“Wait a minute, how did this happen? We’re smarter than this. ”Screenshot: Lucasfilm
Obi-Wan Kenobi is — was — a Jedi. A General of the Clone War. A warrior monk of such skill, such balance, such understanding of his form both spiritual and physical that he could sit atop the Jedi Order’s ranks as a Master of its Council. And here he is, stuffing a child under a trenchcoat on a wing and a prayer, and I’m loving every second of it.
Obi-Wan and his new ally Tala’s flight from Fortress Inquisitorius at the climax of last week’s fourth episode of Obi-Wan Kenobi has been the subject of a bit of the old Star Wars fandom discourse since it aired last week. Desperate to escort the newly liberated Princess Leia from Reva’s clutches, Tala — an expert at Imperial infiltration as we learned over the course of the episode, teetering on a knife’s edge as she pushed herself deeper and deeper into the heart of the Inquisitor’s base — and Obi-Wan end a break for escape with the slowest walk across Fortress Inqusitorius’ open hangar bay in a scene that is both achingly tense andin some ways, patently ridiculous.
Tala is perhaps the fitting picture of the perfection of the two. Clad in her trimly tailored officer gear — a disguise that has suited her well in what we’ve seen of her in the show — even after her nervy direct encounter with Reva, she strides towards her escape with a projected confidence that radiates a calm she doesn’t necessary feel. Even as things inevitably go haywire (would it be a Star Wars escape plan if things went off as planned without a hitch? Literally the entirety of the franchise beyond this screams otherwise), Tala’s steely determination as she faces down Reva again and fights back to bring Obi-Wan and Leia to safety is the idealized Star Wars hero we love and dream of.
And yet, her partner in this scene is Obi-Wan Kenobi, and he’s anything but. Next to Tala, Obi-Wan is a hot mess — her polar opposite in every way. If Tala is steely-eyed and front facing, Obi-Wan is nerve-wracked as his head darts left and right. If Tala’s disguise is a well-worn, pitch-perfect mask, Obi-Wan’s is … well, it’s a loose-fitting Imperial officer’s hat and a comically oversized trenchcoat. A trenchcoat that of course also billows out awkwardly at one side, because if Tala’s plan to escape Fortress Inquisitorious is a smart, practiced act — slip out under the confusion by simply projecting that haughty Imperial aura of confidence — Obi-Wan’s last minute cobble- together is to put the Princess of Alderaan that the entire base is searching for halfway under a coat and pray to whatever divine entity or cosmic spirit there could be out there that it’ll work.
And it kind of does for the most part, which makes it even funnier than it already is. Star Wars is built on reckless plans made out of desperation, plans that only kind of work down to our heroes winging it and going with the flow as things go horribly wrong. The escape from the Death Star, the infiltration of Starkiller Base or the Supremacy in the sequels, whatever the hell Anakin and Padmé thought they were doing in the droid factory on Geonosis: Star Wars is, perhaps more than anything else, even the laser swords and the spaceships, kind of really about people that we believe are actually quite smart hatching the most ludicrous of plans, just hoping they’ll last long enough to hoodwink the villains. It’s funny to see Obi-Wan, who has a reputation from what we saw in the prequels as being smarter than this — as he jokes to Anakin in Revenge of the Sith about the ray shields on the Invisible Hand! —have to be that kind of Star Wars hero instead of the prim-and-proper master tactician.
But it’s more than just the humor of it all that makes the moment feel so very Star Wars—It’s that reflection between Tala and Obi-Wan that is most important of all. Tala’s good at this: it’s the life she’s known for herself for years. Obi-Wan, even a decade after the destruction of the Jedi Order, isn’t, because all he knows is how to be a Jedi Knight. At a time when he his barely beginning to rekindle that confidence and that connection to his past as he is in the show, that part of his identity is still so core to him that it’s important we get to see how he deals with doing things outside of it. After all, what are Obi-Wan’s most powerful moments in this episode? They’re the ones where he gets to be a Jedi. Even as he struggles with them, like calling on the Force to distract Stormtroopers, or hold a buckling viewport together for his friends to escape, Obi-Wan’s most confident moments in episode four come with his lightsaber in hand, defending Leia from blaster bolt after bolt, rekindling a little of that Jedi hero we know and love, recalling the same flourishes we once saw him do in the prequels and Clone Wars as he slowly but surely slips back into that groove.
It’s just as important to see Obi-Wan in those moments as it is to see him as an absolute disaster, dragging Leia along under a trenchcoat like he’s in a screwball comedy, but also uncharacteristically nervous and unsure of himself. We could imagine in our heads that the reason it works is some sort of surreptitious use of the Force, that Obi-Wan is inadvertently mind-tricking people into not seeing the very obvious child he’s rescuing. But that’d ruin the entire moment, or at least make it far less interesting. He’s not meant to be perfect there — he’s meant to be awkward and clumsy, he’s meant to be out of his depth and a little afraid. He’s meant to be human. We don’t really come to Star Wars to see people be perfectly hypercompetent. We come to see them screw up and wing it, and have to deal with that and come through the other side anyway. Whether it’s with a lightsaber in hand or with a princess under a coat, Obi-Wan Kenobi reminds us that its titular hero is capable of both — and it’s a much more interesting examination of his character for doing so.
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