Opinion: The Star Wars Miniseries attempted to capitalize on fan nostalgia while passing up an opportunity to delve deeper into Anakin Skywalker’s mystique.
Warning: This article contains significant spoilers for all six episodes of Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi!
Obi-Wan Kenobi (Star Wars) Kenobi’s life was always a delicate balancing act. The series seeks to record a key, untold episode in Obi-life, Wan’s revealing a critical conflict between the Jedi Master and his former disciple that we were previously unaware of. Rarely has a Star Wars spinoff had to work so hard to keep up with the film’s raindrops? And, as entertaining as the series is, it does more to generate new difficulties for the ever-expanding Star Wars mythos than to answer remaining questions regarding the Anakin/Obi-Wan connection.
Now that the series has concluded let’s look at the key plot gaps left hanging after the conclusion, the series’ largest missed storytelling opportunity, and how the finale sees Obi-Wan repeat the most selfish decision of his life.
Obi-Wan’s Tatooine debacle
Obi-Wan Kenobi has an issue with Tatooine, but not in the same manner that prior shows such as The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett did. The problem with writing an Obi-Wan Kenobi story set during his exile on Tatooine is that you would either have to stick to a smaller-scale Space Western (like in the 2014 novel Star Wars: Kenobi and the various flashback tales in Marvel’s Star Wars comics). Or you have to figure out how Obi-Wan could venture back into the wider galaxy without blowing his cover. The series is undoubtedly praiseworthy for adopting the more daring path, but that decision leaves some plot holes when the credits roll.
Throughout the series, we witness Obi-Wan elude the Sith Inquisitorius and face Darth Vader twice. Finally, Obi-Wan chooses to save his fallen apprentice’s life once more and return to his hiding place. However, there is one clear concern here. Tatooine is no longer a good place to hide. While only Reva appears to be able to properly draw the dots between Obi-whereabouts Wan’s and Anakin Skywalker’s birth home, the other Inquisitors are likely to figure out where Obi-Wan has been all this time. What’s to stop the Inquisitors from returning to the desert world and hunting Obi-Wan down again? The fact that he moved from his cave to the distant hut depicted in Episode IV does not appear to be enough to confuse Vader’s expert Jedi hunters. Not to mention, the complications provided by Reva’s continued existence and knowledge of Luke’s parentage.
The series’ events ensure that Obi-Wan is now a liability rather than a guardian angel to Luke and his family. His stay on Tatooine constantly jeopardizes Luke’s safety and privacy. For all that Star Wars fans have made fun of Obi-decision Wan’s to go into hiding without altering his or Luke’s names, this series has created a much larger plot hole to dwarf that one.
The series’ events ensure that Obi-Wan is now a liability rather than a guardian angel to Luke and his family.
The finale appears to try to avoid this by having Vader converse with Emperor Palpatine. Palpatine shames Vader for getting too absorbed with his history, which appears to be enough for Vader to avoid the humiliation of his second loss for another ten years. Is it supposed to be assumed that no-one in the Empire, neither Vader nor anyone else, bothers to follow up on this loose end? Would Palpatine really be this oblivious to the fact that a great Jedi Master is still conspiring against him? What is the purpose of the Inquisitorius if not to deal with situations like this?
The series could have easily avoided this issue by having Obi-Wan pretend to die during his final battle with Vader. The Dark Lord of the Sith would then be free to go on, and the series wouldn’t have to jump through hoops to justify why the Empire remains away from Tatooine for another decade.
The Real Price of Obi-Wan’s Mercy
Many of Obi-Wan Kenobi’s major story gaps boil down to one question: why didn’t Character A make sure Character B was dead? It’s a problem that comes up again throughout the series. Reva betrays the Grand Inquisitor, but only with a non-fatal stab wound. He and Vader then turn on Reva, with Vader executing Reva in a similarly non-lethal fashion. It’s tough to comprehend why these power-hungry Sith Lords don’t stick around to ensure their adversaries are killed in both circumstances.
Vader appears especially inept for leaving Reva alive and nearly allowing her to murder his son. Because of storyline decisions like this, the series isn’t as successful as it could have been in terms of building up Darth Vader’s mystique in his supposed heyday. In that way, Rogue One arguably did considerably more with far less.
