The Star Wars Rebels episode “Twin Suns” was teased just a wee bit too much as the final confrontation between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Maul. While they did indeed confront each other and Maul, as expected by most of us, died, their battle was very brief. If you watch the above Rebels Recon show, they explain why.
I admit that I thought the fight would last longer than it did. However, I also see the wisdom of the writers in keeping it so short. Maul and Obi-Wan dueled for years during The Clone Wars series, and so it makes sense that this battle would be quick. For one thing, Obi-Wan was in better physical condition than Maul was. At the beginning of the show it seems that Maul’s been wandering around Tatooine searching for Ben Kenobi, and from what I saw of him, he did not have a pack full of water and food on him. This indicates to me that he’s been wandering around in the desert heat hoping to pick up some sense of Obi-Wan’s location through the Force. Not a particularly smart move, in my opinion, but despite Maul’s animal cunning I do not think I would ever label him as brilliant.
All this means that Obi-Wan was fresh and able when he faced Maul beside the campfire. On the other hand, Maul had been weakened by his wanderings through a strange, harsh environment while he was looking for Ben. So physically, it makes sense that Obi-Wan would be able to best him so swiftly. Also, he had what Maul lacked –
We will go back to that momentarily, but for the moment, I want to discuss Ezra’s part in this episode. IGN’s Eric Goldman (and doubtless others as well), thinks that having Ezra take center stage for the majority of the episode was a mistake.
I disagree. The reasons why Ezra was central to “Twin Suns” are manifold:
First, as the writers pointed out, Ezra was the one that got the Rebels involved with Maul. His determination to find a way to bring down Vader – “to destroy the Sith,” as he put it – left him open to Maul’s manipulation, which Obi-Wan pointed out. Ezra’s desire to stop the Sith was morphing into an obsession. If he did not let it go, it would eventually have gotten him and his friends – along with possibly the entire Rebellion – killed. Someone had to snap him out of his fixation on annihilating the Sith.
That someone turned out to be Obi-Wan. This makes a lot of sense and leads to the second reason for Bridger being central to the story. When a person becomes obsessed, even in the less-than-maniacal way that Ezra was, interventions by close friends and family can be less effective than those done by total strangers. Kanan and Hera stage an intervention of sorts for Ezra at the beginning of “Twin Suns,” but he ignores their reasonable arguments and runs off anyway.
Obi-Wan, a master Jedi he has heard of and admires, points out that he really, really should not have come to Tatooine. Maul was using him to find the man he hates more than anyone but the Emperor. Ezra’s determination to find Obi-Wan himself in order to find the “key to destroying the Sith” blinded him to this fact. Kanan and Hera did not have this blinder over their eyes (pun intended; even though he is physically blind, Kanan smelled a trap), and so they saw the danger in following Maul’s breadcrumbs.
Of course, Obi-Wan also deflects Ezra from discovering the truth about the fact that he is, actually, guarding the key to wiping out the Sith. This is both to protect Luke, who is not yet ready to fight in the Rebellion, and also to protect Ezra. Luke still has some growing up to do, and the fact is that the Rebellion is not nearly ready for him yet. They are still in the building-up phase. If Luke were to join them now, and the whole thing collapsed under its own weight (or Thrawn’s), then all hope of defeating the Emperor disappears with him and the Rebellion.
We know that this is not going to happen, but Obi-Wan does not know this. He only knows he has to keep Luke safe. And, if things were changed here in this interim between Rebels and A New Hope, the TV series would qualify as fan fiction, not a tie-in series. And that would never do.
As for Ezra, if he were to learn about Luke, he would begin trying to recruit him into the Rebellion. Obi-Wan cannot let that happen. He shoos Ezra off so that the boy will not recruit Luke too soon. This will also, hopefully, keep Ezra safe. As long as he remains oblivious to the fact that Vader is Anakin Skywalker, when he later meets Luke, he will not be able to reveal anymore about Luke’s heritage than Obi-Wan already told him. In fact, he will be able to reveal even less.
This appears to be a sort of backhanded indication that neither Ezra nor Kanan has figured out that Vader is Anakin Skywalker. This is in spite of Ezra being present when Ahsoka let slip her suspicion, to his mind, that her old master had become the Emperor’s apprentice. Whew! 😉
Also, as the writers pointed out, Ezra naturally feels responsible for leading Maul to Obi-Wan. He goes to Tatooine to make up for his mistake, but he nearly makes it worse. This is why he has to be present throughout so much of “Twin Suns.” Ezra has to let go of his need to kill Vader, or it will destroy him and his friends.
