The latest film in the Star Wars universe, Solo: A Star Wars Story, focuses on the early days of Han Solo and his meetings and adventures with Chewbacca, Lando Calrissian, and others.
It’s a really fun movie that explores a lot of the events fans have always wanted to see, but it’s likely none of those events that leave fans talking upon exiting theaters. Instead, it’s THAT cameo – and if you’ve seen the movie, you know what I’m talking about. It’s a cameo that leaves fans intrigued as to what’s next, while leaving some fans wondering how it’s possible.
Let’s dive into that cameo and look at not only why it’s possible but why it makes sense. But, of course, that means there are SPOILERS AHEAD. It’s not significant to the plot of the movie per se, but it’s a very significant cameo that is best left revealed in watching the movie, not in a blog. So don’t read any further if you haven’t seen Solo yet.
Still reading? Well this is your FINAL SPOILER WARNING.
Ok, so those of you still reading no doubt know exactly what I’m talking about. After Dryden Vos is killed, Han leaves, and Qi’ra tells him that she’ll follow. She doesn’t, however, staying behind to contact Vos’ boss. In holographic form, that boss is revealed to be Maul. This is the last we see of Qi’ra (and Maul) in the movie.
How is that possible?
That, of course, is a massive cameo – one that was unexpected for most viewers, I’m sure. A different cameo, such as Boba Fett or Jabba the Hutt, would have made sense, but the inclusion of Maul is a deep-cut that likely confuses some more casual viewers of Star Wars. After all, this is only Maul’s second appearance in live-action (he is once again played by Ray Park, though this time he is voiced by Sam Witwer, who has done a terrific job voicing Maul in Star Wars animation). His first appearance was in The Phantom Menace, where he had only a few lines but cast a large presence throughout the film, especially in the climactic lightsaber duel in Theed Palace against Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi. The duel is regarded as one of the best in the Star Wars saga, and it ends with Maul killing Jinn, only to be cut in half by Kenobi. Maul’s body, now split in two, tumbles down the reactor shaft, seemingly killing the villain.
That is why Maul’s inclusion in this movie might be confusing to some, because that film took place in 32BBY, whereas the events of Solo (at least when we meet Maul) take place around 9-10BBY – a couple of decades later. So what happened? Well, in season four of The Clone Wars TV show, nearly 15 years after The Phantom Menace, George Lucas and Dave Filoni brought Maul back into Star Wars storytelling with the stunning reveal that he actually survived the encounter on Naboo. Maul’s hatred kept him alive, and he eventually was dropped onto the junk world of Lotho Minor in the Outer Rim, where he spent “years and years and years” in torment, possessing spider legs but losing his mind. He went crazy, but was continually motivated and kept going by his hatred for and desire for revenge against the Jedi and Obi-Wan Kenobi. Over a decade later, during the Clone Wars, Mother Talzin (leader of the nightsisters and mother of Maul) sent Savage Opress to find Maul in 19BBY.
Opress took Maul, whom he called brother, to see Talzin, and the witch restored Maul’s mind and gave him cybernetic legs. Maul took Opress as his apprentice, and he set in motion to enact his revenge against Kenobi (the two would meet at least three different times during The Clone Wars). After the second encounter with Kenobi, Maul and Opress were rescued by the Mandalorian Death Watch, who soon joined forces. Pre Vizsla, the leader of Death Watch, teamed up with Maul and Opress to form the leadership of the Shadow Collective, and soon they recruited the Black Sun crime syndicate on Mustafar, the Pykes on Zanbar, and the Hutts on Tatooine. This powerful Shadow Collective, led by Maul and consisting of the Death Watch, Black Sun, Pyke, and Hutt forces, took control of Mandalore. While Almec was appointed Prime Minister as the public leader, Maul was really the one in power. He used that power to enact his revenge on Kenobi, luring him to Mandalore to rescue his love, Dutchess Satine, and then killing her in front of the Jedi Master, leaving Satine to die in Kenobi’s arms.
