If the finale of The Clone Wars taught us anything it's this: never underestimate a secret apprentice. Two phantom apprentices — Maul and Ahsoka — not only survived Order 66 and evaded their former masters, but they also learned certain pieces of the Palpatine puzzle before anyone else.
What Ahsoka and Maul each knew could have changed the history of the galaxy, but it seems like Maul was pretty in the dark about one huge aspect of Palatine's plan. In fact, one of the biggest reveals for Maul totally happens off-screen, and it's the one thing we've all overlooked until right now.
It's very possible that Maul doesn't know Palpatine and Darth Sidious are the exact same person. Sounds impossible? Here's the evidence.
Warning! Spoilers ahead for The Clone Wars finale.
Okay. I know what you're thinking. You're thinking this guy hasn't watched Star Wars and that he's officially lost it. Maul must know Palpatine and Sidious are the same person, right? I mean, Maul meets with Sidious on Coruscant in The Phantom Menace. In that same film, Sidious tells the Trade Federation that he will "make sure things in the Senate remain as they are" and then, says "Lord Maul, be mindful."
On its own, The Phantom Menace suggests Maul is 100 percent on the inside of everything Sidious is doing, but throughout The Clone Wars, it becomes clear that isn't the case at all.
If anything, The Clone Wars doubles-down on the idea that Maul was manipulated by Sidious in nearly every single way. Even in the most recent 4-part-finale, Maul admits he wasn't privy to all of Sidious' plans, and when Order 66 happens, Maul is both impressed and surprised about the specifics of the plan.
With that in mind, it feels really possible that Maul never knew that Palpatine and Sidious were the same person and only discovered this at the same time everyone else did. I'm willing to admit I'm wrong on this theory, but let's take a look.
What Darth Maul knew about Palpatine
In Episode 10 of The Clone Wars Season 7, "The Phantom Apprentice" Maul tries to get Ahsoka to help him stop Sidious. (Notice he never says "Palpatine.") Here's how the conversation goes down:
Ahsoka: Sidious is behind it?
Maul: Yes, behind everything, in the shadows, always...but soon, very soon, he will reveal himself.
You could argue that Maul saying "he [Sidous] will reveal himself" proves he knows Palpatine is Sidious, but if that were the case, why wouldn't he just say it? He's literally telling Ahsoka everything else he knows including the idea that Anakin Skywalker is the "key to everything...he has long been groomed for his role as my Master's new apprentice."
If Maul really wanted to sell this to Ahsoka, it would have been smart to say, "Oh, by the way, Palpatine is the secret identity of Darth Sidious, which is why all of this works. Isn't Palpatine buddies with Anakin?" But he doesn't say that at all. He's kind of vague about how his "vision" works, and he's even vaguer about how Sidious has managed all of this grooming of Anakin. And so, Ahsoka, quite reasonably, is unconvinced by the argument and says: "I know Anakin. Your vision is flawed."
She's right. Maul made a bad case for Anakin being Sidious's new apprentice because it feels like he doesn't have all the information.
That time Palpatine fought Maul in Clone Wars
In The Clone Wars Season 6, Episode 16, "The Lawless," Sidious goes to Mandalore in-person to (apparently) kill both Darth Maul and his brother, Savage Opress. He's successful in taking out Savage, and when he duels Maul, he mentions that Maul has "been replaced" by a new apprentice. In theory, this refers to Count Dooku, but maybe not? Maybe Palps is already thinking about Anakin?
Throughout this confrontation, Sidious never reveals himself as Palpatine. Yes, we can see his eyes, but the hood remains on at all times. Again, this might not seem like it matters, but if Maul is allowed to know that Palpatine and Sidious are the same, why not throw back the hood?
In fact, in this same scene, Sidious says he is keeping Maul alive because he has "other uses for you!" If Palpatine thought Maul knew he about his double identity, there's no way he would have let him stay alive. At this point, it's safe to assume the only person who knows about the double-identity thing is Count Dooku, but again, maybe not?
Wait, didn't Count Dooku know Palpatine secret?
The point where Palpatine tells anyone he's also Darth Sidious is a huge liability for all of his plans. We know General Grevious was always in the dark because in Revenge of the Sith he is fooled into "capturing" Palpatine. But what about Darth Tyranus (aka, Count Dooku)? Was he always aware that Palpatine and Sidious were the same person? Your gut tells you "yes," but are you sure?
