I have always held the opinion that Darth Maul should have survived his confrontation with Obi-Wan in The Phantom Menace, and that his story-arc should have reached its finale in Episode III. Disregarding entirely that Darth Maul DOES survive, that he was resurrected from the dead in The Clone Wars animated series and has since made appearances in a number of post-Prequel stories, my belief that Maul should have been a menacing presence in every Prequel film is built upon a rather simple premise. In short, Anakin/Darth Vader should have been the one to kill Darth Maul.
Allow me to paint you a picture with my imagination brush. Darth Maul is still alive and in Revenge of the Sith, and takes full-command of the Separatist cause after the death of Count Dooku and General Grievous. Safeguarding the leaders of the Confederacy on Mustafar, a small Jedi fighter arrives on the volcanic world and Maul goes out to meet this foe. The Sith Lord instantly recognizes the individual: it is the Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker. We know the truth – Anakin Skywalker is no more, the man before Maul is the newly minted Sith named Vader and he has been ordered by Darth Sidious, his new Master, to kill the Separatist leaders as well as Maul. It is a test for Vader: kill your rival and take his place, or perish. Vader is up for the challenge.
Darth Maul leaps into action, his double-bladed saber viciously slashing and hacking at Vader. Deflecting the violent blows with his blue lightsaber, Vader is at first caught off-guard by the rage-filled attack. Gathering himself, anger swelling within him, the new Sith Lord goes on the offensive. Now Darth Maul staggers backwards. He has fought and killed Jedi before – Padawans, Knights, and Masters – but Maul has grown complacent throughout the Clone War. He has been such a menacing presence to Jedi that he has left his flank unguarded against a Dark Side for. Darth Sidious knew this, could see that Darth Maul was in need of a true challenger. If he survives this fight, if he kills Vader, then Maul will be a newly sharpened weapon which Sidious can use.
The battle of blades comes to a momentary pause, Maul and Vader alike unable to land a killing stroke. Starring each other down, it is Maul who speaks first:
“I sense the darkness within you, Jedi. Tell me, has my Master chosen you to test me?”
“I am no Jedi…” Vader responds with scorn “…and he is my Master now.”
Amused and laughing, Maul replies with obvious derision: “You are naïve, young Jedi, if you believe you will replace me.”
Turning his back to Vader, Maul pauses to looks out at the hellish landscape before he speaks again.
“Do you remember what I did to your first Master? To that fool Qui-Gon Jinn?”
Anger obviously swelling within Vader, rage contorting his face, Maul confidently continues his mocking tone:
“I should have slaughtered him sooner…on Tatooine. I should have slaughtered him…and his Padawan…and you, Ani. And then…”
Reigniting his blue blade, the rage within Vader ready to spill out, Maul speaks one last time:
“….and then I should have slaughtered Amidala.”
Both hands on the hilt of his saber, Vader launches into a vicious assault and Maul greets it head-on. The clash is unlike the choreographed acrobatics of their fight from moments before. There is no twisting of bodies or twirling of sabers. Now, their battle is purely driven by a desire to destroy the other, their blades being used not as elegant weapons but as bludgeons. Hacking and chopping, deflecting and countering, the two raged-infested Sith give no ground, take no footsteps backward. They are locked in a stalemate, unwilling to give an inch, frozen in a battle of wills against the backdrop of a volcanic, smoked-filled landscape.
Frozen, that is, until Vader finally lands a blow, slicing downward across Maul’s face and chest. Staggering backwards, scars glowing from the heat of Vader’s saber, the demonic-looking Zabrak attemps to recover but Vader moves in. Sidestepping and moving past Maul’s desperate strike, Vader reverses the direction of his saber and drives it upwards into Maul’s back, the tip coming out of the Dark Lord’s chest. Lingering for a moment, Vader yanks the blade from his foe, allowing Maul – agony and the recognition of death on his face – to sink to his knees. Turning as his blade is extinguished, Vader kneels behind Darth Maul, leans in, and softly speaks:
“You have been replaced.”
