Major spoilers ahead for Solo: A Star Wars Story. The stand-alone Han Solo movie Solo, out May 25, doesn't have a ton of surprises. After all, there's not a lot about our favorite Star Wars smuggler that we don't already know, and there's little Lucasfilm can do with a movie set in the universe's past without retconning some of the backstory. But while Solo might be understandably predictable, there is one huge shocker at the end: the appearance of Darth Maul, the Sith villain from Episode I: The Phantom Menace. But wait a minute, wasn't he killed at the end of that movie? How is Darth Maul alive in Solo?
Star Wars fans and detractors of The Phantom Menace alike remember that the red-and-black-tattooed baddy of Episode I was one of the best parts about the much-maligned movie. Darth Maul's double-edged red lightsaber was seriously cool, and his saber fight with Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi is one of the series best, accompanied by one of the franchise's most riveting musical themes. But pretty much everyone remembers how that battle ends: Darth Maul kills Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan shouts, "Noooo!," Obi-Wan slices Maul in half and the Sith lord goes tumbling down a shaft. So knowing that Phantom Menace takes place well before Solo, how exactly did Darth Maul survive that slice and that fall?
If you're only a Star Wars movie watcher, you may be feeling punked, but fans of the animated series The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels knew that Maul had survived his plunge. As the story goes, Maul, though being basically split in half, used the Force to grab hold of an air vent on his way down and landed safely in a trash container. He was dumped on the junkyard planet of Lotho Minor, where he eventually built himself a set of six, spider-like legs out of junk. He survived by eating rodents and went mad with rage and despair, and vowed revenge against Obi-Wan Kenobi. Eventually, he was rescued by his brother Savage Opress. By then he had pretty much entirely lost his grip on reality, but together the brothers begin the process of forming an all-encompassing galactic criminal collective.
By the time we see Maul in Solo, it's been many years since the events of Phantom Menace, and though he still has revenge on his mind, Maul has made a name for himself as the head honcho of a giant crime syndicate known as the Shadow Collective. His surprising appearance in Solo comes towards the end, when Han's former girlfriend Qi'ra abandons the smuggler on a desert planet and pledges allegiance to the leader of the crime organization she works for, Crimson Dawn, which, in turn, is run by the Shadow Collective.
Much like he had turned on the Jedi years before, Maul turns on the Sith after Phantom Menace, viewing his former master Darth Sideous' embrace of a new apprentice, Darth Vader, as a form of betrayal. His desire for revenge lingers throughout Clone Wars and Rebels, and he uses his power and influence to bring down both sides of the Force.
More spoilers for Star Wars: Rebels ahead! But don't expect to see Darth Maul as an elderly crime boss in the more recent trilogy. Maul does eventually meet his end in Rebels. After learning that his old nemesis, Obi-Wan Kenobi, was still alive and in hiding on Tatooine, Maul makes his way there to confront the aging Jedi. Though no longer loyal to the Sith and knowing the Empire failed him, Maul feels a need to battle his old foe. But once again, Maul is no match for Obi-Wan, and the former Sith dies at the hands of Obi-Wan Kenobi. But before he dies, Obi-Wan informs him that he's keeping watch over "The Chosen One," Luke Skywalker. "He will avenge us," Maul says, before dying.
Darth Maul's pop-up appearance is a fun throw back to the prequels, and a good way of connecting an anthology Star Wars film to the trilogy movies. But if you want more Maul, be sure to check out the animated series Clone Wars and Rebels. That double-edged lightsaber is way too cool for just one movie.