Who will win this Duel of the Fates? Not Obi Wan.
By Brad Gullickson Published on June 23, 2022
Star Wars explained is our ongoing series where we delve into the latest Star Wars shows, movies, trailers and news stories to predict the future of the franchise. This entry explores Obi-Wan Kenobi Episode 6 and the final showdown between Obi-Wan and Anakin Skywalker.
This week, obi†Wan Kenya delivered his title fight. Obi Wan (Ewan McGregor) vs. Darth Vader (James Earl Jones†Hayden Christensen), as we’ve never seen them before and probably never will again… uh, let’s swap “probably” with “maybe” given the streaming success of the show. The showdown was split up the same way Luke Skywalker’s Darth Vader saber fight played out Return of the Jediswapped Ewok/Stormtrooper hairstyles with Third Sister Reva (Moses Ingram) running after a Tatooine child.
Director Deborah Chow couldn’t give us what we wanted in one big gulp. That’s not the George Lucas way. Star Wars is about slowing down pleasure, giving us just enough to keep us going, never lingering on the event we all came here to experience.
Like a season, obi†Wan Kenya was a painful watch. Our title character spends much of the series hiding from his failures, constantly deserting those who still struggle to fight the Empire. In Episode 3, when Obi-Wan first set his eyes on the monster he melted on Mustafar, he nearly succumbed to his depression. Obi-Wan probably would have let him die out if it weren’t for his new friends.
“What have you become?” the Jedi asked. “I am what you made me,” replied the Sith.
Those six words cut deeper than any lightsaber cut. They represented everything Obi-Wan feared at the time. The darkest evil that ran through the galaxy came from his instruction and his ignorance. except now, obi†Wan Kenya Episode 6 would like to see Obi-Wan off the hook. Should we leave it?
Obi-Wan Kenobi, the Jedi returns
Throughout the season, we saw Obi-Wan Kenobi slowly escape his despair. His interactions with Leia (Vivien Lyra Blair) and a burgeoning resistance force awakened hope within. Yes, he and the Jedi Council have lost, and their inability to recognize the evil rising from the Republic and their prized apprentice cost the galaxy its freedom. Billions died because Obi-Wan couldn’t imagine such an atrocity seeping into Anakin. Obi-Wan deserved that shame and should never shake it.
But while Obi-Wan was ready to lie down in the desert and sulk, thousands of others continued to fight. They had no other choice. The problem with Obi-Wan in Episode 1 is that he couldn’t shake the memory of his beating. He wrapped himself in defeat, and apparently only Leia could shake him off.
I recently watched the Tony Hawk documentary Until the wheels fall off† The film proposes that the young ice-skating rat became a legend because he never held back the pain that came with the falls. Hawk would break his arm, but days later, if not hours later, he’d be back on the board. His inability to remember defeat allowed him to commit to the most difficult tricks.
Obi-Wan Kenobi facing Darth Vader on the unnamed moon in episode 6 is the Jedi Knight who reappears on the board, once again in combat. Crossing the swords was probably enough, but Vader’s last words to him sealed the deal. The guilt Obi-Wan felt about chopping off his friend’s arms and legs quickly dissipated.
Anakin Skywalker, a suicide?
What was the first thing we ever learned about Darth Vader? In Star Wars† A new hope, Ben Kenobi tells Luke Skywalker: “A young Jedi named Darth Vader, who was an apprentice of mine until he turned to evil, helped the Empire track down and destroy the Jedi Knights. He betrayed and killed your father.’
A few years later, in Return of the Jedi, Force Kenobi’s ghost into history to explain the lie to Luke for the sake of it after the kid discovers the truth about his dear old father. “Your father,” he said, “was seduced by the Dark Side of the Force. He was no longer the Jedi Anakin Skywalker and became the Sith Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man that was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true… from a certain point of view.”
From a certain point of view? In 1983 we were there with Luke Skywalker. Come on, Ben. That’s what BS In light of obi†Wan Kenya Episode 6, we totally understand how Ben came to that conclusion. He did the mental gymnastics, for his own good, and for Anakin’s sake. He just follows the truth of Darth Vader.
With his helmet shattered and his fleshy parts sticking out, Vader gargles his disgust at Obi-Wan. He refuses to accept Obi-Wan’s apology with wet eyes. “I’m not your failure,” he beeps. “You didn’t kill Anakin Skywalker. I did.”
Vader cannot give Obi-Wan the victory. Again, the Jedi got the high ground. This time by smashing the mechanical parts that keep the fleshy body under breathing. Shrunken and as pathetic as ever, Darth Vader rejects Obi-Wan’s stance and proudly takes responsibility for his choices during Revenge of the Sith†
No one forced Anakin to the Dark Side. No one guided his hand when he struck those youths down. Palpatine only fanned the fires of hatred that swell within. Once the Jedi switched teams, he was eager to take on a new cloak and the old one kill him. Obi-Wan remains the last vestige of his past life, which is why he has to kill him so hard. That’s also why Palpatine wants Vader to give up the ghost when Episode 6 ends.
Vader’s attachment to Obi-Wan is a threat. They remind him that there was both Light in Vader and Dark. It’s a rift that will only widen as Vader increasingly associates with his son, Luke Skywalker. Palpatine senses the betrayal on the horizon. You have to wonder if that light in Vader could have grown sooner if Obi-Wan hadn’t run away.
Just as crushed by Vader’s words as Obi-Wan in Episode 3, he becomes more by those who shot his way in Episode 6. Seeking forgiveness for creating Vader could have been a bridge between the former master and apprentice. Accepting Vader’s total guilt for his creation causes Obi-Wan to reject his brother as an inhuman other. Because of the dismissal, Vader can double, triple his misery.
If that’s what Obi-Wan was going to do, he probably should have killed Vader on the moon at that point and saved countless lives. But he can’t kill Vader, just like Luke can’t kill him in Return of the Jedi† Obi-Wan can ignore the love he feels for Anakin, but he can’t completely eradicate it, and this is also a kind of cowardice. It’s a lingering fear that will bubble up in Obi-Wan’s request for Luke to do to Vader what Obi-Wan couldn’t.
Fortunately, Luke Skywalker has the bigger heart. The son’s openness to a Light Side opportunity leads the father to turn against his dark master. Obi-Wan could have gotten that ball rolling sooner if Vader’s words in episode 6 hadn’t hurt him so deeply. Accepting Anakin Skywalker’s death is as much a failure as ignoring Darth Vader’s slow creation in Revenge of the Sith† The next generation is always left to solve the shortcomings of the previous one. Just ask Ben Sol0.
Obi-Wan Kenya Episode 6 is now streaming on Disney+
Related Topics: Ewan McGregor, Star Wars, Star Wars Explained
Brad Gullickson is a weekly columnist for Film School Rejects and senior curator for One Perfect Shot. When not talking about movies here, he roams about comics as the co-host of Comic Book Couples Counseling. Look him up on Twitter: @MouthDork† (he/him)