Rising, Darth Vader walks around the dying Sith Lord and, we can assume, towards the facility beyond, on his way to kill the Separatist leaders within. But the camera lingers on Maul – the landscape of Mustafar behind him – and we watch as the Sith Lord slumps forward and dies.
Killing the Devil, Replacing the Devil
There is obvious religious symbolism in Star Wars and perhaps one of the most obvious forms of symbolism is in the form of Mustafar. Essentially, Mustafar is meant to symbolize Hell. When Vader travels to the volcanic world in Revenge of the Sith, he is descending to Hell, a descent which visually captures his internal descent into darkness. While his conversion to the Sith Order took place in the ecumenopolis of Coruscant, he is baptized in this Mustafarian Hell, transformed by eternal fire and subsequently reborn in his iconic suit of armor. And yet, I have always felt one element was missing on Mustafar: the Devil.
There is obvious religious symbolism in Star Wars and perhaps one of the OTHER obvious forms of symbolism is Darth Maul. Darth Maul looks the way he does – horned head, red and black face, intense yellow-eyes, black robe – because he is a visual representation of evil. He looks like the Devil because he IS the Devil. And, as such, I have always believed Vader should have descended into Hell with the distinct intention of killing the Devil. While his massacre of the Separatist leaders is violent and shows that he is continuing down his dark path, the added layer of Vader killing the Devil in the Devil’s own lair would have added incredible weight to Anakin Skywalker’s descent into Darkness.
But this added weight is not solely based on Vader’s killing a character serving as an archetype and personification of evil. Killing the Devil is certainly profound in and of itself but Vader would have also been replacing the Devil, becoming the new archetype and personification of evil. It would not have been out of goodness of heart, or a willingness to safeguard the galaxy, that he traveled into Hell to vanquish the Devil. No, he would have killed the Devil precisely because he wanted to become the Devil. Only by descending into the darkness could he make his ascension, earning his title, position, and power as Dark Lord (of the Sith) by violently ripping it away from his adversary.
That is, after all, the nature of the Sith and the Dark Side of the Force.
Darth Sidious steps out of the shuttle, surveying the Mustafarian landscape. He can sense Darth Vader, feel the pain and agony bleeding off of the badly injured Sith. As he moves down towards the end of the large landing platform, he passes the Jedi Starfighter which Vader had taken tot he world, and the body of Maul comes into view beyond it. Sidious walks up to the body, pauses, and looks down. Reaching out with his right hand, he uses the Force to call the double-bladed saber to him. Now in his hand, he crushes it, the broken pieces falling onto the broken body of Maul. Opening his hand and a red crystal sits on his palm. Laughing to himself, Sidious closes his fist and moves on to find his new Apprentice.
Later, after Darth Vader has recovered, and is entombed in his suit, Sidious will hand him the crystal and give him a single order: “Construct a new lightsaber.”
Ahhh! Darth Maul is so creepy looking. Anyway, I think your analysis make a lot of sense. Darth Maul does seem like the perfect embodiment of the devil to me and it’s fitting that Anakin/Vader should land on hell during (right after?) his transformation. My only reservation is that Vader is redeemed, and Christianity typically deems the devil as beyond redemption. I see Maul, for instance, as beyond redemption. I don’t know his back story, however; did he fall, or has he always been somehow “innately” evil, if such a condition exists? Perhaps that question is beside the point, especially since the devil himself is famous for his “fall.” In that way, maybe Vader is MORE like Lucifer than Darth Maul is. Anyway, great story – loved the mixture of fiction and analysis!
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It is fascinating that you bring up questions about the devils redemption, particularly in relation to Maul. As it currently stands, his story-arc ends with a quasi-redemption when he confronts and is killed by Kenobi on Tatooine. It is hard to say if he is fully “redeemed” but he is grateful in that moment to know that the chosen one has been found and will avenge Maul in death. It is a rather curious finale for a character so embroiled in darkness.
