star warsat several levels, exists in series of parallels and couplets– a cycle of rising and falling darkness, falling and rebirth of light, an echo of a story told again and again through generations of families and civilizations. “This’s like poetry, they rhyme,” said George Lucas in the phantom menace documentary The beginning, a statement that maybe a meme now but remains one of the truest things ever said about the galaxy far, far away.
But what happens when star wars‘the preponderance of poetry is starting to feel like it’s stealing parts of itself for reference?
It’s a thought that crossed my mind while watching this week’s sixth and final episode (at least, for now) of Obi Wan Kenobi. After a brief game at tohalf way to riesthe long-awaited duel between Darth Vader and Obi-Wan has come to life in an unknown, rocky world, and with it, a series of connections scattered across the star wars saga. Obi-Wan and Anakin mirror their opening statements here to the words they exchanged before fighting on Mustafar, their blades collide with parallels of both that fight and their eventual duel in A new hope. Even the star wars sequels get a few nods, as Obi-Wan summons the Force to hurl a barrage of rocks at Vader, levitating them in a moment reminiscent of Rey clearing the way for his friends in The Last Jedi. But the fight’s most interesting rhyme is saved for its dramatic climax. In a moment of clarity and even anger, having just lamented his opponent with a series of lightsaber and pommel swipes, a determined Obi-Wan leapt at Vader, carving a gash that melted the Lord’s mask. of Darkness… revealing the man under the layers of the machine.
star wars fans will of course know that this isn’t the first time we’ve seen something like this happen, for a determined ally of Anakin Skywalker to literally open up the truth about his identity as Darth Vader. Ahsoka Tano does the same– although, chronologically speaking, a few years after this duel – on Malachor in star wars rebels. Obi-Wan’s gash takes the right side, his the left, but the iconography there is striking, and much the same: Darth Vader’s face, smoking and sliced, to reveal the damaged flesh of ‘Anakin Skywalker below. The emotional circumstances are also the same – a shocking realization for the person behind each strike to see that deep down, the person they once called a friend is now trapped inside the body of monstrous evil.
Don’t get me wrong, the spinoff of the moment is a highlight of Kenobiand far from a hollow repetition – Hayden Christensen manages to say the same with only one eye visible, Ewan McGregor in front ripping all the pain and emotion he can from Obi-Wan’s fateful choice to accept that ‘Anakin was really gone, and only Vader remained (okay calling him Dark was a bit too far from justifying a single line in A new hopebut let’s allow star wars at least this indulgence). And there’s something to be said for the idea that Obi-Wan and Ahsoka could only sever Vader’s mask, and that it would ultimately require Luke himself to lift it once and for all in Return of the Jedi— echoes upon echoes, as star wars love so much. But something still rang hollow for me, seeing Ahsoka’s strike picked up by Obi-Wan this week.
It wasn’t the context of the moment that bothered me – like I said, the emotionality of Obi-Wan’s choice is strong enough to make the scene connect in all the necessary ways, an important step in the finale repositioning Obi-Wan’s arc to having accepted his place in the galaxy after the events of the prequels and finding peace by honoring what he had lost along the way. It is the repetition of the iconography of rebelsno matter how subtle the difference, it annoyed me. star wars likes to borrow from itself, especially in the age of its rebooted canon, where the old extended universe, cut off from the continuity of the present, proved fertile ground for concepts and characters to immerse yourself in current stories in an altered form. But there’s something different about, say, rebels bringing Grand Admiral Thrawn into the current canon – giving him an origin story that borrows elements from, but is not a carbon copy of, his EU story – and Obi Wan Kenobi lifting the blow of a lightsaber slicing through Vader’s mask to reveal Anakin underneath.
The latter is part of a pattern that has persisted quite recently during this current wave of star wars TV, characters, and ideas from the franchise’s post-prequel period as a largely animated effortr is now pulled into the realm of live action. In the past, there was always a relatively strict demarcation between cinema star wars and television star warsbut the lines are considerably blurred now – television is arguably the vanguard of the galaxy far, far away at this point, and anyone (and we mean somebody) may appear there, originally animation-specific characters or otherwise. Read cynically, one can have the impression that these stories and these characters only being validated in the eye of a wider fandom when rendered in the live action that once demarcated the “clean” star warswhatever – Ahsoka Tano and Bo-Katan are now bigger for their roles in The Mandalorian that rebels Where clone warsthe first about to spearhead a direct continuation of rebels in a live-action format. As popular as these animated series are, with star wars‘ focus right now on those streaming shows, and all the borrowings that come from that legacy of animation, it’s possible to see where people are coming from.
So months and years from now when people think about that one, Anakin’s eye in the middle the sparks emitted from Vader’s punctured mask – will they think about it when Ahsoka is the one who cut rebelsor will they think of Obi Wan Kenobi? And in the endless litany of star wars‘nostalgic echoes, does it really matter? Time will tell us. But as fascinating as it is powerful both incidents involved their respective series, I can only hope that the public and star wars remember that cycles are made by honoring the moments that came before, as much as they are simply by reproducing them.
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