Since making his iconic entrance in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, the character of Darth Maul has always been one to stoke fear and intrigue into the hearts of any fan. While the novels and comics of the Expanded Universe added more to his story, it was Dave Filoni’s Star Wars: The Clone Wars that truly brought the former Dark Lord of the Sith back to the forefront of a galaxy far, far away. Following its abrupt cancellation, Star Wars: Rebels continued, and concluded, Maul’s story amid the Age of the Empire.
With the Clone Wars finally reaching its rightful conclusion, Maul’s actions towards the end of this great conflict have answered some of the largest remaining questions of his motivations during his largest appearance. Looking at his complete history, and accounting for his many actions, the character of Maul has gone from a well-designed foe to the most tragic hero of all Star Wars.
To see where this tragedy began, one has to look at Maul’s beginnings. As discovered by Anakin and Obi-Wan in their own mission to investigate a similar Dathomirian warrior, Maul was a child of Mother Talzin, leader of the Nightsisters. Although Talzin worked with Sidious in developing their abilities in the Force, this partnership came to an end when Sidious took Maul and made him his apprentice. Unlike other members of the Sith, Maul was never given the choice to create his own path. He did not succumb to the Dark Side, he was raised in it.
Losing his home, Maul was created into the savage animal that roamed the galaxy in secret by the abuse and training of Sidious. During this time, Maul was fully controlled by the anger that had been stirred within him and was a committed disciple of the Sith. This aspect of Maul, his anger, would lead him to commit some of his most heinous actions. Eventually, Maul would lose his role in this ongoing saga when Obi-Wan Kenobi cut him in half on Naboo. Forced into surviving like an animal, Maul found new motivation of pain that came from his meager existence.
Separated from his former role, both Clone Wars and Rebels worked to showcase Maul as an independent figure of the galaxy. While his initial return focused on Maul’s rage and desire for revenge against Obi-Wan, the show also focused on his desire to stop the rise of Sidious. Having been discarded, Maul had seen Sidious for the manipulator and liar that he was. During the Clone Wars, he would try to build his own forces, whether through his homeworld, pirates, Mandalorians, or the many criminal organizations of the galaxy. All of these actions were taken in the hope of stopping the Dark Side’s domination of the galaxy.
At the same time, Maul’s refusal to aid the Jedi is also an indication of his heroic status. For one, the prequels and the shows have shown that the Jedi were not to be trusted. Raised as a Sith, Maul was given an inherent distrust against the Jedi Knights, which they only supported in their complete failure to stop the rise of the Dark Side. Additionally, Maul would have known that they were under the control of the Republic, which meant they were controlled by Sidious. Recognizing this, Maul took it upon himself to change the course of the galaxy.
As Maul continued his battle with Sidious, Maul lost much more than his legs. He would lose his family, as both Mother Talzin and Savage Oppress, his brother, would lose their lives in their decision to support him in this war. Jumping ahead to the time of Rebels, that show revealed that Maul had lost everything in his battle with Sidious. Without his criminal empire, Maul was trapped on the Sith Planet of Malachor in the hopes of using a superweapon to destroy the Empire. With nothing left to lose, he continued in his mission to stop the Dark Side.
While Maul is a tragic hero, he is most certainly not a good guy. He killed all those that got in his way and was a user of the Dark Side himself. But, one must look at the choices given to him. He lost his home and knew the course of the galaxy from the beginning. To stop such a foe, Maul had no choice but to become the animal that he did. In the end, this use of the Dark Side would lead to his downfall, as it was his rage that drove him to confront Obi-Wan on Tatooine. The source of his power led to his death.
In the Star Wars universe, there have been plenty of villains that have become heroic figures in their actions to stop the Dark Side. In the case of Maul, his tragedy is found in the fact that he could never succeed in his ultimate mission. He would come far and remained a threat for his existence, but his role in the story came to an end a long time ago. For this reason, as he died, Maul was seen as another of the many victims of the Dark Side, who would be avenged in the Empire’s downfall.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels helped further delve into Darth Maul's story, proving he's the franchise's most tragic hero.