Here are my much belated thoughts on the final episode of the Disney Plus Obi-Wan Kenobi series. For my thoughts on previous episodes, go here.
Meanwhile, my latest article at Galactic Journey just went up two days ago. The subject is the rise of the shipping container, which may not be as flashy as space travel news, but which will profoundly transform global trade from the late 1960s on.
I’m also not sure if I linked to my previous Galactic Journey article, which was a review of two 1967 SFF novels, Chthon by Piers Anthony, which was still as terrible as it was when I first tried to read it at age 16, and The Flame of Iridar by Lin Carter, which was actually decent.
Warning! Spoilers under the cut!
The final episode of Obi-Wan Kenobi starts off where the previous episode ended, with Roken, Obi-Wan, Leia and the other refugees making a narrow escape from Jabiim, a Star Destroyer in hot pursuit. The refugee ship can’t make the jump to hyperspace either, because the hyperdrive is not working. Honestly, does any hyperdrive ever work in Star Wars or does only the Empire have hyperdrives that actually do what they’re supposed to do?
Roken is confident that he can get the hyperdrive to work, but that will take time and right now, time is one thing the refugees don’t have. So Obi-Wan does the heroic thing and offers to draw the Empire away, allowing the refugees to escape. After all, Obi-Wan is the one Darth Vader is really after. The refugees are just a bonus.
Absolutely no one is happy with this plan. The proto-rebels and their leader Roken do not want to lose their biggest gun and potential leader figure, while little Leia does not want to lose her protector. So Obi-Wan does what he does best and tries to reassure everybody. He tells Roken that yes, the proto-rebels of The Path need a leader, but that they have a pretty good one in Roken.
Then he calms down Leia, tells her that he’ll be fine and that they’ll see each other again and gives her the holster of the late Tala with notches for the people she saved. “It’s empty”, little Leia says, clearly disappointed. “I’m not giving you a blaster”, Obi-Wan replies, “You’re ten years old. But you won’t always be.” And there we have the birth of Leia Organa, rebel leader. Leia, meanwhile, gives Obi-Wan her little droid Lola for company.
Finally, Obi-Wan asks Haja Estree to promise him to take Leia home to Alderaan. Haja gives Obi-Wan his word with the caveat that he is a con-man and fake Jedi, after all, so he’s not sure how much his word is worth. “I believe in you”, Obi-Wan replies and thus inspires another person who will probably be a great asset to the nascent Rebellion. Haja Estree is a great character BTW and I wish we had seen more of him.
The scenes in Revenge of the Sith featuring Padme, Bail Organa and Mon Mothma (many of which ended up on the cutting room floor) seemed to imply that the seeds for the Rebellion were sown around the time the Empire was established. Obi-Wan Kenobi, however, is set ten years later and shows the Rebellion as basically one or more small groups instead of the organised force they will become. We have no idea what Mon Mothma is doing at this point and Bail Organa seems to be exactly the Senator he claims to be, albeit one with secrets. And the Path is a network of people helping Force sensitives and former Jedi to escape to safety.
So did Obi-Wan actually help to establish the Rebellion as we know it? As retcons go, this one is small, but it is notable.
After he has given the nascent Rebellion a pep talk, Obi-Wan gets into a shuttle and heads for a planet that just happens to be nearby. On the bridge of the pursuing Star Destroyer, Darth Vader and the Grand Inquisitor observe the shuttle leaving. Darth Vader of course senses that Obi-Wan is on board and promptly directs the Star Destroyer to pursue the shuttle with Obi-Wan rather than the refugees. The Grand Inquisitor is clearly not pleased to let all of those juicy Force-sensitives escape, but one does not argue with Darth Vader and expect to survive. So Obi-Wan’s plan worked and the refugees are safe.
Both Obi-Wan and Darth Vader land on the planet that conveniently just happens to be in the neighbourhood. Come to think of it, I wonder why Darth Vader didn’t just take a shuttle and go after Obi-Wan, while sending the Star Destroyer under the command of the Grand Inquisitor after the refugees. But of course, that would have ruined the plot.
The bulk of the episode of given over to Obi-Wan and Darth Vader having a lightsabre duel on a nameless planet full of dark spiky rocks that seems designed to serve as a duelling place for Jedi Knights and Sith Lords. As lightsabre fights go, this one is great to look at and excellently choreographed. The flashing lightsabres lighting up the spiky rocks make for great visuals, while the rocks themselves also make for great improvised missiles for Darth and Obi-Wan to Force-throw at each other.
