Obi-Death-Wish-Kenobi

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K: Issue 7 of the Marvel Star Wars comic has a great moment in which Obi-Wan confronts some of Jabba’s minions on Tatooine during his exile there and one of them says “It’s too hot for death wishes, old man.” My immediate reaction to this line was “Clearly you’ve never met Obi-Wan Kenobi.”

M: Obi-Wan, amongst all of the other sad things of his life, seems genuinely unperturbed by death. Perhaps even eager to meet it.

K: Today, we discuss this phenomenon and how it makes us want to take Obi-Wan by the shoulders and shake him while demanding that he care about himself for once.

M: (Which Admiral Yularen practically does at one point in the EU, a moment that made me LOL.) I feel like we should start at the end and then circle back to the beginning. Obi-Wan’s presence in the OT is defined by his death. He gives himself up and disappears into the Force during his final duel with Vader.

K: That’s pretty much the culmination of the death wish. He “fights” (although, can we even call it a fight after watching the prequels?) with Vader until Luke shows up and then he just lifts his lightsaber and is like “Ok, I’m ready, let’s do this.” He gets this peaceful smile on his face too.

M: For him, it’s finally over.

K: Well, except for Force ghost duties, but that’s another topic.

M: (Haha I’m sure he’s not too pleased about that– “You stupid kids brought me out of my eternal rest!!!”)

K: But yes, he doesn’t have to keep dealing with the constant struggle that is his life.

M: I mean, in part you can hardly blame him, he does have a rather horrible life. But his death wish originates far earlier than that– it goes back into his mostly happy Padawan days.

K: We should clarify here that this thing we’re calling a “death wish” is not Obi-Wan being suicidal. He just never seems bothered by near-death experiences–in fact, he’s usually downright amused.

M: I’m reminded of that line from Peter Pan: “To die would be an awfully big adventure.” I think he simply views death from a very Jedi perspective: He’s ready to let go if need be and explore the next part of existence.

K: Yes, exactly. But the sheer number of times he almost dies… that’s something else entirely. A lot of the time, we hear about these experiences is because Obi-Wan is telling some “amusing anecdote” that makes the listeners all go “what the heck, dude, that’s not funny, you almost died.” Which seems to confuse him, haha.

M: There’s the instance in Clone Wars: Wild Space by Karen Miller when he’s on a mission with Bail Organa and has a terrible nightmare flashback of when he was a Padawan and fell into a pit of flesh-eating firebeetles. Bail is rightfully freaked out, as Obi-Wan screams in agony… but when Obi-Wan wakes up and reluctantly tells the story, he acts like it’s no big deal. Bail, horrified, says “It must have been… terrible.” To which Obi-Wan politely responds, “Not at all. It was hilarious.”

K: Bail’s response, and my own, is just shocked disbelief that the word “hilarious” would even occur to Obi-Wan when discussing such an event.

M: And Obi-Wan doesn’t really understand why Bail is upset at all– from his point of view, there was “no harm done” so there’s no use in being traumatized.

K: It’s like he doesn’t understand that to any ordinary person, a single event like that would be beyond traumatizing. While for him, it’s just any other field trip with Qui-Gon.

M: Yeah we’re not even started on examples. To quote from the Jedi Apprentice series: “‘I was unavoidably detained in a freezer,’ Obi-Wan said with a grin.” Oh, and this one, when Qui-Gon mentions that his attempt to free his apprentice from a torture collar could result in injury : “‘Or behead me,’ Obi-Wan pointed out cheerfully.”

K: *shakes head* Oh Obi-Padawan, you cheerful little dummy.

M: And it doesn’t end with sassy little Obi-Padawan. Obi-Wan’s go-to plan with Anakin is something like “I’ll be the punching bag distraction while you go take care of the main threat.” In Labyrinth of Evil, this is even referred to as their normal plan. For Obi-Wan to go into a death-trap as a distraction.

K: To be fair, it usually works. Well, as far as Obi-Wan and Anakin “plans” ever work. But that doesn’t make it less disturbing for Obi-Wan to be so chill about it.

