We’re running a recap series of Obi-Wan Kenobi on Disney+. There are spoilers, duh! You’ve been warned.
It came as some mercy that Obi-Wan Kenobi began with a recap of the prequel trilogy, just in case it’s been a minute since you’ve fired up those old films. And if you take issue with me calling the prequels “old,” I remind you that the 16 years between The Return of the Jedi (1983) and The Phantom Menace (1999) is one year less than the time that’s elapsed between Ewan McGregor playing Obi-Wan Kenobi in 2005’s The Revenge of the Sith and today.
Ahhh, there it is again, that funny feeling. You and I are getting old, friend.
But rather than let that thought linger, here I go recapping their recap.
Obi-Wan Kenobi had once been the apprentice to Jedi Qui-Gon Jinn and accompanied Jinn (along with Jar Jar Binks) to the desert planet of Tatooine where they all came upon a young Anakin Skywalker. Jinn determined Skywalker was the foretold Chosen One who would bring balance to the Force, and resolved to train the young Skywalker in the Jedi Way, despite objections from Master Yoda and the rest of the Jedi Council.
After Jinn’s untimely demise, Skywalker’s apprenticeship moved under Kenobi’s tutelage. The rest of the prequel films are the story of Skywalker’s gradual drift away from Kenobi’s teachings to the dark side of the Force, and his surrender to Emperor Palpatine’s influence.
Anakin Skywalker was crowned Lord Darth Vader, which led to a final confrontation with Kenobi. That ended with Skywalker legless, burnt beyond recognition, and left for dead along a river of lava on the planet Mustafar. Spoiler: He wasn’t actually dead. But important to this series, Kenobi thought he was.
The Emperor salvaged what was left of Anakin’s broken body and replaced the rest with ghastly machinery. That was Anakin’s curse, rivaled only by the death of his wife, Padmé Amidala, and the rage and despair which accompanied it.
Now we pick up the story ten years later. Obi-Wan Kenobi lives as a recluse on the dune seas of Tatooine. Having abandoned the name Obi-Wan, the former Jedi General now goes by Ben and has been reduced to a life of hiding, manual labor, and keeping watch over Skywalker’s “orphaned” son, Luke.
The Jedi are all but extinct at this point, with the remaining few methodically hunted and extinguished by Force-wielding dark agents who report directly to Darth Vader himself. They are the Empire’s Inquisitors.
Kenobi is keeping his head down, closing himself to the Force, and rejecting his old way of life to the point of dismissing pleas for help from a fellow Jedi who’s come under the Inquisitor’s sights; he admonishes the young man to bury his lightsaber in the desert and keep a low profile. Meanwhile, his recurring nightmares leave Kenobi racked with guilt and reliving the terror of Anakin’s turn to the dark side.
If it feels like you’ve heard this stanza before, that’s because the Star Wars anthologies tend to rhyme like poetic verses, which means we’re meant to recall the time Luke Skywalker went into hiding after his student, Ben Solo (named after Kenobi), broke bad under the influence of Supreme Leader Snoke. Luke responded by going into hiding, closing himself to the Force, and rejecting a young Jedi’s pleas for help in The Last Jedi. In that instance, rather than bury his lightsaber in the sand, Skywalker tossed the blade over his shoulder.
But in much the same way Luke snapped out of his malaise and eventually agreed to help Rey and the Resistance, the curmudgeonly Kenobi was no match for a hologram plea for help from an old friend, Bail Organa, who came to the Jedi with an appeal to recover a kidnapped Princess Leia, the other Skywalker sibling.
Continuing with the rhyming stanzas, this is a direct callback to the events of A New Hope, which takes place some nine years after the events of this series. In the 1977 film, Princess Leia recorded a similar hologram in her most desperate hour. And if you recall those words that many of us can recite from memory, Leia’s plea was made on her father’s behalf: “Years ago, you served my father in the Clone Wars. Now he begs you to help in his struggle against the Empire.”
So Kenobi is off to rescue the precocious ten-year-old Leia Organa from the clutches of her kidnappers, unaware that the entire scheme was a ruse by the Third Sister Reva to draw him out of hiding. You’ll forgive Kenobi for being a little rusty after living in hiding for ten years. He used to be much better at sniffing out traps like this.
To be fair, Kenobi had no reason to think an Inquisitor would take a special interest in him. Sure, he had some stature among the former Council and rose to the rank of General. But he didn’t yet know that Anakin survived their climactic duel of the fates on the volcanic planet Mustafar.
But all that changes at the end of episode two when Reva reveals the awful truth to Kenobi: Anakin lives.
This undoubtedly adds another layer of guilt to Kenobi’s recurring nightmare. At least in the killing of his beloved brother, Obi-Wan had performed the necessary evil of ridding the galaxy of a terrible threat. Now, to learn that he had even failed at that, one must imagine it’s a burden too terrible for the old man to bear.
Whatever happens in the remaining four episodes of this series, I anticipate we’ll learn the extent of Kenobi’s effort to turn Vader back to the light. Do you recall the interaction between Luke and Vader in The Return of the Jedi?
“I know there is good in you,” Luke implored his father. “Come with me.”
Vader’s response: “Obi-Wan once thought as you do.”
The best, most biblical message from the original trilogy was Luke’s unconditional, sacrificial love for Anakin, which led him to offer his life to the Emperor in order to redeem his murderous, traitorous father.
If my best hopes for this series are fulfilled, it’ll be the redemption of Kenobi’s arc and seeing that Luke was not alone in his hope for Anakin. Instead, Luke stood on fertile ground already tilled by his mentor. From Vader’s own telling, whatever effort Obi-Wan made to bring Anakin back from the dark, it was on the front of Vader’s mind moments before Luke completed the work.
“I have failed you, Anakin,” was once Kenobi’s hopeless cry. That’s the nightmare that has haunted his dreams.
Now he has a second chance. There’s hope for Obi-Wan, after all.
A new hope.