So, now that it's Solo: A Star Wars Story has finally landed on our screens and the response so far has been relatively positive from audiences, what's the major talking point people are going to be dissecting for months on end?
Without a shadow of doubt, it's got to be the finale wherein we see Darth Maul appear on a cinema screen for the first time in nearly twenty years and is revealed as the elusive leader of Crimson Dawn, the crime syndicate which Emilia Clarke and Paul Bettany's character were working for and Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson and Donald Glover were but mere pawns for. The scene itself was pretty well executed, especially that moment when Maul's infamous double-bladed lightsaber reflects off her eyes as he growls that they will be "working more closely now on."
While it may seem like a last-minute drop-in or a cheap way of connecting Solo from the prequels to the sequels to whatever, hardcore fans aren't at all surprised - precisely because Darth Maul has long since been resurrected, if you like, from the paltry ending he was given in The Phantom Menace. The animated series Clone Wars and Rebels both had Maul as a central villain, with Clone Wars explaining how it was that he survived Obi-Wan Kenobi slicing him in half in a not-very-Jedi manner.
The cliff-notes version of the story goes that Maul was saved by his older brother, Savage Oppress, and was initially fitted with a spider-like mechanical lower half which was then upgraded to a regular-looking-but-still-mechanical set of bipeds. In the animated series Clone Wars, Maul set up a wide-ranging criminal alliance called Shadow Collective that comprised members of the Hutt Cartel, the Pyke Syndicate, Black Sun and a group of Mandalorians (the warrior cult Jango and Boba Fett belonged to) called Death Watch. Between the events of Clone Wars and Rebels, Maul set up another crime syndicate called Crimson Dawn and - as such - fits into the story that way.
One of the arguments against Solo - which isn't an argument if you liked it, to be fair - is that there was a huge amount of fan service. After all, The Last Jedi was pretty ballsy in how it utterly subverted people's expectations and kind of thumbed their noses at them, so to speak. Here in Solo, it's almost the exact opposite. It was familiar, and bringing in someone like Darth Maul was another way of doing. It's only one scene, sure, but it seems likely that Maul is going to be introduced in the sequel - or, failing that, the Boba Fett spinoff - and serve as the villain.
Considering he was one of the few highlights of The Phantom Menace, it's going to be pretty great to see him back on screen again. What did you make of it? Were you surprised to see the character? Did you even know who it was?
Let us know in the comments!