Since their last encounter in episode 3 of the series, Obi-Wan had gotten his groove back, so he and Darth Vader are a lot more evenly matched. The climax comes when Obi-Wan slashes Darth Vader’s helmet open – a scene apparently borrowed from the Star Wars Rebels cartoon, where Ahsoka does the same – only to reveal the scarred and ravaged face beneath. Ewan McGregor does a great job conveying the shock Obi-Wan experiences at seeing what Darth Vader looks like under the mask, though I can’t help but wonder why he is so shocked, considering the last time he saw Anakin, Obi-Wan left him lying at the edge of a lava pit. After all, people normally don’t look very pretty after they have been thrown into a lava pit.
Anakin clearly relishes Obi-Wan’s shock and tells him, “I am what you made me” (which is technically true). Then he tells Obi-Wan that Anakin Skywalker is dead, that Darth Vader killed him and that Vader is all that’s left. This is apparently the closure Obi-Wan needs (and coincidentally also explains the “Darth Vader killed your father” line in A New Hope). He finally realises that the Anakin he knew is truly gone and not coming back – until Luke proves him wrong in Return of the Jedi, that is. So Obi-Wan says “Good-bye, Darth” and turns around and leaves, leaving Darth Vader standing among the jagged rocks in his damaged armour.
Now the duel obviously couldn’t have ended any other way. After all, we know that neither Obi-Wan nor Darth Vader died on this nameless planet, because they will still be around ten years later in time for A New Hope. However, psychologically Obi-Wan just walking away makes no sense at all. Obi-Wan walking away on Mustafar in Revenge of the Sith made a bit of sense, because Obi-Wan likely assumed Anakin was going to die anyway and didn’t want to be the one to strike a killing blow at someone he once cared for. Though even back then, I remember people in the theatre yelling, “Either help him or kill him and be done with it.”
But Obi-Wan letting Darth Vader live here makes no fucking sense at all, because he just accepted that Darth Vader is no longer Anakin Skywalker, that Anakin is gone for good. So any lingering feelings Obi-Wan might have for Anakin should not have stopped him from killing Darth Vader. And even if killing Darth Vader would not stop the Empire, it would be a significant blow, because it would deprive the Emperor of his right-hand man. So there really is no reason not to kill him except that the overall plot dictates that Darth Vader cannot die here.
While Obi-Wan is duelling Darth Vader on the planet of the spiky rocks, Reva a.k.a. the former Inquisitor Third Sister, who is very much not dead in spite of getting gutted with a lightsabre last episode, is on a mission of her own. Because as we saw last episode, Reva found the communicator with Bail Organa’s message to Obi-Wan that Haja Estree dropped in the confusion. And the message tells her exactly where to go, namely to Tatooine to find someone named Owen and the kid he is taking care of.
Reva is clearly smarter than 99% of people in the Star Wars universe, because she understands exactly who this kid to whom Bail Organa is referring is. Just as she also seems to have figured out the connection between Leia and Darth Vader. The question of course is, how does Reva know. True, in her time as a padawan at the Jedi Temple, she may have seen Anakin with Padme and may have noticed Padme’s notable baby bump, which still puts her ahead of 99% of the adult Jedi we see, all of whom politely ignore Padme’s baby bump. As for how she figured out, a) that the child(ren) lived, even though Padme died, and b) what happened to one of them, that remains a mystery. Of course, as an Inquisitor, she has access to all sorts of information and databases and may have pierced at least Leia’s origin together.
However, Reva now knows that there was not one child but two. And she knows where to find the second kid, Luke. So we next see Reva on Tatooine, using her patented Force-powered interrogation techniques on a random local and asking for a farmer named Owen.
Now a lot of science fiction, including Star Wars, tends to forget that planets are very big. And while Tatooine’s human population may not be very dense due to the inhospitable climate, Tatooine still has at least three bigger cities, Mos Eisley, Mos Espa and Mos Pelgo, and plenty of smaller settlements such as Anchorhead. I’d estimate that there are at least a million humans living on Tatooine, maybe more. So Reva walking up to a random person in a random town on Tatooine is like walking up to a random person in a random city on Earth and asking for a farmer named John. She’s literally looking for the needle in the haystack or rather in the sand dune.
Of course, we have no idea for how long Reva has been doing this by the time we see her. After all, Reva is nothing if not persistent and she may well have force-choked half of Tatooine by now. Though her best bet would probably partnering with the local underworld and Jabba the Hutt who would have the manpower and connections to locate Owen.
At any rate, Reva hits paydirt and finds someone who knows Owen. Though he does not talk, but instead warns Owen of the impending danger, when he and Luke come to town to pick up a spare part for their landspeeder.