M: Haha, I was sort of doing a catalog of Obi-Wan’s near-death experiences in Clone Wars, and honestly the only time he seems bothered by nearly dying is when he’s captured by the Death Watch on Mandalore, and even then I think he’s only annoyed because that means Satine was right.

K: Hahaha! Yes. He keeps telling her to hurry up while she’s trying to shut down the machine that’s supposed to crush him, but it’s not in a panicked “oh no, I’m going to die!!” kind of way. It’s more like “This is so inconvenient and I don’t want to have to hear you saying ‘I told you so’ once we’re out of here.”

M: He’s much more concerned about who gets the last word, and he can’t get the last word if he’s dead.

K: Having the last word is literally more important to Obi-Wan than actually escaping danger most of the time. What were some of the other instances in Clone Wars that you found?

M: Well, he faces death in just about every episode he’s in, but we really start seeing this “Screw it, I’ll go die if it gets us out of this mess” attitude in season 4.

K: Well that’s appropriate, since it sometimes feels like the entirety of season 4 is just Obi-Wan getting beat up over and over by various enemies.

M: Beginning with the Slaver Arc, which is terrible and amazing for SO many reasons. But it all starts off with Obi-Wan agreeing to engage in single combat with a giant tiger man just to stall.

K: I think my favorite bit of that particular fight is when Obi-Wan’s lying on the floor after being thrown across the room and he just mutters “Come on, Anakin, hurry up,” and then gets right back up and charges into the fight again. The thing is, once Anakin has done his part, Obi-Wan immediately turns the tables on the Zygerrian slaver–he was restraining himself through that whole fight just so it looked real that he was constantly an inch from losing.

M: Noble, of course. This is Obi-Wan Kenobi we’re talking about. Whenever I watch that episode I can’t help but think of what he’d look like if this animated kids show actually showed blood or injury. *shudders* And, this is only the first time Obi-Wan gets beaten up within an inch of his life this arc. By 10 minutes into the next episode, he’s caught by the Zygerrians again.

K: But, in a fascinating–and also really upsetting–turn of events in the last episode of the arc, the bad guys catch on that getting beat up doesn’t actually hurt Obi-Wan (well, I’m sure it does physically but you understand what I mean). So they stop–and they hurt other people in his name instead.

M: A wickedly smart move, and a horrid thing to hear explained, though in the end Obi-Wan and our heroes are triumphant. And throughout the rest of the season he continues to act as a punching bag (when he goes undercover, when he fights Maul and Savage, etc.) And this isn’t just Clone Wars Obi-Wan. He acts the same way in the movies. Just think of his fight with Jango Fett, or the arena scene in AotC, or his fight with Grievous in RotS.

K: The thing is, Obi-Wan doesn’t care what happens to him as long as the end result is good for the galaxy. Which brings us to Mustafar, where Obi-Wan’s death wish hurts me the most. He’s more than happy to perish in boiling lava with Anakin if it means that he doesn’t have to personally kill his best friend.

M: You need to take the reins on this explanation, because I love your analysis of their lightsaber choreography.

K: Haha ok. Throughout the fight, Obi-Wan puts himself in deliberately perilous situations–once again being the bait (although this time Anakin is acting as the main threat instead of dealing with it). For example, when the mining base starts collapsing and the part they are on falls in the lava river. Obi-Wan and Anakin are on this swaying, dangerous floating piece of metal, clinging on for dear life. But despite that, Anakin is still doing his utmost to kill Obi-Wan, and Obi-Wan, instead of continuing to climb away, just starts doing increasingly dangerous stunts, like swinging out on a wire, because he knows Anakin will follow him. If he can get the lava to do this terrible job for him, he doesn’t mind dying as well.

M: Ok, my heart has broken over this for the millionth time. I can totally see that… Obi-Wan sort of lures Anakin out. Instead of playing offensive he spends the majority of the fight running from Anakin (well, Vader).

K: Exactly, he almost never takes the opportunity to attack–he doesn’t mind dying, as we’ve said. However he does know that he can’t let Vader live so if he dies, he can’t be the only one…gaah I hurt. But we’re getting off topic.

