With Obi-Wan Kenobi in the rear view mirror, Star Wars fans have set their sights on catching a glimpse of Ahsoka Tano in The Bad Batch, or even The Mandalorian. But subscribers waiting only for their Baby Yoda fix might feel befuddled by The Bad Batch (“They’re… stormtroopers? But we can see their faces? Why am I hearing Carla from Cheers? Is Baby Yoda around somewhere? Why is that one so angry?)
Obi-Wan Kenobi is another matter. Look, we have to talk about this. We need to discuss Leia’s terrible running. It is necessary for us to question why Vader didn’t just step around the suspiciously horizontal line of fire. We must watch that part where his lightsaber flashes through total darkness about 57 more times.
The series might have torn the current fan base apart into even tinier pieces, but consider it as an opportunity to reach new ones. If the most casual of all casual Star Wars fans wander into the app seeking Grogu and finding Ewan McGregor instead, there is a good chance that person will stop. Besides Darth Vader and perhaps Chewbacca, Obi-Wan, having stuck around the longest, is one of the franchises’ most recognizable cross-property characters. Give him a brown robe and a thoughtful expression and he stands to make all sorts of new friends.
So, if you’re trying to pull someone further into the Star Wars universe or have landed here through your own search, welcome. This is our Obi-Wan. He hates fighting, but he’s fighting anyway.
Although Obi-Wan’s childhood at the Jedi Temple was discussed in the paper-and-audiobook Expanded Universe, much of that background was wiped out when Disney reset Star Wars canon in 2014. As such, prior to his Disney+ series, most of what we know about Obi-Wan’s early life was that he whaled away at Darth Maul in the prequels and rolled his eyes whenever the “cunning warrior” Anakin Skywalker charged off into some clones. You’d hope there’s more to him than that — and indeed there is.
Aside to newcomers: The entire Star Wars universe is dated from the Battle of Yavin, the climactic battle at the end of A New Hope. Everything in the timeline that takes place before that is noted as BBY (Before the Battle of Yavin), and everything afterwards is ABY, (After the Battle of…well, you get it.)
Yes, we date the entire galaxy from the day a farm boy made an enormous space station explode. Yes, there were people on it. Yes, we realize it’s much cuter to date everything from the day a baby was born. No, Grogu wasn’t there.
Obi-Wan Kenobi was born on the planet Stewjon (don’t ask.) No one knows anything about it other than it might contain his mother’s shawl and his father’s hands and possibly a former baby.
Obi-Wan grew up at the Jedi Temple under the tutelage of Yoda and other Jedi Masters. There’s not a lot of information in the Star Wars canon about Obi-Wan’s early childhood, but, as in Grogu’s early days, we can surmise that he had lots and lots of group activities featuring Jedi Tai-Chi and darling little lightsabers. Much of what the fandom has seen of his beyond-Temple training is found in Star Wars comics or books, as well as snatches of prequel films Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.
As a young adult, Obi-Wan built his first lightsaber and was assigned as a Padawan apprentice to Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn, a long-haired hemp advocate if a Jedi ever was one. While completing his early training in the Jedi Temple, young Obi-Wan likely gazed out at the stars, wondering if his path would ever cross with an utterly hateful Gungan and also maybe some bad CGI. His dreams came true during the events of The Phantom Menace, when he met nine-year old Anakin Skywalker and engaged in a rather distressing lightsaber battle; Qui-Gon would share his edibles no more.
The Jedi Council knighted Obi-Wan for defeating Sith Lord Darth Maul, and then, for absolutely no discernable reason other than Qui-Gon Said So, immediately sent him off to train the badly traumatized Anakin.
The conversation apparently went like this:
“Should we take in this freakishly Force-sensitive and angry kid who’s starting training 9 years after everybody else and whose formative years were spent in slavery with zero father figures other than a blue-winged religious stereotype?”
“Absolutely, and you know who should train him? The guy we just knighted four seconds ago who just lost his Master in the most agonizing possible way.”
“This cannot possibly go wrong!”
At this point, Obi-Wan was more deeply connected with the Force than during the era of The Phantom Menace, but not quite enough for him to figure out how to sync hair and beard growth so as to avoid looking unsettlingly like Jesus. However, Jesus would probably have less patience with Anakin.
Happily for him, Obi-Wan might have had teaching assignments beyond his care for the painfully whiny Anakin. In the middle of Attack of the Clones, Obi-Wan seeks out the advice of Yoda, who is training a group of younglings in the Temple. The little ones seem to know who Master Obi-Wan is, so, as an adult, he might have taught a course or two in Acquiring and Maintaining the High Ground.
At the beginning of Attack of the Clones, Anakin is re-introduced to Padme Amidala, over whom he has been obsessing without ever seeing for about a decade, and says a lot of horrifyingly cringey things and whines some more and talks smack about Obi-Wan behind his back and also kills an entire tribe of Tusken Raiders. Padme thinks that’s amazing, and agrees to marry him, but Jedi aren’t supposed to marry, so of course they do anyway.
This does not, you will be shocked to hear, end well.
Meanwhile Obi-Wan is over here fighting Jango Fett and getting soaked and having pillars thrown at him, but never mind, he’s fine. In Revenge of the Sith, he and Anakin undertook a lightsaber battle, an epic fight so personal, so powerful, and so fraught with meaning for the rest of the galaxy that no single computer could render it.
The film also shows, somewhat upsettingly, the execution of Order 66, which wipes out the entire Jedi order, except for Baby Yoda and this kid and that guy and her and him I guess and The Littlest Wookiee and him of course and this other guy too and him and oh yeah this little lady, so… poorly executed execution there, Palpatine.
