Obi-Wan Kenobi and What We Leave Behind
Obi-Wan Kenobi is a show about preserving and protecting future generations. Take note.
At six episodes, Obi-Wan Kenobi is the shortest Star Wars series to date, and many fans argued that six episodes were not enough. Others argued that there were unnecessary filler episodes. But each episode played a part in servicing a theme of the series: What we pass on to the next generation.
Every major character in the series was once a victim of a traumatic event. And when something traumatic happens to us, we can do either one of two things: 1) Work to overcome (and learn) from those experiences or 2) We can inadvertently (or intentionally) pass on that trauma to others.
The dynamics between current and former masters and apprentices, the Skywalker twins and their adoptive families, and Force-sensitive refugees show different ways in which people leave their legacy.
Masters and Apprentices
Obi-Wan and Anakin: While Obi-Wan and Anakin were like brothers, Obi-Wan left his apprentice to die on Mustafar in Revenge of the Sith. Kenobi is, understandably, struggling with that guilt when we first see him in this series. He has nightmares and cannot connect with his former Master, Qui-Gon Jinn, who has transcended into a Force ghost. Obi-Wan taps into his knowledge of his former apprentice in Part Five when he strategically uses Anakin’s impatience and occasional recklessness to get families of The Path to safety and off Jabiim.
It is implied that Kenobi lost a few of their sparring matches at the Jedi temple because of Anakin’s shear power, but Obi-Wan learned from his failure and turned Anakin’s weakness against him (in the past and in the present as Vader). Even though Anakin Skywalker is dead, his worst tendencies have carried over to Vader and have elevated. Ripping a ship a part looks cool and shows great power, but it does not get him what he wants. Obi-Wan escapes with The Path and Vader never sees that second ship, which was in his view the whole time.
Obi-Wan and Vader: For most of this series, Kenobi avoids even acknowledging Vader, which translates to avoiding any confrontation with the Sith Lord. In episode three when Kenobi finally comes face to face with Vader on Mapuzo, he runs away. Vader has other plans and tries to burn Kenobi alive. However, once the future of Force-sensitive individuals (and possibly future Jedi and leaders in Leia) is put at risk, Obi-Wan decides he can no longer run from his past. Kenobi confronts Vader and proves that, when he is at his best, he is better. But Kenobi does not kill Vader.
After apologizing for what happened to Anakin, Vader defiantly tells him that Kenobi did not kill Anakin Skywalker, Vader did. And turns his anger back to Obi-Wan, even though Vader has lost the battle and appears seriously injured. Vader just wants to fight. It is that moment that Obi-Wan recognizes his friend is truly gone and finally allows himself to move forward.
Vader and Reva: This is not a traditional Master and Apprentice relationship, but Vader’s actions had a devastating impact on Reva’s life. During Order 66, he murdered Reva’s friends and stabbed her, leaving her for dead.
“I was too weak. When he left, I played dead. Hid among the bodies. Felt them grow cold. They were the only family I knew and he slaughtered them.”
Star Wars Obi-Wan Kenobi: Part Five (2022)
It’s never explained how she became an Inquisitor, but she is under the tutelage of Vader as an Inquisitor, and he sets the tone for how the others act towards each other. However, Vader knew she was a surviving Youngling and plays her game until she leads him to Kenobi. Then he stabs her again with a lightsaber and leaves her for dead again. Vader intentionally leaves her with the same traumatic experience as an adult as he did when she was a little girl. In turn, Reva almost puts that same trauma on both Leia and Luke: Leia when she takes her to Fortress Inquisitorius and almost tortures her for information, and Luke when she tries to hurt Vader the only way she has left: By killing his son.
Reva overcomes traveling down Anakin’s path because of Kenobi. She blames Kenobi for Anakin falling to the dark side, claiming that he was Kenobi’s responsibility. And she is not wrong. But her anger is misguided and has led her down a dark path that she has begun (keyword, begun) to turn around.
“Who you become now, that is up to you. Now you’re free. We both are.”
