Warning: Spoilers follow for Solo: A Star Wars Story. Jump into hyperspace and away from this page if you haven't seen the movie yet.
Solo: A Star Wars Story might have been about a young Han Solo, and Donald Glover's Lando Calrissian claimed some of the spotlight, as did L3-37's sass and spunk...but the appearance of a surprising villain made me momentarily forget about anything else in the film. When Qi'ra got in contact with the head of criminal organization Crimson Dawn, she called Darth Maul. Yes, he's still alive. And yes, it makes total sense for him to be entangled with the Star Wars universe's underworld at this point in the timeline.
How is Maul alive?
If you haven't watched the Star Wars animated series, you last saw Darth Maul tumbling down a power generator shaft in The Phantom Menace after Obi-Wan Kenobi cut off his legs. But he didn't die. Star Wars: The Clone Wars revealed he survived the fall and made his home in a landfill on Lotho Minor. He was found there by his brother Savage Opress and taken to his mother, the Nightsister witch, Mother Talzin, who used her dark magicks to create cyborg legs for Maul.
What's he been doing since The Phantom Menace?
After Maul came back to the universe, he was primarily focused on exacting revenge upon Obi-Wan for almost killing him and for taking away his future as a Sith Lord. Maul blames Obi-Wan, and by extension any Jedi, for everything that went wrong in his life. He was also bitter towards Darth Sidious and Count Dooku because he felt abandoned and pushed aside.
To bring about the fall of Obi-Wan and the two Sith Lords, Maul built the Shadow Collective. He constructed the group, comprised of the worst of the worst criminal organizations (Death Watch, Pyke Syndicate, Black Sun, and the Hutt Clan), in order to have an army of sorts under his command. Maul intended the Shadow Collective to be a third party in the Clone Wars, fighting against the Separatists and the Republic. With this group at his back, he successfully led a short-lived takeover of Mandalore.
How is he connected to Crimson Dawn?
Crimson Dawn seems to be a relatively new crime syndicate. My guess is after Maul's Shadow Collective failed and he fell out of favor with all those groups, he either plotted a takeover of an underworld group in its infancy or founded Crimson Dawn. He knows the world. He has the contacts. It's a natural progression in his "career."
Where is all of this on the timeline?
Maul returns (and gets legs!) about 12 years after The Phantom Menace and about 10 years before Solo.
Maul first builds the Shadow Collective about nine years before Solo. Darth Sidious destroys the Collective at about the same time. It was short-lived. Maul returned to Mandalore with the forces he had left, but he didn't stay long because the Republic laid siege to the planet (the Siege of Mandalore). Maul escaped. His whereabouts and activities from this point to Solo (still about nine years) are unknown, but he eventually returned to Dathomir.
What's the deal with Dathomir?
Maul was born on Dathomir and Darth Sidious saw potential in Maul when the Zabrak was a boy (Sidious was working with Mother Talzin at the time) and took him to train him as his apprentice. Maul has returned to Dathomir repeatedly. Besides being his homeworld, it's a place of deep and mysterious magic.
What happens to Maul after Solo?
We don't see Maul again until about eight years later when he appears in Star Wars Rebels. Then, he's on Malachor. He was looking for an ancient weapon in the Sith Temple on Malachor, but his ship crashed onto the planet, leaving him alone for an unspecified amount of time.
If you want to go all in and read and watch every part of Darth Maul's arc, check out this guide.
Amy Ratcliffe is the Managing Editor for Nerdist. She likes Star Wars a little. Follow her on Twitter.
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