Spoilers. Spoilers. Spoilers.
And for good measure in case the link preview on social media sites decides to grab a few more words or paragraphs from this piece: SPOILERS
There’s a particular speculation I’ve seen circulating regarding Maul’s appearance in Solo: A Star Wars Story with which I must say I heartily disagree. I am convinced that Maul is not a set up for the Kenobi movie.
Granted, maybe Maul will appear in a vision or a flashback in a Kenobi movie. That could work. And I understand how the general movie goers who don’t know about the animation side of Star Wars would jump to that conclusion. The duel in The Phantom Menace is every shade of iconic; why wouldn’t you be looking for a follow-up to that?
Still, that resolution has already been played out in canon, and it is an absolute masterpiece. Besides, there’s already a perfect movie set-up for Maul that uses, almost exclusively, things established in Solo. Of course there’s going to be portions drawn from The Clone Wars and Rebels, but we don’t necessarily need to tackle elements of the Skywalker Saga (of which Kenobi is an integral part) in this theoretical Maul movie.
Or perhaps I should call it the Enfys Nest movie. Because it really should be hers.
So let me propose a counter offer. The premise would goeth thusly:
After a particularly brutal event, Enfys Nest decides it’s time for her marauders to stop skirting around the edges and make a major play to take down Crimson Dawn. They trigger an all out war with the other crime syndicates, hoping it will leave Crimson Dawn weak enough for Enfys and the marauders to assassinate Maul in the aftermath. When Enfys at last stages her assault on Dathomir, she finds Maul to be even more dangerous than she expected. She barely escapes with her life, but the crime syndicate war her marauders began has drawn the attention of the Empire. Vader is dispatched to Dathomir to shatter Crimson Dawn, and Maul is driven off-planet. Enfys and her remaining marauders regroup and their adventures continue. Roll credits.
Now this is a step outside of my usual style of blogging; I’m not that good at making theories for whatever next installment is coming. I’m better at analyzing what is already in front of me. So let’s explore how this premise would work through the lens of the material that we have.
In the Season 2 finale of Rebels, Maul tells Ezra (dubious integrity aside) that it’s been “years since I have spoken to anyone.” That takes place around 3-4 years before the events of A New Hope. Solo takes place 6-10 years… ish before A New Hope. Sources are unofficial and inconclusive at the moment. Point is, Maul’s time as the leader of Crimson Sun is coming to an end.
Sam Witwer has stated in multiple interviews that Maul lives in a cycle. He rises to power and gets knocked down, rises and gets knocked down, and right now in Solo, he’s sitting in a seat of power. He’s going to get kicked off of that fairly soon, and as we see in Rebels, he’s going to fall hard.
Another aspect of the timeline is the state of Dathomir. We don’t see the planet in Solo, but the manner in which it is referenced makes it sound like Maul is operating out of a base there. In Rebels, however, it’s a barren husk. Maul doesn’t even use it as a base of operations until he specifically needs to use Nightsister magic; he’s first seen again in Season 3 using an old Death Watch base in an asteroid field.
Why Not Maul?
It would be incredibly hard to do a Maul-centric movie. And I say that as someone who has Maul topping the list of her favorite Star Wars characters.
One of the arguments against Solo as a movie was that Han Solo’s arc existed already in the Original Trilogy. There was nothing for him to do or become before then. Solo proved us wrong; it showed us the turning point of Han the boy who dreamed of the stars becoming Han the cynical smuggler.
Thread: Han’s character arc in the OT is about someone whose inherent goodness and trust has been crushed by the galaxy and the practiced cynicism he employs to save him from being crushed again is faced with the inherent goodness and idealism in Luke and Leia.
— Jim does a Solo: A Star War Story (@ObsKenobs) May 10, 2018
With Maul, however, we get an even trickier problem because we know where he’s going, and we know where he’s coming from. We’ve already seen these major turning points for him. What’s more is that he lives in a cycle. That rise to power and the fall to despair, and we never see him break free of that until “Twin Suns.”
