Warning: This article contains major spoilers for all six episodes of Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi! If you haven't already, be sure to read IGN's review of the finale.
Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi always had a difficult balancing act to follow. The series sets out to chronicle a major, untold chapter in Obi-Wan's life, in the process revealing a big confrontation between the Jedi Master and his former apprentice that we never knew about. Rarely has a Star Wars spinoff had to work so hard to dance between the raindrops of the films. And as enjoyable as the series is, it doesn't so much answer lingering questions about the Anakin/Obi-Wan dynamic as it creates new problems for the ever-expanding Star Wars mythos.
Now that the series has wrapped, let's take a closer look at the major plot holes left dangling after the finale, the series' biggest missed storytelling opportunity and how the finale has Obi-Wan repeat the most selfish decision of his life.
Obi-Wan's Tatooine Problem
Obi-Wan Kenobi has a Tatooine problem, but not in the same way previous shows like The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett did. The issue with crafting an Obi-Wan Kenobi story set during his exile on Tatooine is that you're either forced to stick to a smaller-scale Space Western (a la the 2014 novel Star Wars: Kenobi and the various flashback tales in Marvel's Star Wars comics) or you have to somehow find a way of explaining how Obi-Wan could venture back into the wider galaxy without blowing his cover. The series is certainly commendable for taking the more ambitious road, but that decision creates some head-scratching plot holes by the time the final credits roll.
Over the course of the series, we see Obi-Wan evade the Sith Inquisitorius and square off with Darth Vader twice. In the end, Obi-Wan elects to spare his fallen apprentice's life once again and return to his hiding place. There's a pretty obvious concern here, however. Tatooine is no longer a very good hiding place. While only Reva seems to fully connect the dots between Obi-Wan's whereabouts and Anakin Skywalker's childhood home, it probably wouldn't take much digging for the other Inquisitors to realize where Obi-Wan has been all this time. What's to stop the Inquisitors from simply returning to the desert world and hunting down Obi-Wan all over again? The fact that he moved from his cave to the remote hut seen in Episode IV hardly seems like enough to throw Vader's elite Jedi hunters off his scent. That's to say nothing of the problems posed by the fact that Reva is still alive and knows of Luke's parentage.
The events of the series ensure that Obi-Wan is now a liability to Luke and his family, rather than their guardian angel. His very presence on Tatooine is an ongoing threat to Luke's safety and anonymity. For all that Star Wars fans have poked fun at the fact that Obi-Wan goes into hiding without changing his or Luke's names, this series has just created a much bigger plot hole to overshadow that one.
The finale seemingly tries to skirt around this through Vader's conversation with Emperor Palpatine. Palpatine shames Vader for becoming too preoccupied with his past, which is apparently enough to make Vader ignore the humiliation of his second defeat for another 10 years. Are we really meant to believe neither Vader nor anyone else in the Empire ever bothers to follow up on this loose end? Would Palpatine really be so blase about the knowledge that a powerful Jedi Master is still out there plotting against him? What exactly is the point of the Inquisitorius if not to handle matters like this?
The series could have easily sidestepped this problem by having Obi-Wan fake his death during his final confrontation with Vader. Then the Dark Lord of the Sith would be free to move on to other matters, and the series wouldn't have to jump through hoops to justify why the Empire stays away from Tatooine for another decade.
The True Cost of Obi-Wan's Mercy
Many of the larger plot holes in Obi-Wan Kenobi boil down to one question - why didn't Character A ensure Character B was dead? It's a problem that crops up again and again over the course of the series. Reva betrays the Grand Inquisitor, but settles for delivering a non-fatal stab wound. He and Vader then turn the tables on Reva, with Vader dispatching Reva in a similarly non-lethal manner. In both cases, it's difficult to understand why these power-hungry Sith Lords don't stick around to make sure their enemies are dead.
Vader comes across as particularly incompetent for leaving Reva alive and nearly allowing her to murder his son. Because of storytelling choices like this, the series isn't as successful as it could have been in terms of building up the mystique of Darth Vader in his supposed prime. Rogue One arguably accomplished more with far less in that regard.
Then there's Obi-Wan's questionable act of mercy in the finale. After regaining his Force mojo, Master Kenobi proves he's still Anakin's superior in lightsaber combat. Just as in Revenge of the Sith, Obi-Wan has the chance to kill Anakin but opts to walk away instead. No doubt the parallel is intentional, but it doesn't necessarily work in the show's favor.
