrobatics on Obi-Wan, flipping and spinning like a Sith Dervish. And it was then that Obi-Wan announced to Ventress that they were outmatched. They needed to get out of there. Pronto. So they bolted for the cockpit, sealed it off, and launched it away from the ship, nearly depressurizing Maul and Savage in the process. They were safe.
For now, anyway. Savage was crestfallen, but Maul was able to put this in perspective. Hiding out in a trash heap for ten years allows you to put things in perspective very easily. “I’ve waited so many years for my revenge,” he said. “I can wait a little longer.” This time, though, he would not actively move against the Jedi. He would let them come to him. And without a doubt Maul knew they would. “I am counting on it.”
NEXT: A love letter to Ventress and a theory of Maul.
And that’s a wrap, my friends. Season Four has become One with the Force. I don’t know about you, but I am thrilled they chose not to kill Ventress in this episode. Maybe her death will be necessary in a future season in order for her arc to be dramatically satisfying, but right now this character is more compelling than she’s ever been. And I, for one, would hate to lose her. Not just because of Nika Futterman’s spectacular vocal abilities either. I’ve adored Ventress’ transformation from recognition-deprived Sith wannabe to ego-stroked Nightsister to bounty hunter with both a bottom line and a heart. When she turned over Pluma to her brother in exchange for some credits it was a powerful delineation of her morality. Ventress is now willing to do the right thing, but on her own terms. Quite simply, there’s no other villain—or character, in general, for that matter—on The Clone Wars whose had such a relentlessly compelling arc or shown such growth throughout the series. And I’d have hated to lose her now. Maybe someday it will be necessary. But thankfully, that moment wasn’t now. (Also, I view the events of “Nightsisters” as taking place after the comic-book series Obsession. So Ventress left Dooku after being betrayed on Boz Pity, but then she came back like a little puppy dog and was serving him once again at the beginning of that episode. As far as I’m concerned, her fate is as much up in the air as Maul’s.)
A Theory of Maul
You’d think that Maul would try to join the Separatists now, right? Get back in the good graces of Darth Sidious? I don’t think so. Honestly, I have no inside information from Lucasfilm about this, so this is just wild speculation, but I think Maul is going to be intensely jealous of Count Dooku and the fact that he usurped his place at Sidious’ side. However, I also think he’s going to realize that he could never have done what Dooku is doing: be the public face of a legitimate political movement. Sidious needed someone like Dooku, whose patrician air would lend itself well to becoming a political firebrand. The taciturn Maul would not have been able to fulfill that function. I mean, I don’t think many would want to follow a politician with that many facial tats. Which means that Sidious never intended for Maul to play the role at his side during the Clone Wars that Dooku has played. Recently, the novel Darth Plagueis revealed that in fact Sidious never saw Maul as a true Sith Lord. He and Plagueis recruited this Zabrak Nightbrother of Dathomir to be a blunt instrument, an acolyte who could run errands for them across the galaxy: you know, go after Black Sun, keep the Trade Federation in line, deal with the pesky Jedi when they themselves didn’t want to get their hands dirty. Obviously, that violated Darth Bane’s Rule of Two. But it also means that despite having the title “Darth,” Maul really was more a dark acolyte along the lines of an Asajj Ventress: a pawn to be disposed of when necessary. So I have a feeling that Maul will begin to realize he should resent Darth Sidious, and, rather than join the Separatists, be a third-party faction who will cause trouble for both sides. I mean, both sides are led by Darth Sidious, so it would make sense for Maul to oppose both parties.
NEXT: Did Obi-Wan touch the Dark Side on Naboo? I kinda think he did…
A Theory of Obi-Wan
After watching Obi-Wan fight Maul in “Revenge,” after a ten-year hiatus, it’s now become clear to me what really happened on Naboo when he cut Maul in half. I’ve wondered this for a long time, but it now seems so obvious. To defeat Darth Maul on Naboo, Obi-Wan drew upon the Dark Side. His rage over Qui-Gon’s death gave him the extra fuel he needed to achieve victory. That’s why now, ten years later, the sting of his master’s death having long since faded, he found himself outmatched. I’m not saying the Dark Side is inherently stronger in the long-run, but in short bursts I think it can be. Because this time Maul was truly drawing upon the Dark Side to battle Obi-Wan. Before, on Naboo, he wasn’t that emotionally invested in battling these Jedi. He was a servant carrying out a mission. But after ten years of letting his rage and lust for revenge simmer, you better believe it he let his anger make him a more formidable opponent than he was before. This time Obi-Wan was the guy just doing a job, and Maul was the one who had a statement to make.
To me, this also shows that there are two different aspects to the Dark Side. There’s the short-burst intensity that comes from anger over an injustice, say, that can be so effective in the heat of battle. That’s the Dark Side externally projected. Then there’s the cool, calculated Dark Side that looks within, that directs its fear, anger, and hatred inside rather than out, that allows someone to pull all the strings from the shadows. This aspect of the Dark Side is that which is practiced by Darth Sidious, whose rage is chilled into a sub-zero silence. In the long-run that’s the more formidable aspect of the Dark Side, as it ultimately makes everything about oneself. Nothing else matters in the universe beyond yourself, your own interests, the accumulation of your own power.
NEXT: Have you ever heard the tragedy of Obi-Wan, the Wise? It’s not a story the Jedi would tell you.
At least you could say that Obi-Wan was thinking of Qui-Gon, not himself when he drew upon the Dark Side to defeat Maul. And, for that matter, I almost wonder if he touched some darkness when he defeated Anakin on Mustafar. He certainly seemed angry enough when he was shouting “You were my brother, Anakin!” and all that. Perhaps it’s Obi-Wan’s latent hypocrisy, his own brushes with the Dark Side that are the reason he couldn’t “get the job done” with either Maul or Vader. He couldn’t finish what he’d started, he couldn’t vanquish his enemies, because his intentions weren’t pure. Because he was more like them than he himself could ever realize. That is Obi-Wan’s tragedy.
Ultimately, that’s the tragedy of the Jedi Order too, because their motivations for fighting the Clone Wars aren’t that far afield from those of Dooku and the Separatists. All those who hold power are afraid to lose it. Even the Jedi. In the end, the only way the Jedi can achieve victory, and Obi-Wan’s work can be finished, is when Luke defies his Obi-Wan’s advice, sees the man that is Anakin not the machine that is Vader, and lay down his lightsaber. With that pure, passive, compassionate heart, Luke is able to achieve victory, become the Jedi that the galaxy had really needed along, and finish what Obi-Wan, and the Order as a whole, had started but could never conclude.
And on that wistful note, I bid you farewell until season five. What do you think are Maul’s plans now? Will Ventress and Obi-Wan remain allies? Or will that whole little business of Ventress being a war criminal make that impossible?
Remember, the Force will be with you…always.
Before the Dark Times, before the Empire, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker fight to restore peace and justice to a galaxy far, far away…