Star Wars Obi-Wan Kenobi: Part Six (2022)
Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan: Throughout the series, Kenobi tries to connect with his former, fallen Master Qui-Gon. But he is so stuck in the past and filled with regret that he can’t see his former Master, who finally appears to him in the last scene. It is a culmination of ten years which began with a conversation between Yoda and Kenobi in Revenge of the Sith:
Yoda: In your solitude on Tatooine, training I have for you.
Obi-Wan Kenobi: Training?
Yoda: An old friend has learned the path to immortality. One who has returned from the netherworld of the Force. Your old master.
Obi-Wan Kenobi: Qui-Gon?
Yoda: How to commune with him I will teach you.
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
I am not sure how much Yoda helped Kenobi, Qui-Gon has finally made due on a promise. We know from the Original Trilogy that Qui-Gon does teach Kenobi how to exist as a Force ghost, which Kenobi uses to guide young Luke. Even though Kenobi has been through a lot and is passing on what he knows to the next generation, he also has some things to learn from the previous generation of Jedi, gone but not forgotten.
The Skywalker Twins
The catalyst for Obi-Wan being on Tatooine and having to leave Tatooine are the next generation of Skywalkers. The conflict between Kenobi and Owen is clear in Part One when Owen returns a toy starhopper that Kenobi has made for Luke. Owen wants Luke to just be a kid, but Kenobi wants to train Luke to carry on the Jedi Order.
It is not clear where Beru stands, but she does not seem to be as hostile towards Kenobi, understanding that he cares about Luke, too. In the end, Kenobi tells Owen he is right, and Luke’s destiny will sort itself out in time. But he does continue to watch him from afar until the events of A New Hope set Luke on that destiny.
Bail and Breha try and protect Leia by keeping her on Alderaan. We learn in Part One that she does not travel off-world with her parents and often escapes to watch ships leave in the woods outside of the Organa palace. This overprotection causes Leia to have a dangerous lack of understanding of the galaxy. She is kidnapped by paid bounty hunters to draw out Kenobi and thrust into a world very different from her sheltered life on Alderaan. But Leia rises to the occasion after initially putting both Kenobi and herself at risk on Daiyu and shows great leadership and contribution on Jabiim and with the children of The Path.
Luke and Leia are Anakin and Padme’s legacy, and Obi-Wan does tell Leia how she is like her mother and father (the latter of which is not addressed in the Original Trilogy). Aside from traits from her parents, Kenobi also leaves her with Tala’s blaster: A reminder of the courage it takes to lead, despite the losses. Leia will carry this on in politics and in battle, like both of her parents.
The literal representation in this series of future generations is The Path, an underground network (reminiscent of the underground railroad system during mid 19th century in North America) of routes and safe houses for Force-sensitive children and their families. And, like the Underground Railroad, the people who assist and manage The Path are collectively known by the same namesake. We meet three of them: Haja, Roken. And each has their own reason for wanting to help younger Force-sensitives. For Haja, helping Obi-Wan is correcting a past mistake to make amends. Roken stepped into a leadership role in The Path after his wife, who was Force-sensitive was taken by the Empire (presumed dead).
And for Tala, we do not find out her motivation until her last episode. Tala confides to Obi-Wan that she followed orders when she rounded up four families who were not paying taxes. The families were gathered up and killed by the Inquisitors (six of them children). When she found out that their real crime was being Force-sensitive, she gave up allegiance to the Empire. She couldn’t save those families, so now she works to save other families and undercut the Empire.
Her holster, which Kenobi gives to Leia, has a notch for every family she gets through The Path as a reminder of what she is fighting for. Tala dies saving the remaining Path families on Jabiim and has an influence, not just on Leia, but on Obi-Wan and his resolve to confront Vader to save The Path families.
At the end of the series, Obi-Wan has finally found peace with his past and is ready to move forward, knowing that the future is brighter with Luke (and especially Leia) leading. Reva’s whereabouts are unknown and likely left to be answered eventually in canon, but she is no longer in a prison of anger and fear. Vader, however, is still trapped in his hatred for Obi-Wan. And he has to forfeit his search because Palpatine belittles his attachment to the past, while consistently forcing Vader to be surrounded by it on Mustafar.
Each could not control what happened to them but made a choice of how to react and how they moved forward when confronted with a truth. And Obi-Wan came out on the high ground.