Warning: This post contains major spoilers for Solo: A Star Wars Story.
After nearly two-and-a-half hours of uncertainty, viewers finally found out which side Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) is really on in Solo: A Star Wars Story. It’s revealed that although she seems to have feelings for Han (Alden Ehrenreich), her ultimate goal is to move up in the ranks of criminal organization Crimson Dawn.
After Qi’ra betrays and kills the villainous Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany) and sends Han after Beckett (Woody Harrelson) and the coaxium, she reports Vos’ death to the true leader of Crimson Dawn, Darth Maul (Ray Park)—yes, that’s the very same double-bladed lightsaber wielding Darth Maul from George Lucas’ first prequel movie, The Phantom Menace.
We know what you’re thinking: Considering Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) chopped Darth Maul in half in The Phantom Menace, how does this fit into the Star Wars timeline? Phantom Menace takes place 32 years before A New Hope in 32 BBY (before the Battle of Yavin) while Solo is set only around 10 years prior to A New Hope. So how is Darth Maul alive during Solo?
The answer lies with what the Star Wars universe considers to be canon, or more specifically, what events from the books and series that were released between the film trilogies are treated as part of the official story. In April 2014, Lucasfilm announced that any previously released Star Wars Expanded Universe content—including all books, comic books, video games, and television series derivative of the franchise—was considered non-canon.
“While Lucasfilm always strived to keep the stories created for the EU consistent with our film and television content as well as internally consistent, Lucas always made it clear that he was not beholden to the EU,” the statement read. “He set the films he created as the canon. This includes the six Star Wars episodes, and the many hours of content he developed and produced in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. These stories are the immovable objects of Star Wars history, the characters and events to which all other tales must align.”
It’s in Clone Wars that Darth Maul is revealed to have survived his run-in with Obi-Wan’s lightsaber and made it to the junkyard planet of Lotho Minor simply by channeling his sheer will to live into the Dark Side of the Force, meaning that his return is in fact canon.
Maul eventually gets off Lotho Minor with the help of his brother, Savage Opress, and is given a pair of cybernetic legs before going on to form an alliance of criminal syndicates called the Shadow Collective.
Judging by the events of Solo, Crimson Dawn is apparently one of the syndicates under the Shadow Collective umbrella—a revelation that seems to indicate that Maul will have a major part to play in any future Solo spinoffs.
But Darth Maul isn’t the only existing Star Wars villain to make his mark in Solo. There were also several allusions to Han’s future involvement with a “bigshot gangster” on Tatooine—a description that seems as though it could only be a reference to Jabba the Hutt.
Han is still smuggling spice for Jabba When the events of A New Hope begin, meaning once he gets involved with the Hutt boss, he’s going to be in it for the long haul.
Luckily, we don’t have to spend time wondering how that storyline turns out.