Interestingly enough, Ezra is forced to do this in a desert, a very dry and tough place. The hermits in ancient times and even during the Middle Ages who lived near or traveled to arid regions would retreat into the desert or some other desolate place to remove all distractions. Obi-Wan does this when he moves to the cave a few hours travel from Owen Lars’ moisture farm; Yoda does this by retreating to Dagobah – and Luke, it seems, did the same thing before The Force Awakens.
Ezra’s journey is more reminiscent of a spiritual retreat than going into a hermitage, naturally, and it fits the episode nicely. Lost in the desert – more so perhaps than even Maul is – Ezra must confront not only the former Sith’s evil in a manner similar to the way that Christians must face the temptations of the devil, but also his own obsession with destroying the Sith. It is a journey of purgation for him, leaving him a stronger, more clear-headed Jedi apprentice by the episode’s end.
Now we will go back to the battle between Obi-Wan and Maul. It is a brief battle, but a loaded confrontation all the same. Maul states that he has come to kill Obi-Wan, then suggests that his revenge might be better served by letting him live in the “squalor” of Tatooine’s desert instead. Obi-Wan calmly points out that Maul’s jab shows how spiritually empty he is. He has traveled around the galaxy for years seeking to destroy the Sith, to possess power, and to become “great” according to the Dark Side’s standards.
The pursuit has left him an empty shell. At the beginning of the episode, according to Mr. Goldman, Maul seems dangerously close to slipping into the madness Savage Oppress first found him in during The Clone Wars series. Having never watched more than a few episodes of that series, I cannot confirm this. But it makes sense. Maul has been consumed by his hatred, not fed by it. It has destroyed him, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Though he expresses contempt for Obi-Wan’s style of life, the former Jedi Master is actually far better off than he is in all the categories which I just mentioned.
This infuriates Maul. His hatred reacts violently to Obi-Wan’s calm tranquility. He has no such peace in his own soul, and for that reason he seeks to destroy it in Obi-Wan by digging for the reason that Ben would come to the desolate world of Tatooine. He gets close, of course – too close to be allowed to live. Obi-Wan knew that would happen. Plus, he has already lost two people very dear to him to Maul. He cannot and he will not lose Luke to the former Sith apprentice.
And before you ask, no, Maul would not kill Luke. He would do something far worse, and Obi-Wan knows it. We saw how Maul tempted Ezra to court the Dark Side at the end of Rebels’ season two and several times throughout season three. If he had killed Obi-Wan, he would have found Luke, and he would have taken him as his apprentice to teach him the ways of the Dark Side. Thus Maul would have destroyed all hope of building a new Jedi Order and a New Republic in the future. That is a threat which Obi-Wan must stop.
But even after he permanently neutralizes Maul, Obi-Wan does not gloat over his victory. Instead, he holds Maul as he dies. Considering the Zabrak killed his Master and the woman he loved, his showing compassion and pity toward his old enemy shouts volumes. Obi-Wan did not have to stay with Maul until the end. He certainly did not have to tell him Luke was actually the Chosen One foretold in the prophecy (apparently). But he did it anyway. Not because Maul deserved it, exactly, but because he felt compassion and pity for this creature that had been destroyed so thoroughly; first by the Emperor, then by his own hatred.
For his part, Maul seems to have some regrets about his life. But if he had the chance to live it over again, I think the only thing he would do differently was avoid getting cut in half, if he could. Maul is totally committed to the Dark Side. He is ruined. Asajj Ventress may yet have been redeemed by her love for Jedi Knight Quinlan Vos, but the fact is that Maul has had no such opportunities to reform. He has hated for so long, too, that it is doubtful he would have accepted such prospects for redemption, even if they had been handed to him on a silver platter.
So he dies reiterating the Dark Side’s will to vengeance. What is interesting is his use of the word “us” when he says this. It is possible he means the entire race of Dathomir and, most specifically, his mother and brother.
But personally, I think he may have meant himself and Obi-Wan. After all, Obi-Wan would not have cut Maul in half if he had not killed Qui-Gon Jinn. Maul would not have done that if his mother had not handed him over to the Emperor to be trained as a Sith instead of a regular Dark Side wielder. If he had not been cut in half, Maul would not have gone on to wreak such sorrow on the galaxy in general and Obi-Wan Kenobi in particular. It sounded to me as though this was the implication behind Maul’s line that Luke “will avenge…us…” I might be blowing smoke, of course, but there is always the possibility that I could be correct.
