Having perused the first three episodes of the new “Obi-Wan Kenobi” show, I honestly think it’s awful. It’s bereft of a good understanding of the Obi-Wan character, bereft of a good understanding of Star Wars lore, and is in tension or even contradiction to many big and small aspects of Star Wars’s worldbuilding. And on top of that the actual story and the execution of it were both horrible.
I’ll confess that in general I haven’t liked the output from Disney Star Wars much, but I’m not the kind of fan who’s totally down on all of it; for example, “The Rise of Skywalker” at least looks cool and has a lot of fascinating aspects. This Obi-Wan show, on the other hand, is just straight-up bad.
A Kenobi-Vader Rematch: more consistent with Canon than you think
Personally I never particularly wanted there to even be an Obi-Wan series; count me as one of the fans who want to see new characters in new settings in new eras, like the distant past or even the far future, as well as adaptations of the old Expanded Universe. But I don’t find the very premise of exploring Obi-Wan Kenobi’s years in exile to be obnoxious; there’s potential for a good story there.
While the dialogue in “A New Hope” is ambiguous as to when they last met, it makes the most sense if we assume Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader last fought at Mustafar 19 years earlier. On the other hand, Darth Vader told Luke in “Return of the Jedi” that “Obi-Wan once thought as you do.” In context this implies that at one point Obi-Wan attempted to turn him away from the dark side by appealing to the good in him, which doesn’t sound like anything we saw in “Revenge of the Sith” or “A New Hope”.
So there seems to be a missing encounter somewhere in the timeline, and it makes the most sense to suppose it took place between “Revenge of the Sith” and “A New Hope”.
The Case for a Force Vision Rematch
Personally I was pretty sure going into “Obi-Wan Kenobi” that their confrontation would be a Force vision, much like the confrontation between Yoda and Darth Sidious during his quest in “Star Wars: The Clone Wars”; it makes perfect sense, considering that Obi-Wan might have let his lightsaber skills become rusty but he became much more adept in the mystical side of the Force, as demonstrated by him becoming a Force ghost in “A New Hope”.
In addition, a Force vision would be by far the best avenue for Obi-Wan and Vader to confront each other without physically fighting; again, in “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” Sidious tries to break or turn to the dark side Yoda through a Force vision, so we could certainly envisage a light-side take on the same idea, with Obi-Wan trying to get to Anakin. On top of all that, both Yoda and the ghost of Qui-Gon Jinn were intimately involved in the quest in “The Clone Wars”, and these are the very two individuals who are training and guiding Obi-Wan during this period! The Force vision concept is not only super-cool, it fits together with continuity like a watch!
Instead in the show we actually got Obi-Wan seems to have lost touch with the Force, is this fearful broken shell of a man, has no lightsaber skills left, and confronts Darth Vader in this gravel pit where Anakin gets even by setting the scene aflame and dragging Obi-Wan through the fire with the Force (alright, I’ll admit that part was kinda cool), then Vader…just stands there as a droid carts away Obi-Wan? Huh? I figured looking at it that Vader lets Obi-Wan go because he wants to draw out his suffering, but it still comes off as weird. The actual fight has hideous choreography (god, how I miss the prequel trilogy’s fight choreography), and the dialogue is the epitome of forgettable.
And let’s be real: on top of that, by having Darth Vader and Obi-Wan fight at all in this period canon is being bent. Not broken, mind you, but bent. I’m not against bending canon, but if you’re going to do it it should be done with love and care; it should only be done if we’re going to get some really good story and spectacle out of it. It needs to be worth it. This…this was not worth it.
Leia, Reva, and other third Wheels
So how would I have done it? Well, first of all I would not have made Leia the center of the story, or even shown her at all. To be honest I don’t much like young Leia in this show, but she’s not bad so much as out of place in an Obi-Wan Kenobi show. His job is to protect Luke, not Leia.
I wouldn’t have included Reva or the Imperial Inquisition in any capacity; I find the whole idea of the Inquisitors to be obnoxious and tiresome anyway, and in “A New Hope” (which I just rewatched today) I get a strong impression that the Larses virtually never even see the Empire (recall, in “The Phantom Menace” “the Republic doesn’t exist out here”, and nobody there even takes Republic credits!), let alone have Inquisitors breathing down their necks. Obi-Wan seems to have no fear that anybody is onto his or Luke’s trail. Even the Stormtroopers in that movie are just a small unit deployed from a star destroyer.
I get the impression in “Obi-Wan Kenobi” that the Empire is everywhere, when, lest we forget, the very fact the Empire can’t be everywhere at once is the whole reason the Death Stars were created in the first place, and is a key theme of the whole original saga: the ultimate futility of one man (i.e. Palpatine) thinking he could wield absolute power over the universe and its inhabitants.
Leia and Reva may well be there to make some kind of woke feminist statement, but the logic of the broader story dictates that an Obi-Wan series be all about the men: namely Obi-Wan, Luke, Vader, and the ghost of Qui-Gon Jinn. If doing that would make the Star Wars Disney+ lineup too male-centric, then the correct answer is to make another series that’s all about women characters, not shoehorn women into stories just to assassinate our memories of beloved male characters.
A Force Vision in Ice Caves
What I would have done is center the series on Obi-Wan confronting Darth Vader through a Force vision he conjures in a vast picturesque ice cave on a glacial planet strong in the Force, a Force nexus; thematically ice is the opposite of the fire that defined their last encounter. The real-life Obi-Wan show echoing Mustafar was the laziest thing they could have done; my idea is much less obvious.
