It seems like a sacreligious question to ask, doesn’t it? Lupita Nyong’o‘s casting earned high praise from fans wanting Star Wars to be more diverse, and her Maz Kanata has come across as a kindly, almost grandmotherly, figure. But look closer. Assuming that J.J. Abrams actually plans to resolve every question he set in motion in The Force Awakens — and that’s by no means a safe bet — the evidence points in a different direction. What if she’s been part of an evil master plan all along?
Let’s take a look at the evidence. Please note: this is informed speculation based on the existing films and footage, and not on any spoiler leaks, which I avoid.
It’s a Trap!
Both times our heroes come to Maz for help, things go badly. The first time, Kylo Ren arrives on Takodana and captures Rey. The second time, Finn and Rose go to Canto Bight to acquire a useless ally sort-of named DJ, who betrays them.
Okay, but how could she have known? In the first instance, a First Order spy leaked BB-8’s location. Then a Resistance spy contacted the good guys. In the second, Rose and Finn were thwarted from making contact with Maz’s actual suggested ally, and made do.
What if those spies on Takodana were working with Maz’s consent? She clearly knows a lot of things, and it seems unlikely anything happens in her place without her knowing about it. She’s positioned as something of a female Yoda, and even though Yoda was dumb enough to miss the fact that Palpatine was Darth Sidious, he did seem to know the deal with everything on Dagobah. If Maz timed the leaks perfectly, so the First Order could grab Rey and then the resistance would save Han, she could achieve the betrayal and cover her tracks.
Likewise, she could have tipped off the cops on Canto Bight. They busted Finn and Rose awfully fast.
And then there’s the whole matter of Luke’s lightsaber. How did she get it? She won’t say. What does she say? That she’s seen the same thing go by different names: the Sith, the Empire, the First Order. The way she rattles it off makes it sound like she’s referring to the prequel trilogy and the original Rebellion timeline. But now that we know Palpatine is somehow alive, Imperial (not First Order) Star Destroyers are out there as seen in the trailer, and there’s an army of Sith Troopers, her statement takes on new meaning. Maybe she sees them all as one and the same not over the course of time, but as all the same right now, in this current moment. How would she know that? Perhaps because she’s working with them.
Your Father Wanted You to Have This
In the final The Rise of Skywalker trailer, Palpatine says “Your coming together is your undoing.” It fits his M.O. Palpatine has typically executed his plans by luring all his opponents into position before executing a wipeout move (Order 66, the functional second Death Star). Throughout the trilogy, Palpatine has always been the Force user with the most knowledge, even if he sometimes reads it wrong. (He was right about the end of the Rebellion; wrong about the fact that his death would be the reason.) He surely knew Luke Skywalker was still out there, and might take another apprentice. Said apprentice would need to be lured into place and destroyed. But if one didn’t appear to be forthcoming, why not speed up the process?
Regardless of who Rey is — daughter of nobodies? Clone of Luke’s hand? Qi’ra’s secret daughter? — it’s clear her Force sensitivity activated the moment she touched Luke’s lightsaber. And it took Maz to be in the right place at the right time to make that happen. Did she just happen to have that saber in her possession a long time? Or could it have been given to her the moment somebody realized Han Solo was en route?
The First Order’s plan was to find BB-8’s map, get to Luke Skywalker, and kill him. But for a villain as cocky as Palpatine, who prefers not to chase down anyone, why not a back-up plan of letting Luke train an apprentice who’ll simply come to him? Returning Luke’s lightsaber is a great way to bait the hook.
Han, Ol’ Buddy, Don’t Let Me Down
Maz is a longtime associate of Han Solo’s. Should that not make her trustworthy? Han’s a good guy, and his opinion should be gold.
Except no. Han has been betrayed by literally everyone he has ever done business with. From Tobias Beckett in his early adventures to Jabba the Hutt’s impatience with payback and Lando’s forced deception, Han always gets screwed over. As often as not it is his fault – Tasu Leech and Bala-Tik seem to have legit grievances. But aside from getting some reward money for saving Princess Leia — a deal made entirely after the fact — Han has never been involved in a good transaction.
Not only that, but the people who get cheated out of money by Han usually end up dead or worse for wear. Consider the strangulation of Jabba and the deaths of everyone watching from the Sail Barge, or the Guavian death gang eaten by Rathtars. They were all collecting on legitimate debts. Not only didn’t Han pay, but he got away after getting his collectors killed.
If Maz has a long memory, and is a pirate who hosts many other pirates over the years, what is her actual opinion of Han more likely to be? He’s an honorable thief…or a guy you never want to make a deal with? Looking at Qi’ra and Lando, her most obvious realization might be that the people who preemptively screw Han over first do better. And that he’s an easy mark if he thinks you’re his longtime friend.
So that’s Maz in her first movie. Where do we catch up with her in the second? Engaged in a “labor dispute” using a gun and jetpack. Maz is a proprietor. So what kind of boss brings a gun to a labor dispute? Not usually the kind anyone wants to work for. Granted, “labor dispute” plus laser gun seems like the sort of contemporary-based humor that Rian Johnson’s script is full of. Love it or hate it, a joke about unions is in keeping with the early joke about call waiting. So maybe any read deeper than that is too much. But do the good guys shoot at their employees?
Her other significant function is to recommend a code-breaker, who happens to be located on the casino planet of Canto Bight. Now, Maz is an ancient being with contacts everywhere. Do we think the only great codebreaker she knows is there? It’s unlikely. So why send people there, specifically?
Never Tell Me the Odds
Theory one: it’s a world occupied by arms dealers who sell to anyone, so they won’t be especially anti-Resistance. This is the most obvious read of the situation. If nobody’s looking to persecute the Resistance, Resistance members can come and go freely.
Yet the moment Finn and Rose show up, they blow it. They park on a private beach, and a casino planet surely has to have designated parking somewhere. Rose gets righteous about how terrible the place is. And before they can get to Maz’s codebreaker, they get arrested, and make do with a bum they find in their jail cell.
Theory two: Maz knew the Resistance couldn’t stand by in the face of oppression, and would try to right the wrongs of Canto Bight. This would lead them into trouble, and straight to a designated traitor who would serve them right up to the First Order.
Maz had Finn sized up as more of an idealist than even he knew from the moment she met him. Which scenario did she more plausibly foresee?
A Rose by Any Other Name
All of this points to Maz being revealed as a Palpatine associate. Except for one very crucial detail to Maz’s creation. She was inspired by J.J. Abrams’ high school English teacher, Rose Gilbert. And unless Ms. Gilbert imbued a healthy sense of irony in her pupil, Abrams is unlikely to sour the tribute in any way.
What side do you think Maz is really on? Let us know in comments below.