Remark: This article is full of spoilers for Obi-Wan Kenobi, especially “Part V.” Read on at your own risk.
There was a point during the early episodes of Obi-Wan Kenobi when it really seemed like the show would be ready to tackle some deep, painful aspects of the Jedi mentor’s character. We know that Obi-Wan hung out on Tatooine for some 19 years, ostensibly watching over a young Luke, planning for the day when Anakin Skywalker’s children might be ready to take on the Emperor who corrupted their father. In the meantime, though, it makes sense that Obi-Wan has some stuff to deal with, thanks to the fact that his failure as a Jedi and teacher allowed fascist monsters to rise to power across the galaxy. However, the show started with a very interesting twist: Obi-Wan didn’t know Anakin was still alive.
The idea that Obi-Wan thought he had killed his best friend in Revenge of the Sith, only to find out that, no, not only was Anakin alive, but that he had become a twisted authoritarian monster, which is great for developing Obi-Wan as a person. By the time we meet him in the original Star Wars trilogy, his attitude has adapted to beleaguered acceptance. But Obi-Wan Kenobi had the chance to explore his journey to that point, the feelings he struggled with and his actual mental state when he confronted his friend that last time in A New Hope. There’s a lot you can read about Obi-Wan’s decision to sacrifice himself to Darth Vader’s lightsaber aboard the Death Star, and Obi-Wan could have helped Kenobi explore those nuances.
The same goes for the story’s most recent reveal featuring Reva, the ruthless Imperial Inquisitor who hunts Obi-Wan during the show. We learn in “Part V” that Reva’s ambitious climb through the ranks of the Inquisitors is actually a means to an end: she wants to get close to Vader to kill him. Reva was one of the young padawans at the Jedi academy when Anakin stormed it in Revenge of the Sith. She watched the Jedi’s greatest war hero kill her friends. She is filled with rage seeking revenge and catching Obi-Wan is the ladder she intends to use to reach Vader and exact her revenge.
However, both twists feel like they’ve left a lot on the table in terms of the characters they’ll have to serve. Obi-Wan didn’t find out about Vader until the second episode, and he’s done almost nothing with that information, mostly because he’s been chasing Leia for most of the rest of the show somehow. Reva, on the other hand, revealed her actual backstory in Part V, instantly re-contextualizing all of her actions in the series. But instead of giving us a different look at what Reva has been trying to accomplish, the revelation makes some of her past actions pointless, and her decision to release Obi-Wan in the fifth episode doesn’t match at all.
These two twists are great ideas for both Obi-Wan and Reva, but the way they’re deployed feels like they undermine what could have been powerful character development. In fact, their timing and placement should have been reversed: we should have learned about Reva’s backstory early in the series, while Obi-Wan should have learned about Darth Vader’s survival much later.
Rather than revealing to Obi-Wan early that Anakin is alive, the show could have let Obi-Wan operate without knowing Vader’s existence, while the audience knows he’s lurking in the shadows and even gives him the sees inquisitors on the hunt for the Jedi. That would have been a powerful dramatic irony, giving the show time to deal with Obi-Wan’s feelings about what happened in Revenge of the Sith and culminating in Vader confronting Obi-Wan at a devastating moment. After grappling with his grief, we suddenly have a horrified Obi-Wan facing his friend and his failure all at once. It would even recall a similar beat from the original trilogy, when Vader reveals that he is Luke’s father in The Empire Strikes Back. That twist had a huge impact on the public in 1980, and here Obi-Wan Kenobi could have used a similar idea in reverse, forcing us to see Obi-Wan deal with the full impact of a moment we all know is coming .
Instead, Vader has emerged as a villain from a slasher movie, murderously striding through scenes while the other characters constantly manage to escape him, if only just barely. And we’ve seen very little of the emotional toll his friend takes on Obi-Wan – which, it is believed, is the whole point of this show existing in the first place.
