In a clever move to bring the sprawling Star Wars narrative closer together, Lucasfilm have established some interesting connections between the animated shows — Star Wars: Clone Wars, Star Wars: Rebels — and the mainstream movies. Rogue One sees the return of a recurring character from Clone Wars: Saw Gerrera, a freedom fighter and ally to Ahsoka Tano. On the heels of this revelation came an interesting announcement from Rebels exec Simon Kinberg, promising more crossover points between the show and upcoming films.
So what does this mean? Basically anything and everything is possible from here on out. It's most likely that we'll see plenty of plot hints for Star Wars Episode VIII in Season 3 of Rebels, but we could also see more characters from the shows appear in the films.
And as they're all in the same canon, this means that any character brought back from the dead in Rebels — having survived being totally cut in half, to pick a cause of death not entirely at random — could appear in the movies at some point. Which begs the question...
Will Darth Maul Appear In Episode VIII?
Darth Maul is a character whose popularity amongst the Star Wars fanbase has not waned, despite the fact that his appearance in The Phantom Menace was brief at best. With an awesome character design and enigmatic backstory, Darth Maul captured the imagination of many a fan.
So it should come as no surprise that he was resurrected in Clone Wars. In contrast to being little more than a Sith warrior in The Phantom Menace, the show writers fulfilled Maul's potential as a character, as he embarked on a vengeance mission of sorts against Obi Wan Kenobi.
Maul's return in Rebels was one of the most interesting parts of the Season 2 finale, which also saw Darth Vader finally cross lightsaber blades with his old padawan Ahsoka. Season 2 was very much about the shadows of past Star Wars films, and Maul fitted perfectly into this theme, as the morally ambiguous, somewhat psychotic ex-Sith.
Return Of The Phantom
So how did Maul survive? It turns out that Maul's species (the Zabrak) can actually survive all kinds of dismemberment, conveniently enough. After his fall in The Phantom Menace, Maul gained robotic legs. His character arc in Clone Wars is fascinating, as he formed his own Dark Side faction — the Shadow Collective. But by the time he returned in Rebels, Maul had abandoned any sense of all allegiance to the Sith, and even allied himself with Ezra Bridger and Ahsoka for a time.
Ultimately though, Maul showed his true colors in the finale, and his ulterior motive was far from honorable. To save you from spoilers, suffice to say that Maul retreated back into the shadows, leaving his character open to appear in Rebels Season 3, or even the films.
Which brings us back to Star Wars 8. While it's unlikely to see Maul appear in Rogue One (with the return of Darth Vader, the dance card for that film is pretty full), it's entirely possible that we could see him face our heroes in Episode 8. Maul's appearance in the next saga film could be fantastically foreshadowed in Rebels Season 3, as the show explains what he did next, and what side he's really on — other than his own, of course.
Maul's return in Episode 8 could go one of two ways — he could be an unexpected ally (as he pretended to be in Rebels), or a terrifying foe. There are plenty of plot threads to wrap up in Rebels Season 3 when it comes to Maul, as we're left wondering if he still intends to make Ezra his apprentice. Whatever way this plot goes could determine Maul's allegiances if or when he ever returns to the movies.
Speculation aside, in the context of the recent interlinking of the animated shows with the Star Wars movies, at least we know that Maul's return in Star Wars 8 isn't as remote a possibility as we originally thought. Here's hoping!