The following contains MAJOR SPOILERS for Solo: A Star Wars Story. Trust me, if you haven't seen it yet, you don't want to know. No seriously, SPOILERS. Did I mention SPOILERS?
A movie that followed the exploits of Han Solo before we meet him in Star Wars: A New Hope was bound to include appearances by characters or references to others that we know from previous films. Of course, Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian were there, but they were far from the only fan-favorite characters to appear. At the end of the film, we discover that the Crimson Dawn gang is actually answering to a character who we've met once before on the big screen. This is your last chance to avoid SPOILERS. Screenwriters Jon and Lawrence Kasdan spoke to CinemaBlend about why this character, once thought dead, was who they wanted to be the man in charge. If you're still reading this, then hopefully you already know who I'm talking about, Darth Maul. Yes, Darth Maul. Jon Kasdan explains...
I was passionate about that from very early on. You know, one of the things I thought was very important to creating the texture of this world was that the crime syndicate that they were working for had people above Dryden. That it felt big and scary and that Dryden was a capo, and we needed someone who would be revealed at the end. We could see clearly that Qi'ra was moving up in the world and that she would assume the role Dryden had and that would put her in a position that was more dangerous and tenuous than the one she was currently in. So he seemed like, having been familiar with Rebels, having been familiar with the instinct to keep that character going, and then what happens to him and his journey into crime, the Nightsisters and all of that stuff were irresistible bits of lore to me. I thought, 'If there isn't a hard and fast law about where he is at this point in the narrative, that's the guy I'd love to see.'
If you didn't watch the Star Wars: The Clone Wars or Star Wars Rebels animated series, then you may not even be aware that Darth Maul, the Lord of the Sith apparently killed by Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, is actually alive. He's the one apparently pulling the strings of the criminal organization Crimson Dawn.
Darth Maul was one of the more popular aspects of The Phantom Menace, which made the fact that he didn't survive the film very upsetting for many. However, that fan support was so great that the character was eventually brought back into the story when it was revealed in the Clone Wars animated series that he actually survived his battle with Obi-Wan Kenobi. In that series, Maul is motivated by revenge toward the Emperor for discarding him so easily, and he builds up a criminal empire known as The Shadow Collective.
It appears that the Collective may alive and well during Solo, as Darth Maul is clearly involved in at least one major organization, though we know little else beyond that based on the brief interaction we see between Qi'ra after she has taken control of Crimson Dawn, and Darth Maul via hologram. That scene, as it turns out, is one of the favorites of Solo co-writer Lawrence Kasdan.
He created one of my favorite moments, and this has a lot to do with Emilia. When he says, 'We're going to be spending a lot more time together,' it's the most scary invitation you ever heard. Emilia plays it so perfectly. So amidst her crisis about who to be loyal to, what to do with love versus ambition, he gets this thing and she sees the price she's going to pay. She plays it perfectly.
Solo: A Star Wars Story leaves several open plot threads that could certainly be explored in future films. Exactly what Darth Maul is plotting is certainly one of them. We'll have to wait and see if we get sequels to this particular movie, perhaps Darth Maul will hire Boba Fett in the just-announced film being directed by James Mangold.