With reports swirling about an Obi-Wan Kenobi series coming to Disney+, there has been a lot of talk about how this is a time to perhaps bring Maul back to live-action.
While that would certainly be cool to see, I simply don’t think it fits within the established canon story so far. But I’ll explain that in another post at a later date. What I want to get into here is a breakdown of the final fight between the two of them – one that many people probably don’t even know happened.
In Star Wars Rebels, Maul tracked Kenobi to Tatooine, and the two faced off one last time. Some people at the time were disappointed by how short the fight was, but I actually think it was so perfect, so packed with meaning, and so representative of their characters.
Actually, part of why I don’t want Maul in the live-action Kenobi series is because I love this fight so much that I don’t think it’s needed. So let’s dive in, breaking down what makes the fight carry so much subtle significance.
As Maul taunts Obi-Wan for what his life has become, “a rat in the desert”, he comes to realize that such a great Jedi surely wouldn’t just hide out on a planet for no reason. So, Maul concludes, Kenobi must be protecting something. To this point in the discussion, though Maul has ignited his lightsaber, Kenobi has done nothing. He clearly has no intention of fighting unless he has to. But then, Maul takes it a step too far: “No,” he slowly realizes, “protecting someone.” It is only after this statement that Kenobi ignites his lightsaber, ready to face his adversary. In other words, Kenobi is still looking to avoid a fight until Maul threatens the Jedi’s true mission of looking over Luke Skywalker. That’s what spurs Obi-Wan into motion.
First, he begins with his traditional lightsaber pose that we see him make at various times, including in the prequels and The Clone Wars animated series. This is classic Obi-Wan Kenobi. He’s readying for combat.
Next, he transitions into a defensive position. Kenobi’s preferred lightsaber style was inherently defensive, and he perfected it. Here we see him using it in A New Hope as he faces Vader, but he also does similar at times in the prequels. Kenobi is again acting as he normally would in a lightsaber duel, and he’s preparing to defend the attacks of an obviously more aggressive foe in Maul.
But then something very interesting happens: he transitions to a different form. He actually mimics the form of his master, Qui-Gon Jinn. You can notice in the image below to the left that Kenobi holds the lightsaber out in front of him in the more defensive position, while Jinn holds his lightsaber to his side. Against Maul in Rebels, Kenobi makes the surprise yet calculated move to transition to his master’s method.
Like master, like apprentice. Kenobi is intentionally switching from his typical lightsaber form to Qui-Gon’s. He’s counting on Maul to notice.
And he does. In a very subtle moment, once we see Kenobi transition to Jinn’s form, we see Maul ever so slightly react, re-gripping the saber, a look of resolve on his face, and positioning his feet readying for attack. Maul noticed. And he’s about to go for the kill.
As Maul lunges at Kenobi, the wise Jedi Master successfully parries the first few blows. But then Maul tries an old and predictable tactic – indeed, he actually tries the same move he used to kill Qui-Gon so many years earlier: he thrusts the hilt of his lightsaber up at Kenobi’s chin. When he used this on Naboo against Qui-Gon, he staggered the Jedi for just a moment, which was long enough to strike him down. Here, against Kenobi, he tries the same move. You can see the same effort to thrust the hilt of the saber at the Jedi’s chin, but it is received quite differently.
That’s because Obi-Wan Kenobi had baited Maul into using the move, and when the former Sith did, Kenobi was ready for it. By transitioning to Qui-Gon Jinn’s form, Kenobi was counting on Maul noticing and trying a predictable attack method. That’s exactly what happened, and so instead of being caught off guard by this move, Obi-Wan used it to his advantage by slicing through the hilt and Maul’s chest, fatally wounding his foe.
It’s a very short fight, but it’s for such a good reason. Dave Filoni understands that some lightsaber fights will be long – the one coming in the seventh season of The Clone Wars between Maul and Ahsoka will be like that, for instance. But Filoni was influenced by the old samurai films and realized that not all lightsaber fights would be marathons (and logically, he’s right). And in this one, it just goes to show in such a wonderful way how far the two of them have come – or haven’t come.
As Maul collapses into Kenobi’s arms, dying, he asks: “Tell me. Is it the chosen one?” Obi-Wan responds, “He is”, to which Maul says, “He will avenge us.” Much was made of Kenobi’s statement at the time, because he’s admitting that Luke is the chosen one. But actually all he’s doing is being consistent with his viewpoint at this point in the saga: he has given up hope for Anakin Skywalker and assumes that Luke is actually the one the prophesy referred to. It’s hard to blame him for this. But that doesn’t mean Anakin wasn’t the chosen one, just that at this point Kenobi has lost hope that he actually is.
More important to this scene, however, is Maul’s statement. Maul has figured out who Kenobi is protecting – which I believe is part of why Obi-Wan was so quick to deal a fatal blow to Maul – and believes that the chosen one will avenge them. Maul groups both he and Obi-Wan into the same category, of one needing avenging, and in a sense it’s true. Maul was disowned by the Sith and by his master, and he had to find a new life full of hardship in the galaxy. Kenobi’s Jedi failed him and the galaxy rebelled, and he had to find a new life full of hardship in the galaxy. They both were in a similar situation externally, but not internally. For while Kenobi had moved on to a new hope and was still a beacon of light, Maul was still consumed by rage. Even his final words were one seeking vengeance. Maul’s story is a tragedy, explored in-depth in The Clone Wars and then in Rebels as well, but the most tragic part was he hadn’t grown beyond rage.
Maul died in Kenobi’s arms that night, and Obi-Wan at some point buried the former Sith and erected a funeral pyre for him, as we’re told in From a Certain Point of View. And as “Twin Suns” ends, we see Kenobi ride a dewback to within earshot of the Lars homestead, hearing Aunt Beru calling for Luke, and a silhouetted boy running against the backdrop of the Tatooine suns – all with Kenobi watching solemnly over him. Kenobi hadn’t just become “a rat in the desert” – he had a mission that was vital to the life of the Jedi and the galaxy. He had peace and purpose.