Image Source: Everett Collection
Warning: pretty giant spoilers for the end of Solo below, FYI!
You might think that because Solo: A Star Wars Story features familiar faces like Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich), Chewbacca, and Lando Calrissian, it might be a rehash of other Star Wars films we've seen thus far. Fortunately, that couldn't be further from the truth. Instead of exploring weighty themes, like the fate of the galaxy or good vs. evil, Solo shrinks its scope down until it is, essentially, a space-based heist film. Like all great heist films, it's slick, entertaining, and an inordinate amount of fun, but that doesn't mean it's completely divested itself from the bigger picture within the franchise. In Solo's final few minutes, a truly shocking cameo links it to the rest of the Star Wars universe. Let's discuss, shall we?
(Seriously, if you don't want to read any spoilers, turn back now.)
Rather than needing to stop a Death Star from destroying a ton of planets, Han's crew — Chewie, Lando (Donald Glover), Qi'ra (Emilia Clarke), L3 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), and Beckett (Woody Harrelson) — are tasked with stealing a massive amount of coaxium, a rare and explosive substance that can power starships, for violent gangster Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany).
A couple of double crosses and Kessel Runs later, Han has reluctantly killed the untrustworthy Beckett, has decided to give the pricey coaxium to a rogue group of space pirates (who are a part of the Rebel Alliance), and plans to reunite with his childhood love, Qi'ra. Unfortunately, Qi'ra takes over Vos's ship (after killing him earlier in the film) and leaves Han behind. That's when the movie's surprise cameo — which is so genuinely shocking everyone in my theater audibly gasped — goes down.
As Qi'ra flies away, she hops on a video call with none other than . . . Darth Maul.
Image Source: Lucasfilm
Since Solo takes place at some point between Episode III — Revenge of the Sith and the Star Wars standalone Rogue One, you might be thinking to yourself, "Um, didn't Obi-Wan Kenobi slice that dude in half back in The Phantom Menace? How is this possible?" You're not imagining things — the deadly Sith Lord does get sliced and diced by Obi-Wan on Naboo, which makes his reappearance confusing. That being said, at least there is an explanation for the whole thing.
If you're only a fan of the main, live-action Star Wars films, then you likely skipped watching the animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels, which Disney classifies as canon. It's in those two properties that Darth Maul makes a grand return. To give you the basics, Maul barely survives being briefly turned into a chopped salad and gets his hands on some robot legs, which then allow him to carry out a revenge plot against Obi-Wan and Darth Sidious with the help of his brother, Savage Opress.
All of this is to say that yes, it's totally possible for Darth Maul to be alive during the time of the events in Solo. He actually doesn't die until an episode of Star Wars Rebels, when he loses a lightsaber duel on Tatooine with his old foe, Obi-Wan.
So, how does he connect to Qi'ra? As you'll recall, her abusive former boss, Dryden Vos, works for the criminal organization Crimson Dawn, which serves Darth Maul. Given Vos's demise at the end of the film, Qi'ra is now taking direct orders from the red-faced villain, a relationship that we'll presumably see more of in future Solo movies.