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[This story contains spoilers for Obi-Wan Kenobi.]
Hello there. Come here, my little friend. Don’t be afraid.
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For years, Star Wars fans have wondered about the gap in which Ewan McGregor’s Obi-Wan Kenobi becomes Alec Guinness’ Ben Kenobi. And thanks to the most recent Star Wars miniseries on Disney+, viewers have a far better understanding of the evolution of the beloved Jedi knight.
With this week’s conclusion of Obi-Wan Kenobi, fans were let in on how Obi-Wan overcame his struggle to accept and move on from the tragic events of Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith, which left him somewhat broken and the galaxy in peril.
And as it turns out, Kenobi didn’t spend 20 years in the desert as “a crazy old man,” as he was dismissed by Uncle Owen in A New Hope. Obi-Wan had at least one epic adventure left in him before the 1977 film picked up his story.
With 10 years having passed in the miniseries since Episode III, Obi-Wan draws closer to looking and sounding like Guinness over the course of the six-part show. Prior to this story, it was largely accepted by fans that young Obi-Wan of the prequels and Ben Kenobi of the original trilogy were men of not only two different time periods, but two different lives.
Obi-Wan in the prequels is a confident Jedi master who is bestowed the title General in the Army of the Republic. He’s a fierce protector and a devoted member of the Jedi Council. At the heart of his story, he’s also the trusted mentor to padawan Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) — the would-be Chosen One who later turns into Darth Vader. Jump 20 years into the future, and Alec Guinness’ Obi-Wan is wise, contemplative and highly connected to the Force. He’s also a bit gruff from living in a cave on Tatooine for two decades.
But Guinness came first. So while McGregor certainly pulled inspiration from Guinness in Revenge of the Sith (some facial hair similarities and delivery of the iconic phrase “Hello there”), it’s now in the limited series that we finally see clearer glimpses of Guinness’ mannerisms blending into McGregor’s performance.
A major point, McGregor’s recent portrayal of the character draws greater inspiration from Guinness’ fighting style in the original film. While we still see moments of Kenobi’s flashier moves and lightsaber poses of his younger days, this time around McGregor takes on a more aged approach, holding his lightsaber with two hands and striking more firmly — and less fluidly — than before.
While Obi-Wan has yet to fully take on Guinness’ aged appearance, the timing is still there, with McGregor currently 51. Guinness was 63 at the time of A New Hope, so in another 10 years, McGregor will be nearly the same age. Kismet. But the similarities aren’t just physical. In the limited series, Kenobi undergoes a series of trials and emotional struggles that lead him to become the wise old Jedi who first graced movie theater screens in 1977 — from burying his lightsaber and denying the Force outright, to finally, at the end of the series, making contact with his old Master Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson), who plans to teach him the ways of existing beyond.
“If you strike me down, I shall grow more powerful than you can possibly imagine,” Kenobi tells Vader in their final battle in Episode IV. And while it’s generally accepted that Obi-Wan not only sacrificed himself for Luke (Mark Hamill), he was also clearly ready to move on from his physical form.
Now, fans know that Obi-Wan evaded Vader’s clutches not just once, but twice before, even defeating the Sith Lord in their most recent duel. It was in these confrontations that McGregor’s Obi-Wan is able to finally let go of Anakin Skywalker, separating the man he once knew from the monster who now exists in Vader.
“He’s more machine now, than man,” the Jedi tells Luke in Episode IV. He adds that it was Darth Vader that killed his father, just as Vader says in Obi-Wan Kenobi’s final episode. “You didn’t kill Anakin Skywalker. I did,” Vader tells his old master in a heartbreaking last exchange that changes Obi-Wan’s perspective — or certain point of view — forever.
But while he’s accepted the fate of Darth Vader, he still remembers his old friend fondly. “He was the best starpilot in the galaxy and a cunning warrior … and a good friend,” he recounts to Luke about Anakin. It’s this mindset that leaves Obi-Wan well-prepared to take on Vader one last time, and ultimately move on from his physical form, to the Force.
And nothing serves as a greater callback to Guinness’ performance than seeing McGregor finally say in the final episode to Luke, “Hello there,” in Guinness’ same British intonation. While Disney hasn’t yet announced whether the show will see a second season, there’s still room for 10 more years of Obi-Wan’s adventures to explore. After all, when the series ended, its titular character rode off into the distance to embark on a spiritual journey with his old Master. Perhaps next time, we’ll meet a Force-enlightened Obi-Wan, white hair and all.
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