I love Obi-Wan Kenobi – he’s my all-time favourite Star Wars character. So, when Disney/Lucasfilm gave us our first sneak peak at the upcoming Obi-Wan Kenobi streaming series on Disney+ Day, I was as excited as everyone else to see it. Sure, it was only a collection of talking head interviews with star Ewan McGregor and director Deborah Chow intercut with concept art, yet it was more than enough to get me hyped for the show – until McGregor and Chow teased an epic rematch between Kenobi and Darth Vader.
I wasn’t the only one left scratching my head over this reveal, either. Shortly after the Obi-Wan Kenobi promo aired, several Star Wars fans took to social media to point out that this rematch doesn’t fit with the saga’s established canon. They’re right – and this points to a bigger problem with the Obi-Wan Kenobi series that Chow and writer Joby Harold will have to work hard to overcome.
Why the Obi-Wan/Vader rematch doesn’t jibe with Star Wars continuity
Before we get into what this bigger problem is, let’s take a quick look at why the Obi-Wan Kenobi series’ big Obi-Wan/Vader second round slugfest doesn’t jibe with existing Star Wars continuity.
The most obvious reason is that we’ve seen this rematch before, in the first ever Star Wars movie, Episode IV – A New Hope, released in 1977. Admittedly, this duel’s less flashy choreography and not-so-dramatic setting are somewhat underwhelming by modern standards – it basically amounts to an old guy and lumbering cyborg fencing in a nondescript corridor – but all the same, it happened.
What’s more, it’s clear from dialogue in the movie that this is first time these guys have seen each other in the 19 years since the end of Revenge of the Sith. The fight between Obi-Wan and Vader in A New Hope isn’t the latest round of many; this is the only other time they ever cross blades. Vader himself spells this out when he says “We meet again at last… when I left you, I was but the learner. Now, I am the master.”
It doesn’t take a Star Wars obsessive to figure out the implications of this statement. Unless Vader considered himself still a novice 10 years into his Sith Lord career – when the Obi-Wan Kenobi series is set – then the last time he saw his former master was when he was a newly-minted Jedi Knight in Revenge of the Sith. If that’s the case, it rules out the possibility of an encounter between the pair any earlier than A New Hope – which means that, strictly speaking, we shouldn’t see an Obi-Wan/Vader showdown in the Disney+ show.
‘Exile’ doesn’t mean “Going on adventures”
This brings us to the real problem with the Obi-Wan Kenobi streaming series: if Chow and Harold stay true to the Star Wars chronology – not to mention Obi-Wan’s character arc – there’s not a lot for their lead character to actually do, making it hard to justify the show’s very existence.
Think about it: the whole point of Obi-Wan going into exile isn’t for him to embark on the kind of “rollicking adventure” promised by McGregor, it’s to do the exact opposite of that. He literally has one job – to atone for his failure with Vader by keeping Luke safe – and no matter what else is going on in the galaxy, he needs to stay at his post and under the radar. True, that’s a big ask for a guy used to being where the action is, but it’s a sacrifice he has to make for his redemptive journey to work. It’s not just the Star Wars timeline that hinges on Obi-Wan staying out of the limelight; his characterisation depends on it, too.
Of course, there are ways to bring Obi-Wan back into the fray without breaking anything – it’s just really, really hard. For example, the Star Wars Rebels episode “Twin Suns” brought the story to Kenobi’s doorstep – allowing him to get involved without ever leaving his exile. It was a smart approach, but one that can’t carry an entire series, since viewers will expect to explore more of the galaxy than just the familiar desert world of Tatooine. That said, the alternative is Obi-Wan taking off on a cross-galaxy jaunt, potentially with young Luke in tow – an approach that would cause even more continuity headaches, not to mention rehash The Mandalorian’s Din/Grogu dynamic (a concern that allegedly stalled production back in early 2020).
All of which neatly leads us back to the elephant (or bantha) in the room: if everyone involved – the Obi-Wan Kenobi cast and crew, plus the Star Wars fandom – was being completely honest, they’d admit that the impetus for this series comes less from there being a story to tell, and more from their collective affection for McGregor’s portrayal of the Obi-Wan character. That’s hardly the strongest foundation to build a show on and lends credence to the argument that Obi-Wan Kenobi shouldn’t even exist – which doesn’t mean it can’t still work.
How to make the Obi-Wan Kenobi series work
See, there’s one thing that matters at least as much as Obi-Wan Kenobi justifying its existence: telling an entertaining story – ideally, without messing up the Star Wars canon too much.
The first bit should be easy; not only is the Star Wars setting impressive enough to make up for all but the most pedestrian plotting, but the series is blessed with highly charismatic lead in McGregor. The second bit – keeping the continuity straight – is a little trickier, however, Chow and Harold really just need to make sure we never lose sight of Obi-Wan’s mission to protect Luke. After all, nobody wants to see one of the saga’s most beloved characters recast as a slacker who bailed on his duty – and botched his last shot at redemption – the first chance he got!
Fortunately, as long as Chow and Harold hammer home that Obi-Wan only undertakes the show’s post-retirement, galaxy-hopping escapade because it’s the only way to stop Vader and the Empire from finding Luke, that should leave the character and the canon more or less intact. Sure, stuff like the Vader rematch will inevitably cause a bit of a Rogue One situation, where a spin-off’s inter-episode narrative doesn’t quite align with what we already know. But as with that film, if the end of Obi-Wan Kenobi syncs up with A New Hope enough that neither narrative directly contradicts the other – a line of dialogue addressing the big “I was a learner” discrepancy would be nice – most fans will go along with it.
Will this be enough to overcome Obi-Wan Kenobi’s overall existential crisis? To paraphrase the series’ eponymous Jedi Master, ultimately, the answer to that question will depend greatly on each individual Star Wars fan’s own point of view…