Not only does SOLO: A Star Wars Story introduce us to the younger incarnation of the galaxy's most famous nerf herder, as played by Alden Ehrenreich. It also leaves us with lots of unanswered questions, namely in that final sequence on the planet Savareen. We're picking apart that very scene and asking: who are Crimson Dawn?
WARNING: THE FOLLOWING CONTAINS MAJOR SOLO SPOILERS
The end of the movie
Amid a multitude of shifting allegiances, the SOLO movie ends with Han and Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) leaving Savareen, having shot dead their treacherous former colleague and mentor Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson). Returning the priceless fuel coaxium to marauder Enfys Nest (Erin Kellyman), they leave the planet in pursuit of Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover), and coveted spaceship the Millennium Falcon.
Also dead is villainous crime lord Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany) – but the space is seemingly about to be filled by Qi'Ra (Emilia Clarke). Solo's one-time cohort and love interest remains on Savareen, Han and Chewie having rejected her offer to fight the Empire as part of the rebellion. She is then revealed to be in cahoots with the leader of crime syndicate Crimson Dawn, none other than The Phantom Menace villain Darth Maul. The latter appears via hologram in a shock twist, and appears to be sowing the seeds of a future conflict with Han. But how is this possible, and who is leading?
How is Darth Maul still alive?
Released in 1999, The Phantom Menace takes place, chronologically speaking, before the events of SOLO: A Star Wars Story. It was the first of George Lucas' prequel trilogy, and culminated in a dramatic lightsaber duel between evil Sith lord Maul, and Jedi knights Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor). The fight appeared to culminate in Obi-Wan's victory, as he sliced Maul in half and watched the two halves of his body disappear into a shaft.
Ah, but hold your horses. As fans will know, the events of the Star Wars universe aren't dictated by just the theatrically released movies. There's a whole canon of small screen spinoffs and novels that fill in the gaps, and this is where Maul's true fate becomes clear. TV series The Clone Wars, officially part of the wider franchise canon, revealed that Maul in fact survived his mauling, albeit without his legs.
It was, in fact, the fourth series of Clone Wars that re-introduced the vengeful Maul. Having subsisted on a diet of rats, Maul was coaxed back into life by his brother, Savage Oppress, and fitted with the bionic limbs we see in SOLO. This, therefore, is the first theatrically-released Star Wars movie that connects to the wider canon of television and literary fiction, expanding the universe in exciting ways.
So where does SOLO take place chronologically?
Having been re-introduced in The Clone Wars, Maul went on to make additional appearances in 2016's animated TV series Rebels, where he met his ultimate fate, again at the hands of Obi-Wan.
We can therefore surmise that the events of SOLO take place in the gap between the small screen editions, maybe running in parallel to the various literary spinoffs that continue his journey. 2014's comic book series Star Wars: Darth Maul – Son of Dathomir, for instance, saw the character being used as a pawn by his former mentor, Darth Sidious. That said, Maul's appearance in SOLO indicates he's in a position of some authority – as head of a crime gang, he doesn't look like he's in a position to be manipulated by anyone, which is bad news for anyone who faces him.
What is Crimson Dawn?
That's a good question. We know they're some kind of villainous collective, as proved by Qi'Ra and Dryden Vos' tattoos. But we currently don't know a lot about it.
That said, canonically, Maul already has experience with organisations such as this. He was responsible for the Shadow Collective, a short-lived criminal group established as part of Maul's attempt to undermine Darth Sidious. It ultimately collapsed, which may have helped pave the way for Crimson Dawn. No doubt a future spinoff movie will help fill in the gaps.
Who plays him in SOLO?
Actor and martial artist Ray Park, who lent balletic grace to Maul in The Phantom Menace, is back playing the character. However, voice actor Peter Serafinowicz has departed the series, replaced by Clone Wars regular Sam Witwer.
What comes next?
That remains to be seen. Although Alden Ehrenreich is contracted for three SOLO movies in total, the future of this particular series will no doubt be dictated by the box office results. Watch this space...
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