Features and Columns · TV

The Darth Maul vs. Obi-Wan Kenobi Fight in ‘Rebels’ is Peak ‘Star Wars’

Five years ago, the ‘Star Wars: Rebels’ series delivered one of the franchise’s best moments, and everyone reading should watch it.
Darth Maul Star Wars Clone Wars Twin Suns
By  · Published on March 22nd, 2022

Star Wars Explained is our ongoing series where we delve into the latest Star Wars shows, movies, trailers, and news stories to divine the franchise’s future. This entry re-examines the classic Star Wars: Rebels episode Twin Suns, the fight between Darth Maul and Obi-Wan Kenobi, and how it positions Maul as the franchise’s most tragic character. We will be talking SPOILERS.

Shortly after the ObiWan Kenobi trailer dropped, news surfaced regarding the show’s development and how Darth Vader became the primary antagonist. Series director Deborah Chow’s initial concept was not bold enough for producers Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni. Emboldened by The Mandalorian‘s success, they encouraged her to swing wilder with her narrative, to pull the titular Jedi away from Tatooine as soon as possible, and switch out the show’s initial bad with the franchise’s big bad.

Yes, The Phantom Menace‘s Darth Maul was the original threat. The Sith, who lost his legs to Obi-Wan after murdering Qui-Gon Jinn and who later found new life within the animated spin-offs Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels, was pegged for a comeback. Rumor suggests Ray Park was already training and ready to have the facepaint and cloak slapped back on his person. Then, ObiWan Kenobi‘s dramatic re-write booted him from the set.

Ever since the character shockingly re-appeared during the Solo: A Star Wars Story climax, many fans have sought to see the killer on screen again. Throughout our Book of Boba Fett coverage, I was practically tittering, waiting for the duel-bladed gangster to appear and cause havoc. When that never happened, my eyes turned to ObiWan Kenobi. Surely, this is where the Obi-Wan/Maul re-match would occur, a stepping stone toward the show’s ultimate showdown with Vader.

But Darth Maul is no stepping stone, and as a rabid enthusiast for all things Clone Wars and Rebels, I should have known better. Thankfully, Dave Filoni was thinking for me. After all, he already gave Maul the best possible re-match with Obi-Wan, and he did it five years ago, almost to the day of this article’s writing.

Obi Wan Kenobi Twin Suns Star Wars Rebels

Directed by Filoni and co-written alongside Henry Gilroy, the Star Wars: Rebels episode “Twin Suns” aired on March 18, 2017. It was the 20th episode of the third season, and it marks the 14th and final time Maul appeared in the cartoons (he had 10 Clone Wars appearances, four Rebels appearances).

All you really need to know about Maul before watching the episode is that he survived his Phantom Menace encounter due to his unique Dathomirian biology and his hateful mastery over the Force. His brother, Savage Opress, found Maul on the junk world Lotho Minor, where he had fashioned himself a nasty set of robotic spider legs. Living in exile, cast from his Master Darth Sidious’ gaze, Maul descended into madness, and only his thirst for revenge kept him from succumbing to a total mental apocalypse.

Maul repositioned himself as a rogue terrorist and criminal throughout The Clone Wars. Both Obi-Wan and Sidious were on his hit list, and despite nearly claiming Mandalore as his own, Maul never satisfied his vengeance against the two parties who cast him away on Naboo. By the time he tracks down Obi-Wan on Tatooine in “Twin Suns,” the former Sith assassin has nearly completed the saddest, most wretched, and pathetic arc in the Star Wars franchise. He’s a bastard, but a sad one.

The Rebels episode opens with Maul wandering the desert. “I am lost,” he whispers, “and yet, I can feel his presence so close…so close. I can see him in my mind’s eye. Kenobi…KENOBI!”

The name roars from Maul’s throat. If you’ve been following his saga since his Clone Wars return, you can recognize the pain and insanity screaming through the decibels. Voiced by Sam Witwer, Maul sounds so incredibly fragile. His torment has brought him lightyears across the galaxy; his time for final recognition is before him, but it’s also so far away. How the hell is he supposed to find one hermit on a planet so damn big?

