Warning: This article contains spoilers for the Star Wars: Rebels episode 'Twin Suns'!
"He will avenge us." With his final breath, Maul pointed to a beautiful symmetry between himself and his nemesis, Obi-Wan Kenobi. Both are old men now, tired warriors who have been locked in battle over the course of decades. They have both known glory and honor on the battlefield, they have both commanded great armies, and they have both dealt one another terrible pain over the years. In truth though, neither was the other's real enemy. Instead, both were pawns of Palpatine, otherwise known as Darth Sidious. The result of their misguided feud is that both stories end in the dust and sand of a backwater desert world.
The parallels are haunting. After all, both Maul and Kenobi were brought low by the manipulations of Palpatine, so their final duel is a sadly anti-climatic affair, a sad and swift end to a pointless feud that was nothing more than a distraction. Had Maul and Kenobi both focused on their true enemy, on Darth Sidious himself, then their stories may have ended a very different way.
But do Maul's final words hint at something even more important than this? Is it possible that the battle between the man who was a Sith Apprentice and the man who was a Jedi Master symbolizes something far greater - the fact that Darth Sidious destroyed both the Jedi and the Sith? Let's look at the evidence.
Darth Sidious As The Architect Of The Jedi's Destruction
This, of course, is a 'no-brainer'. From the moment he became Chancellor of the Old Republic, Palpatine was manipulating events that led to the Jedi's destruction. As Matthew Stover points out in the novelization of Revenge of the Sith, the Clone Wars themselves were nothing more than a wonderfully complex Jedi Trap. As Order 66 is executed, Stover writes:
"What is happening right now is why the Clone Wars were fought in the first place. It is their reason for existence. The Clone Wars have always been, in and of themselves, from their very first inception, the revenge of the Sith.
They were irresistible bait. They took place in remote locations, on planets that belonged, primarily, to "somebody else." They were fought by expendable proxies. And they were constructed as a win-win situation.
The Clone Wars were the perfect Jedi trap.
By fighting at all, the Jedi lost.
With the Jedi Order overextended, spread thin across the galaxy, each Jedi is alone, surrounded only by whatever clone troops he, she, or it commands. War itself pours darkness into the Force, deepening the cloud that limits Jedi perception. And the clones have no malice, no hatred, not the slightest ill intent that might give warning. They are only following orders.
In this case, Order Sixty-Six."
Think about it; Palpatine became Chancellor of the Republic back in The Phantom Menace. From that point on, the Sith commanded the Republic. It's telling that we now know work on the Death Star began long before the Empire was born. But everything that followed, every Machiavellian plot, was all about Darth Sidious destroying the Jedi Order, resulting in their near-complete destruction.
Palpatine Also Fought To End The Sith
But, of course, the more intriguing side of this is the possibility that Darth Sidious also destroyed the Sith. He certainly destroyed Maul — Marvel's ongoing Darth Maul series has already established that the Apprentice was nothing more than a tool, trained to act in anger and yet held in check to serve Sidious's plans. But that's nothing new; every Sith Apprentice is expected to serve his Master's purpose.
The most surprising twist in this tale comes when you contrast Maul and Vader. Darth Maul was defeated by Obi-Wan on Naboo, and was left crippled. The newly-christened Darth Vader was defeated by Obi-Wan on Mustafar, and was left crippled. Maul, though, is abandoned, while Palpatine exerts every effort to save Anakin Skywalker's life. Kieron Gillen's Darth Vader comic even hints that he committed acts that the Sith would consider blasphemy, refusing to allow Darth Vader to die.
But there's growing evidence that, as the years progressed, Darth Sidious moved on from the teachings of the Sith. The balance of power between a Sith Master and Apprentice is a difficult one, encouraging the Apprentice to seek power — even at the risk of the Master's life. However, Chuck Wendig's novel Aftermath: Empire's End sets up a disturbing twist, giving us flashbacks in which we learn that Sidious was referring to his Apprentice as his "slave". He has abandoned the balance of the Rule of Two, and now seeks power only for his own sake.
That's not all though. From the time of Darth Bane, millennia ago, the Sith have worked in secret. They have manipulated events to their good, carefully orchestrating a long-term plan that will ultimately give them the galaxy. Untold numbers of Sith Apprentices have been expected to hold their anger and hatred in check, all in service to the long-term plan to take control of the Republic. Palpatine is the one who benefits from these dark designs, the culmination of millennia of planning. And yet, in Empire's End, we see that Palpatine will not deign to pass the Empire on to his Apprentice.
Empire's End introduces us to Palpatine's 'Contingency'. It seems that, by the time of his death, Palpatine had come to consider the Empire as being all about him. Like a game of chess, once the King is taken, the pieces lose their purpose; the board should be destroyed, and any successor will simply need to build a new one. All those millennia of plans will be fulfilled in Palpatine, or will not be fulfilled at all. Palpatine is dedicated to one thing only: his own thirst for power. Now that he has taken control, the Sith Order itself can be cast aside.
We can have no doubt that this dark philosophy could also represent an attempt to unlock the key to immortality. Revenge of the Sith told us that Palpatine's Master, Darth Plagueis the Wise, sought the secret of conquering death itself through the Dark Side. What's more, the old Expanded Universe included the popular Knights of the Old Republic games and novels, which featured a Sith Emperor in ancient times who had unlocked the secret of immortality. It's telling that we've been given hints which suggest that the Knights of the Old Republic era is gradually returning to the canon, while Empire's End showed Palpatine to be fascinated with the Unknown Regions - where that Sith Emperor's ancient Empire was located.
By the time of Return of the Jed, then, Palpatine's focus had changed. He had lost all belief in the Sith Order, and saw even his Apprentice as nothing more than a slave. Where the Empire was supposed to be about the triumph of the Sith, Palpatine's egotistical nature had twisted it until everything was all about him. And we can have no doubt that he planned to rule forever. In Palpatine's eyes, he is the culmination of the Sith Order, he is the purpose of the Empire. Now that he has come to power, the Sith have no meaning. The idea dovetails perfectly with the main canon; after all, Palpatine abandoned his Sith name in the time of the Empire, and he allowed his Apprentice to call himself 'Dark Lord of the Sith'. Small wonder; Palpatine now considered himself to be beyond the Sith, and his Apprentice to be nothing more than his slave.
This is the nature of Palpatine; destroyer, not just of the Jedi, but also of the Sith. Interpreting the Star Wars story in this way adds yet another layer to that beautiful scene in #StarWarsRebels, with two old men raising shimmering blades in the dust of Tatooine. Each represents a different Order, one the Jedi and the other the Sith; each has been brought low by Sidious; and each Order has, in truth, been destroyed by Palpatine's insatiable lust for power. Little wonder that, as he dies in Obi-Wan Kenobi's arms, Maul links the two together as he speaks of the Chosen One:
"He will avenge us."