But, Maul is also not innately evil, at least not from what I understand. His story is that he was taken by Sidious from his mother (the Dathomiri witch Mother Talzin). In turn, he was conditioned by Sidious to be the vicious Sith Lord he grew into. It is all very nature vs. nurture-esque (we even see baby Maul in one comic series being handed over to Sidious).
What I will say, though, is that Maul’s story has taken so many twists and turns it is hard to unpack it at this point. In presenting him the way I do here, I am also fully aware that much of what I present simply does not line up with who he is now. My thought that Vader would kill the Devil is predicated entirely on the idea that Maul would have embodied the archetype of the Devil in the entire Prequel Trilogy. Buuuuuut his story “ends” in The Phantom Menace and does not pick up again until YEARS later in universe and out of universe (with the exception of some stories that were written detailing his backstory prior to The Phantom Menace, stories that are no longer canon…ugh).
Had his story played out actually garnered development in Episodes II and III, then perhaps he would have not just been a visual representation of the Devil but he would have been given personality traits and characteristics that would have also strengthened his Devilishness. Instead, he got cut in half and came back in The Clone Wars as a mechanical spider…le sigh.
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Very interesting. Since I’ve only seen the movies, I didn’t know about Maul’s backstory, and I didn’t know he was raised to be a Sith. I’m always interested in how so-called evil came to be what it is, so I find that story particularly intriguing. I am interested, as I may have said before, in “the fall,” – a reason why I’m so drawn to the prequels even though a lot of people don’t like them. The steps behind Anakin’s fall intrigue me.
I don’t know how much I would want Maul to be developed in the prequels. He’s creepy, to be sure, but not the most salient part of those movies for me. I guess he shows, in any case, along with Vader (taking into account their back stories and redemptions) that there’s not much space in Lucas mythology for some abstract notion of “innate” or irrevocable evil, even though both of them have devilish qualities and Maul is meant to exist in a place that replicates hell. That creates an interesting area of investigation, I think – falls and redemptions in Star Wars and what evil means in Star Wars; unlike “good,” evil seems like a state that is transient, ephemeral, flimsy, to Lucas and perhaps other writers in the canon.
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I am completely with you on “the fall” being an intensely fascinating area of exploration. In grad school, I wrote a paper about Anakin that look at his fall through the lens of guilt and shame, a spiral into darkness that was built upon a foundation of those two psychological concepts. I would be happy to share it with you if interested. Of course, there is a lot in the paper I was unable to cover, and I acknowledge that my approach in that paper was not and is not the only approach to “the fall” which Anakin experiences.
In terms of Maul, I don’t think he would have needed a lot of development to continue to hammer home specific devil-like characteristics. In fact, I think by virtue of him being in the other Prequel films he would have continued to be “devilesque” without much development. His presence alone would have been enough.
I think, in regards to the topic of “innate” or irrevocable evil that characters like Sidious (and now Snoke) are meant to hold those places. I don’t think there is anyone who would see “the good” within Sidious. Because he is the Sith Master, no one goes out of their way to articulate any thought that he has the capacity for redemption…which also means he is a character with only one narrative outcome in the end: death. I have a fascinating article I can scan and send your way from a magazine (it is from 1999, in fact, the year The Phantom Menace came out) that explores how Maul looks like the Devil, but it is Sidious who ACTS like the Devil in the film. It is a good piece and will try to find it buried in my closet. But I digress…what do you think about Sidious being innately and irrevocably evil?
