I’m not sure there’s been a Star Wars story to date that I’ve been anticipating as much (or for as long) as the Siege of Mandalore. I’ve certainly had my share of hype over the movies, and while “Twin Suns” has since been, well, “Twin Suns,” the anticipation leading up to that episode was miniscule compared to the aftermath. One major assumption I’ve carried over these years is that the story of the Siege would focus on Rex and Ahsoka. In contrast, Maul probably wouldn’t have much character development, being there to primarily be the threatening antagonist like he was in The Phantom Menace.
Even though Maul has since become my favorite character, I was okay with that. I already got my “Twin Suns,” and, after all, Maul lives in a cycle. Gaining power, losing power, and clawing his way back up the food chain. It’s a cycle that he’s still on in Rebels. It’s a cycle that he dies in. So I assumed that Mandalore would simply be another rotation, Maul spinning the wheels on his own character development.
Then Star Wars Celebration Chicago 2019 happened, and I was physically in the same room when this bombshell went off.
“Honestly, [The Siege of Mandalore is] my favorite stuff that we’ve ever done as the character… [Maul] hasn’t been able to think or see his way out of this horrible, evil cycle that he’s found himself in. And what I found most interesting about this arc, is for a second, he actually tries to think his way out of it. He actually tries something different that he’s never tried before or since. And we see how that goes.” – Sam Witwer
What does Maul try?
I have a pair of theories, one of which is centered around the events of the Siege of Mandalore. According to the Ahsoka novel by E. K. Johnston, Ahsoka and the 501st were able to lure Maul into a trap and capture him. But then as Order 66 went down, “Maul had escaped, of course. She’d had the opportunity to kill him, but had chosen to save Rex instead” (p 65). We also know that at some point Dave Filoni had planned for Ahsoka to make her final escape from Order 66 on the back of giant wolves, but whether this happened on Mandalore or the clones had hunted her down to a different planet remains uncertain.
However, if it was an event on Mandalore, I’m not sure that Filoni would repeat of the wolves after using them in Rebels. So Rex and Ahsoka might need another out, another force to shield their escape. Obviously, I’m leading up to the answer of “Maul helps” here, but is there a reason for him to do so? A reason that fits with Witwer’s description of Maul thinking his way out of the cycle and trying something new?
“I think [Maul]’s living in the worst case scenario. The worst case scenario is never being able to achieve his potential in any way. The problem is he’s thinking about it in all the wrong ways. One can achieve one’s potential simply by helping other people, by being selfless, by looking after others before you think to look after yourself in some cases…
You can obsess over [your lost potential]. Or you can reach out to people who could use help, who could use a friend, you can make your life more about the people around you and suddenly your life has extraordinary meaning.” – Sam Witwer, Interview with SyFy
From what we see in Rebels, Maul is carrying a lot of grief over the loss of his brother, and in the Siege of Mandalore, the death of his mother will be another fresh wound. Perhaps, as he sees Rex and Ahsoka forced to face a suddenly hostile world alone, he’d reminded of how he lost his own brother. Maybe he sees Ahsoka rush to Rex’s side or vice versa, and all he can think of is how he was too late for Savage.
And so he reaches out to these people who could use help, and makes a moment of his life about them. It’s obviously a gesture that doesn’t quite stick with him, and maybe it even comes back to bite him in the butt, but maybe for just one moment, he acted like a Jedi.
Age of Republic: Darth Maul by Jody Houser
My second theory relies less on what we know of the Siege of Mandalore and more of what we’ve heard from Witwer in the past. And thankfully, researching and writing the “Twin Suns” close read has put a lot of Sam Witwer interviews within easy access for me. So what else has Witwer posited as a means by which Maul could break his cycle?
“I think Darth Maul has been on a vicious cycle, he’s been on a merry go round. In some way he’s begging for Obi-Wan Kenobi to take him off that ride. Guess what? We’re going to see almost a replay of what we saw in Clone Wars because this guy is not learning what he needs to learn. Maybe he is going about it in slightly smarter ways and maybe he understands a little bit more through the loss of Savage what it means to have a brother, but ultimately he’s going to make a lot of mistakes. This is a man who needs Obi-Wan to help him get off this ride, to help him out of this cycle. That’s the way I read it. Without anyone’s help, Darth Maul will only commit himself to his mistakes of the past… This character is desperate and he needs Obi-Wan’s help to move on.
…He knows 100% that it’s that guy, there’s something about that guy that will heal me. And that’s where Darth Maul is correct. The one part that he has right is that Obi-Wan Kenobi can heal him, just not quite in the way that you first would expect.” – Interview with IGN, emphasis mine.
“He knows at one point his life made sense and he knows that stopped making sense when he met Obi-Wan Kenobi. So he knows the answer lies back there. He’s gotta go back and find that guy and the unfortunate part, through his Sith training and the way that he is, his selfishness, he just keeps going in circles. He’s thinking maybe I need to … It doesn’t occur to him I can just go and talk to him. It’s like, no, I’d fight him.”– Interview with SyFy, emphasis mine.
Maul gets exactly one line in the Celebration 2019 trailer for The Clone Wars…
“I was hoping for Kenobi. Why are you here?”
…and you better believe I’m going to read way more into it than I should. But in my defense, these episodes were written by Filoni himself. And he is nothing if not deliberate with dialogue, and he didn’t have Maul say “I was waiting for Kenobi,” or “I wanted Kenobi.” No, Maul says he was hoping for Kenobi.
“Visions and Voices,” Star Wars Rebels.
“This notion of hope … Maul is really trying to make sense of his life. He’s trying to figure out ‘Where did it all go wrong? Why do I feel so broken?’ He’s maybe starting to ask the questions in different ways. Maul I think is asking some of the right questions.” – Interview with ComicBook.com
What if Maul was hoping for Kenobi because he wanted to try talking. Because he wanted to try listening. He just lost his brother and his mother in the same way that he took Qui-Gon and Satine from Obi-Wan, and yet Obi-Wan is still standing. Maybe, for just a moment, he realizes there’s something he can learn from the Jedi.
Granted, that would mean that Maul practically set a whole planet on fire to get Obi-Wan to come and talk, but that’s hardly outside of his M.O.
While I obviously have some degree of confidence in these theories, I make no claim to have cracked any code of Dave Filoni’s here. If nothing else, Celebration 2019 taught me that nothing that I think I know about the new season of The Clone Wars is certain. And I, for one, am ready to be shocked.