Updated: Feb 26, 2021
Mise-en-scène (French: [miz. ɑ̃. sɛn]; "placing on stage") is the stage design and arrangement of actors in scenes for a theatre or film production, both in visual arts through storyboarding, visual theme, and cinematography, and in narrative storytelling through direction.
We visit Darth Maul’s Hideout in the seasosn 3 episode, “Visions and Voices.” As a fan of the spooky episodes of The Clone Wars that featured the Nightsisters, Mother Talzin and Dathomir witchery, this is an episode I really love. One thing I especially like is the horror-like appearance of the former Nightsister lair that Maul has been calling home, what this setting indicates about his character, and how we can analyze it.
While Star Wars Rebels makes references to Maul’s time as a leader on Mandalore, they never delve too deep into the specifics of that time. However, Maul’s hideout is full of references that indicate while Maul hasn’t had power on Mandalore for quite some time (at this point, over fifteen years), yet he still obsesses over it. This isn’t surprising- a key component of his character in both The Clone Wars and Rebels is the way he clamors for revenge against Obi-Wan Kenobi, so he’s no stranger to living in the past. But we can see the way that his time on Mandalore still has a hold on it.
There are scraps of paper all over the wall with red scribbles on them, which I’m not going to pretend I understand. He’s written Kenobi in big, angry red letters on the wall (again an indicator of his anger against him), but the letters are in Mando’a, not Aurebesh, which is what you’d think he’d write in. We know from The Clone Wars that one of the things that drove Maul into taking power of Mandalore was a desire to take revenge against Obi-Wan, by way of killing Satine Kryze, and we know his attempt to fully take over Mandalore in season 7 of The Clone Wars was to try and lure Kenobi out.
So what we’re seeing here is something similar- in Maul’s mind, Mandalore and Kenobi have merged together into a symbol of his failures and a desire for revenge. We can glean the same thing with a stolen portrait in his possession.
The portrait of Satine is sideways on the wall, among a mess of metal. It’s has angry scratches across the eyes and neck. Again, Maul’s anger against Kenobi being taken out on a symbol of Mandalore. My own personal speculation here is that Maul may have anger against himself for the way he killed Satine. Whether true or not, perhaps Maul believes that if he’d been able to keep Satine hostage through the Siege of Mandalore, Obi-Wan would have come to Mandalore rather than Ahsoka Tano, and he takes his anger at himself over this out on a portrait of Satine.
Maul’s hideout, as we can see, is a Halloween-like mess. The Nighsister lairs already help with this appearance by design- they’re dark, cave-like with intricately designed pillars holding them up. Dathomir itself even on the outside is coated with a scary red fog. Scraps of metal and paper lie all over much of it, there’s candles and chalices that give it a cult-like appearance, and of course, the whole “spooky green smoke” thing that leads Kanan and Sabine to be possessed by Nightsister spirits and attack Ezra.
And it makes sense that Maul wouldn’t have a very neat living space- his mental state at this point has deteriorated heavily, and he’s lost a lot of the power he once had. We know from Solo: A Star Wars Story that he was a leader of the Crimson Dawn crime syndicate prior to Rebels, but given that there’s no mention of this in the show, I think we may be able to assume that somehow that has gone to the wayside for him as well. Maul’s living space is a mess, because his life is too, and just like when Savage Oppress first found him in The Clone Wars, the only thing he has to cling to anymore is his revenge against Kenobi.
However, despite the fact that Maul has no organization to his things, and that the Nightsister lair he’s taken over has become filthy, there is one object that he seems to treat with respect.
The darksaber rests on a stand designed to hold it, illuminated by some candles. It’s not haphazardly laying around like many other things in Maul’s lair, it’s not something hung crooked on the wall like Satine’s portrait, and it’s not damaged in a way that indicates Maul has taken his anger out on it. After all, with the darksaber still owned by him, something he won from Pre Vizsla, this would technically make him the rightful ruler of Mandalore. Why would he hurt the only symbol left of his power?
Like how the rooms of the Ghost tell us about the personalities of their occupants, Maul’s hideout gives us a look into the psyche of Maul, how he feels about his past and where his priorities lie- all while also giving us a great spooky episode of Star Wars Rebels to enjoy when October rolls around.
Next week, we’ll visit the much brighter planet of Shantipole, to look at Quarrie’s Workshop- the birthplace of the B-Wing.