I’m thinking in this vision Obi-Wan and Anakin would speak to each other, with Obi-Wan doing everything he can to make Vader see the light, realize the goodness in his heart, and come back from the dark side, only for all his efforts to be in vain, leading to his attitude being, as he expressed in “Return of the Jedi”: “he’s more machine now than man, twisted and evil”. During the vision you could also have them lock lightsabers together, only through the Force (again, much like Yoda vs Sidious).
I’m thinking this vision will be a shimmering dreamscape draped over the ice cave. Images I have in my mind include Darth Vader reaching out through the Force to detach icy stalactites, crafting a blizzard from the small ice crystals, or even melting the ice to create a flood of water. Obi-Wan may well do something equally if not more impressive to wherever Darth Vader is during this time.
Possibly Darth Vader is on Ilum, another ice planet and Force nexus. Maybe Obi-Wan could be in a cave lit from outside by the light of day, but where Vader is there is only the black darkness of night bar the glow of kyber crystals. The contrast between Vader’s red lightsaber swinging around and the blue and green glow of the ambient crystals could symbolize the struggle within him of light and dark, in a visual call-back to his duel with Dooku in “Attack of the Clones”.
Fitting this into the Big Picture
Before this happens, the ghost of Qui-Gon Jinn gives him special training as he communes with Obi-Wan, meditating deep into the Force in the most remote deserts of Tatooine, which his house is close to; remember, “old Ben lives way out beyond the dune sea”. Obi-Wan senses a calling in the Force, getting flashes of vision that ultimately congeal into a place, a location he feels drawn to. Yet he is torn by his calling to confront and redeem Anakin and his duty to Luke.
I’m thinking Obi-Wan might take Luke with him on his quest, as he could personally keep an eye on him that way, and he might sense it’s time to go when a window of opportunity arises with Owen and Beru departing on a long trip or some such leaving Luke to take care of himself for a while. While on their trip together, trusting in the Force, but not letting Luke know anything about it yet, Obi-Wan impresses upon Luke the absolute necessity of staying with the ship until he gets back, and if he doesn’t come back within a certain amount of time, perhaps a few days as in Yoda’s case in “The Clone Wars” (he took R2-D2 with him), to leave without him.
A cool idea I’d incorporate would be to age Obi-Wan Kenobi by a few years during his experience in the cave, much like when Moses went to Mount Sinai in “The Ten Commandments” (1956); my Obi-Wan goes in looking much like Ewan McGregor’s Obi-Wan in the real-life version of the show, but he comes out with grey hair and looking more like Alec Guinness. This would answer a long-standing question by fans about how Obi-Wan looked so old at 57 in “A New Hope”; a bit silly of them, considering Alec Guinness was 62, i.e. about the same age, but if you can answer a fan question, even a silly one, and do something really cool in the process, why not?
While on the expedition, Luke travels to the ice planet Force nexus which is situated in a beautiful part of the galaxy, filled with beautiful nebulae and the bright airy light of brilliant stars, the implication being that this is the “bright center of the universe” he alludes to in “A New Hope”. The whole trip would be kept secret from everybody else, so it’s not as if Luke would talk about it in “A New Hope” explicitly.
Many might resist the idea of Luke having ever been off Tatooine before, but in “A New Hope” Luke honestly comes across to me not so much as someone who’s never been anywhere else before but rather more like someone who’s seen glimpses of something much bigger and better but is stuck living in the sticks. It might also go some way toward explaining how Luke seems to grieve for Ben more than Owen or Beru: because Ben is the person who first showed him as a child that there was something grander than the glorified truck stop that was Tatooine.
I’d honestly have a rather minimal cast for my version of “Obi-Wan Kenobi”: the only real characters would be Obi-Wan, Luke, Owen, Beru, Qui-Gon, and Anakin. The only new person you’d have to cast would be a middle-childhood Luke; everyone else would be reprising their roles from the prequel films!
Yoda on Dagobah
However, I might add on one more character: Yoda. While Obi-Wan and Vader are having their confrontation in the ice cave, there may well be a disturbance in the Force which affects Yoda, possibly concomitant with Yoda meditating on Dagobah, trying to send strength to Obi-Wan. I’m thinking there could be a rather cool visual of Yoda levitating upwards as he sits in a meditative pose on some swampy coast, sending moist moss-covered rocks up all around him, everything floating about in calm serenity, simultaneously to Obi-Wan being the eye of the storm in the ice cave, and in contrast to both Darth Vader and everything around him being violently chaotic. This reflects the contrast between the light and dark sides of the Force.
When Obi-Wan fails and beats a retreat, we cut to Yoda, seeing him deeply affected much like he was in Order 66 in “Revenge of the Sith”, his energy leaving him but only slowly coming down from his levitated position; Yoda just falling down to the ground would be too comedic.
Obi-Wan, for his part, will be saddened but also more at peace by the end of my version of the series; having finally achieved closure with Anakin by reaching out to him one last time and finding him beyond redemption, he can mourn him as a deceased friend, and finally truly accept Yoda’s view, evinced as early as “Revenge of the Sith”, that he was no longer Anakin Skywalker.
I honestly think that would have been much better than what we’re actually getting, and closer to what I was expecting or at least hoping we’d get. Enjoy “Obi-Wan Kenobi” as much as you see fit for what it is, but if you ask me we shouldn’t forget what could have been.