M: Well, what’s next is Obi-Wan’s exile on Tatooine. And this is when his death wish stops being this sort-of entertaining aspect of old-fashioned Errol Flynn heroism (as Dave Filoni might say), and turns into something completely tragic. Back to that same issue of the Marvel Star Wars comic we mentioned at the start, there’s this bit when he’s really struggling with the inactivity of life on Tatooine, and he writes (in his journal): “They were all gone. All the Jedi. And sometimes I wondered… if I should have gone with them.”

K: Dear Force, that’s painful. It’s such a switch in attitude, you’re right.

M: I think prior to RotS, Obi-Wan’s death wish is rooted in such noble instinct. He wants to save others, and as a Jedi he’s willing to let go of his life if it means helping others. He’s far more willing to die himself than kill another. But after RotS… he’s just guilty and sad.

K: Well and also, there’s this difference in the consequences of dying. Prior to RotS, if Obi-Wan died, then yes his friends would mourn him, but there would be others to carry on the work of the Jedi and it would be all right. But while he’s on Tatooine, dying would mean abandoning his mission–it would mean doing the wrong thing instead of the right thing. Which is why he can’t until Luke is on his way to joining the Rebellion and becoming a Jedi.

M: Obi-Wan won’t do anything selfish. UGH. Okay, one more example. Brace yourself.

K: Oh no.

M: This is from John Jackson Miller’s Kenobi, easily my favorite EU novel.

K: And probably the source of the most poignant Obi-Wan feels.

M: SO MANY FEELS, PLEASE HELP I AM NOT OKAY. Kenobi takes place about a year after  RotS when Obi-Wan is first trying to just be “Ben Kenobi.” In this scene, Obi-Wan’s friend Anileen (another delightful Star Wars lady, who deserves far more than this parenthetical) is concerned about Obi-Wan. As are we all. She can tell that he’s hiding some sort of great sadness, but all he’ll tell her is that “something bad happened” to someone he knew.

K: Oh dear, is it that scene?

M: *through tears* Yes.

K: *chokes back a sob* Carry on.

M: I’ll just write this out all literary-like, beginning with Anileen:

“You’re lying to yourself. This thing, this bad thing– it may have happened to someone else. Someone you cared about, I’m guessing. And that means it happened to you, too.”

Ben resisted. “I don’t–”

“Yes, you do. Something horrible happened, Ben, and it’s ripping you apart. Maybe it’s why you’re here. But you’re trying to go on like you didn’t care, like you weren’t–”

She paused. His hands back on the railing, he looked up at her.

“You were there,” Anileen whispered. “Weren’t you? When this bad thing happened,” she mouthed. “You were there.”

Ben closed his eyes and nodded. “It didn’t just happen,” he said, hardly breathing. “I caused it.

Anileen’s mind raced. Raced and veered into dark imaginings that she wanted to dismiss. But Ben was serious about whatever it was, and she had to be, too. “You… you hurt someone?”

“They hurt themselves,” Ben said, “I came along at the end– the very end. But I was also there at the beginning. I should have stopped it.”

She shook her head. “You’re just one man.”

I should have stopped it!” The railing shook. “I failed! It was on me to stop it, and I didn’t. And I will have that on my conscience forever.”

Anileen’s eyes looked left and right. The fence quaked so hard under his hands that she thought the very posts might fly out of the ground. “Ben, you can’t blame–”

“You can’t know.” He turned and clutched at her shoulders, surprising her. “I failed everyone. Do you have any idea how many people have paid for that? Do you know how many people are paying, right now?”

“I only know one,” she said.

K: *curled up in the fetal position* Why do you hurt me in this way?

M: *attempting to pull it together* Okay, well, first of all this is just tragically beautiful and it sums up Obi-Wan so kriffing well. But also, I think it really puts Obi-Wan’s death wish in perspective. We can joke about how it’s amazing that he lived as long as he did, given his penchant for hanging off of precipices and making dangerously sassy remarks in front of terrible villains, but it all comes down to the fact that he seems mentally impervious to physical pain. What really tortures him is the idea that he might have caused harm to others. And that’s ultimately why Obi-Wan is such a tragic character… it’s the helplessness he feels on Tatooine and the knowledge that he’s hurt other people that haunt him, not pain or aging. It’s why he’s such a good Jedi.