On another point, I would argue that Tarkin represents another fascinating extension of the evil conversation, in this case the banality of evil. Tarkin treats evil actions (blowing up Alderaan and executing a young girl) as everyday life. There is a pragmatic nature to what he does, a willingness to act with intention (evil intention? does he even see it as evil? probably not) all in service of the Empire. I cannot help but wonder if Lucas created Tarkin – and by extension many aspects of the Imperial bureaucracy in A New Hope – with Eichmann in Jerusalem in mind, thoughts of Nazi atrocities on his mind. Personally, I cannot help but view Tarkin through the lens of Himmler, Heydrich, and other high ranking Nazi officials who participated in genocide.
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There’s a lot going on in your response. I am intrigued, first of all, by Sidious being innately and irrevocably evil. Sometimes I consider the possibility that while a lot of malevolence happens in the world, “evil,” as it stands, is a construct – a word and a category with a ton of weight that we’ve more or less created. Of course, many evil actions have happened around the globe throughout history, but I wonder if a person can really be “evil.” Some would say yes, but I think others would say no.
Ultimately then, someone like Sidious comes to fulfill a fantasy-like role for us, as he’s an embodiment of all of these characteristics that we construct to fathom what “evil” is, despite the fact that perhaps nobody on the globe shares those characteristics. For that reason I think he becomes a mesmerizing character. He fills a space that for some reason, our society feels a need to fill. I would imagine the construction of evil is, after all, a very culturally-contingent thing.
Your points on the banality of evil are also fascinating. I definitely would not be surprised if Lucas had Nazi atrocities in mind when creating Tarkin’s character. You mentioned your psychological examination of Anakin’s fall. The banality of evil, in Star Wars and elsewhere, would also be an interesting phenomenon to examine psychologically. But I think some have done that already.
I would definitely be interested to read your paper and the one that you said you have in the depths of your closet somewhere…if you can find it! Especially as I work my way through grappling with concepts like monstrosity and evil, they sound like fascinating reads!
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Oh I absolutely believe evil (and good for that matter) is a construct. No Platonic Forms from this guy. Of course, I should immediately add that, as someone trained in religious studies/theology, I would never think to demean the religious views of persons who believe those concepts have divine merit. I would be inclined to lean in and understand more, leaving my personal thoughts/opinions at the door (to the best of my ability). But regardless, unless one makes a metaphysical argument for the existence of “good” and “evil” then I would simply come down on the side of the terms being culturally constructed.
On this point, something that has always fascinated me in Star Wars is how Obi-Wan and Anakin (turned Vader) accuse the other of following an “evil” path. Obi-Wan says Palpatine is evil while Anakin/Vader says the Jedi are evil. Talk about different perspective! I have always wanted to unpack those opposite statements because I believe it cuts right to the heart of this issue. Evil, and what constitutes evil, will change based on where one is standing (ahem – “from a certain point of view” – ahem).
On a narrative level, we KNOW that the Sith/Dark Side are evil but this doesn’t necessarily make Anakin-turned-Vader wrong in his statement that the Jedi are evil, does it? I don’t necessarily think so. I might not AGREE that the Jedi are evil – and lest I slip into moral relativism and just say “anything goes” – but I also cannot ignore that two perspectives/definitions of evil can exist side-by-side. But…
…this doesn’t really do much to make sense out of Palpatine being implicitly evil at his core. If evil is just about perspectives, and can’t really be locked down, what do we make of Palpatine? In the story, he represents evil – is it possible Palpatine actually views himself as evil? Would the Sith – or a villain – really identify as “good”? Gosh, I have no idea. My brain hurts now and I fear that my ability to articulate this will suffer under the growing fatigue….
I am punting this to you.
le sigh INDEED
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I haven’t got my child to ask, but I’m pretty sure Darth Maul makes an appearance in Solo…..Which caused us both to go OOOOOHHH as he’s always been a favourite for us.
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I love this! I’d love to see it. This reminds me a of a post I once wrote where I changed Padme’s ending to have her live a while longer before dying so Leia actually does remember her.
