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.”