While Obi-Wan Kenobi should have stopped Vader’s existence from Obi-Wan, the revelation of Reva’s past is something the show should have revealed to the public early on. The Inquisitor’s journey to bring down Obi-Wan by any means necessary takes on a powerful emotional resonance when you know it’s part of her lifelong quest for revenge against Vader himself. It also gives the audience a chance to see all of her actions through two lenses. Reva’s personal fear and vengeance have pushed her into a position of great power. The show could have added a lot to her character by showing what her quest for revenge has cost her, as well as what she has gained from it, and how that can personally make it difficult to kill Vader. Do you still want to kill your evil boss when serving him has given you incredible power and authority? How do the desires for revenge and power compete, and Reva finds her actions divided between serving them? These are nuanced, fascinating character questions that the show could have answered, but by withholding Reva’s backstory for a twist, it misses the opportunity.
What’s more, giving viewers more information about Reva could have resulted in something Star Wars desperately needs: a more nuanced look at the Dark Side of the Force. In Reva, we have something unique in the live-action annals of Star Wars history (and for the sake of this discussion, we’ll stick to movies and TV shows, as this is the Star Wars content most people are aware of) . She is a character who has specifically turned to the Dark Side to exact revenge and kill one of the worst humans in the galaxy. She is, in a very real way, a person who uses the Dark Side to do some good, and the show could have used that fact to inform how Reva acts in the world and how she sees herself. It’s an opportunity to deepen the ideas that were central to the prequel trilogy and Anakin Skywalker’s character in general – Anakin was a man who thought that authoritarianism could be used to protect people, and his fall to the Dark Side was all about using the end justifies the means.
For Reva, the ends of killing Vader justify the means of hurting someone you have to hurt along the way; her revenge is all-consuming. By giving us information about her backstory, we can present the ways in which she justifies her pursuit of her goal, show how her anger corrupts her, and present possible conflicts in the way she pursues her goals. Instead, Reva came across as a super bad Dark Side user throughout the show – and now she’s a super bad Dark Side user with a tragic backstory.
And if the twists and turns of both Obi-Wan and Reva had been handled differently, we could have gotten more out of Darth Vader’s character. One of the more interesting ideas from Episode 5 is that when Reva lets her play Vader, he’s ready for her. In fact, he says, he knew all along that he and Reva had a past. I think this episode is a bit complicated in its presentation, but I read about the episode that the duel flashback between Obi-Wan and Anakin is to inform that Vader was ready for Reva because of what he learned from Obi-Wan: avoiding getting determined about victory to see other possibilities and threats. The idea is that Vader has become much more crafty and terrifying than he was as Anakin; he’s much more of the wily, longview-taking villain of the original trilogy, as opposed to the Force rage monster we see at the end of Return of the Sith.
But the Reva twist also undermines this element of Vader. Had we seen Reva navigate interactions with the Dark Lord of the Sith throughout the show, knowing she was negotiating a chance for revenge, Vader’s revelation that he’d been through her all along would have been much more powerful. It could be used as a way to show that Vader used Reva as much as she did him. And it would paint a picture of Vader that we haven’t seen much of in live-action material – a man who, having lost everything, has settled into a simmering, calculating darkness to achieve his goals. OG Vader was always most terrifying when he was unpredictable, when he killed admirals without raising his voice, and this moment could have been built into those mythos.
It’s a shame, because Obi-Wan Kenobi clearly has some interesting ideas about his characters, it just doesn’t seem like really tackling them. In the case of both twists and turns—Obi-Wan learns about Anakin’s survival and Reva reveals she was on a mission to kill Vader—those moments felt like a temporary emotional spike, at the expense of the characters involved.
Watching Obi-Wan run around with little Leia and see it mingling again like a Jedi has its fun times, but we’ve seen plenty of footage from the famous teacher fighting in wars. The reason for watching Obi-Wan Kenobi is to see more of who this man is, who he became through his experiences, and how he struggled with the incredible pain of the events of the Star Wars trilogies. The show has the opportunity to delve deep into some of the franchise’s legendary characters in Obi-Wan and Vader, as well as newer ones like Reva, but it feels like it’s more about the plot twists than the people who those twists are about. influence. I can’t help but think how much more effective Obi-Wan Kenobi could have been if the show had let the characters process their traumas, rather than holding them back or sending them away through plot twists.
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