He’s also in some doldrums when it comes to other areas of his life. He thinks Kenobi is dead, so that driving motivation is off the table. He’s already learned from the events of Son of Dathomir that he cannot challenge Palpatine openly (especially now that Palpatine’s the Emperor). We are well past the youthful days of the Darth Maul comic where he’s still trying to prove himself as a Sith. And in Solo, we learn that he is trying to maintain a fragile peace with the other syndicates.
One place that would give some meat to his story would be to start to seeing the sincerity that he shows on Malachor, but that’s not enough to sustain an arc. And according to Dave Filoni in an audio commentary for “Twin Suns,” meeting Ezra was the point that kicked off the new period of evolution in his life. This particular time frame that we’re looking at for Maul would require him treading a great deal of water in terms of character development.
And it’s in places like these that Maul works best as a personal obstacle to the heroes. Every time he showed up in animation, it meant the elevation of personal stakes. In The Clone Wars he was the one to uproot the pacifism of Satine Kryze, to put Obi-Wan through hell (and considering what Obi-Wan goes through in The Clone Wars, that’s saying a lot), and to contribute to the redemption arcs of Bo-Katan and Asajj Ventress. In Rebels, not only was he the catalyst for Ezra dipping a toe into the dark side, but he also contributed to Kanan’s and Sabine’s growth.
Furthermore, “relegating” Maul to the role of the antagonist in this theoretical movie doesn’t mean that his impact in the story will be any less, or that Ray Park and Sam Witwer can’t do some beautiful, collective scenery-chewing. Maul will still be a vital part of the story, just not our protagonist.
First off, we’re all clamoring for it already. Secondly, ’bout time we had a woman of color leading a Star Wars movie. Thirdly, what we know of her works as a contrast to Maul, and what we don’t know of her can be filled in appropriately.
Enfys Nest leads a faction of the Rebellion who have a set of grievances against the crime syndicates. The story that she tells of the time when the people had their tongues cut out for standing up to Crimson Dawn, combined with the numerous mute individuals who stand with them during the climax, indicates that their grievances lie with Crimson Dawn in particular. Even her lite motif leans into that: a choral cry that might very well mean she’s acting as the voice for those who lost theirs to Crimson Dawn’s brutality.
Already she is established as an opponent to Maul, and the mention of her mother might very well give her some personal stakes in this rivalry and provide another viewpoint of revenge, a theme Maul takes to the extreme. I would be wary about bringing the mother loss in as a focus, however, because Star Wars already has too many dead black women. (But do you know who could probably handle that tactfully? A black woman director or a black woman writer or both.)
Additionally, deciding to take a more aggressive stance against Crimson Dawn could also pull Enfys closer to the dark side. Now, to our knowledge, Enfys is not Force-sensitive, but that doesn’t mean she can’t feed into the Light or the Dark with the choices she makes.
Saw shows what happens when a good person becomes consumed by guilt, anger and hatred. The innocents of Jedha suffer as much from him as from the Empire, and he sees their deaths as justified if it means hurting Imperials. Consumed by his negative emotions, he loses his moral compass, and his logic is not so very different from Vader’s. (Mark Eldridge, “How We Choose to Fight,” Eleven-ThirtyEight)
Enfys clearly carries anger against the Crimson Dawn for what they have done and for what Maul has done. We could watch her struggling against turning righteous anger into blind hatred, which would be an ideal contrast to Maul, especially with the plan to trigger a war between the crime syndicates.
Besides, Enfys comes with an ensemble of characters, which includes classic Star Wars aliens and Warwick Davis. More Warwick Davis is always a good thing.
The Crime Syndicate War
Dryden Vos mentions an “uneasy alliance” with the Pykes, a reluctance to start a war with the other crime families. It’s enough of a major point in Solo that the seed is planted neatly in the audience’s mind that a war could erupt very soon.
This uneasy alliance historically matches up with the Shadow Collective Maul ran in The Clone Wars.
