Spoilers for Obi-Wan Kenobi – Episode 3 are discussed in this article.
So much of being alive is the connections we make with others. The love and friendship and bonds that tie us to each other. But what happens when those bonds are broken? What happens when they are twisted or warped? How do we heal from the things that made us alive?
In episode 3 of Obi-Wan Kenobi, we pick up with Obi-Wan and the young Leia as they barely escape the underworld planet of Daiyu. But Obi-Wan’s departure is complicated by a disturbing revelation: his apprentice, Anakin Skywalker, didn’t die but has instead been resurrected as the dark and terrible Darth Vader.
While this is by no means news to Star Wars viewers, here, for the first time, we see it through the lens of Obi-Wan himself. The long cliched revelation of The Empire Strikes Back takes on heart-wrenching context as we see the loss and betrayal processed by the one who called Anakin a brother.
Throughout their desperate flight, Obi-Wan is now carrying a renewed weight of fear and trauma and grief. The very worst moments of his life, the deaths of his adopted Jedi family at the hands of the very clone troopers he had served alongside, the downfall of the Republic, the triumph of the Sith and the deaths of Anakin and Padme—these are all given a new and more horrible form.But now, Ben is becoming Obi-Wan again and, like blood pumping back through atrophied flesh, there is a rush of stinging pain breaking through his numbness. The pain of living once again.
His meditation at the beginning of the episode is almost more like an anxiety attack, filled with disturbing rushes of images and voices. Everywhere he turns, Obi-Wan is confronted by the past. He plaintively cries out to Qui-Gon for guidance, almost more of a prayer. He has a hallucination of an accusatory Anakin in Jedi robes, glaring at him from the horizon on the planet Mapuzo. At his side walks the most painful reminder of all: the bright, fearless and sarcastic Leia, a reminder of the lost promise and potential of Padmé and Anakin both.
“It’s not been easy. Sometimes when I look at [her], I see her mother’s face. We all miss her very much” Obi-Wan says.
“You knew her, my real mother, didn’t you?” Leia later asks. The whole time I’ve known you, you’ve been hiding something from me. Lying to me.”
Ben is a man haunted by the living and the dead. In the desert, he never healed from the trauma and pain of loss, but instead allowed it to choke and wither any meaning or connections he had left, just as he himself withered and faded into the Tatooine sands. But now, Ben is becoming Obi-Wan again and, like blood pumping back through atrophied flesh, there is a rush of stinging pain breaking through his numbness. The pain of living once again.
In the quarry on Mapuzo, Vader comes for him like a horror movie monster, flickering in and out of vision like a fever dream before he suddenly strikes in a flurry of red light. He is a nightmare of fire and Sith power. He is everything Obi-Wan wanted to forget. He is the jagged end of the break, the open wound itself.We can find healing and freedom in truly facing what came before. There is a greater wholeness, a greater life we can only find when we have faced what came before, when we have laid our ghosts to rest.
But as much as any of us might want to forget, our broken bonds and worst moments cry out for healing, not erasure. We can’t erase the things that have come before; even with the vaunted powers of the Jedi (or Sith), we can’t bring back those we’ve lost or undo the past. But we can face our grief, our trauma, and our wounds. We can find healing and freedom in truly facing what came before. There is a greater wholeness, a greater life we can only find when we have faced what came before, when we have laid our ghosts to rest.
It’s hard to say if Obi-Wan ever recovered from this moment. After all, we know he returns to the desert. We know that these things won’t be ultimately resolved until a final confrontation on the Death Star a decade later. But unlike Kenobi, the ending of our stories hasn’t been written yet. We can seek help, we can face our pasts. Each day we have a new chance to heal, to move forward, to become truly alive again … if we’re willing to take it.