Owen of course knows exactly who Reva is after and wants to make a run for it, but Beru convinces him that their chances are better, if they make a stand at their farm. They tell Luke that the Tuskens are about to attack (yeah, blame the poor Tuskens) and tell him to hide in a fortified room with a single escape route and make a run for it, when necessary. Then Owen and Beru ready their home for an attack, while Reva descends upon them.
Considering that Owen and Beru are farmers with no formal combat training, even though they live in an area that experiences occasional attacks by Tuskens, they manage to hold their own against Reva – a trained Sith Inquisitor with Force powers – remarkably well. Reva, meanwhile, is surprised at the lengths to which Owen and Beru will go to protect Luke. “You love him as if he were your own son”, she marvels in a moment that is both chilling and heartbreaking, because it shows us very clearly that no one ever loved Reva. Like all Jedi, she was taken from her family at a very young age and never saw them again, then saw the Jedi Temple destroyed and her friends and teachers killed and then survived on the streets, plotting her revenge, until the Inquisitors found her. If you needed any more proof that Jedi training is institutionalised child abuse, here it is. In fact, considering how the Jedi treat their padawans, it’s a miracle that not more of them go to the Dark Side.
“He is my son”, Owen replies to Reva, while tussling with her.
Now the entire Star Wars canon has always focussed on the biological paentage of Luke and Leia, but paid very little attention to the people who actually raised them, Owen and Beru Lars and Bail and Breha Organa respectively. Owen and Beru get a bit of screentime in A New Hope, where Owen is portrayed as the grumpy uncle who wants to keep his nephew on the farm, while Beru pours blue milk and tells Owen that he can’t keep Luke on the farm forever, because there is too much of his father in him. They are both killed unceremoniously off-screen. Bail and Breha never get any screentime at all in A New Hope and are blown up by the Death Star from orbit, though Bail at least gets a bit of screentime in the prequels.
Owen and Beru Lars and Bail and Breha Organa also never get any credit for raising the Jedi wonder twins to adulthood. In two separate continuities, Luke and Leia name their children after Ben Kenobi (who is not the worst choice) and even Anakin, but never after the people who actually raised them. This is a pity, especially since Luke and Leia lucked out in the adoptive parent department and had largely happy childhoods and were clearly loved. And considering that the Star Wars universe not just has a huge problem with orphaned children, but that most of those kids are treated badly and often turned into child soldiers. In the Star Wars universe, ending up with the Mandalorians, a nutty warrior cult with a weapon and helmet fixation, is actually one of the better fates that can happen to a child. So Luke and Leia both got really lucky, compared to pretty much every other character we see except maybe Grogu. Furthermore, considering their parentage, the mental health issues that clearly run in the Skywalker family and the fact that they both have massive Force abilities, it’s largely due to Owen and Beru’s and Bail and Breha’s parenting skills that Luke and Leia do not turn to the Dark Side, but become the heroic people that they are. Okay, so Luke turns out to be pretty much a failure in the end, but he’s merely a failed Jedi who spends the last twenty years of his life sulking on an island, not a Sith Lord.
In the light of all this, it is good to actually see Owen and Beru as well as Bail and Breha being loving parents who will do everything for their adopted kids. Especially since Star Wars has always glossed over Luke and Leia’s childhood.
During the fight at the Lars farm, Luke escapes from the fortified room, as his parents has instructed him to, and runs for the hills, Reva hot in pursuit. The scenes of Reva relentlessly chasing down a ten-year-old boy are genuinely thrilling, even though we already know how it will end.
Luke is knocked unconscious in a rock slide and Reva is looming over him, lightsabre in hand. However, just before she lands the killing blow, Reva sees herself as a terrified child, hiding from assassins, and can’t bring herself to kill Luke.
By the time Obi-Wan arrives and helps Owen and Beru to pick themselves up, Reva comes out of the desert, carrying Luke in her arms, unconscious but alive. Owen and Beru immediately attend to their son, while Reva sinks to her knees in the desert, horrified both that she was willing to kill a ten-year-old boy and do the exact same thing that was done to her as a child and that she failed to avenge her friends. Obi-Wan tells Reva that she did the honourable thing and that she is free now to become whoever she wants to be. Reva buries her lightsabre in the sand (the deserts of Tatooine must be full of discarded lightsabres by now) and leaves.
Now Reva was probably the most interesting character in the entire series and Moses Ingram’s performance as this very deeply disturbed woman was fantastic. Though considering the actress fell afoul of the same toxic fanboys who fling abuse anytime a woman or person of colour dares to do anything in a legacy franchise, even if said franchise always had women and people of colour in prominent roles, I doubt we’ll see more of Reva, which is a pity.
