Almost as long as Star Wars has existed, there have been spin-off stories to “fill the gaps” and expand the universe. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (or, as it was known then, Star Wars!) was released on May 25th 1977. Marvel’s Star Wars comic began on April 12th 1977, the first six issues adapting the film followed by original stories. The first Star Wars novel, Alan Dean Foster’s Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, was released in March 1978. Both continued the story George Lucas began and served to sate people’s desire for new Star Wars stories until the eventual sequel arrived. Almost as long as Star Wars has existed then, fans have navigated their relationships with such stories. Which, if any, do you read/watch? Which, if any, become a part of your experience of Star Wars? Disney+’s Obi-Wan Kenobi is one of the most ambitious of such spin-offs, with Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan), Hayden Christensen (Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader), Jimmy Smits (Bail Organa), Bonnie Piesse (Beru Lars), and Joel Edgerton (Owen Lars) reprising their roles from the Prequel Trilogy. As with all Star Wars stories outside Lucas’ six films, Obi-Wan Kenobi forces (ha! no pun intended) fans to consider how, if at all, it fits in their experience of Star Wars. For me, the show brought many welcome, if at times conflicting, emotions.
THIS PIECE WILL HAVE SPOILERS FOR OBI-WAN KENOBI (E1-6).
Given the IFS work I’ve done in therapy for years, it’s natural to discuss all the emotions which move through me with Obi-Wan Kenobi in terms of “parts.” IFS (the Internal Family Systems model) has taught me to see and to welcome all my thoughts, feelings, emotions – all that moves inside of me – as different parts of myself. The goal is to learn how to meet, recognize, listen to, and converse with all my parts in order to bring balance within my internal system. As I begin to understand my parts, I can develop relationships with them. Really, it’s all about relationships – my relationship with my parts and, through them, my relationships with others. As I’ve done this work, I’ve met “polarized parts” within myself, or parts that want conflicting things. This is a natural, just part of being human, and in these situations I have to dialogue with both and seek a way to bring them into balance (like internal couple’s counseling if you will ;D) to create harmony within myself.
And this is the perfect description of my experience of Obi-Wan Kenobi.
By way of summary, Obi-Wan Kenobi is set ten years after Revenge of the Sith. The Empire rules the galaxy. The Jedi are all but extinct. The Inquisitors, a group of fallen Jedi who’ve joined the Dark Side, help Darth Vader hunt and murder the Jedi who survived Order 66. In hiding to protect them from their father after their mother, Padmé Amidala (Natalie Portman), died in childbirth, Luke Skywalker (Grant Feely) is living with his aunt and uncle, Beru and Owen Lars, on Tatooine while Leia (Vivian Lyra Blair) is on Alderaan with her adoptive parents, Breha (Simone Kessel) and Bail Organa. Obi-Wan is in exile on Tatooine where he watches over Luke. The first episode begins with a group of Inquisitors – the Grand Inquisitor (Rupert Friend), the Third Sister (Moses Ingram), and the Fifth Brother (Sung Kang) – hunting Obi-Wan. When Leia is kidnapped (a plot orchestrated by Reva, the Third Sister, in her relentless attempt to draw Obi-Wan out of hiding), Obi-Wan takes up his lightsaber and leaves Tatooine for the first time in a decade to rescue the young princess…with Reva and her Sith Lord Master, Darth Vader, hot on his heels.
To begin with, I had a few parts which really wanted Obi-Wan Kenobi to be amazing. I wanted it to work. I wanted everyone to love it. I wanted to fall in love with it. I wanted it to be a beautiful, moving, thoughtful, addition to the list of Star Wars stories which enrich my experience of Star Wars while honoring what came before. Part of me wanted Obi-Wan Kenobi to be amazing simply because I love Star Wars and I’d love another story to relive again and again. Part of me wanted Obi-Wan Kenobi to be amazing because I felt the cast and crew, particularly those who were part of the Prequels, deserve it. As someone born in 1982, the Prequel Trilogy is a central part of my Star Wars, just as the Original Trilogy is. I love the Prequels and I feel you can’t have Star Wars without them. However, very few in the generation of Star Wars fans before me were kind to the Prequels and I always thought how shitty it would have to feel to be Ewan McGregor, Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman, and everyone else associated with those films. You work so hard to create a new chapter in one of the most beloved sagas of all time and fans and critics alike piss on you for it :/. So for everyone involved in Obi-Wan Kenobi – most especially Ewan McGregor, Hayden Christensen, Jimmy Smits, Bonnie Piesse, and Joel Edgerton – I wanted this to be a hit.