The underworld’s a small community. We have no wish to oppose you. We come to join you (The Pykes to Maul and the Death Watch, “Eminence”)
It was the Shadow Collective that eventually brought Maul into the spotlight for Palpatine. No longer was his former apprentice just “playing with the rabble”; he had become a rival. It was the eruption of Maul’s feud with Sidious that caused the Shadow Collective to splinter.
An upheaval in the underworld during the time of the Empire – where the Emperor is supposed to be ensuring peace and compliance – could also make Palpatine’s eye turn again towards Maul. Especially if Enfys and her marauders were able to frame the war as a power grab by Crimson Dawn. That could be enough for Palpatine to step in and knock Maul down again by sending Vader in. On Malachor, Maul knows he’s no match for Vader, and this could be the way he finds out.
Vader stepping in as a diabolus ex machina here gives a reason for Dathomir to become abandoned once more, is a way for Maul to be defeated by the actions of our heroes (tangentially), and provides an out of Enfys Nest to survive her encounter with him.
Beyond the canon logistics of this, the choice to deliberately trigger a war is layered with thematic resonance in Star Wars.
- For one, however the movie handles this sort of war, we can see it as a reflection on the large Clone Wars manipulations, like the novel Kenobi did to great effect. This might be a way for us to see a more heroic side of the Separatists as well, as Enfys Nest and her mother’s alliances were not established.
- There’s also a touch of poetic justice by shattering Crimson Dawn in this manner. Maul undercut Satine’s rule on Mandalore (and thus the biggest political holdout that threatened Palpatine’s game) by dividing her people and using misdirection to sow discord in the wrong places. This would be his own tactics coming back to bite him.
- How Enfys Nest comes to this decision and how she deals with the collateral damage this war causes would give a contrast to Maul and a contrast to Satine Kryze. It would help define her character and values.
And we know Maul loves dragging those around him down to his level. That was his entire ploy in the throne room with Obi-Wan. That was his ploy to undermine Ahsoka’s confidence during the Siege of Mandalore. That was his ploy with luring Ezra to Tatooine.
Having Enfys start an actual war, with civilians caught in the crossfire, to take Maul down would give Maul an excellent opportunity to indulge in a cutting (if only half-true) monologue of “not so different,” perhaps even with a Mandalore comparison thrown in. It would be a trial by fire for this young revolutionary to pass through and decide what sort of leader she’s going to be by confronting the leader who represents everything she opposes.
Really the only lady in Solo who got her due in terms of a fleshed-out, respectable arc. And now as one of Maul’s lieutenants, Qi’ra would be pretty much guaranteed to be present, and she would be an excellent foil character to both Enfys and Maul.
Even though Qi’ra decided to stay in the ranks of Crimson Dawn, she still covered for Han and Enfys, lying to Maul’s face about who was involved in Voss’ murder and the theft of the coaxium. There could have been even a slight rapport established between them as they made their plans to double-cross Dryden. This lack of immediate hostility between them could result in intriguing conversations, especially about the merits of how one chooses to survive under an uncaring Empire.
On the Maul side of things, Qi’ra could highlight the cycle that Maul is trapped in by paralleling it. Like Maul, she doesn’t see a way off this ride and so has to keep playing the game because it’s the only thing she knows. We know where this eventually leads for Maul, but if, where, and how Qi’ra chooses to break away will give great insight into her character and into Maul’s own arc moving forward.
I’m not going to Snoke-is-Plagueis-theory this and demand LucasFilm creates my specific vision for the movie (but please do hire me for something, anything). This was primarily a means to let myself shed some frustrations I had with the Kenobi movie speculation, and to point out that Solo has already given us new groundwork to explore Maul. New allies, new opponents (both women!) that can continue expanding Star Wars outside of the Skywalker Saga. Maul’s story is locked down, to a certain degree, but he can be used to flesh out the likes of Enfys Nest and Qi’ra, creating a whole new thread of possibilities.
If nothing else, I want more of Maul, more of Qi’ra and I want to see Enfys Nest get her due, and Solo set things up perfectly for those three things to happen in the same movie.
As long as it’s not the Kenobi movie, dangit.