And while on the subject of racist Star Wars fans, I recently came across this video by someone who worked in the toy industry about why Lando Calrissian figures don’t sell and tend to clog store shelves in the US. “Let me guess, the answer is because some Star Wars fans and some toy-buying parents are racist shitheads”, I thought and that’s exactly what the answer was, though phrased much more nicely. And this is Lando, a character from the original trilogy a.k.a. the films the toxic fanboys claim to love.
That said, I still have a hard time forgiving Reva that she was willing to murder a ten-year-old kid for revenge, even if she did not do it in the end. Never mind that killing Luke – or Leia for that matter – wouldn’t have been much of a revenge on Anakin, because at this point Anakin has no idea that Padme had twins, let alone that the children survived. As far as he knows, Padme and her unborn child both died on Mustafar. Would Reva murdering a child he did not even know he had affect Anakin? Well, it would affect most people, but this Anakin we are talking about and he is a psychopath.
The episode ends with an extended coda of Obi-Wan first visiting Alderaan to make sure that Leia – who has taken to wearing Tala’s holster wherever she goes – is okay and return Lola. He gets a big hug from Leia, who has finally decided what she is going to do with her life and her position. Obi-Wan tells Leia that she is very like both her parents and promises Bail and Breha that he’ll be there for them whenever they need him again. We all know how that story ends and that Obi-Wan arrives too late to save anybody on Alderaan.
Next, Obi-Wan is back on Tatooine. He visits Owen Lars once more and gives him the shuttle toy for Luke (the same one Luke still has ten years later at the beginning of A New Hope) and promises Owen that he will not bother them again, because Luke deserves to grow up like a normal kid. Ever since the standoff at the farm, Owen has softened towards Obi-Wan and asks him if he wants to meet Luke. So Obi-Wan finally gets to meet Luke face to face. Luke looks up at him and looks so much like Anakin did back in The Phantom Menace that you can see Obi-Wan’s heart breaking. Because let’s not forget that Obi-Wan was the one who basically raised Anakin, even if he was barely out of his teens himself.
Finally, Obi-Wan relocates to the home in the mountains where he is living when we meet him in A New Hope. However, someone is waiting there for him. It’s none other than the Force ghost of Qui-Gon Jinn, still portrayed by Liam Neeson. Obi-Wan asks Qui-Gon why he never came, no matter how often Obi-Wan called for him. Qui-Gon replies that he was always there, only that Obi-Wan could not see him. But now Obi-Wan has come to terms with his massive PTSD, he can finally see Qui-Gon’s ghost. So PTSD affects Force abilities? That’s an interesting idea, only that the show never really follows up on it.
So what’s the verdict on Obi-Wan Kenobi as a whole? The show was enjoyable enough, less disjointed than The Book of Boba Fett and boasted some fine performances with a particular shout-out to Ewan McGregor (whose performance in the prequels actually made me like Obi-Wan, a character I did not like very much in the original trilogy) and Moses Ingram. Plus, it was nice to get a glimpse of Luke’s and Leia’s childhood and see them growing into the people they will become, but then I am a sucker for childhood flashbacks for beloved character.
However, Obi-Wan Kenobi was also completely superfluous, because we already know what happens to these characters. We know that Obi-Wan, Darth Vader, Luke, Leia, Owen and Beru and Bail and Breha won’t die here, because we know exactly where and when they will die. So there’s never any real tension regarding their fate, because we know they’re not in danger.
I did like many of the supporting characters introduced – Reva, Tala, Roken, Haja Estree. They were all interesting characters and unlike the main characters, their fate is not a foregone conclusion. All of these characters could have – and Tala did – die.
In fact, Obi-Wan Kenobi would have been a better show, if the focus had been on one of the supporting characters and how their story intersects with Obi-Wan’s. Reva’s dogged quest to avenge herself on Anakin or the proto-rebels of The Path smuggling Force-sensitives to safety or the adventures of Haja Estree, fake Jedi and real hero would all have made for a more compelling story than the one that we got. However, Disney would not greenlight a Star Wars show focussing on a new, never-before-seen character. Yes, there is The Mandalorian – and there is a reason why it is the best of the Disney Star Wars shows by a mile – but the selling point of The Mandalorian was basically “Mandalorians are badarses and you think they’re cool, don’t you?” That was enough to get people to watch the first episode and then Grogu showed up and hooked everybody.
Considering how well Disney is doing by Marvel, where even the duds at least fail in interesting ways, it’s a mystery why they are mishandling Star Wars so badly. True, The Mandalorian was good, but The Book of Boba Fett was an unholy mess and Obi-Wan Kenobi was okay, but predictable, added very little to the overall storyline and mostly retread familiar ground.
Maybe the Cassian Andor show, which premieres next month, will be better. At least, it will be largely divorced from the Jedi and the Skywalker family.