 

May the 4th Be With You

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It’s Star Wars Day! To celebrate, we have each made lists of moments that make us happy from each of the Star Wars movies. May the 4th be with you!

K

TPM: I love Obi-Wan’s face at the end because everyone else is smiling and triumphant while Obi-Wan is finishing the movie the way he started it—with a bad feeling about this.

AotC: I love the scene in the droid foundry when Anakin’s arm is stuck and there are blades chopping all around him because it seems like he’s going to lose his hand a la Luke in ESB, but that doesn’t actually happen until later.

RotS: I love the way the music goes away and it’s completely silent right as the mask goes over Anakin’s terrified face and then…the first Vader breath. Chills.

RO: I love the sight and sound of Vader’s lightsaber igniting in the black hallway. I think I stopped breathing in the theater.

ANH: I love Leia saying “Somebody’s got to save our skins,” because she’s supposedly the one being rescued and then she rescues her rescue party. Anyone who says Leia is a damsel in distress is just so, so wrong.

ESB: I love the tiny moment when Lando has to physically drag Leia away from shooting stormtroopers during the escape from Cloud City. She is going to make the Empire pay for taking her boyfriend, so help her Force.

RotJ: I love when Luke does a flip off the execution plank, catches his lightsaber, and just kriffing wrecks Jabba’s henchmen. It’s his biggest Jedi moment in the original trilogy and I cheer through the whole thing.

TFA: I love the way the Force theme swells when the lightsaber goes shooting into Rey’s hand. I about stood up and clapped the first time I saw this scene.

 

M

TPM: Padme: “The Queen will not approve.” Qui-Gon: “The Queen doesn’t need to know.” Padme: “Well I don’t approve.” He’s a troll, she’s a queen, it’s a great moment. Bonus points: the knowing look Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan share just after Padme reveals her identity.

AotC: Obi-Wan getting a drink after the chase on Coruscant. Never fails. I laugh every time.

RotS: So many feels in this movie, almost chose “You were my brother Anakin, I loved you.”  but we’re celebrating so I’m going to go with the moment when Obi-Wan wakes up to find he’s hanging from Anakin in an elevator shaft. I just love how big his eyes get and how he bear hugs Anakin.

RO: UH WHAT ELSE I love Vader igniting his lightsaber in the dark hallway. But, since K already chose that… I’ll have to go with just a few seconds later when Vader force slams the rebel soldier into the ceiling. It’s the most Anakin we’ve seen Vader and it’s beautiful.

ANH: Luke standing beneath the twin suns, the force theme playing… just the most Star Wars Star Wars moment, and a kriffing beautiful shot to boot. It’s where it all began.

ESB: YODA. YODA. YODA. More specifically, Yoda’s Theme is my favorite piece of Star Wars music.

RotJ: This film has the best dolly-in in cinema history. It happens when the Emperor is electrocuting Luke– he’s obviously going to lose or die if something doesn’t happen soon– and it cuts to Vader– and there’s this little dolly in. It’s this perfect moment that, because of the camera movement, projects so much emotion onto Vader’s mask. It’s the moment he returns to the light. The moment he decides to become Anakin again, and do the right thing– save his son! The whole series leads up to this moment, and it’s served, perfectly, by a dolly in.

TFA: Rey adding “and you will drop your weapon!” when she first does a Jedi Mind Trick.

 

And Friends You Must Remain…

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M: Bonus points for noir lighting.

M: Let’s set the scene. We’re in Clone Wars Season 6 (The Lost Missions), episode…

K: 6?

M: 6. This is during the second arc that deals with King of Creeps Rush Clovis. About halfway through the arc, Obi-Wan “confronts” (as much as someone like Obi-Wan can confront anyone) Anakin about the whole ordeal. (For those of you following along at home, this particular conversation happens about 7 minutes into “The Rise of Clovis.”)

K: It’s after Padme has agreed to work with Clovis at the request of the chancellor. She and Anakin have a little bit of a fight over it…

M: Anakin’s jealous, Padme wants to be her own person and doesn’t need Anakin’s permission, etc. Additionally, Anakin’s at odds with the council again, but this time he has reason to be. Clovis is a creep.

