When Darth Maul returns to Star Wars Rebels tonight for the mid-season finale, he's at a turning point in his journey. The former Sith Lord, "Once Darth, now just Maul" has been suffering for decades, ever since Obi-Wan Kenobi cut him in half and he was left for dead. He was abandoned by his master, and driven to madness. He rose, only to fall again, and now he's in his fifties, older, smarter, wiser - and maybe a little more desperate.
"He's nearing 50. If he's not smarter and wiser, then boy, he really hasn't been doing anything. He's been screwing up," actor Sam Witwer, who portrays Maul on Rebels and before on Star Wars: The Clone Wars, told Comicbook.com. "He's smarther than perhaps anyone knew. Darth Maul is a smart guy, he was trained quite well by Sidious with the intellectual threat rather than just the physical threat; going forward from there to meet Darth Maul later, he had to be even smarter than that because just the fact that he survives that 16 years with the Empire coming to power, he had to be even more careful than he was before."
The character, Witwer said, is interesting as one of "the last classically trained Force users out there." Aside from Ahsoka, Darth Sidious, Darth Vader, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Yoda, there really aren't any others in the galaxy - and three of those characters are off the proverbial board at the moment. Kanan was trained at first, but didn't truly reach the ranks of Knight or Master as a Jedi, and has had to retrain as a blind Jedi; and he's teaching Ezra, who started very late in life.
"Maul is actually a real threat, but at the same time, you've got Darth Vader, you have The Emperor, you have the resorces of the Empire. Darth Maul is in dire straits," said the actor.
Still, he successfully operated in the shadows for 15, 16 years before being rediscovered, and coming to cross paths with Ezra. His motivations are "way more complex than they were in Clone Wars," he teased. "This time I really do believe that there are some motivations that I think Jedi would identify with a little bit more. I think that there's a lot more going on with him. I think that the emotional range of this character has widened and deepened, and if there were ever a chance of this guy figuring out what's wrong with himself it's now."
That was best reflected during his last appearance, when Darth Maul and padawan Ezra Bridger joined together a Jedi and Sith holocron, each seeking something. Ezra said he was looking for a way to destroy the Sith, while Maul said he was seeking one thing: hope.
"Isn't that interesting that Ezra is seeking something that is honestly more of a Sith motivation. Maul is showing his more Jedi motivation. Jedi are all about hope. Jedi are about living a life that is worth remembering after you're dead, right?" Witwer posited. "With Darth Maul, he definitely has a sense that there's something he's been missing all these years, and really what it comes down to is this is a guy who was broken. We've all gone through periods in our lives where something or perhaps we feel someone has wronged us and maybe broken us in a certain way. It's something he's been wrestling with since The Phantom Menace, since he was cut in half.
"his notion of hope ... Maul is really trying to make sense of his life. He's trying to figure out "Where did it all go wrong? Why do I feel so broken?" He's maybe starting to ask the questions in different ways. Maul I think is asking some of the right questions. Ezra is maybe asking some of the wrong questions."
So, where is this journey taking them all?
"It's anyone's guess," Witwer said. "The Dark Side is the nightmarish merry-go-round of awfulness. When you're self-obsessed and all you can think about is yourself and gaining power, gaining influence, having this constant need for 'give me things, give me things, I feel a hole inside me so perhaps if I can fill that hole with material objects, if I can fill that hole with materialistic relationships with people, if I can fill that hole with all manner of distractions,' but that's the key. These are only distractions. These will never actually fill the hole that, say, Palpatine feels in his heart or Vader does or Maul. These are broken men who are trying to fill a black hole inside their own hearts and pull themselves together."
So who did Maul see and mean when he said "He's alive!" last time around? We'll find out soon, but the prevailing theory is of course Obi-Wan Kenobi, brining things full circle.
"Look, all I can say is that the guy ... There was a time in his life when things made sense. When there was a structure and there was an ambition and he knew what he was meant to be. Then something happened to him and nothing made sense after that, and nothing has made sense since. If you're Darth Maul, where are you going to try to solve your problems? Where is your focus? What are you thinking and how are you thinking it? I'm just going to say that," Witwer teased.
Witwer returns tonight as Darth Maul on Star Wars Rebels on Disney XD for the mid-season finale, with a big secret revealed and ties to the larger Star Wars universe in a must-watch episode.
More Star Wars News: Rogue One Debuts 3 New Clips | Regal Cinemas Reveals Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Concession Merch | Mark Hamill Thinks Star Wars Standalones Have An Advantage Over the Saga | Daisy Ridley Thinks Rey's Parents Were Revealed in The Force Awakens | Why Darth Vader's Costume Changed for Rogue One| How Rogue One Opens Without a Crawl | Spoiler-Free Review of First 30 Minutes of Rogue One