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'Obi-Wan Kenobi' writer on putting together 'puzzle' to not break canon with Darth Vader reveal
A key piece of Star Wars canon was essential to the Disney+ show's plot.
It's been public knowledge for quite a while at this point that the Disney+ series Obi-Wan Kenobi would feature the return of Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader, setting up a showdown between Obi-Wan and his former apprentice a decade after their last meeting in Revenge of the Sith. What we didn't know was how that reunion would take place, both narratively and emotionally.
We finally got those answers this week when the third episode of Obi-Wan revealed the first clash between the two Force users in 10 years, as Vader followed the trail laid by the Third Sister (Moses Ingram) and unleashed the fury of the Dark Side on a terrified Obi-Wan, who had not only never seen Anakin in his final Vader form before, but was still reeling from the shock that Anakin was alive at all.
That shocking truth, that Obi-Wan had no idea Anakin survived their duel on Mustafar in Revenge of the Sith, is essential to the new show's plot, but in order to make it work at all, writer Joby Harold first had to confirm that it was actually canonically true.
“That was actually not something I pitched originally,” Harold told The Wrap. “That was something I discovered along the way, and sort of had to confirm with Pablo [Hidalgo] and really think, ‘Hold on a second, what does he actually know? Does he know the moniker Vader? What would that mean? Can he associate the two? What was he cognizant of? How isolated is he? Where’s Vader at that time? Where’s his reputation and how well known is he?’ and all those pieces of the puzzle.”
Careful viewers of Revenge of the Sith will remember that Obi-Wan does indeed know the name Darth Vader, as he watched a holo recording of Darth Sidious knighting his new apprentice while on Coruscant for the last time. What he also knows, though, is that he left Anakin burning alive in the lava fields of Mustafar with no legs and only one arm. He couldn't bring himself to deliver a killing blow, but he also probably assumed that no one could survive such a thing. That he was wrong is shocking enough, but seeing Anakin transformed in his full Vader regalia for the first time is something right out of a horror film.
“The great piece of storytelling you can use is getting to Ewan play the moment of realization that that which haunts him is still alive,” Harold said. “And what does that mean for him? There were many avenues that I could take him down, all of which hopefully are good opportunities to tease out story as we continue. But it all comes down to, is it viable within canon to play that card? Which it was. Which is great, because that allows you, at the end of Episode 2 and the beginning of Episode 3, it gets you so much that feels essential to the fundamental story, which is Obi Wan, Vader, that which haunts you, facing the past, everything that comes to fruition in 3 and beyond.”
When it came to making sure the moment actually made sense within Star Wars, as Harold noted, he consulted with story advisor and longtime Lucasfilm executive Pablo Hidalgo, who's come to be known as the keeper of franchise lore within the company. For Harold, having advisors like Hidalgo on deck for any and all questions was not just a valuable asset, but a quick resource to determine story direction. In the world of Star Wars, something's either true or it's not, and people like Hidalgo can get those answers fast.
“The spectacular thing about Star Wars versus some of the other big franchise-y IP stuff I’ve been lucky enough to work on is everything’s so buttoned up,” Harold said. “In regards to canon and the things you can do and the things you can’t do, very, very quickly you find out what’s on the table and what isn’t. Everything’s an email or a phone call away. You sort of have a big idea and you say, ‘Hey, can I do this?’ And someone goes, ‘No’ and you go, ‘Okay fine’ (laughs). Or they say, ‘Yeah, you’re allowed to do that,’ and then we canoodle and see if it bears fruit. Pablo is this sort of mad genius, and he was incredibly helpful, and always available. And I’ll be forever grateful for his help because you can hunt any idea if he can say, ‘Yeah, if you want. You’re OK there.’”
Obi-Wan Kenobi airs Wednesdays on Disney+.