There are things in Obi-Wan Kenobi which parts of me genuinely love, too!
As Princess Leia, Vivian Lyra Blair stole every scene she was in. Her casting was perfect! She was Leia, through and through. I’ve seen people online (Twitter posts and YouTube comment sections, you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy :8) who complained she was “too bossy” or “too sassy” or “talked too much” or “didn’t listen to the adults” or “did too much on her own” and all I could think is…how many ten-year-olds have they met? I used to run a summer camp (55+ hour weeks with dozens of pre-K through 4th grade kiddos) and my whole life was mitigating sass and trying to get them to listen XD. Self-assertion is a natural part of childhood development! And Leia is the princess of Alderaan on top of normal developmental stuff! She’s been taught to assert herself, to lead, and to strategize her entire life! I didn’t see anything unusual or out of character with how she handles herself in these episodes. She felt very believable as Padmé’s daughter and that she’d grow into the Princess Leia we meet above Tatooine in A New Hope, too. I adored everything about her character and the way she played Leia! Her confidence! Her heart! Her compassion! Her courage! Every scene with Leia – especially the ones she shared with Obi-Wan – filled my heart. As far as I’m concerned, Vivian Lyra Blair’s casting alone was worth the creation of Obi-Wan Kenobi and the Star Wars Universe is better for having her version of young Leia in it.
And how can’t I love more Ewan McGregor?!!? He’s such an accomplished actor and I loved his work in the Prequels. For me, the emotional conclusion to his battle with Anakin on Mustafar is one of the most heartbreaking moments in all of Star Wars. It’s hard for me to watch him admit his failure or say, “You were brother, Anakin! I loved you!” without tearing up a little. So to see Ewan McGregor revisit this character seventeen years later, with even more depth and nuance in his acting? Seeing the way he played Obi-Wan’s despondency on Tatooine, his friction with Owen, his conversations with Leia, his avoidance-of-yet-naturally-slipping-back-into the role of Jedi, his conversations with Darth Vader, and the rebirth of his hope was all so rewarding. I loved seeing Ewan McGregor continue to develop this character at such a dark and trying time in Obi-Wan’s life.
And OH MY GOSH I LOVE HOW THEY MADE BERU SUCH A BADASS!!! When Reva was coming, Owen was ready run and hide with Luke but not Beru! She pulled out the blasters she’d concealed in anticipation for this moment and was ready to go toe-to-toe with an Inquisitor all in the name of saving her son. Yes! YES! 1,000x YES! GO BONNIE PIESSE for delivering such a kickass performance!
I was eager to see more of the Inquisitors, too! I’d say their introduction is one of the single most potential-rich and interesting concepts the Disney Canon has brought to Star Wars. I loved Reva from the start. She was the sort of menacing villain Star Wars is famous for. Moses Ingram brought her to life in a way where I could see the web of further stories about Reva begging to be written from the first episode.
Visually, I loved much of what they did with Obi-Wan Kenobi and I found the framework of the plot to be one with great potential for excitement. We have Reva relentlessly hunting Obi-Wan as a secret group called the Path, who smuggle Jedi to safety as the Empire hunts them, tries to help him! Plus so many actors from the Prequels are back plus the new cast is phenomenal! All the pieces are there for an out-of-the-park Star Wars smash.
