Obi-Wan Kenobi Part V gives us a further glimpse into a past that informs the present, as it frames Vader – no, Anakin’s – chase for Obi-Wan in a new light. It also reinforces Leia as the hero the Rebellion always needed, while cementing the idea that the Rebellion only worked because of a galaxy filled with people who believed in the idea of something better enough to die for that dream.
This last idea isn’t new to Obi-Wan Kenobi, the entirety of Rogue One is based around this concept, and we saw plenty of sacrifices in the original Star Wars trilogy. It isn’t even hard to conceive of the level of evil that would drive people to sacrifices such as these, one needs only to turn on the TV to find people willing to do unimaginable things for less noble reasons. But that doesn’t mean the message isn’t effective, and though the story beats of Obi-Wan Kenobi Part V are largely expected – we all knew Leia and Obi-Wan, at least, were going to survive – that doesn’t make this story any less worth telling.
Because this isn’t about the destination, it’s about giving context to the story we all thought we knew. It’s about Vader being more Anakin than he himself would have believed. It’s about Obi-Wan fully embracing their past history in a way that allowed him to best his former padawan, once again. And it’s about the idea that spawned a rebellion, one that Vader, and the Emperor, never really understood.
You can enslave an entire galaxy by force. You can beat them until it feels there’s nowhere for them to go. But you can never truly break the human spirit. People are resilient, and even when you think they have no reason to go on, no reason to try, it is a mistake to walk away believing the fight is already won.
A padawan you will still be
“Your need to prove yourself is your undoing,” Obi-Wan tells Anakin in a flashback. “Until you overcome it, a Padawan you will still be.” And yet Anakin has never overcome it. It drives everything he does, this need to prove that he’s bigger, better, badder than everyone else. And if you couple that with his anger at Obi-Wan, then the cocktail of emotions driving him is a pretty potent mix that was always going to explode.
Ironically, though, all of these emotions are the thing that will, one day, lead to his redemption. Every decision Anakin Skywalker has made in this series proves that he isn’t acting strategically, he’s letting his anger rule him. His hate. And yes, all of that has indeed led to suffering. Anger is the path to the dark side, and Anakin has been walking that path for years. This is very much in line with the Sith belief that emotions are good, all emotions, because they aid individuals in their survival.
But the dark side is about more than emotions, it’s about power. It’s power the Sith are addicted to, and it’s that desire for control that turns people to the dark side. It’s how Anakin fell, and yet, ironically, his inability to let go of the feelings that led to his fall is the one thing that makes him redeemable, even at his worst.
Sith like Palpatine are interested in nothing but the power – it’s like a drug, it consumes them. Anakin is consumed by his desire for revenge, which masks the pain of what he feels is Obi-Wan’s betrayal. Anakin loved Obi-Wan more than anyone save Padme and that is the thing keeping him alive. It’s twisted, and ugly, but it’s still there and it’s the reason he gets up in the morning. And because he still feels it, because he’s never been good at letting go, there is still hope for him.
In many ways, Obi-Wan isn’t much better than Anakin. His emotions aren’t controlling him, but he is making decisions based on emotion, something the Jedi Council would have frowned upon. And he still cares about Anakin, enough that the idea of killing him – the right choice for the galaxy, and for both Leia and Luke, is hard to even contemplate.
Perhaps, in the end, their “side” would have been better off if both these men had managed to let go of emotion and end the other. But the fact that they didn’t — that they couldn’t, proves that balance isn’t about letting emotion rule you, but it also isn’t about shunning emotion completely. The Jedi were wrong, but so were the Sith. Ironic, isn’t it?
Obi-Wan once thought as you do
“Some things you can’t forget, but you can fight to make them better,” Tala tells Obi-Wan, and though this isn’t touched upon as much, it feels like it has to be leading somewhere, and it might even tie to the weirdest line from Return of the Jedi, one that has never truly made sense in the context of everything we’ve seen of Obi-Wan and Vader. It happens near the end of the original trilogy, as Luke senses the conflict within Vader and tries to turn him away from the dark side.
“Obi-Wan once thought as you do,” Vader replies, as he insists that there’s no good in him. Except, did he? We’ve never actually seen Obi-Wan acting like Anakin could be redeemed, not even in Obi-Wan Kenobi. If anything, we’ve explored Obi-Wan’s pain, his overwhelming sense of failure, his trauma. But Part V sets up the possibility that Obi-Wan, the person who knew Anakin best, was always playing a long game.
Is it just about Obi-Wan recognizing that Vader is still a being controlled by emotions and not by a lust of power? Is Obi-Wan also wondering why Vader let him go at the end of Part III? I mean, he could have just used to force to put out the fire, simple as that. Instead he stood there. Or, is he sensing something at the end of Part V, something not related to the Third Sister’s discovery that Luke is on Tatooine, but tied to his former apprentice?
We’ll likely have to wait a week to find out, but after an episode that focused so much on the relationship between Obi-Wan and Anakin, and on the way Obi-Wan has always understood Anakin better than he understands himself, it’s not impossible to believe that, perhaps, Obi-Wan could have sensed that the man he once loved as a brother was still there, inside the mask. Which means he might reach a point where he truly believes that even if he can’t be the one to save him now – just as he couldn’t before – that doesn’t mean he cannot be saved.
Reva and Leia and Tala
The galaxy is filled with all kinds of heroes, and ironically, both Reva, Tala and Leia end up doing pretty heroic things in this episode. Leia’s is simple, and her path more straightforward. She’s a child, yes, but she’s seen too much, has been through too much, to go back to the carefree child who only wanted to run away. This adventure with Obi-Wan, her time with the Rebellion, has made Leia into a fighter, and into the leader the Rebellion will one day look to.
But she isn’t the only hero, and in many ways, I think Leia understanding that will help her become the kind of leader she needs to be. There’s Tala too, someone who once stood by as atrocities were committed, and did nothing, but spent every day since trying to make up for her silence, her complicity. There’s something commendable in that, and in a character like her, one that reminds us all that we aren’t our last bad choice, instead we are the decisions we make going forward.
Finally, there’s Reva, who literally defines the idea of the end justifies the means. She’s crossed every line imaginable, and done so willingly, just because she thought it was worth it. The idea of revenge is blinding – Vader can also attest to that. And yet, once Obi-Wan saw through her, once the truth came out, the cracks in her façade became readily apparent. It’s like she was safe when no one could see her pain, but once it was out in the open, it became so much harder to pretend that she was truly the thing she’d had to become to survive.
The story of Obi-Wan Kenobi Part V, of the Rebellion’s future, and in many ways, of Leia Organa and even Luke Skywalker, and how they became the people the galaxy needed, is filled with unlikely heroes. And sometimes that word feels a little bit big, if not for broken people trying to atone, for someone like Reva, who only helped when it seemed like it might get her what she wanted. But they all have a part to play, and there’s a place for all kind of stories in a galaxy far, far away.
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Obi-Wan Kenobi Parts I-V are available to stream on Disney+.