Obviously, the series has only so many options available, given that the two characters need to end up where they are in A New Hope. But where is the internal logic in Obi-Wan's act of mercy? Why leave Vader alive and free to continue terrorizing the galaxy? It's not even as though Obi-Wan was specifically trying to spare Anakin's life on Mustafar. The second episode reveals that Obi-Wan believed Anakin to be dead up until his encounter with Reva. When he left his former pupil burning alive in the lava fields of Mustafar, Obi-Wan clearly thought he was condemning Anakin to death. He showed no mercy then. If anything, his was a profoundly selfish choice. He couldn't bring himself to kill his brother, so Obi-Wan instead left Anakin to die slowly and painfully and ultimately cemented Anakin's transformation into a genocidal maniac.
Knowing what he does now about Anakin's fate, why doesn't Obi-Wan try to correct his past mistake and put Anakin out of his own misery? It would surely save a great many lives if Palpatine's top enforcer were taken off the board. What exactly motivates him to spare Anakin's life all over again, knowing full well people will die because of his choice? Is his act of "mercy" any less selfish than the one in Revenge of the Sith?
It's not that there aren't possible explanations to those questions. Jedi don't take lives when they can help it (though, again, that doesn't necessarily apply in this situation). Maybe Obi-Wan hasn't given up the notion that Anakin is the Chosen One. Maybe he senses the Force has a plan for this twisted, evil Sith Lord. He certainly seems more fatalistic by the time the series ends.
The real issue is that the series doesn't dig deeper into these questions. We get two visually stunning lightsaber duels between Obi-Wan and Vader, yet neither truly takes advantage of the history between these two characters or the emotional weight of their reunion.
The Redemption of Anakin Skywalker
Obi-Wan's decision to spare Darth Vader, and the lack of insight into his motivations, ultimately speaks to the most glaring flaw of the series. As we explored back when Hayden Christensen's casting was first announced, Obi-Wan Kenobi had a rare opportunity to address a lingering mystery from Return of the Jedi. When Vader reunites with Luke on Endor, he admits, "Obi-Wan once thought as you do." In that moment, Vader understands that Obi-Wan believed traces of Anakin Skywalker still exist within him, despite Obi-Wan revealing nothing of the sort during their showdown on Mustafar.
The Obi-Wan series could have earned its place in the canon by seizing on that mystery and exploring the significance behind Vader's words. At what point did he realize Obi-Wan thinks he can be redeemed? Heck, when did Obi-Wan himself come to that realization? He shows pity for his fallen friend in the finale, but seems resigned to the idea that Anakin is well and truly dead. He says as much when he mockingly refers to Anakin as "Darth," echoing a similar exchange in A New Hope. Even when he later appears as a Force Ghost in Episodes V and VI, Obi-Wan seems far less concerned with Anakin's redemption than Luke's survival.
Sadly, the franchise seems no closer to answering this lingering mystery even now. The Obi-Wan Kenobi series never truly digs into the question of Anakin's redemption or Obi-Wan's feelings on the subject. For all the novelty in seeing Hayden Christensen and Ewan McGregor face off again, the series doesn't necessarily add anything to their relationship we didn't already get out of the prequel trilogy. The finale leaves both Vader and Obi-Wan both pretty much exactly where they were at the end of Revenge of the Sith. Vader is the brooding right-hand man to Emperor Palpatine, and Obi-Wan ventures into the desert to await Luke's coming.
It would be unfair to say the series adds nothing to the larger tapestry of Star Wars. It introduces a number of new characters, with Reva likely being positioned as a protagonist in future stories. It also establishes a shared connection between Obi-Wan and Leia fans never knew existed, and lends new depth to Luke and Leia's adoptive families.
But in terms of the all-important Obi-Wan/Darth Vader rivalry, the series proves disappointingly conservative and straightforward. Two of the most iconic characters in the franchise had a reunion we never saw until now, yet it hardly seems to matter in the grand scheme of things. If McGregor and Christensen do get their wish and Lucasfilm greenlights a second season, it needs to learn from the mistakes of the first. It's not enough to simply slide between the beats of the movies. A series like Obi-Wan Kenobi needs to have something truly new and meaningful to say about its main character.
Jesse is a mild-mannered staff writer for IGN. Allow him to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket by following @jschedeen on Twitter.