Before Maul, the onetime Sith apprentice, and Ahsoka, the former Jedi Knight, engaged in a lightsaber duel for the ages, he reached his hand out to her and asked if she’d help him prevent an evil alliance from forming: Darth Sidious and his plan to destroy the Jedi and the Republic were near.
Maul was the only person (other than Sidious himself) who knew Anakin’s fall to the Dark Side was the ace up his former Sith master’s sleeve — until he told Ahsoka that the greatest Jedi Knight of all, the person who trained her from a young age, was about to betray everyone.
What happens next can only be described as peak Maul.
Ahsoka, stubbornly refusing to believe Anakin could do what we all know he will, just barely bests Maul in battle. When he begins to fall to his death from dangerous heights, she uses the Force to levitate him in the air until the clone trooper cavalry arrives to capture him.
“Let me go,” Maul shouts. “Let me die.”
The screams let out by Maul represent what it has been like to follow the brilliant execution of his resurrection on “The Clone Wars,” frustratingly knowing an opportunity was missed for a similar resurgence in live-action.
“The Clone Wars” brought an end to the cries of those who thought a perfectly crafted villainous idea like Maul had been put away too soon. He was given a new life on the series, a new voice (Sam Witwer) and a new storytelling path. And because “The Clone Wars” is officially a part of the canon of Star Wars, an opening was available to bring Maul back to the live-action movies as well, if the timeline was right.
So when he showed up at the end of “Solo” and looked to be a key player for future sequels to the film, it felt like a victory for those who always wanted more of him.
Then “Solo” underperformed at the box office, followed by word that future stand-alone Star Wars films were on hold. It was like Obi-Wan Kenobi came and sliced the live-action Maul dreams of many in half.
This is a character whose popularity rivals that of the almighty Darth Vader. The spark that Vader’s brief, lightsaber-wielding return in “Rogue One” provided fans could have been equally as bright in a future Maul moment, especially if we look at his past.
In his debut in 1999′s “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace,” Maul (and the amazing athletic display of actor Ray Park) was the embodiment of George Lucas’s decision to wait almost two decades for special effects technology to catch up to his imagination before revisiting his franchise.
His lightsaber match against Qui-Gon Jinn and Kenobi in “Episode I” has yet to be topped. But for so long, Maul was more or less a Star Wars human highlight reel: Visually spectacular, yet vocally disappointing. His presence was unforgettable, but the few lines he had were not. When he was torn in two at the end of “Episode I,” it appeared we had all borne witness to an incredible galactic flash in the pan.
As “The Clone Wars” comes to an end, so, too, do any hopes of more from Maul elsewhere — at least for now. Since a live-action Star Wars storytelling revival (thanks to “The Mandalorian”) is taking place on Disney Plus, not movie theater screens, maybe the fan-favorite villain will get another chance via streaming.
If not, fans will have to appreciate the richness of the extra Maul they were given in animation, while being left to wonder if they’ll ever see the version that keeps getting taken away.