Kenobi vs Vader — The Penultimate Duel

The upcoming Kenobi series slated for 2022 (maybe later at this point) has the potential to feature an epic duel that may add even more significance to some very old dialogue.

At the end of A New Hope, in their final confrontation, Darth Vader says to an old Obi-Wan Kenobi:

“I’ve been waiting for you, Obi-Wan. We meet again, at last. The circle is now complete. When I left you, I was but the learner; now I am the master.”

At first, when Vader says “we meet again,” it seems like he is referring to their past history as Jedi and, more specifically, their previous duel on Mustafar at the end of Revenge of the Sith. However, this is likely not the case, because Darth Vader did not fight Obi-Wan on Mustafar; it was Anakin who fought him. I believe there is exactly one more duel between Vader and Kenobi, and this duel takes place on Tatooine within a few years of the events of Revenge of the Sith. We’ll call this the penultimate duel. In this penultimate duel, a Vader who is still getting used to his clunky armor faces an Obi-Wan who, in his solitude, has steeped himself in the power of the force. Vader comes to Tatooine searching for remaining Jedi and senses the presence of his former master. As the two inevitably face off, Vader obviously immediately recognizes Obi-Wan, but it takes Obi-Wan some time to search through his feelings and realize that the dark figure in black armor standing in front of him is actually his former apprentice (I know there is a legends explanation where Obi-Wan figures out who Darth Vader is while at a cantina, but that is no longer canon). In this duel, Darth Vader doesn’t stand a chance against Obi-Wan. Consequently, the duel ends very quickly with Obi-Wan’s lightsaber inches away from a killing blow and Vader completely humiliated.

Anakin and Darth Vader are two distinct people

Throughout all canonical references, Darth Vader very rarely refers to himself as Anakin. He almost always refers to Anakin in the third person as a separate person. There are very few times he does imply he and Anakin are the same person. These are usually moments of emotion where his love for his family outweigh his hatred for himself. For example, at the end of The Empire Strikes Back, Vader says, “Join me, and together we can rule the galaxy as father and son.” However, until Vader learns that he has a son, these feelings are short lived and infrequent. A great example of Darth Vader’s perspective on Anakin can be seen in his duel with his former apprentice Ahsoka Tano where he says, “Anakin Skywalker was weak. I destroyed him.” Another example is when Luke calls him Anakin Skywalker, and Vader replies, “That name no longer has any meaning for me!”

“There are three deaths: the first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time.” - David Eagleman

The moment Anakin Skywalker is put into the dark mechanical suit and is told that he is the one who killed Padmé is the moment he becomes Darth Vader. Until then, even while killing younglings, wiping out the Separatists, and dueling Obi-Wan, it is still Anakin. This is made obvious after Anakin murders the remaining Separatists, as he looks out over the lava bed and cries. He’s clearly not yet become Darth Vader. He’s just a confused young man seduced by the dark side. To get super specific, you have to listen super closely to the scene in Revenge of the Sith where Padmé has just given birth and is about to die and Anakin is being put into the mechanical suit. There is a pause when the mask is finally put on to Anakin’s face. In that pause, we hear Padmé’s heartbeat, and at the end of Padmé’s final heartbeat is when Darth Vader’s first heartbeat begins. The timing of the end and beginning of the two heartbeats symbolizes the death of Anakin’s life and the birth of Vader’s.

Anakin and Vader may physically be the same person, but mentally they are distinct. When Vader says to Obi-Wan, “We meet again,” he’s not referring to their Mustafar duel, because that was Anakin. Instead, he’s referring to their Tatooine duel.

Darth Vader goes to Tatooine once and never goes back

There is a common question in the Star Wars community: “Why didn’t Darth Vader ever go to Tatooine?” My hypothesized penultimate duel actually answers that question. It’s because Vader is afraid. He nearly dies in his Mustafar duel, and once again he is alive simply because of Obi-Wan’s compassion. So after this, Vader’s pride keeps him from coming back and potentially losing again. For many years after Revenge of the Sith, I believe Vader is not powerful enough to face Kenobi. More specifically, he’s not yet powerful enough in the dark side of the force to face someone who is so powerful in the light side of the force. It’s only by the time of A New Hope has Vader become strong enough to defeat Kenobi and even then, Vader does not really “kill” Kenobi.

How the Kenobi series could go

The series needs to be about an internal conflict within Obi-Wan. Going from being a Jedi Master at the height of the Republic to stuck on Tatooine with nobody at all is a huge change. Kenobi’s biggest enemy in the series has to be himself and an inability to forgive himself for the events that have taken place. If they were to show the hypothesized penultimate duel, it should serve as the icing on top. The duel should give Obi-Wan the closure he needs with Anakin–that Anakin is truly dead and this is the way things are. It should also change his mind about the Jedi prophecy of “The Chosen One.” While he once believes it is Anakin Skywalker, he should change his mind after his encounter with Vader and begin to believe Luke Skywalker is “The Chosen One” (this is confirmed in the Rebels animated series where Obi-Wan confirms Maul’s question about Luke being “The Chosen One”). So while the ending is a physical victory for Obi-Wan, emotionally it is an utter defeat, as Obi-Wan has to see a fate far worse than death for his former apprentice/brother/friend.

Cover photo is fan art from Wookieepedia

Written on November 18, 2020