Star Wars Rebels’ latest episode served as a culmination of a rivalry over a decade in the making, beginning with the original prequel film The Phantom Menace in 1999, and stretching all the way through the Clone Wars cartoon, until it finally reached an end this last weekend.
When Darth Maul tracked Obi-Wan Kenobi to the desert planet Tatooine, guided by a prophecy of ‘Twin Suns,’ the moment served as an epic and fitting end to their bitter story. And it was over within the blink of an eye.
Star Wars Rebels executive producer Dave Filoni spoke about their climactic battle and their somber final moments and what it meant for both characters, the Rebels series, and the Star Wars mythos at large.
While speaking to io9, Filoni said he and the entire creative team deliberated over whether the battle would be a long, drawn out affair that many lightsaber duels tend to be, and why they decided to go the route that they did.
“The instinct would be, and probably, I admit, the expectation, is for some kind of prolonged lightsaber battle,” Filoni said. “But I’ve done a lot of prolonged lightsaber battles over the years and I think what’s most important about any kind of confrontation is what’s riding on it. What’s the tension going into it? It starts to matter less and less how you swing a sword or how creatively you do it if there’s not a lot riding on it.”
What Filoni felt was most important—so important that he storyboarded the entirety of this pivotal episode himself—was the character development and interaction between Maul and Kenobi and this stage in their respective lives.
“I felt strongly Obi-Wan, if he could help it, would really rather not kill Darth Maul. Obi-Wan is at a point, in my mind, where he’s become rather enlightened. He’s been in the desert discovering who he is, really evolving as a character. He’s not that young brash kid that went into a fight with Maul out of anger for the fact his master was killed. It can’t be that same situation this is so many years later. Maul, for his part, is pretty much hung up on that exact moment. That’s where his life went wrong. He can’t let it go.”
In the moment, this highly contentious and deeply personal conflict became greater than these two individuals, and was representative of the greater struggle that pervades the Star Wars Universe.
“It really is to express the difference between the Jedi and the Sith. Which is the Jedi become selfless and the Sith remain selfish,” Filoni said. “When pressed, because Obi-Wan is protecting someone else in the end, he does fight. But because he is so true and knows who he is in that moment, you can’t defeat that.”
Maul initiated the battle in his pursuit of Obi-Wan and then lunging at him in vicious strikes. Two strikes, to be precise; two strikes, and two parries from Obi-Wan before the Jedi Master fatally brought his foe down with a single blow.
“So Obi-Wan is going to strike down Maul because Maul is such a broken and lost person, which I think is why in the end you see Maul being cradled by Obi-Wan,” Filoni said. “This idea is that Obi-Wan is willing to forgive this person who is so cruel and terrible because he feels pity for him. To his dying breath Maul is hoping there will be some revenge exacted upon his enemies. And in my mind, Obi-Wan expresses sadness there because that means that Maul has never grown and will never be released from his suffering. So I felt that moment had to be beyond a lightsaber fight and had to be more an expression of their characters.”
It was one of, if not the most, epic moments in Star Wars Rebels history, followed up perfectly with a fitting epilogue that further defines Obi-Wan’s purpose.
The show caps off Season 3 with next week’s two-part finale, titled Zero Hour.
Star Wars Rebels airs Saturdays at 8:30 p.m. ET/PT on Disney XD, and follows the adventures of Hera (Vanessa Marshall), Sabine (Tiya Sircar), Zeb (Steve Blum), and the Jedi Kanan (Freddie Prinze, Jr.) and Ezra (Taylor Gray), a small crew that's finding their way in the nascent Rebel Alliance a few years before the events of Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope.
Executive produced by Simon Kinberg and Dave Filoni, the in-canon series helps to connect the worlds of the films and the previous animated series, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, with guest appearances so far by characters like Lando Calrissian, Ahsoka Tano, Darth Vader, Darth Maul, Leia Organa, Wedge Antilles, and more.