We know Count Dooku is aware of the dual identity by the time of Revenge of the Sith because of his look of surprise when Palps orders Anakin to kill Dooku. But did Dooku know Palpatine and Sidious were one in the same in Attack of the Clones? Like Maul trying to convince Ahsoka in The Clone Wars finale, Dooku leaves out a crucial piece of information when he tells Obi-Wan about Darth Sidious in Attack of the Clones.
"Hundreds of senators are now under the influence of a Sith Lord named Darth Sidious."
Obi-Wan says, "I don't believe you," and again, like Ahsoka, this is reasonable. If Dooku had said "Chancellor Palpatine is a Sith Lord named Darth Sidious," Obi-Wan might have been like, "Oh shit, that's actually plausible." But, again, the vagueness is what makes Obi-Wan not buy this.
Now, you could argue that Dooku's motivations here were different than Maul's in The Clone Wars finale. Maybe Dooku wasn't really trying to recruit Obi-Wan to help him overthrow Sidious. Maybe he was just trying to get in his head, and maybe that was actually part of Sidious' plan.
But it's hard to see how that helps anybody. The whole purpose of the Sith takeover is to do it quietly. Having Dooku get chatty with Obi-Wan about who is a Darth and who isn't feels like Dooku trying to betray Palps in the longterm. And like Maul a few years later, Dooku leaves out a crucial piece of information that would make one of the good guys pay attention: Palpatine is the Sith Lord.
So, did Dooku know? Maybe, maybe not. But there is a version of this where Dooku only knows right before the Battle of Coruscant in Revenge of the Sith, and prior to that, like Maul and everyone else, he was also unaware of exactly how Darth Sidious was controlling the Senate.
And if you're wondering why Palpatine bothered sharing his secret with Dooku moments before orchestrating his death... well, that's a pretty good question. Our best guess would be that Palps did it to save his own skin. That or he just enjoyed playing with his food.
There's also the explanation offered by the 2005 Revenge of the Sith novelization, which makes it very clear that Dooku knew who Palpatine was prior to the abduction, and that the "plan" — from Dooku's point of view — would be to kill Kenobi and turn Anakin to the Dark Side.
If we take that book as canon (which it isn't necessarily), it means Dooku knew Palpatine was Sidious prior to setting up his fake abduction. But what about before that? The Clone Wars lasted for three full years. Did Dooku know that Sidious and Palps were the same person the entire time?
Considering that Dooku helped Sidious create the Clone Army, you might think the answer is yes. But it's not like the people in the Trade Federation was aware of this fact. So you could argue Palps made his dual identity a need-to-know thing and only selected certain times when he told people.
Why Anakin and Palpatine had a special bond
Did the Sith have a Chosen One? Palpatine's interest in Anakin can partially be explained by the fact that at least one canon Star Wars comic (Darth Vader #25) indicates Palps physically influenced the midi-chlorians to create Anakin.
This doesn't mean he's Anakin's father, but it does mean Palpatine valued Anakin more than his other apprentices, apparently from birth. That'ss why it makes sense that Palpatine told Anakin he was Darth Sidious right before Order 66. In other words, Palpatine was pretty careful about who he revealed his biggest secret to, and the person he did tell, was — in his head — his longterm right-hand-man.
Right now, as far we know for sure, Palps revealing he's Sidious breaks-down as follows.
- Palps tells Count Dooku he's Darth Sidious right before Dooku gets betrayed by Palps
- Palps tells Anakin he's Darth Sidious right before he turns Anakin to the Dark Side
We can't include Dooku's name on this list until Revenge of the Sith. And we can't include Maul's name on this list at all. Of course, Palpatine's ability to disguise himself with just a hood over his eyes is ridiculous, but the moments he pulls that hood back (metaphorically) are like when Clark Kent tells Lois Lane he's Superman. Lois may have suspected all along, but the confirmation is what counts. Unlike Superman, Palpatine didn't just use something to hide his eyes, he also had the Dark side of the Force manipulating everyone's perception.
If Darth Maul (and maybe Darth Tyranus) had known the whole story the entire time, the Clone Wars would have gone very differently. And if you buy this theory, it means the biggest threat to Palpatine wasn't really the Jedi, but instead, other Sith Lords.
The Clone Wars are streaming now on Disney+.