'Obi-Wan Kenobi' Reminds Us That 'Star Wars' Continuity Has Never Made Sense
It’s hard to believe it, but we’re already halfway through Obi-Wan Kenobi; this week’s episode, most memorably, featured the return of Darth Vader, played by Hayden Christiansen and voiced by the legendary James Earl Jones – thanks to the fact that Anakin Skywalker’s breathing apparatus comes with an “elderly baritone” option for some reason.
Best of all, we actually got to see the dramatic rematch between the vengeful Vader and a haggard Kenobi in which Obi-Wan ends up losing the duel and almost gets burned to a crisp like a common Tesla.
Which in some ways, bumps up against what we’ve already seen in the Star Wars saga; in A New Hope Vader tells Obi-Wan that when they last met he was “but a learner” but is now the “master” – which would be a weird thing to say to someone who you previously kicked the crap out of and literally set on fire.
Even before this scene, some people have been complaining that the new series is “retconning” the original movies; like how Leia in A New Hope asks Obi-Wan for help, claiming in her holographic message that he “served” with her father in the Clone Wars. Now, it kind of seems weird that she wouldn’t be like: “General Kenobi, remember when I was kidnapped as a kid, you came to my rescue, and we hung out for an extended, extremely memorable period of time?”
But the thing is: Star Wars has never made any sense. Unironically making this criticism about Obi-Wan Kenobi is to overlook decades of George Lucas coming up with impromptu ideas and passing them off as long-gestating plans from the 1970s. And as fans have pointed out, the series is already riddled with contradictions, especially in the wake of the prequels.
Even this week’s revelation that Obi-Wan has a brother, is just a reminder that for a long time, the official line of thinking (thanks to the Return of the Jedi novelization) was that Uncle Owen was his brother – until Attack of the Clones rendered that plot-point completely obsolete.
Enjoying Star Wars is to accept that its continuity is about as stable as Kylo Ren’s hormones. The overall story is constantly in a state of flux – which isn’t to say that these retcons aren’t fair game for criticism, they absolutely are. But to dismiss any modifications to the larger mythology as invalid, is fundamentally in opposition to the way the Star Wars story has been told to us since the beginning.
The real question should be: is it awesome? The new Vader scenes don’t really make any sense in the context of A New Hope, but that shouldn’t matter because the entire sequence was great. Audiences will happily overlook nitpicky incongruities when they’re in the service of something thrilling and emotionally satisfying.
On the other hand when, for example, we learn that Anakin built C-3PO in The Phantom Menace, that doesn’t tick either of those boxes; the scene itself has no drama, and Vader isn’t a character that Threepio has any real connection to, so there’s no emotional payoff.
Hopefully Obi-Wan Kenobi will give us more of the cool stuff that makes no sense, and not, say, Obi-Wan teaming up with young Han Solo and Baby Yoda to create a bunch of Snoke clones.
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Top Image: Lucasfilm