First things first, if you have never watched Star Wars: The Clone Wars, do not read a lot of Star Wars comics, or have not followed news about The Force Awakens, then this post contains some spoilers. Read on at your own risk.
Second, I am going to come right out and say that in this post I am pushing some of the limits. I know that some of you will push back against what I say, and I am perfectly fine with that. Do it! Just be nice about it when you do.
Alright, let’s begin…
Watching as his pleading son is electrocuted by Darth Sidious, Darth Vader chooses to intervene on his son’s behalf. Vader, or rather, the redeemed Anakin Skywalker, lifts Sidious and plunges him into the bowels of the Death Star. Keeping in line with Sith philosophy dating back to the ancient Sith Darth Bane, by killing Sidious it is then Vader/Skywalker’s right to assume the role of Sith Master and take an apprentice of his own.
HOWEVER, the redeemed Anakin Skywalker, having shed himself of his Sith title, does not take up the mantle of Master. While Vader was interested in taking Luke as an apprentice, Anakin Skywalker has no intentions of doing so since he has shed himself of his Dark title and returned to the Light Side. With Sidious dead, and Vader no longer a Sith, the Order came to a sudden and dramatic end.
Or did it?
“There has been an awakening, have you felt it…?”
A dark robed figure walking through a wintry, wooded area suddenly stops and ignites a crackling red lightsaber, two shorter blades extending to form a cross guard. When the first teaser trailer for The Force Awakens landed, speculation immediately began about whether this mysterious individual, this Kylo Ren, was a Sith.
Questioning whether this figure was a Sith was natural. At the end of Return of the Jedi, Luke Skywalker is the last Jedi. If Luke went on to rebuild the Jedi Order in the days, months, and years following the Battle of Endor, perhaps another figure had decided to rebuild the Sith Order as well. Besides, it would make sense that if the Jedi were restored that their ancient and mortal enemies would be as well, right?
But just recently, J.J. Abrams, director and co-writer of The Force Awakens, dropped two important nuggets about Kylo Ren. Just as “Darth” is a shortened form for “Dark Lord of the Sith,” Kylo Ren, as Abrams pointed out in an article in Entertainment Weekly, belongs to a group called the Knights of Ren. Presumably, “Ren” is a title.
Secondly, Abrams also confirmed in an article in Empire magazine that Kylo Ren is NOT a Sith, though he does work for First Order Supreme Leader Snoke. Snoke, as Abrams notes, is a powerful Dark Side user but there is no indication that he is a Sith. Maybe he is, maybe he isn’t. If I was a betting man, I would put my money on the latter.
Alright, brief recap before continuing:
Anakin Skywalker killed Darth Sidious but did not continue the Sith line. Kylo Ren is a user of the Dark Side who works for another powerful user of the Dark Side. But Kylo Ren IS NOT a Sith, and he is a member of a group called the Knights of Ren, so we can probably bet that there are a handful of other “Ren-ites” out there.
Having arrived at this point my question is this: who exactly can we say is the LAST Sith in the line that extends back to Darth Bane? Remember, it is Darth Bane, the ancient Sith Lord who, after surviving the destruction of the Sith millennia ago, re-created the Sith in a new image. You can think of him sort of as the hinge that connects all who came before him and those who came after him. And so, given all that we know, WHO is the Last Sith Lord?
Well, logic dictates that it be either Darth Vader or Darth Sidious. As the Master-Apprentice duo at the end of Return of the Jedi, one should get the technical distinction of being the absolute final Sith Lord. Wellllll, this is the point where you all start groaning at me so let’s just get it over with…
The last Sith is not Darth Vader OR Darth Sidious. The last Sith Lord is Darth Maul.
I know, I KNOW, I’m as surprised as all of you! I never saw that coming either!
Well, okay, I did see it coming, but whatever. Honestly, my rationale behind this is pretty simple: at the end of the Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir comic series, Darth Maul is still alive. With the help of a few Mandalorian commandos, Maul escapes from the grasp of Darth Sidious, Darth Tyrannus, and General Grievous.
