Solo’s galaxy shattering cameo that changed the Star Wars story universe forever


A surprise cameo in Solo has changed the way that television shows interact with the films in a shared cinematic universe.

Spoiler warning: we’re about to make the jump to hyperspace and if you haven’t seen Solo yet, you should probably flee in the escape pod before it’s too late.

Last chance. It’s now or never. Alright Chewie, punch it!

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When Disney released The Force Awakens, they were criticized for being too safe. After The Last Jedi’s jarring departure from the Star Wars norm, Disney is at it again with perhaps their boldest move yet.

In Solo’s final act, it’s revealed that the powerful Crimson Dawn crime syndicate is run by a well-known character in Star Wars lore. Why was that a bold decision? Because most Star Wars fans thought he was long dead.

The surprise cameo was none other than the one formerly known as Darth Maul. This left many Star Wars fans, especially those who have only seen the films, very confused. The movie took place in the gap between Episode III and Episode IV, yet Darth Maul was cut in half by Obi-Wan Kenobi in Episode I. How can this be?

After falling down the shaft, Darth Maul’s hatred kept him alive as his upper half was discarded on a junkyard planet. Over a decade later, in The Clone Wars, one of his own kind would find him. His mind was broken, driven to madness in isolation. But practitioners of the dark side from his home planet of Dathomir were able to restore his sanity and equipped him with a new pair of robotic legs.

Maul dropped the Darth from his name and set out to get revenge on both the Sith and the Jedi. His brilliant plan involved uniting the various criminal syndicates under the same umbrella: the Shadow Collective. He then used their collective power to take over the planet of Mandalore.

The Clone Wars had been fought between two groups: the Republic and the Separatists, but Maul inserted himself in between them as a third side that threatened them both.

Since this time, Maul has been a feature of multiple comics, books and even made an impact on the Star Wars Rebels television series. Without spoiling those stories for those who care to catch up, Maul has become a far more integral part of the universe than many would ever have imagined.

The reason this changes the Star Wars cinematic story universe forever is that fans of the comics and television shows have known for a while now that Darth Maul survived the events of Episode I. The portion of Star Wars fans that ignore the animated shows was slapped across the face by the revelation.

Many had assumed that the shows were either for kids or made no lasting impact on the films and therefore inconsequential.

The Star Wars animated series’, though appealing to children, was created for all ages. Some of the darkest episodes in The Clone Wars involved Maul’s return. Both animated shows have been critically acclaimed and beloved by fans.

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The older generations of Star Wars loyalists that love them have been trying to get their loved ones to take them seriously. But up until now, it was possible to fully navigate the films without any engagement with the other multi-media stories spread across Disney’s new canon.

For those that don’t know, canon is the term to describe what parts of the story really happened. There is a large collection of Star Wars stories that are now considered Legends, most of which was written and created before the Disney purchase. When Disney bought the franchise, they selected only the six films and The Clone Wars series as official canon. Everything that they created from that point forward was to be considered canon as well. Book, TV shows, comics, films, etc. It’s all part of a shared continuity that expands upon the story universe from every medium.

Image: Disney

When the character formerly known as Darth Maul took off his hood, he changed everything. The film not only rewarded the fans that have been paying attention to the shows, but it put the film-only fans on notice. The TV shows, comics and books matter. They don’t color around the lines but instead are fully integrated into the larger story.

Not even Marvel is doing this. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the events of the films are often impacting the TV shows, but never the other way around. It’s like the team in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D don’t exist in the films. What about the Defenders in Marvel’s Netflix shows? How many battles have Iron Man, Spider-Man and Doctor Strange had in New York and we’ve never even seen a cameo of any of TV characters in a film.

At this point, it’s looking like we’ll never see Spider-Man and Daredevil take on the Kingpin together. There’s barely ever an Easter egg to be found in the films from anything that’s happened outside them, let alone a meaningful connection.

Star Wars made a statement that all their stories matter. You can still be a casual fan, but you’re not gonna experience it in the way it was intended. Some fans felt confused by Darth Maul’s appearance, while those that knew he was alive were exhilarated. Not only to see a live-action Maul played by Episode I’s Ray Park, but voiced by Sam Witwer from The Clone Wars.

The Crimson Dawn crime syndicate had loomed large over the entire plot of Solo. The final reveal that Maul had been behind the syndicate was powerful, as it not only reinforced the importance of the television shows, but also the implications of what this means for the future. Will we see Maul’s story continue in future films? Does this mean that other beloved fan-favorite characters from the television shows will find their way into live-action? Ahsoka? Thrawn? Yes, please.

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Shared cinematic universes are here to stay. Star Wars, Marvel, DC, Fox and Transformers are all trying to establish their franchises in this way. Star Wars just distinguished itself from the pack by incorporating cross-media stories into Solo in a pioneering way. They weren’t afraid of upsetting or confusing the fans that weren’t caught up in order to prioritize the ones that are consuming and supporting the shows, books and comics.

Disney may have started off their Star Wars universe by playing it safe, but it’s clear they’re taking the franchise to new places. They began by studying Marvel’s approach to shared cinematic universes, but it may be time for these studios to start studying the superior Star Wars formula.