Oh yeah, I definitely think bringing in Maul as a constant presence throughout the show is a smart call, especially given his rivalry with Obi-Wan. But he’s not really in Episodes 1-3 in any capacity other than the cold open, so it feels kind of disconnected to me. To spin off of your example, with the Game of Thrones cold open, you see a couple of people, and a White Walker or two. The survivor comes back into the episode later on, and he warns the Starks about the Walkers before he’s executed. This has, I feel, a few key differences to the Maul opening.
GOT is teasing ideas. The idea of a White Walker. The idea of how terrifying they are. It’s not just about showing the Walkers, it’s about showing why they’re so terrifying. Whenever Ned says “Winter is coming,” we remember the White Walkers and crap our pants. With Maul, the hook here is “Look at these people…that you don’t know yet. But you will, promise! Try to remember them.” We’re not scared of Maul, or of Death Watch. We don’t know what the Dark Saber is, or have any reason to suspect that it’s special. There’s no emotional investment in anything we see, nothing to make it stick in our minds. At best, it makes the audience curious; at worst, it makes them confused. (If we’re treating this project as “The Clone Wars, in the style of The Mandalorian,” the Clone Wars edits should be accessible to anyone, even if they haven’t seen any Star Wars before.)
The White Walkers serve as a looming presence. In part because we (the audience) are scared of them too, but also because the events of the cold open come back later in the episode, when Ned executes the survivor. If Maul doesn’t come back until the final episode of the season, there’s nothing to reinforce his presence in the show until that time. Again, I feel that this will come across as confusing, and it also feels weird in terms of pacing.
With Maul, I think you’re throwing too much in there for a opening shot. With GOT, you have a few Red Shirts, and…some creature. No specifics, easy to remember. With Maul, you have to remember Maul specifically, you have to remember the Mandalorians, the Dark Saber, that other horned guy…and again, none of this will reappear until halfway through the season. That’s a lot to throw on a first time viewer.
Compare this to The Mandalorian. The cold open is our main hero beating up a few NPCs at a bar. Nothing really necessary to remember. Like Game of Thrones, it’s using the cold open to set up the tone of the show, and of the world. It’s not trying to throw major characters and plot threads at the audience in the first thirty seconds.
Compare that to putting it as an ending stinger. We’ll have met Death Watch, seen the Dark Saber. Now the tone of the scene goes from “I don’t understand any of this” to “Oh man, Death Watch is still out there? Who’s this red guy? Are they going to team up to fight Obi-Wan Kenobi?? I can’t wait to watch the next season!”
Ultimately, it’s up to you, man. Please don’t think that I’m trying to commandeer your project; I’m just offering my own two cents. You have an amazing thing going here.
As for Clone Cadets/Rookies/ARC Troopers, I think evansj1983 has the right idea. Cross cutting into flashbacks would probably work really well, and it would help to make it a little different stylistically than the other episodes. Even if you want to do a Rookies episode (with Clone Cadet flashbacks), and then a separate ARC Troopers episode (doing both of the first two episodes as flashbacks in ARC might be more challenging). For example, when they say in Rookies, “Echo was cooking in the vat for too long, ha ha ha,” you could fade out to their first training session in Cadets, when they were all dysfunctional - juxtapose their present friendship with their initial antagonism. When Cutup dies, flash back to him claiming his name. When Rex gives the “Shinies” speech, cut back to Domino Squad completing the course. Maybe pair Rex’s Kamino speech with Shaak-Ti’s graduation speech. When Hevy sacrifices himself, fade to white or whatever, flash back to his one of his chats with 99, then cut back to the other Troopers watching the explosion. Stuff like that.
And honestly, I think it would be good to have a “Clones Introduction” episode. They may not be “central” characters like Anakin and Ahsoka, but they are important. Umbara only works if you’re familiar with and care about Rex and Fives, Fives discovering the Order 66 conspiracy, Echo’s sacrifice at the citadel (and his eventual return)…all of it depends on knowing and caring about the Clones.
Comparing to Game of Thones again(!), it’s like introducing the Starks, and then a few episodes later you introduce Brienne. Brienne is a very important character too, but she doesn’t have any scenes with the Starks at first. But then they all come together in ARC Troopers for a giant, epic, Avengers-esque team-up!