Star Wars Rebels may be a TV series, but it’s also the one series that sets the benchmark for defining the canon of the franchise with moments that regularly top anything you’d see on the big screen. Last week’s episode “Twin Suns”, was one of them. Spoilers below.
If you’ve been following Rebels and its predecessor Clone Wars, you know how this episode ends: With the death of Darth Maul. A character whose presence was a saving grace in The Phantom Menace, and a threat who left ruin and destruction in his wake whenever he popped up. If producer Dave Filoni hadn’t resurrected Maul for The Clone Wars, it’s safe to say that his corpse would still be sitting at the bottom of a Naboo chasm, rotting away right now.
As the man who saved a great character and made him magnificent thanks to the intense voiceover work by actor Sam Witwer, Filoni also had the responsibility to give Maul a fitting farewell as Rebels creeps closer towards the timeline of A New Hope. “If there’s a character like Maul running around during one of the old films, he’s such a big-time player you think there would have been an echo of that somewhere,” Filoni said to i09.
So it was just the right time to tell the story and bring that thread to an end.
It all came down to one final duel between two men who had spent the better part of the last 18 years battling one another. A duel that was over in one:
Yet so much was said in that scene (Partly thanks to Stephen Stanton’s dead-on vocal likeness as Ben Kenobi). From Kenobi’s stance to Maul’s final words, it’s one of the greatest scenes in Star Wars history. Maul was just unable to let go of his past or hatred for Kenobi, living in the past and remaining fixated on that one moment where he was robbed of glory. Maul never left Kenobi, his mind rotting away like his lower half on that planet. From Maul’s attack through to his stance, he just cannot let go of what happened and had lost his edge in the process.
Kenobi on the other hand, grew throughout his exile. Ready to fight Maul one final time, Obi-Wan adopted a stance that wouldn’t look out of place in the prequel trilogy. It’s this very point where Obi Wan let’s go of his own past however, adopting a posture that his master favoured and defeating Maul once and for all when the former Sith Lord opens with an attack that killed Qui-Gon Jinn in the Phantom Menace.
Maul’s mistake, was in assuming that Obi Wan had also lost the spark that had made him one of the most feared Jedi in the galaxy and goading his adversary on with a threat to visit the Skywalker farm once he was done. That’s the point where Kenobi reflects back on how Maul cost him a mentor before the Clone Wars and a love during. “Not this time motherf***er. You took Qui-Gon and Satine. You will not have the boy”.
The tragedy of Maul however, is that he remained a Sith until the end as Obi-Wan took pity on him, cradling the former apprentice until he died. “He will avenge us” Maul said with his dying breath, ending a tale that began amidst the sands of Tattooine and ended there. The circle was finally complete. “It was a much-discussed thing on how that was gonna go down,” Filoni explained.
The instinct would be, and probably, I admit, the expectation, is for some kind of prolonged lightsaber battle. But I’ve done a lot of prolonged lightsaber battles over the years and I think what’s most important about any kind of confrontation is what’s riding on it. What’s the tension going into it? It starts to matter less and less how you swing a sword or how creatively you do it if there’s not a lot riding on it.
I felt strongly Obi-Wan, if he could help it, would really rather not kill Darth Maul. Obi-Wan is at a point, in my mind, where he’s become rather enlightened. He’s been in the desert discovering who he is, really evolving as a character. He’s not that young brash kid that went into a fight with Maul out of anger for the fact his master was killed. It can’t be that same situation this is so many years later. Maul, for his part, is pretty much hung up on that exact moment. That’s where his life went wrong. He can’t let it go.
Kenobi on the other hand, has clearly risen above the squalor of his exile. The glory days of the Jedi may be gone and erased from history within the new Galactic Empire, but Kenobi’s purpose in life have defined and sharpened him. Ben Kenobi is a dangerous, yet compassionate exile, as that final duel killed off not only Maul but also the echo of the former Jedi General whose legend still survives to this day amongst the growing Rebel Alliance.
“This idea is that Obi-Wan is willing to forgive this person who is so cruel and terrible because he feels pity for him,” Filoni said.
To his dying breath Maul is hoping there will be some revenge exacted upon his enemies. And in my mind, Obi-Wan expresses sadness there because that means that Maul has never grown and will never be released from his suffering. So I felt that moment had to be beyond a lightsaber fight and had to be more an expression of their characters.
The real endgame for Star Wars Rebels begins next week, as Grand Admiral Thrawn re-enters the equation. Expect a showdown with the might of the Empire and the ragtag rebels as they face a threat far deadlier than anything they’ve encountered so far.