[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers through the season finale of Obi-Wan Kenobi, “Part VI.”]
Sure, it’s a metaphysical impossibility in the real world (for anyone outside of an X-Files episode), but it’s still a good thing that none of us know for certain how our friends and family are going to die. It’s the kind of knowledge that would hang over every interaction, make us wonder if every decision they make is one which will bring them ever closer to their ultimate fate — it’d be hard to connect with your friends and family, if you knew how they were all going to die. It might make it hard for you to care about what happens to them.
Which brings us to the season finale of Obi-Wan Kenobi, an action-packed hour of television where all of its major climaxes had, for a Star Wars fan, totally nonexistent stakes. In “Part VI”‘s two semi-parallel sequences, we got to see Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) once again face off against his former apprentice Darth Vader (Hayden Christensen/James Earl Jones), while back on Tatooine Owen Lars (Joel Edgerton) and his wife Beru (Bonnie Piesse) protect their nephew Luke (Grant Feely) from the vengeful ex-Inquisitor Reva (Moses Ingram).
Both sequences, as directed by series helmer Deborah Chow, were technically competent. But it was pretty hard to engage, because there was little question about who would live and who would die here. Owen and Beru can’t be killed by Reva, because stormtroopers do the job 10 years down the line. Vader does eventually duel with Obi-Wan to the death, but not until they meet again on the Death Star. And baby Luke Skywalker, of course, has a long and expansive future in front of him, including a brief stay in the Uncanny Valley.
The only character in the mix here whose ultimate fate wasn’t pre-established by canon was that of Reva’s, and to be honest it was hard to get too invested in her ultimate fate, given how muddled her character motivations felt at that point. She wanted to kill Luke as revenge for Darth Vader… killing other children? Perhaps it makes sense on the page, but the meaning was lost in translation to the screen, ensuring that when she finally proves unable to turn fully to the dark at the end of the episode, it doesn’t quite feel earned.
It’s not that anyone watching was hoping for an Obi-Wan finale where rocks fall and everyone dies. It’s just that, due to the constraints of the premise, there really wasn’t any way for this show to deliver an actually thrilling finale while also making sure that the show stayed focused on the title character and his journey.
Even the episode’s big surprise cameo — Liam Neeson returning to the role of Obi-Wan’s deceased master — was telegraphed at the very beginning of the season by the “Previously in the Star Wars…” extended teaser, which reminded us that one of Obi-Wan’s tasks while hanging out on Tatooine was trying to commune with Qui-Gon Jinn. (To be clear, it would have been ridiculous but also deeply funny if Neeson hadn’t had time to film a quick force ghost cameo for this show but did have time to pop by Atlanta Season 3.)
Despite a frustrating finale, Obi-Wan Kenobi isn’t a huge disappointment in the end. For one thing, we knew this was a prequel series going in; getting mad at a tiger for having stripes feels like a waste of energy. But also, in its quieter, character-focused moments, it really sang. Critical and fan response to the portrayal of Leia might be a bit mixed, but a spinoff starring Vivien Lyra Blair, with Kumail Nanjiani as Leia’s loyal yet sneaky nanny definitely sounds like must-see TV over here. The additional insight into the Empire-ruled galaxy had a valuable relevance to today, and Indira Varma, as former Imperial officer Tala Durith, might have had the strongest multi-episode arc, with a heartbreaking conclusion. (One made possible because, guess what — we didn’t already know how she died!)
Also, points to Christensen for really earning his paycheck in the final episode, delivering a chilling little speech through the crack in his helmet about who really killed Anakin Skywalker, a speech which also happens to set up Obi-Wan’s comment in Episode IV — A New Hope to Luke about who really killed his father.
It’s touches like that which might feel like the show’s entire raison d’etre, as the storytelling gaps in the Skywalker Saga dwindle in number: Giving the fans the answers to questions like “Why would Obi-Wan ever tell Luke that Darth Vader ‘betrayed and murdered your father’?” But really, for me, the show’s biggest value can be found in the ways it pays tribute to both the Lars and Organa families, acknowledging the strife and sacrifices that Luke and Leia’s adoptive parents undertook selflessly.
After all, it’s the characters that keep us engaged, something that’s not exclusive to Star Wars, but all stories, really. It’s why as much as we might complain, we put up with prequels, because they offer us the opportunity to spend just a little more time with our fictional friends — even if it means doing our best to forget, in the moment, how their stories ultimately end.
Obi-Wan Kenobi is streaming now on Disney+.