(Warning: Spoilers, there are in this article.) Late last month, Alden Ehrenreich revealed something he probably shouldn’t have: He’s already signed up for three Han Solo movies. “I don’t know if that’s officially, uh, public. But — yeah,” he told Esquire. Whether you’ve seen “Solo: A Star Wars Story” or not, that might seem strange: How — and why — would they make two more movies when one origin story would presumably suffice?
The answer lies in the film’s last few minutes, when a familiar face makes a surprise appearance: Darth Maul, the “Phantom Menace” fan favorite who kills Qui-Gon Jinn before being sliced in half by Obi-Wan Kenobi.
The villain we see here isn’t quite the same Sith you remember, however. The horned, devil-looking baddie is credited as simply Maul and voiced by Samuel Witwer rather than Peter Serafinowicz; Ray Park still portrays him onscreen. This would appear to have confusing implications on the timeline, but it’s been confirmed that “Solo” does indeed take place long after “Phantom Menace” and more than a decade before “A New Hope.” So how is he alive?
Unlike many viewers of this new spinoff (including this writer), viewers of the animated series “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” and “Star Wars Rebels” know that Maul clung to life, subsisted on a diet of rats, and got some robo-limbs following his fateful duel with the future Jedi Master. (Witwer voiced him in the animated series, too.) Having been abandoned by his former master, he became a crime lord — hence his status as the apparent leader of Crimson Dawn, the syndicate reluctantly served by Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke), sans the “Darth” honorific.
If it initially seems baffling that the Mother of Dragons would turn away from her lover and fly back to Maul instead, the potential for two more films in this sub-universe brings her decision into focus. Dryden Voss is dead, meaning this new trilogy needs a more formidable villain. As Darth Maul’s most famous victim once said, there’s always a bigger fish.
In an Uproxx interview, co-screenwriter Jonathan Kasdan revealed that he always wanted Maul to be a part of “Solo.”
“I was really passionate about him all the way through,” he said. “I sort of had planted the seeds early and I wanted it to be built that way. And I wanted to reference certain forms of martial arts that might lead to it. And the presence of someone who was so terrifying in this crime world that you just had to know he was the guy who could control someone like Dryden. So he was part of the DNA of the thing.”
In a lot of ways, Darth Maul is the prequel equivalent of Boba Fett: cool-looking villain who develops a cult following despite speaking little and dying after not doing much. With news of a new Boba-centric spinoff coming the day before “Solo” hit theaters, the parallels are only reinforced: Disney is going to keep making “Star Wars” movies for as long as it can, so why not bring back fan favorites who never got much screentime?