One of my most active parts is my Analytical Part. This is the part that analyzes and takes apart everything. It’s key to why I write what I write and teach the way I do, with classes exploring the intersection of comic books and comic book movies, Doctor Who, Star Wars, and other pieces of pop culture with theology and social justice. I can’t not take something apart as I read or watch it. My mind is (almost) always whirring. Only very recently (within the last year) did I learn how to ask my Analytical Part to step back and give me some space as I worked with other parts. For a long time I wasn’t even able to recognize my Analytical Part as a part. I just saw it as who I am.
So when I watch a show like Obi-Wan Kenobi (or, you know, anything XD), I can’t not analyze it. When people say, “Just enjoy it! Don’t overthink it!” that’s literally not how my mind works (nor would I want it to – I’ve never had an interest in the superficial and I love my Analytical Part). My mind naturally explores how Obi-Wan Kenobi ties to everything Lucas gave us as well as what the Disney Canon has added to Star Wars. For me, Lucas’ work is inviolable. The fundamental core of Star Wars is the Original Trilogy and the Prequel Trilogy and no story which violates, undercuts, or ignores what is in those films works me. Yes, Lucas himself has changed his own canon but, as far as I’m concerned, he’s “the Maker.” It’s his world and he can do as he likes with it. But all the additions to that world? No matter how fun or exciting or interesting it may be, I can’t see it as “real Star Wars” if it violates in narrative, theme, or tone, anything in those six films.
And when my Analytical Part watches Obi-Wan Kenobi, it doesn’t have to work much at all to see it hardly fits with what came before and that is very, very frustrating.
Yes, in A New Hope Darth Vader famously says, “I sense something. A presence I have not felt since…” and trails off. We don’t get a specific date/time. That’s natural. It was Lucas’ first movie and he didn’t know exactly how his space saga would play out. Wisely, he left himself wiggle room. As a result, many have pointed to that ambiguity to say Obi-Wan and Vader could have seen each other again after their battle on Mustafar before they met on the Death Star. To those people I’d ask, Did anyone ever say they thought that was the case before Obi-Wan Kenobi was announced? I’d presume the answer is universally no because those scenes – the epic battle on Mustafar and their final battle on the Death Star – naturally fit together. So while Obi-Wan Kenobi doesn’t overtly violate the narrative of Lucas’ work, it clearly violates the implied narrative and tone of those scenes. NOTHING in Revenge of the Sith’s final battle says, “Oh, this is just the prelude and their real final fight is yet to come.”
As if that wasn’t enough, when they meet aboard the Death Star, Vader tells him, “I’ve been waiting for you, Obi-Wan. The circle is now complete. When I left you, I was but the learner. Now I am the master.” The writers of Obi-Wan Kenobi understood this was a problem and tried to work around it by having Vader taunt Obi-Wan in the sixth and final episode, “Did you truly think that you could defeat me? You have failed, Master.” Yes, because when Anakin calls Palpatine “master” in Revenge of the Sith and accepts the mantle of “Darth Vader” and calls Obi-Wan “my old master,” it doesn’t with perfect clarity illustrate he no longer sees Obi-Wan as his master at all and without question setup the famous line in A New Hope (◔_◔).
On the subject of masters, the Emperor seemed pretty chill at the end of the series with the whole Darth Vader-not-killing-Obi-Wan-and-sensing-some-conflict thing. Emperor Sheev Palpatine (I’m sorry if you didn’t know that was his first name (I…I know, it’s a lot to take in)) never struck me as the, “We cool? You good? Ok, cool,” kinda guy. That’s not the way the Emperor rules and it’s certainly not how he works with his apprentice.
We also have Leia’s famous message to Obi-Wan in A New Hope. Care of Artoo, Leia’s holographic form tells him, “General Kenobi. Years ago you served my father in the Clone Wars. Now he begs you to help him in his struggle against the Empire. I regret that I am unable to convey my father’s request to you in person, but my ship has fallen under attack, and I’m afraid my mission to bring you to Alderaan has failed. I have placed information vital to the survival of the Rebellion into the memory systems of this R2 unit. My father will know how to retrieve it. You must see this droid safely delivered to him on Alderaan. This is our most desperate hour. Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope.” NOTHING in that message indicates Leia has ever met Obi-Wan before this mission. And, ok, again the writers of Obi-Wan Kenobi try to get around this in the sixth episode when, in their goodbyes, Obi-Wan tells Leia, “But we must be careful. No one must know or it could endanger us both.” She replies, “Goodbye, Obi-Wan” and he tells her, “Goodbye, Princess. May the Force be with you.” But even if that explains the hey-I’ve-never-met-you-but-I-need-your-help quality of her message (which it doesn’t (why would she be so cautious when they are openly bringing Obi-Wan out of exile to fight the Empire with them and the Empire has captured her?)), it doesn’t explain why she has no significant emotional reaction to Obi-Wan’s death. We see Luke mourn and Leia comforts him but there is nothing to suggest he was part of a life-defining (and deeply traumatic) experience she had at a developmentally significant part of her childhood.
Also, when Darth Vader and Obi-Wan first meet each other again in the third episode, he goes after Obi-Wan while he lets his Inquisitors amble around the town doing nothing? And then he uses the Force to lift Obi-Wan and pull him into the flames but then, once the flames get a little bigger, he sends one stormtrooper to get Obi-Wan – Obi-Wan freaking Kenobi, his old master and the man he’s hunted for a decade and hates more than anything – as opposed to just lifting and pulling him with the Force? And how can Reva – who is an Inquisitor and whose job is to find Jedi and Force-sensitive people and who often uses her Force abilities to sense them – get no hit whatsoever off of Leia who is the literal daughter of the Chosen One?
It’s not just Lucas’ work they are ignoring as they go forward either. As I saw in an article (I just spent half an hour trying to find it again so I could cite/credit the author, even searching Twitter on the off-chance it was a thread and not an article, but, alas, I couldn’t track it down), while going to rescue Leia is the only logical reason Obi-Wan would ever leave Tatooine, it would’ve made more sense for Bail Organa to reach out to Ahsoka first. They’ve known each other since the Clone Wars and she’s trained as a Jedi and the Disney Canon has clearly established they worked together in the years after the Empire rises to build the Rebel Alliance and her lightsabers haven’t been in the desert sand for a decade. So while it makes sense Obi-Wan would leave to find Leia, it doesn’t fit with their own stories that Bail wouldn’t contact Ahsoka first, knowing how important Obi-Wan’s care of Luke is and that Ahsoka is in her prime.
I also found about forty of the finale’s fifty-two minutes lacking any sort of dramatic tension. Oh, Obi-Wan and Darth Vader are fighting? I bet they both live until A New Hope. Oh, Reva is coming to the Lars Homestead and Beru and Owen are preparing to fight to protect Luke? I bet Beru, Owen, and Luke all live to A New Hope. With Revenge of the Sith there was gravitas to their fight because we were finally seeing the events and the battles which set up the Original Trilogy. This was just a bunch of events and battles thrown together to fill a show. And no matter how well acted the scene was when Darth Vader says, “I am not your failure Obi-Wan. You didn’t kill Anakin Skywalker. I did,” and Obi-Wan replies, “Then my friend is truly dead. Goodbye, Darth,” it’s still just a reimagining of what already happened on Mustafar.
I could go on (and on) but these are the biggest points of continuity error I struggled with. And yes, I grant no large story told across years in so many different forms with so many different authors can be perfectly consistent. And yes, I grant I’ve read comic books my entire life and they can be riddled with continuity errors, too. But the major difference is comic books never say – or even imply – you need to read every single comic ever to understand the full story. Star Wars however (and the Marvel Cinematic Universe for that matter) has gone out of its way to say all the stories connect and all the stories are important. When they purchased Lucasfilm, Disney and their newly minted Lucasfilm Story Group made it very clear all Star Wars stories going forward exist within “a connected, ‘one universe,’ continuity…[where] all officially-licensed Star Wars storytelling from this point forward stands on equal canon footing.” What this means, essentially, is the events happening in Marvel’s Star Wars main title comic or the cartoon show Star Wars: Rebels are seen as being as canonical as the events in A New Hope. How do they tell me every Star Wars story is equal when their own creators regularly ignore not just Lucas’ own narratives, plots, themes, and tonal elements but their own new stories as well?