Don’t forget Padme! She was pregnant with twins, dies for absolutely no reason other than Lucas said so. Luke, meanwhile, is whisked off to his father’s original castle of sand where pretty much everyone and everything tries to kill him. Obi-Wan is the first person to hold baby Luke and begins preparing him for a deeply significant life of living on a crap planet with little to do but pine after power converters.
Leia, meanwhile, goes to upmarket Alderaan to be a princess and dress in pretty clothes with plenty of water to drink and personal bodyguards and fields of wildflowers to skip about in, where her only flaws were being Just Too Darn Independent and also Just Too Darn Sassy.
And so they grow to the age of ten.
Obi-Wan Kenobi begins here. Throughout this period, Obi-Wan lies low and watches over Luke. The Sith Inquisitors, who showed up a great deal in the animated series Rebels, are hunting hard for him. Uncle Owen gets all up in his grill for the way Anakin turned out, subjecting the entire galaxy to a murderous evil dictatorship and all, so it’s kind of awkward when they run into each other at the grocery. Obi-Wan gets a soul-crushing job and keeps his head down and hides Anakin’s lightsaber deep in the sand, because that’s exactly what he would want the least. It’s a decade-long middle finger to Darth Vader, and it is glorious. Kenobi wins again!
But, of course, he’s called to duty. Leia runs as though C-3PO taught her how and Obi-Wan went on this whole rescue mission on behalf of her adoptive parents, and the princess, having already laid the groundwork for an attitude of gratitude, spends pretty much the entire time insulting him, putting other people in danger, and rendering the situation needlessly complicated. She grew up as she began, is what I’m saying.
There’s an initial re-throwdown with Vader in Obi-Wan Kenobi I’d rather not talk about, and Obi-Wan eventually returns Leia to her gigantic closet, but not before first delivering a speech about how awesome she is, because what this kid needs is a self-esteem boost.
Also at some point Luke’s Aunt Beru pistoled up in defense of young Luke, and that alone is worth the price of a Disney Plus subscription. The best aunties know how to pick off a threat from twenty yards. Otherwise, you’re just not serious about it.
Obi-Wan Kenobi presented tremendous canon problems for Leia’s iconic hologram message in A New Hope, ones that can’t be wiped away with Obi-Wan saying, “Hey. We have to pretend not to know each other, even though the Empire pretty much knows I’m here, but anyway, if you or your father ever need my help again, please bypass the fact that you have a secret distress signal you can use at any time and instead grab Anakin’s old astromech that I fought with for seven years but will not recognize at all and send me an unnecessarily formal message in which you remind me of your father for no reason, an extremely non-incognito yet desperate plea to which I will not emotionally react in the slightest.”
Still, this series will be remembered not for its cornucopia of fanservice, but the way in which Obi-Wan, having put Vader in the stylish black suit to begin with, shows him who’s the Boss of the High Ground all over again.
But wait, there’s more! Rumors abound of a Season 2 for Obi-Wan Kenobi, but it’s going to have some canon hijinks to dodge. While new canon establishes Kenobi as out of touch with the Force for the first half of his exile, he’ll have more to do than hang out with Qui-Gon Jinn’s exasperating Force ghost.
(An aside: This all takes place on the same planet which was the setting of “The Book of Boba Fett Oh Never Mind Here Comes Mando,” because this galaxy has hyperdrives and advanced droid technology but not the slightest idea about relocation services.)
In the last days of his exile, just before the events of A New Hope, Darth Maul also shows up on Tatooine. He’s been taking some me time and it wasn’t a wise form of self-care. This dude shows up to Obi-Wan’s house wearing a hipster hoodie and screaming “KeeeeeeEEEENNNNNNOOOOOOBIIIIIIII” in the middle of the desert. You know, your average Tuesday night.
Then they have a lightsaber rematch which is not really a rematch at all because Obi-Wan just beats his red and black butt immediately, it’s really kind of embarrassing on Maul’s part, but maybe he hadn’t gotten enough sleep the night before and overall it’s tons of fun.
Obi-Wan now steps into the role of an aged guiding light as Luke stumbles through his hero’s journey. Not long after they meet, Obi-Wan hands Luke his father’s lightsaber, who responds by aiming it directly at his face, and frankly if I were Obi-Wan I’d just be finished with everything and everyone in the galaxy at this point.
Sorry, Sir Alec, but you’re going to have to let Lucas infuriate you for many, many years yet.
You’ll get used to it.
Having established the effective teaching style of merely trusting Anakin to avoid various non-Jedi activities such as setting up an entire secret family, Obi-Wan pleads with Luke in Force ghost form in The Empire Strikes Back to complete his Jedi training, rather than, you know, walking straight into a trap set by Darth Vader, but nooooooooooooo; Skywalkers gonna Skywalker.
Shooting two more Star Wars movies after A New Hope had to frustrate Guinness; he did not care for the role and wisely avoided the sequel trilogy by dying. But Disney ain’t gonna let you off so easily, old man.
First, Obi-Wan speaks to heroine Rey as she discovers the lightsaber wielded by both Skywalker men: “Rey, these are your first steps.” Later, in The Rise of Skywalker, Rey (no last name, none at all) became one with the concrete floor after battling Palpatine. So various Jedi enter the chat to encourage her. Obi-Wan bops by with “These are your final steps, Rey. Rise and take them… Rey…Rise.” The effect was achieved by blending both Guinness’ voice and McGregor’s.
If we’re lucky, we’ll see more of our Obi-Wan; he has a lot to teach, and no one spins a lightsaber quite like he does. You could do far worse for a Jedi Knight in your neighborhood.
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