Warning - This Article contains MAJOR SPOILERS!!!
Solo: A Star Wars Story has a big cameo from Darth Maul, who is revealed to be the 'Phantom Menace' behind the Crimson Dawn crime syndicate that Beckett, Han Solo, and Chewbacca all end up working for. However, while hardcore Star Wars fans might've been somewhat surprised to see Maul pop up in Solo, those fans who only know Star Wars from the film franchise were downright bewildered to see the Sith enforcer back, after he was cut in half by Obi-Wan Kenobi.
If you were one of the viewers left scratching their heads trying to explain how Darth Maul made his return, read below for the breakdown of the cameo scene's connection to the Star Wars animated series Clone Wars and Rebels.
How Is Maul Alive?
The first question most people who only watch Star Wars movies will have is how is Darth Maul even alive in the pre-Rebellion days in which Solo takes place. The answer was revealed in the Clone Wars animated series. The end of season 4 (set between the events of Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith) saw Darth Maul's ruthless brother Savage Opress track down his long-lost brother, who it turns out had survived Kenobi's attack, and had been hiding on the junk planet Lotho Minor, physically crippled and mentally insane from his injuries.
Savage Opress took Maul home to Dathomir, where shaman leader of the Nightsisters, Mother Talzin, used her sorcery to restore Maul's mind, while technological enhancements were used to restore his broken body - including the cybernetic legs we see in the Solo cameo scene. Restored to his former infamy, Maul (no longer technically "Darth") found a new place for himself in the Clone Wars: allying with his brother to become the biggest crime syndicate in the galaxy.
Clone Wars Crimeboss
Clone Wars season 5 saw Maul and Savage Opress form the crime syndicate "Shadow Collective," forcing other smaller crime syndicates to unify (read submit or die) under Maul and Savage's leadership. Shadow Collective's most brazen act was seizing control of the planet Mandalore as their base of operations by allying with Mandalorian separatist group Death Watch, while also forming alliances with major crime syndicates like the Hutts and Black Sun.
Things look good for Maul and Savage, until their success brings down a threat that they never expected - and were ill-equipped to handle. Maul's ability to spread fear and death as a crimelord strengthened his connection to the dark side; eventually that power grew strong enough for Darth Sidious (aka Chancellor Palpatine) himself to sense it, and while the Galactic Senate was distracted, Palpatine headed for Mandalore in his Darth Sidious guise, for a Sith showdown. Sidious proved more powerful than his challengers, killing Savage Opress and capturing Maul to use him as bait to draw Mother Talzin out. During the Marvel comics miniseries Star Wars: Darth Maul - Son of Dathomir, Maul managed to escape Sidious' imprisonment with the help of Death Watch, and fled back to Mandalore. However, he was unable to regain control of his empire before being overthrown during an assault by Ahsoka Tano and General Grievous' army. So ended Maul's time as a crimeboss... or so we thought.
Maul's cameo appearance in Solo overlaps with the details about his post-Clone Wars life, which was explored several times in the Star Wars Rebels animated series. What Solo reveals is that during the days after the Republic fell and the Jedi were wiped out by Order 66, Maul managed to crawl back to the top of a criminal empire, by becoming the shadowy leader of Crimson Dawn. In the Solo cameo, Maul instructs Qi'ra (Emilia Clarke) to come to him on Dathomir, where he's apparently been in hiding since fleeing Mandalore. He's also forged the new double-bladed lightsaber that we see him in possession of in both Solo and Rebels. And, thanks to the latter, we know that Maul doesn't stay hiding on Dathomir forever.4comments
There's still an unknown span of time between when Solo is set (in the years just after the fall of the Republic) and when mall appears in Star Wars Rebels. Whatever happened in that time, we know Maul ends up stranded on the planet Malachor, where he went to investigate an ancient Sith Temple and discover the secret of a weapon that could help him defeat Darth Sidious and Darth Vader. That plan fails thanks to (quasi-)Jedi rebels Kanan Jarrus and Ezra Bridger - but Maul is finds a new prospective weapon to use against the Empire: Ezra, whose Force powers show powerful dark side potential. In pursuing Ezra and trying to convert him to the dark side, Maul learns that Obi-Wan Kenobi, his biggest nemesis, is still alive. Lost in his rage and obsession, Maul tracks Obi-Wan to Tattooine, and challenges him to a final showdown. With his own powers having increased so much, Obi-Wan cuts down Maul, and helps him find peace in the knowledge that Luke Skywalker, the chosen one, will eventually bring him the revenge against the Sith that he wanted so badly.
In the end, even though Rebels delivers the end of Maul's story, there's still room for a Solo sequel or other Star Wars projects to give us the details of Crimson Dawn's rise and fall.
Solo: A Star Wars Story is now in theaters; Star Wars: Episode IX arrives on December 20, 2019. Obi-Wan: A Star Wars Story is also in development, along with a new Star Wars trilogy from Last Jedi director Rian Johnson, and a spinoff series from Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss.