Last week I told you about how much I love the Empire. While this doesn’t necessarily mean I would hate the Jedi, unfortunately, the Jedi have very little to recommend themselves. Back in the day, sure, they were a wholesome organization, but like the Republic, the Order grew musty and stale and ineffective. The bureaucratic council, ineffectively led by a couple of “lifers” who let egotism get in the way of the Jedi mission, pretty much bogs them down into uselessness. Yoda, the most venerated Jedi ever, is short-tempered, derisive of his pupils, and allows Palpatine to take control out of sheer stubborn pride. But the Order is more than just the sum of its parts, and some of those parts are awesome. Yes, Qui-Gon Jinn is my favorite male character, but if we’re narrowing the field to Jedi . . .
Not only is Obi-Wan my favorite Jedi, he was arguably the greatest Jedi in the order. Matthew Stover has some pretty cheap prose, but he hits on Obi-Wan’s personality very neatly in the novelization of Episode III — a warrior who hates to fight, an expert pilot who doesn’t like flying — he is attuned to the Force, the right mix of politic and stubborn. Truly greater than all his teachers combined, all of his experiences have led to him becoming the real last of the Jedi.
Obi-Wan was nowhere near being a favorite of mine until I started reading the Jedi Apprentice series. Now, these are heavily formulaic kids’ books (how formulaic? In each book, Obi-Wan loses his lightsaber and Qui-Gon hurts his shoulder), but the events they cover are canonical enough. He started off as a 13-year-old approaching the cut off date for apprenticeship. Qui-Gon, deeply burned by his last apprentice who went dark, is extremely reluctant to train anybody, but gradually he and Obi-Wan form a tight bond, very father-son. (I can give you conspiracy theories where Qui-Gon is Obi-Wan’s father. Seriously, two names of that formula, and they’re not related? *eyebrow*)
By Episode I, he’s clearly late for his knighthood, almost as if Qui-Gon is stalling for some reason. (Yes, late: he’s 25, but Anakin is champing at the bit to be made master when he’s 22? Anakin’s no prodigy. Even using SWL’s Expanded Fix-It-All Timeline™, Anakin’s 25 in E3 and there’s no reason Obi-Wan should be blasé about continuing as a Padawan at 25 where Anakin is literally hysterical at not being made a master.) He demonstrates stubbornness, some headstrong impatience, but mostly, Obi-Wan shows his trademark clear logic and intelligent strategy at a situation. He gives in to his anger to slaughter Maul, but I’m not convinced that’s truly “dark side.” Another story for another day.
13 years later (as per SWLEFIATL™), Obi-Wan is a mature Jedi master with a “big Jedi mullet,” as Ewan would say. Working on his own more while his Padawan plays husband-and-wife games with his protection detail, Obi-Wan spends less time fighting and more time trying to analyze what is going on behind the situation. When confronted with Dooku, for example, you can almost see the gears working in his mind. The disappointments of E2 are so truly disappointing because it was worked up to be quite a decent mystery, but the lack of round ups in E3 really killed the whole thing. You can see how attuned to the Force his by how he jumps out the window to catch the tracker droid, but George Lucas’ fan-wank insistence on having Yoda fight really destroyed any chance of Obi-Wan’s sword skills coming into play. Sadness.
And now the galaxy has fallen into civil war. Obi-Wan, a mature master at 41 years of age, has become a general, though once again most of his fighting genius takes place off screen and Lucas’ inconvenient plot has him impotently falling over in the first duel so Anakin can dispatch Dooku unchallenged. But that’s not the point. The point is Obi-Wan is one bad . . . What? Just talking about Obi-Wan!
Ewan even gets to bring some of his proper acting skill to light in his “You were my brother!” speech at the end. If that doesn’t make you cry . . . ! I’ve analyzed this deeply over the years and found that 1) Anakin never escaped the slave mindset of wanting someone to command him. Palpatine commanded him, therefore Palpatine got his loyalty. 2) Obi-Wan “failed” Anakin in that he never realized Anakin was looking for a superior. Anakin says Obi-Wan is like a father to him, but Obi-Wan thinks of him as a brother. This unequal relationship never gives Anakin the grounding he needs to break the dark lord’s grip.
Still, how about that lava battle! And while some could identify a weakness in Obi-Wan’s reasoning for walking away and leaving Anakin to certainly die in far more agony than if he just killed him, I think there’s a strong case that it makes sense for him. Particularly if Obi-Wan found out that Padmé was cheating on him with Anakin, whom she secretly married. Oh, yeah, that’s right — I have a conspiracy theory that suggests Luke is actually Obi-Wan’s son and that’s why he slips off to Tatooine to raise him.
Nothing about Alec Guinness recommended me to Obi-Wan, though after the prequels I have a stronger respect for his ability to portray genuine emotional responses to a then-unknown backstory. Ewan McGregor was a brilliant choice because he is able to seamlessly suggest these two performances are the same person. As the mythological staple, the wise old mentor, Obi-Wan sets the new hero on the path to redeem the one his fallen father attempted.
And I like Hayden Christensen as the ghost, so sue me! Anyway, that’s my love of Obi-Wan. His whole life, dedicated to the Jedi, but beyond that, to the good of the Republic which he served. Misguided at times, but always sincere, Obi-Wan is my darling.