(Warning: Spoilers for Obi-Wan Kenobi: Part V ahead!)
The fifth episode of Obi-Wan Kenobi opened up with something many fans have been longing for: Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen as their prequel trilogy selves in a flashback scene. The significance of this scene, however, runs deeper. It emphasises a facet of Anakin’s/Vader’s character that, if considered, brings his entire story into a new light.
Battle of the Heroes
For the first time since 2005 we could see Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker facing Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan with a lightsaber. The scene was a heavy load of nostalgia for prequel fans, but not only that.
The scene (divided into multiple segments) was well-executed technically. It was a duel where one could follow the moves and its progress. Otherwise, while one could see the lines on Hayden Christensen’s face that were not there in Episode III, the looks were overall not disruptive and for the most part you could think that you were looking at a deleted scene from Revenge of the Sith.
Duel As A Metaphor
What is more important is the duel’s deeper significance. In the end we saw that it was a metaphor for Vader’s ultimate blunder in this episode: that Anakin is so obsessed with winning that he overlooks everything else. We saw that even after the years, Obi-Wan still knew his apprentice and that Anakin/Vader had still not learned his lesson.
However this is not applicable only to this particular instance of Vader’s blindness to all else, allowing Obi-Wan to escape. We can look through this prism at Vader’s other actions, even those in the old films. Whereas retconning stories is something I generally disapprove of, in this case, what the episode has added goes in line with Anakin’s character. Most importantly, it does not alter our original perception of Vader – it only adds another level to our understanding of him.
If You Strike Me Down…
We can for instance look at Vader’s ultimate “victory” over Obi-Wan in A New Hope. Obi-Wan explicitly warns Vader that “if you strike me down, I will become more powerful than I can possibly imagine”. Whereas Vader, happy to finally get his hands on Obi-Wan and to finally WIN, after all these years (the Obi-Wan show just make us “appreciate” how much this meant for Vader), is oblivious to everything else and is just happy to mow him down. Without considering that Obi-Wan will indeed become powerful even in death, but also while allowing Luke, Leia et al. to escape, eventually leading to the destruction of the Death Star and everything that follows.
In a more tragic sense, this single-minded obession also manifests in Anakin’s turn to the Dark Side, where he would kill Jedi and younglings in the pursuit of his “victory”. In this case, the victory being over death itself – or rather, his fear of Padmé’s perceived death.
Blind To All Else
There is one more dimension that was not explicitly addressed but that the show may have in mind – and that we may see in the season finale. It is an explanation of why in the name of all did it not occur to Vader to check the Lars farm on Tatooine during all these years. Ever since Anakin’s connection to Tatooine has been revealed in the prequel trilogy, this problem has been debated by fans, sometimes offering more plausible, sometimes very contrived explanations.
But I find it rather plausible to say that Vader is simply too obsessed with victory – over Obi-Wan, the Rebellion, or whatever other real or imaginary enemies he considers a threat – that he would simply be blind to even what would be directly in front of him. It also goes well in line with the traditional take on evil in similar major stories: for instance, Sauron’s blindness to one little Hobbit sneaking into the heart of his realm while he is being obsessed with his great war plans. Blind to all else indeed.