Like I said, it is all pretty simple. As it stands right now, at this very moment, Darth Maul is still hanging around the galaxy far, far away. And the thing is, we can’t just presume he died before the events of Return of the Jedi. Maybe he did, but, then again, we all THOUGHT he had died once before because we actually saw him get cleaved in half. From May 19, 1999-January 21, 2011 Darth Maul WAS dead. But then, when The Clone Wars Season 3 episode “Witches of the Mist” aired, we all learned that HE WAS STILL ALIVE!!!
Bringing Darth Maul back into the fold not only forever altered the way we watch The Phantom Menace, but also how we are to think about Darth Maul. No longer was he the quiet but vicious junior Sith Lord who killed Qui-Gon Jinn then was subsequently killed by Obi-Wan Kenobi. Oh no, this menacing Zabrak is VERY STRONG in the Dark Side of the Force, so strong that he relied on the Dark Side to stay alive even though he was cut in half. Cut. IN. HAAAALF. Yeah, there is no way I am going to sit here and pretend Darth Maul just happened to grow old and die. At this point, if you want to convince me that Darth Maul is really, REALLY dead, then he better be ripped apart atom-by-atom.
But Darth Maul still being alive is only half of the issue. On the flip side, we also need to ask a pretty obvious question: since Sidious took on a new apprentice, is Darth Maul technically still a Sith Lord?
Once a Sith, Always a Sith?
In The Clone Wars Season 5 episode entitled “The Lawless,” Darth Sidious senses a tremor in the Force and goes to the planet Mandalore to confront Darth Maul and his brother/apprentice Savage Oppress. Interestingly, it is not until Sidious senses this tremor that he recognizes Maul has become a threat, although he was made aware of Maul’s existence in an earlier episode. When the two encounter each other, Sidious states that he is impressed that Maul survived his injuries. However, only a moment later, Sidious calls Maul out as a rival. This is, of course, true — in a previous episode, Maul declares that he and Oppress are Sith, the “true Lords of the Sith.”
Now, this is where things get complicated. See, in “The Lawless,” Sidious will ALSO remind Maul (after Sidious kills Oppress) of “the first and only reality of the Sith: there can only be two. And you are no longer my apprentice. You have been replaced!” Well, this is quite true, Maul WAS replaced… but then again, Maul was also not dead.
And that right there is the key – since Maul did not die in The Phantom Menace, neither did his title as Dark Lord of the Sith. Sure, Sidious replaced Maul with Tyrannus, but he did so under the assumption that Maul was dead. As the Sith Master, Sidious should have been more careful, but he wasn’t. Instead, Sidious moved forward with his plans while Maul survived, albeit mentally and physically scarred, on the junk world of Lotho Minor.
But not confirming Darth Maul was dead was Sidious’ first mistake, but not his last.
Although Darth Sidious defeats Maul in lightsaber combat in “The Lawless,” he does not kill him. Instead, in an elaborate ploy (one that plays out in the Son of Dathomir comics), Sidious uses Maul as bait to draw out and destroy Mother Talzin, the powerful Nightsister. With assistance from Darth Tyrannus and General Grievous, Sidious will succeed in destroying Talzin, However, as I already noted, at the end of the four-part comic series Maul is able to survive. While Sidious exclaims at the very end that “Maul’s future has been erased” this does not mean Darth Maul has been erased. This is the second mistake Sidious makes, believing Maul is no longer a threat and choosing to let Maul flee instead of doing the obvious – just killing him.
A Final Thought
I really have no doubt that the people at Lucasfilm have a plan for Darth Maul. The fact that he does escape with his life is reason enough to think that this mysterious and vicious Sith Lord will receive further treatment at some point down the line. In fact, given that actor Ray Park has said he would love to reprise the role, I really hope we end up seeing a live-action Maul once again.
Of course, when Darth Maul does decide to reappear, I hope his reemergence is handled with care. I do not want him to be brought back just so he can “officially” be killed off. No, at this point Maul deserves to much respect for a cheap, quick death. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with Darth Maul eventually dying, I just want it to be done in a way that does him justice. And while his story may very well come to a close before the events of Return of the Jedi, I am not going to sit here and just pretend it does.
So, for right now, I am going to hold on to the idea that Darth Maul is the last Sith Lord.
Update: Sadly, Darth Maul is not the last Sith Lord. In the Season 3 episode of Star Wars Rebels titled “Twin Suns” Maul meets his end at the end of Obi-Wan Kenobi’s blue blade on the planet Tatooine.