This article contains spoilers for Part V of Obi-Wan Kenobi.
From the moment we heard Hayden Christensen was returning to Star Wars to continue playing Anakin Skywalker, fans have been clamoring to see him. Many people questioned his return, since the show takes place during the era of Darth Vader, not Anakin. As the show progressed, it is fair to say we were all a little worried Christensen’s role would be entirely hidden behind Vader’s mask or relegated to the quick Force hallucination in Part III.
The first scene of this week’s Obi-Wan Kenobi episode revealed the version of Anakin fans have been waiting to see. Kenobi continued to provide flashback scenes throughout the episode, paralleling a duel between padawan and master with their ongoing conflict as Vader hunts Obi-Wan.
Seeing Obi-Wan and Anakin at a time when they were still as close as brothers is worth more than fan service. Many fans would have preferred to see an Anakin flashback before now, but the waiting makes these scenes even more meaningful. In this episode, flashbacks were clearly included to serve the larger story, rather than satiate fans.
The flashbacks elevate the scenes from the present. By cutting back and forth between these two periods, a deeper story is created, showing us both how these characters have changed and how they have not.
Anakin may have become Vader, but he still maintains his aggressive fighting tactics and hyper-focus on victory. As he looks back on the duel, he remembers his near victory and the shame of his ultimate defeat. This recollection fuels his anger against Obi-Wan.
Obi-Wan is not the person he once was. He has more fear, highlighted on the moment he realizes he has been backed into a corner. “It’s over” is hardly something we would expect to hear from the Obi-Wan of the Clone Wars. Yet, he is still the master in this relationship. His extensive experience and ability to think flexibly allow him to find paths to victory both in the past and present. When Obi-Wan remembers this duel, he sees Anakin’s power, but also his shortcomings as a tactician.
Both characters use these flashbacks in their struggle to overcome the other. The flashbacks also highlight their most important qualities.
The flashback scenes contribute a sweet, yet heartbreaking tone to an episode that was already strong. We may have had to wait five episodes to see a young Anakin Skywalker, but the moments we finally got to see proved to be worth the delay.
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