Maul Star Wars Rebels Twin Suns

Meanwhile, the Jedi-in-training Ezra Bridger stumbles upon an old hologram message from Obi-Wan Kenobi. It was recorded shortly after Order 66 was executed in Revenge of the Sith. As he listens to Obi-Wan desperately express hope in the face of outright defeat, Ezra also engages with a Sith Holocron where he can hear Maul scream his Khaaaaannnn-like wail for Kenobi. Ezra attempts to convince his Rebel friends that Maul is back and that Obi-Wan is in danger, but they are under the impression that the old Jedi died shortly before Imperial rule.

Of course, the kid ignores their dismissal, and he steals a ship, hoping to stop Maul before he ambushes Obi-Wan. Ezra doesn’t understand how Maul manipulated the Holocrons to lure him to Tatooine so he could expose the Jedi-in-hiding. After the twin suns set, Maul and Obi-Wan meet. The villain wants blood. The hero offers pity.

Kenobi calls Maul an “old wound.” The words cut deeper than any lightsaber. Maul fires back with snide “desert rat” comments and, in the process, uncovers Obi-Wan’s true purpose. He’s protecting someone on Tatooine. With his mission uncovered, Obi-Wan ignites his blue blade. Maul fires up his lightsaber as well.

The clash between the two lasts three strokes and four seconds of screentime. The final swing belongs to Obi-Wan, and it slices through Maul’s hilt and chest. The Sith falls forward, Obi-Wan catches him, then holds him for his last moments.

Maul’s impending death triggers mild shock from himself. Mostly, he seems relieved.

Star Wars Rebels Twin Suns

“Tell me,” Maul demands. “Is it the chosen one?” Obi-Wan responds, “He is.” And Maul’s last words are true to his lowly character, “He will avenge us.”

To his last breath, Maul held onto anger. The final revelation burrows a pit in Obi-Wan’s stomach. Years of conflict have come to an end. Maul’s death was as quick as it was unnecessary. His only gift, a lesson for others. Tread not in his footsteps.

Our first experience with Maul was like our first experience with Darth Vader. He was a mean-looking, hard villain. We wanted his toy for our shelf. The prequels were wonky endeavors, but Maul always stood out as one of The Phantom Menace‘s bright spots, making it so frustrating when he left that film too early and in pieces. Count Dooku in Attack of the Clones was a weak replacement.

And just like Darth Vader, the human, or sentient being, beneath the badassery was eventually revealed to be a pitiable, sorrowful loser. Unlike Darth Vader, he never got his redemption. He never turned his back on the Dark Side; he never served anyone but himself. In his final words, we hear the hollow promise offered by anger. Your hate shields you from nothing; it only makes your time on this plane excruciating.

As seen in The Clone Wars and Rebels, Maul achieved Shakespearean audacity. We watched him crawl from hellish depths and accomplish wonderous catastrophe against Obi-Wan and his pals. He took his rage to the finish line, and his race collapsed in a heap. His last comfort, a warm embrace delivered by his enemy. And Disney+ could do better in live-action? Not bloody likely.

I dunno. There’s still a chance we could see Maul in ObiWan Kenobi. These tales centered around a last-minute narrative swerve, and Darth Vader’s insertion could be Lucasfilm subterfuge. Until we see Maul in live-action again, we won’t shut up about that Solo: A Star Wars Story tease. If Ray Park did indeed start prep for the new series, you would think they’d throw him a bone at some point.

Whatever the case, if live-action Maul fantasies drag a few more folks over to his animated arc in The Clone Wars and Rebels, then I say, woot. He’s the anti-Luke Skywalker. He made abomination his hero’s journey, and his end serves as a dark reflection for every Light Side crusader in the franchise and everyone at home watching.

Star Wars: Rebels is now streaming on Disney+

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Brad Gullickson is a Weekly Columnist for Film School Rejects and Senior Curator for One Perfect Shot. When not rambling about movies here, he's rambling about comics as the co-host of Comic Book Couples Counseling. Hunt him down on Twitter: @MouthDork. (He/Him)