K: A creep with no understanding of consent. And, in Anakin’s defense, last time, he DID get Padme poisoned. So, Anakin is a *little* upset.

M: Just a bit. And who comes to try and fix things? Obi-Dad Kenobi himself, space-dad original. This is the first time we’re seeing Obi-Wan this arc, which is interesting, as he’s usually not so MIA during Anakin’s relationship issues in Clone Wars.

K: He’s usually watching, with an appropriately raised eyebrow. So, when Obi-Wan strides in and calculatedly leans against the wall like an L.L. Bean model, Anakin’s messing around fixing droids (or something…)

M: *Yoda voice* Technically minded, we are not.

K: …which painfully calls back to the scene in AotC when Padme comes in while he’s fixing things after watching his mother die and killing all the sand people. Clearly emotions are running high.

M: “Running High,” a phrase which here means “should be approached with the help of a psychological professional.” Obi-Wan, being “Obfuscation Kenobi” as per usual (look it up, Kenobi by John Jackson Miller, prepare to cry), dances around the subject at hand.

K: Yeah, the whole “I sense anger in you when I say his name” instead of “Why do you hate this guy so much, are you jealous or something?”

M: “BRUH, simmer down, your crush is showing.” Actually, I think what he’s trying to do is leave Anakin an opening to bring the topic up himself.

K: A good strategy, as Anakin is so sensitive.

M: Definitely, “sensitive,” let’s call it that. Then, there’s the body language here. Anakin pulls away and in doing so the distance between them grows, literally, as they talk. I also love that at this point Anakin reaches for the model ship– a remnant of childhood and a symbol for a simpler time.

K: As well as a symbol of the one place he actually feels in control–the cockpit. But let’s go back for a second and talk about Anakin’s guilt/responsibility complex. He says, speaking of Padme’s previous encounter with Clovis, that “he [Clovis] almost got Senator Amidala killed, and I would have been responsible.” He literally says Clovis is the one who would have gotten Padme killed and STILL takes the blame for the hypothetical death. As is obvious if you’ve seen any part of the prequel trilogy, Anakin has a talent for blaming himself when *anything* bad happens. It’s always because he didn’t stop it, or he wasn’t strong enough. Which is heartbreaking, and also the way Palpatine gets to him in the end.

M: GAH, Anakin feels. This gives sooo much context to Anakin and his fall. Being a Jedi is about letting go– his abandonment/abandoning issues prevent that from happening. Someone give this boy a hug! (and professional help).

K: *throws therapist at space for Anakin Skywalker*

M: SO, Anakin is enshrouded in guilt and fear and jealousy when Obi-Wan comes in. Then, Obi-Wan eventually gets around to saying that Anakin needs to let his attachment to Padme rest, just a bit.

K: And then, he brings up Satine. A former flame of “Obi’s” who, at this point, is dead, partly as a result of her attachment to Obi-Wan. It’s a guilt party all around!

M: Again, I love the body language here. Obi-Wan sits down– he takes a more submissive role, and he turns his back toward Anakin. He feels guilty that he is not a perfect example for his Padawan, and he obviously is still upset about Satine dying in his arms after being stabbed by he-who-does-not-exist-post-TPM. Understandably.

K: Quite. Also, he doesn’t want to be threatening. He’s trying to get Anakin to open up, he doesn’t want him to be defensive. Which is another reason to bring up Satine–he’s trying to remind Anakin that maybe this is something Obi-Wan can understand “to a degree,” as he so wisely puts it.

M: Yes, I love that he says “to a degree” and so doesn’t push the “I know how you feel” button, a common mistake of well-intentioned people trying to be sympathetic. He knows he doesn’t, and he knows his relationship with Satine wasn’t at all like what Anakin and Padme have. Instead, he’s demonstrating that he’s sympathetic to Anakin’s relationship… again giving Anakin an opening.  