Now, Mr. Goldman points out that the manner of Obi-Wan’s kill strike does not show the appropriate level of contact for such a maneuver. While he is equally quick to mention that Rebels is not as flexible as The Clone Wars when it comes to realistic death scenes, the fact is that this is a kid’s show. It would not do to show Obi-Wan cutting Maul in half vertically instead of horizontally. Doing that also would have spoiled the ending we all enjoyed so much.
That being said, the implication that Obi-Wan gutted Maul is quite clear. And remember, readers, that he is half-droid. There is not much to gut; slicing through what is left of his torso and the droid part of his body would certainly finish Maul for good. I, for one, am quite satisfied that the Rebels writers went this route. It is not a graphic death scene, but it still fulfills the Internet meme showing Obi-Wan moaning, “I should have cut him in half the other way!”
The last thing to address is the fact that Ezra doesn’t tell the Ghost crew or the rest of Phoenix Squadron that Obi-Wan Kenobi is alive. At least, he does not do so on camera. It is possible that he will tell Kanan and the others in a more private setting. It is just as possible that he will not, though I think that Kanan will want to know whether or not Ezra killed Maul. Ezra will have to tell him no, because even if he fibs – or were to attempt to fib – Kanan should be able to sense that he is fudging the truth. Or he will at least be able to sense that Ezra is not telling him everything.
Mr. Goldman points out in his article that we never see Obi-Wan telling Ezra to keep the fact that he is alive a secret. For starters, I think Ezra would be smart enough to realize that, if Obi-Wan wanted to avoid a fight with Maul, he does not want anyone to know he is alive. It is also possible that Obi-Wan saw Ezra and Chopper off of Tatooine. He is (presumably) riding the same Dewback he lent them when he approaches the Lars’ farm the next evening, after all. I do not think the animal would just wander back to Obi-Wan after Ezra and Chopper had dismounted and climbed aboard Maul’s ship to take off. He had to get it back.
If that is the case, then Obi-Wan might have taken the opportunity to tell Ezra, “I’m here because I don’t want to be found. Best not to mention me to anyone when you get back.” We do not know if this is what happened, but it seems to be a logical assumption. The fact that Obi-Wan’s mount at the end of the episode is the same one he loaned to Ezra and Chopper before the fight strongly implies this theory.
Another thing to love about this episode is all the little tweaks and nods to A New Hope buried in it. Ezra and Chopper setting out together is quite the nod to Threepio and Artoo’s journey across Tatooine before they get picked up by Jawas. The attack by the Sand People is somewhat spooky for me, since I recently acquired and began playing Knights of the Old Republic. I did not quite have flashbacks of all the times the Sand People killed me and my team, but I have begun to find their honking cries rather annoying. Their Gaffi sticks are equally irritating. But I did not celebrate when Maul killed them all, as you might have expected. He set them up to die. It is not something to cheer over.
Obi-Wan’s fatherly (or is that grandfatherly?), kindness and admonishments to Ezra reflect how his teaching tactics have changed since he lost Anakin to the Emperor. He is now well prepared to take on the fatherly role of mentor when he leads Luke to make the fateful trip to Alderaan. This could be seen as a dry run for his mentoring of Luke two years hence.
His subtle deflection of Ezra from the truth is also reminiscent of how Luke later confronts him about the fact that he hid Vader’s true identity from him, although he did not quite lie about it. Both times Obi-Wan stretches the truth to protect the young fellas, and I doubt that Ezra would – or will – be any happier than Luke when he finally learns that Obi-Wan fibbed to protect the two of them from Maul, Vader, and the Empire at large in this episode.
The kicker, though, is when Obi-Wan stops within hearing of Beru Lars’ call to Luke to come in for supper. As she does this we get to see his shadow as he races indoors in answer to her summons. This scene is magnificent, and if I am not mistaken, they took the voice of the actress who played Beru Lars in A New Hope and used it for this episode. She called Luke in exactly the same way before she reminded him to find a droid that spoke – I believe it was Bocce. And when I say she called him the same way, I mean exactly the same way. They clipped out her call from A New Hope and put it in the ending for “Twin Suns,” if I am not mistaken. As a final note, Stephen Stanton’s imitation of Alec Guinness could not be better. I am amazed and impressed. Well done, Master Stanton. (Author bows respectfully.)
Well, readers, this is my take on the third last episode of season three of Star Wars Rebels. It was a good episode and I enjoyed it. Marvelously animated and masterfully told, “Twin Suns” is an episode we are all going to want to show our children at some point in the future.
Remember, readers: the Force will be with you. Always.