As Disney+’s latest Star Wars series approaches its finale, fans are waiting with bated breath for the climactic moment. From the start, many wondered if the show would see the title character facing off against his former pupil, Anakin Skywalker turned Darth Vader. But as the series draws closer to the high point of the action, the more it feels like that isn’t the way it should go.
Obi-Wan Kenobi hasn’t shied away from action scenes or fun-to-watch lightsaber duels; the fight between Darth Vader and the Third Sister in the latest episode is just one example. And in the finale, there may very well be a lightsaber battle to serve as a climactic moment, perhaps between Obi-Wan and the new Grand Inquisitor (or the Third Sister, should she survive). But if Obi-Wan and Vader were to duke it out in the series finale, it would undermine not only Obi-Wan’s character journey, but the emotional tension of the original trilogy as well.
Obi-Wan’s Central Journey
Part of the core story of Obi-Wan Kenobi is, indeed, about Obi-Wan facing his past mistakes — among them, his own failure to keep Anakin from falling to the Dark Side. However, his journey isn’t so much about facing down his demons as it is about forgiving himself and moving forward.
At the start of the series, Obi-Wan has abandoned the Jedi way. He is tormented by his past, haunted by his guilt over Anakin’s fate, and no longer believes he is worthy of calling himself a Jedi. But by the time young Luke Skywalker encounters old Ben Kenobi in A New Hope, the latter is a kindly old hermit, well-versed in the Jedi way and ready to pass those teachings on to Luke. He may have regrets, but he is no longer the tormented man seen in the miniseries.
To become that wise mentor character that Luke meets on Tatooine, Obi-Wan needs to find peace with himself and let go of his guilt, and accept his role as a Jedi. Striking down Vader would likely not give Obi-Wan that peace; rather, it would only feed into that guilt. Such a scene would also reinforce the idea that the central conflict of the show is between Obi-Wan and Vader, when the bigger battle is really between Obi-Wan and himself.
Honoring The Original Films
When Obi-Wan and Vader confront each other in the original Star Wars film, it’s a powerful moment. The two are finally facing each other again after so many years. For this moment in A New Hope to maintain its emotional tension, Obi-Wan Kenobi needs to end without fully resolving the conflict between Obi-Wan and his former pupil.
In Obi-Wan Kenobi, an epic lightsaber duel between the two could only end one of two ways. If Vader were to defeat his former master, his iconic quote in the original film would make no sense: “When I left you I was but the learner. Now I am the master.” On the other hand, if Obi-Wan were to strike down Vader or force him to flee, it would feel too final. It would massively undermine Vader’s credibility as a galaxy-wide threat going into the original trilogy of films, and it would give Obi-Wan too much closure before their final encounter in A New Hope.
By escaping the Empire’s clutches with the rebel faction in the show’s fifth episode, Obi-Wan has shown Vader that he can still outsmart him. Despite emerging worse for wear from their battle earlier in the series, Obi-Wan has demonstrated that he is the wiser of the two; as of now, he is still the master. That should not change between the end of the miniseries and A New Hope. To portray another direct confrontation between the two would shift that balance, no matter the outcome.
What Should Happen Instead?
At its core, the story of Obi-Wan Kenobi is of its hero’s return to the Jedi way. In the fifth episode’s flashback scenes, he tells Anakin that “a Jedi’s goal is to defend life, not take it.” This may foreshadow how Obi-Wan will find his Jedi path again. Most obviously, he will return Leia to her family and guard Luke from the Empire’s threats — but there may be more to the story yet.
Reva, the Third Sister, appears to have survived her encounter with Vader — and appears to be planning something involving Luke Skywalker on Tatooine. It would not be surprising to see her and Obi-Wan face off again; she’s clearly not a fan of his, despite her newly-revealed hatred for Vader. In such a confrontation, though, Obi-Wan shouldn’t strike Reva down either. Instead, it would be an incredibly powerful moment to see him help Reva let go of her rage, perhaps even turn to the Light. In this way, Obi-Wan would achieve what he had failed to do with Anakin, providing him with closure for his past mistakes.
Alternatively, perhaps there will be no final confrontation. Any given chapter in the Star Wars sage, be it miniseries or movie trilogy, tends to end with the vanquishing of evil and the hero’s triumphant return. Obi-Wan Kenobi, however, takes place during the Empire’s rise to power — which does not slow between the show’s end and the start of the original trilogy. Of all the Star Wars properties, it makes the most sense for Obi-Wan Kenobi to end on an ominous note. Perhaps, although he has protected the Skywalker twins, Obi-Wan will realize that the true battle is still to come, and he must return to his Jedi roots to prepare for it.
Regardless of how the series does end, the conflict at the heart of Obi-Wan Kenobi is one of a man struggling to find himself after losing everything. In order to feel truly finished, what audiences really want to see is the title character grow into the beloved character first brought to life by Alec Guinness, and prepare to train an eager young man on Tatooine. Confronting Vader will happen later. First, Obi-Wan must forgive his past mistakes and trust himself to become a Jedi again.