Then there’s Obi-dubious Wan’s gesture of mercy in the epilogue. Master Kenobi demonstrates his superiority in lightsaber battle after regaining his Force mojo. Like in Revenge of the Sith, Obi-Wan has the opportunity to murder Anakin but chooses to walk away. The parallel is undeniably intentional, but it doesn’t always work to the show’s advantage.
Given that the two characters must finish up where they are in A New Hope, the series obviously has limited possibilities. But where is the logic in Obi-gesture Wan’s kindness? Why let Darth Vader live, free to terrorize the galaxy? It’s not even as if Obi-Wan was attempting to save Anakin’s life on Mustafar. The second episode reveals that Obi-Wan thought Anakin was dead until he met Reva. Obi-Wan definitely thought he was condemning Anakin to death when he left his former apprentice burning alive in the lava fields of Mustafar. He had no mercy at the time. If anything, his decision was deeply selfish. He couldn’t bear the thought of killing his brother, so Obi-Wan instead left Anakin to die slowly and horribly, cementing Anakin’s transition into a genocidal psychopath.
Knowing what he knows now about Anakin’s fate, why doesn’t Obi-Wan strive to right his wrong and put Anakin out of his misery? Taking Palpatine’s top enforcer off the board would undoubtedly save countless lives. What exactly compels him to spare Anakin’s life yet again, knowing full well that people will die due to his decision? Is his “mercy” act any less self-serving than the one in Revenge of the Sith?
It’s not as if there aren’t any conceivable answers to those queries. Jedi don’t take life when they can avoid it (but this isn’t always the case in this case). Maybe Obi-Wan is still convinced that Anakin is the Chosen One. Maybe he senses the Force has something in store for this twisted, terrible Sith Lord. By the end of the series, he appears to be more fatalistic.
The main problem is that the series does not delve deeper into these issues. We get two physically magnificent lightsaber duels between Obi-Wan and Vader, but neither fully exploit their history or the emotional weight of their reunion.
Anakin Skywalker’s Redemption
Obi-decision Wan’s to spare Darth Vader and the lack of knowledge of his intentions ultimately testify to the series’ most evident weakness. Obi-Wan Kenobi had a rare opportunity to address a lingering enigma from Return of the Jedi, as we explored when Hayden Christensen’s casting was initially announced. When Darth Vader and Luke reconnect on Endor, he acknowledges, “Obi-Wan once thought as you do.” At that moment, Vader realizes Obi-Wan thought traces of Anakin Skywalker still reside within him, despite Obi-denials Wan’s during their showdown on Mustafar.
By seizing on that enigma and delving into the importance of Vader’s comments, the Obi-Wan series may have earned its place in the canon. When did he understand Obi-Wan believes he may be redeemed? When, after all, did Obi-Wan come to that conclusion? In the climax, he expresses sympathy for his fallen comrade but appears resigned to the fact that Anakin is no longer alive. He admits as much when he mocks Anakin and refers to him as “Darth,” repeating a similar interaction in A New Hope. Even when he subsequently emerges as a Force Ghost in Episodes V and VI, Obi-Wan appears to be more concerned with Luke’s survival than Anakin’s redemption.
Unfortunately, the franchise appears to be no closer to answering this lingering enigma even now. The Obi-Wan Kenobi series never fully explores Anakin’s salvation or Obi-emotions Wan’s on the matter. Despite the novelty of watching Hayden Christensen and Ewan McGregor square off again, the series doesn’t necessarily contribute anything to their relationship that the prequel trilogy didn’t previously provide. Both Vader and Obi-Wan are left almost exactly where they were at the end of Revenge of the Sith. Vader is Emperor Palpatine’s brooding right-hand man, and Obi-Wan journeys into the desert to await Luke’s arrival.
It would be unfair to suggest that the series adds nothing to the wider Star Wars narrative. It introduces several new characters, with Reva possibly serving as the lead in future chapters. It also establishes a previously unknown common relationship between Obi-Wan and Leia and adds a fresh dimension to Luke and Leia’s adoptive families.
However, the series comes across as frustratingly conservative and plain when it comes to the all-important Obi-Wan/Darth Vader conflict. Two of the franchise’s most iconic characters had a never-before-seen reunion, but it doesn’t seem to matter in the larger scheme. If McGregor and Christensen get their way and Lucasfilm approves a second season, it must learn from the previous season’s failures. It’s not enough to merely transition between movie beats. A series like Obi-Wan Kenobi must have something absolutely unique and profound to convey about its protagonist.
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