Unfortunately for Maul, however, he had begun to attract the attention of his former master, Darth Sidious, who traveled to Mandalore to personally confront the former Sith. Sidious dueled both Maul and Opress and wound up killing the latter, while taking Maul captive. Sidious’ reasoning for taking Maul captive was to eventually get to Talzin to kill her, so Sidious imprisoned Maul on Stygeon. While there, Count Dooku made it clear: “The Hutts have abandoned you, Maul. But Black Sun and the Pykes remain loyal. I want your resources and your sway over the black market.” Maul’s Shadow Collective was still largely intact. Death Watch rescued Maul, all according to Sidious’ plan, and they allied themselves with the Black Sun and the Pykes on Ord Mantell, a Black Sun stronghold. They lured Dooku and General Grievous into a trap, capturing the two Separatist leaders. The Jedi caught wind of a battle between Dooku and Maul and launched an investigation, tracking them to a Mandalorian asteroid outpost. There, Jedi Masters Obi-Wan Kenobi, Tiplee, Mace Windu, and Aayla Secura fought against Maul and Dooku, who escaped (as did Grievous, separately). Maul took Dooku to meet Mother Talzin, who attempted to sway the Count to their cause with the tragic tale of Maul, Sidious’ former apprentice, but soon Sidious and Grievous arrived. Talzin held the Sith off to allow Maul to escape, but in doing so lost her life: Grievous snuck up and stabbed Talzin, killing the witch. The Black Sun and the Pykes ended their allegiance to Maul and were hurt by the Separatists as well, essentially ending the Shadow Collective. With Talzin dead, Sidious no longer considered Maul a threat.
Maul retreated back to Mandalore, where he hid out with his remaining loyal forces, until the Siege of Mandalore near the end of the Clone Wars. Ahsoka Tano, the former padawan to Anakin Skywalker, teamed up again with Skywalker, Kenobi, and the 501st to launch an offensive against Maul, but Skywalker and Kenobi were recalled to Coruscant on a desperate rescue mission after Grievous took Chancellor Palpatine captive and was attempting to flee. Skywalker left Captain Rex and others from the 501st under Tano’s command, and she led the attack against Maul. She had him trapped in an energy field, but eventually had to let him go to save Rex, and when the clone troopers turned on the former Jedi during Order 66 (with the exception of Rex, who had removed the chip in his head), Tano and Rex faked their own deaths and went into hiding.
The Siege of Mandalore happened in 19BBY, and the next we know of Maul in canon material comes around 3BBY, when he meets up with Ahsoka Tano once more, who is this time joined by Jedi Kanan Jarrus and Ezra Bridger on Malachor, home of an ancient Sith Temple. Maul was there investigating the secrets of the Temple and hoping to destroy the Sith (Sidious and Vader), but his ship crashed and he was stranded there for years without speaking to anyone. Throughout the course of the next season of Star Wars Rebels, Maul continues trying to lure Bridger as his apprentice, and he eventually finds out that Obi-Wan Kenobi lives. He deduces the location and hunts Kenobi down, facing off with him 17 years after their last encounter and 30 years after their initial encounter on Naboo. This time, Kenobi makes quick work of Maul, who dies in his adversary’s arms, comforted by the hope that the chosen one (whom Kenobi believes to be Luke Skywalker) will avenge them.
Fitting in to Solo
So to sum up the timeline succinctly, The Phantom Menace takes place in 32BBY, after which point Maul went into exile on Lotho Minor until discovered by Savage Opress in 20BBY. Together they formed the powerful Shadow Collective, with Maul as its leader, and he controlled much of the criminal underworld and Mandalore. He eventually lost all that, and led his forces in the Siege of Mandalore in 19BBY, at the very end of the Clone Wars. So from 19BBY to around 3BBY there’s a lot of gaps to fill in as to what Maul was doing, though we do know that he was on Malachor for at least a few years prior to 3BBY. So realistically, there’s at least a decade of gaps to be filled in. Solo takes place right during that time period, around 9-10BBY. So it seems that Maul’s criminal influence didn’t dissipate with the collapse of the Shadow Collective, but rather he maintained those strong influences in the underworld. It’s actually quite natural given Maul’s arc in The Clone Wars that he would continue to exert his leadership and influence on criminal syndicates and be a crime boss of sorts for several years during the reign of the Empire.
It’s a deep-cut cameo that is sure to make fans excited but that, given the backstory, fits perfectly naturally and isn’t forced. Major props to Lawrence Kasdan and Jon Kasdan (the latter of whom is likely mainly responsible for many of the deep-cut references) for the inclusion of Maul as such. It also leaves plenty of room for interesting storytelling down the road, even in a Solo sequel, as to Maul’s days as a crime boss during the Empire’s reign. He was a really cool character in The Phantom Menace, but The Clone Wars and Rebels (and now Solo) have added much more depth to his character. It’s nice to see this one example of many of this really connected universe.