I know you know I’m a realist so I very much wanted to just accept the fact that Maul died in TPM and really resented his return in TCW. I had this notion in my head that as long as he wasn’t in the movies, I could keep denying that he was brought back to life. Well, that changed with Solo, but I think if they went originally with the route you write about – the PT movies would have been slightly stronger. I don’t think Dooku was a strong sith/villain at all and most of the time he bored me. He didn’t give me that jolt of fear like Maul and Vader did. I would have loved Maul to be the consistent nemesis with Sidious.
I like your idea. 🙂
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I’m with ya about Padme. I always thought it was weird that she didn’t live a while longer. It sorta goes to show that Lucas was so focused on using all the story elements to boost Anakin’s fall that he overlooked some worthwhile story-arcs that could have been teased out a bit more. Padme surviving a while could have really been profound, especially if it involved her hiding on Alderaan for a time with Leia AND having to give up Luke to protect him (which would have been heart breaking).
Anywho, I also resented Maul’s return in TCW and while it has since grown on me I feel like they just can’t seem to finally hang him up for good (I am working on another “Going Solo” piece looking at Maul and his appearance in Solo). I’m glad to hear you like my idea. I see no reason why we shouldn’t put our imaginative faculties to work and explore possibilities that could have been. I am sure it rubs some people the wrong way but I also don’t give a crap. I think Vader killing Maul would have been a superb story in Revenge of the Sith, and it could have opened the door to a lot of other really interesting story-arcs (I am working on another “Talkerverse” piece about how Dooku could have still appeared in the Prequels even with Maul’s TPM survival).
I’m intrigued by the Dooku Talkerverse as he is really one of my least favorite characters. And also looking forward to the Maul/Solo post. They can’t seem to hang him up, can they? With his appearance in Solo, I feel like this is part of a long term plan to have him appear more often. It has to be…they finally killed him off for good in SWR (that was a glorious moment for me) but then he popped up again in Solo! And if you put him in a movie and get all the casual fans worked up like “Omg! Darth Maul! What?! Isn’t he dead?!” then I feel like we for sure will see him again. And that means I’m resigned to this fact of life sigh.
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My thoughts exaaaaaaactly!!!!!! You hit the nail on the head with Maul. I plan on addressing thatin the piece. In fact, my neighbors (who are casual movie-goers) asked me if it was Maul and they were annoyed there was all this OTHER stuff (cartoon shows and comics) with Maul when they thought he was dead. I can’t help but feel like SW forgets that the majority of fans really do not participate in anything beyond the films, and bringing characters like Maul (back) into the fold can be incredibly confusing. My neighbors told me they are less likely to continue watching SW movies because of things precisely like this. And I think you are right, they just can’t seem to let him go…then again, they can’t seem to let go of Ahsoka, either (but she is another topic for another time).
I will hopefully have these pieces done in the next few weeks. Writing has been slow-going recently but hoping to pick it up a bit.
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Did you happen to see that there is going to be a new Darth Maul comic coming out this December? I guess it will be a one issue type of deal but still…
Going Solo: Darth Maul is written and will go up within the next 24 hours. Stay tuned!!!
As promised, my friend – https://imperialtalker.com/2018/07/28/going-solo-darth-maul/
I’m not sure how I feel about the idea. I appreciate the symbolism and meaning that would have taken place in your scenario. It would especially fit since Sidious takes the tradition of the apprentice replacing the master and turns it into a new apprentice destroying the previous one to maintain his control. However, one of the things I found interesting with Maul in The Phantom Menace was his lack of dialogue. It made him much more, dare I say, menacing. Keeping him around probably would have made that more difficult, perhaps impossible. Darth Maul seems to be an expression of evil through brute force. I found Dooku’s more cunning approach appropriate for a Sith. What’s more important for me is the duel that did take place on Mustafar. I prefer the Orpheus-like theme of entering the underworld in order to save a loved one ending in failure. The Talkerverse scenario is still very appealing, but the original is very impactful for me.