K: But Anakin is so entrenched in slightly hysterical fear and, consequently, this NEED to keep his marriage a secret that there’s no way he’ll take that opening. Also, Obi-Wan can’t help but give the Council’s line (“You can’t have attachments”), even if what he means is “You can’t let your attachment to Padme turn into possessiveness.” Obi-Wan, lifelong Jedi that he is, thinks and talks that way naturally. Plus, he’s a subtle guy. Anakin is not. Which causes more than a few communication problems that we don’t need to go into here.

M: It’s a line that brings Obi-Wan comfort and a language Obi-Wan understands. But it’s neither of those things for Anakin, so it doesn’t have the effect Obi-Wan intends. And then, a few seconds later, when he says that Anakin needs to do the right thing “for the order,” that’s when Anakin closes himself off and gets defensive (and also slams his model ship down like a toddler throwing a tantrum). From Anakin’s point of view, what has the order done for him? EXCEPT, back up, we skipped my favorite line of this whole conversation. Anakin insists that he and Padme are “just friends” and Obi-Wan responds: “And friends you must remain.”

K: Oh yeah! I love that line too, it’s so…double edged. It almost sounds like he means “in public,” like he’s warning Anakin that he’s in danger of exposing his relationship. Because, as Clovis says to Padme later on in the episode, “friends don’t argue the way I saw you two arguing.” Obi-Wan’s calling Anakin out for doing a bad job backing up his constant assertions that he and Padme are no more than friends.

M: Yes, that! Obi-Wan knows Anakin is more expressive in his anger and his fights with Padme could attract attention… but also I think it’s some sly relationship advice. He knows how much Anakin and Padme mean to each other, and he feels it’s important to keep their relationship intact, no matter what happens.

K: Oh dang, I really like that. Like “hey, bro, quit fighting with your wife, she’s a keeper.” Obi-Wan recognizes that Padme is not interested in Clovis (and honestly, who would be?). Anakin also knows that, deep down, but he has such a low opinion of himself. He sees Clovis as all these things he isn’t, and then there’s the fact that he had a relationship with Padme before Anakin himself, etc.

M: It’s back to the letting go. Anakin thinks letting go means ending his relationship or allowing Padme to be harmed by Clovis. Obi-Wan thinks it means trusting Padme to take care of herself, even with a creeper like Clovis creeping around.

K: It’s really Clovis that Anakin doesn’t trust, not Padme, but it just feeds into this jealous/possessive worry that comes off as him not trusting Padme. Which is why Padme is mad at him, and he’s pouting in his room in the first place.

M: Ok, we’re down to the last part of the conversation, where Anakin asserts that Clovis and Padme have no current relationship. Obi-Wan pointedly says “Then we should have no problems, should we?” and leaves. I feel like there’s a shift here in Obi-Wan… he came in very sympathetic and is leaving a little snarky, exasperated with Anakin, and maybe even a tad defensive himself.

K: He’s kind of moved from subtle advice giving to what could, for Obi-Wan, almost be an outright warning. Complete with ubiquitous raised eyebrows. And that brings us to one of my favorite parts in this conversation, which is that when Obi-Wan leaves, Anakin *almost* calls out/goes after him. He lifts his hand and everything, and he just looks distressed as Obi-Wan exits and I die every time.

M: SOMEONE FIX THESE EMOTIONALLY CHALLENGED BABIES. It’s like we’ve discussed before– Obi-Wan’s sarcasm is the worst thing for Anakin, though Obi-Wan certainly doesn’t mean it that way. That “should we” hurts Anakin to the core.

K: Yes! Because then Anakin feels guilty for not being able to control his feelings about the situation, and for not telling Obi-Wan in the first place, and for everything. As usual. Gosh.

M: Galaxy-sized guilt, which Obi-Wan is probably feeling a share of as well. The moral of every story, as my sister says, is either “People are awkward and should never speak to each other” or “People should just talk to each other.” The moral of this story is both.

K: But if Obi-Wan and Anakin did manage to say everything they needed to say without it being an utter disaster, we couldn’t cry ourselves silly over the ending of Revenge of the Sith. And then cry ourselves silly again over the ending of Return of the Jedi.

M: “And friends you must remain.” Take that to heart, you bozos.