A part of me feels very insulted by all this. A part of me gets angry, too. They are the ones who are trying to sell me content I have to buy with a movie ticket, Disney+ account, or the cover price of a book/comic/video game and they are the ones who aren’t even trying to stay consistent with what they’ve produced and asked me to buy. I also have a part that feels used and taken for granted. They are happy for me to consume all these stories and to pay the price of admission, in whatever form it may come, but they aren’t even trying to reward my paying attention to it all?
So how do I reconcile these polarized parts? My parts which wanted the show to be celebrated as a big hit for all involved and my parts which legitimately loved parts of the show with my parts that feel frustrated, insulted, angry, used, and taken for granted by the careless lack of continuity in this show?
How do I reconcile Vivian Lyra Blair’s perfect Princess Leia and the beautiful scenes she shares with Ewan McGregor’s complex, wounded Obi-Wan with the fact that they should never have met? Or how do I reconcile the excitement of seeing Hayden Christensen as Darth Vader doing some serious Sith Lord action with the fact that he and Obi-Wan never should have crossed paths between Mustafar and the Death Star? How do I reconcile what I loved and sincerely enjoyed in this show, this labor of love for all involved, with what frustrated me?
I don’t know that there’s a way to bring these parts into perfect harmony within myself. If there is, I haven’t found it yet. I know I will continue to love Star Wars and continue to read/watch the new Star Wars stories which interest me. I will continue to find things within those stories (maybe not all of them but certainly many of them) which I love. And I will continue to be frustrated by each new story’s blatant disregard for Lucas’ work and the stories the Disney Canon itself contains.
I do recognize Disney and those producing stories for the Disney Canon of Star Wars don’t care about continuity, at least not in the way I’d like them to. The largest guiding principle around stories seems to be a) is this “cool” and b) will a certain segment of the Star Wars fandom freak out about it online thus providing publicity so c) money is made. And honestly? That’s Disney’s prerogative. They paid George Lucas four billion dollars to buy Lucasfilm. They can do whatever the heck they want with it, whether I like it or not. I also recognize I’m not the person new Star Wars stories are being made for, not anymore. Just like the angry fans who rallied against the Prequels I so loved, now I’ve become the “angry old man” telling Disney to “get off my lawn” with all their cockamamie stories, the selfsame stories a new generation of Star Wars fans coming of age now do love.
So I recognize these stories are no longer meant for me, not first and foremost. I validate all my parts which hold frustration and anger and resentment for all manner of reasons around these stories. And I validate all my parts which find things to enjoy and even love in them, too. This validation brings a sort of harmony and, with it, I can continue to explore the Star Wars universe, giving myself permission to feel what I feel (even if its contradictory) while keeping a mindful eye open for the stories (or even just the pieces of stories) which fit snuggly within my experience of Star Wars.
If IFS sounds like something you’d like to explore and/or learn more about, I’d recommend Tom Holmes, Ph.D; Laurie Holmes, MSW; and Sharon Eckestein, MFA’s Parts Work: An Illustrated Guide to Your Inner Life (on Barnes & Noble or Amazon) or Richard Schwartz, PhD’s No Bad Parts: Healing Trauma & Restoring Wholeness with The Internal Family Systems Model (on Barnes & Noble or Amazon). Or you can go to the IFS Institute’s official website to read more about it and even search for therapists formally trained in this particular treatment modality :).
 “Wookipedia: Canon policy,” Wookipedia: the Star Wars Wiki, Accessed June 23, 2022, https://starwars.fandom.com/wiki/Wookieepedia:Canon_policy#:~:text=Wookieepedia%20contributors%20must%20take%20care,of%20new%20canon%20source%20material.
 Benedetta Geddo, “How Much Did It Cost Disney To Buy Star Wars?,” The Mary Sue, March 8, 2022. https://www.themarysue.com/how-much-does-it-cost-to-buy-star-wars/#:~:text=Their%20very%20expensive%20plan.,time%20does%20not%20come%20cheap.