While the portrayals of Obi-Wan Kenobi given by both Alec Guinness and Ewan McGregor are nearly flawless, there has always been a bit of a disconnect between the two. At the end of Revenge of the Sith we have a man whose entire life has been left in shambles. Picking up in A New Hope, however, he is a man that seems at peace with his life. Even his relationship with Luke’s father is spoken about blissfully. With a decades long gap between Episode III and Episode IV, such a transformation is plausible, and the story does a great job of allowing the audience to believe it. But the question still remains. How did prequel Kenobi become original Kenobi?
The answer: Leia.
When we catch up with Ben Kenobi 10 years after the purge, he is no longer the man we once knew. He’s a butcher, an allusion to his feelings of guilt around the fall of the Jedi, the Clone Wars, and the butchering of democracy, of which he was a central figure. Each day he takes a bit of meat, wraps it gently, and puts it in a pocket near his heart. He’s keeping the pain of the war, the wounds left by the severing of his relationship with Anakin, close to the chest.
What it seems he has not been able to do is come to terms with those wounds. As he tells the Nari, “The fight is over. We lost.” This is not the same man who sent a beacon to all remaining Jedi, declaring, “Trust in the Force.” Instead, like Luke in The Last Jedi, he has cut him off from the Force. It may not be a full severing, but it is certainly a separation. What brings him back to the Force?
As she falls toward the streets of Daiyu, Kenobi strains at the simple act of catching her with the Force. He is clearly out of practice; his abilities were buried in the sands with his lightsaber, it would seem. When he dug up the lightsabers, he dug up his past. The parallel created between the lightsaber, his use of the Force, and his connection with his past form the foundation of the story being told.
First he takes up the weapon of a Jedi, but doesn’t use it. Instead he uses an “uncivilized” blaster, even when the people chasing him know he is a Jedi. This is not where Kanan is at in the first season of Rebels, hiding his skills so he won’t be hunted. Kenobi is already being hunted. His problem is that he doesn’t believe in himself.
But then Leia falls. It is almost as if the Force decides for him. Fans of Legends and Mace Windu might call it a shatterpoint. This is Anakin winning the podrace. Rey catching the lightsaber. Luke blowing up the Death Star. If you change those events, if Leia dies on the streets of a crime-world, it all falls apart. The Death Star plans don’t get to the Rebellion. Luke neve leaves the farm. The Force is never balanced.
As he is coming to terms with his Jedi identity, he is also coming to terms with his personal identity. The Kenobi of the prequels was a Jedi. The Order is where his identity began. The Code is where his identity ended. Through the prequels that identity is being infringed upon through his relationships with Anakin and Padme. He cares deeply for them, creating an attachment that the Code forbids. Moreover, the definition of Jedi is changing as they transform from peacekeepers to generals. All of these conflicting connections carve away at his sense of self, leaving nothing but the man.
A man who meets a little girl who is the manifestation of his two closest friends and allies.
In Leia he sees Padme, a friend lost because of his failure as a Jedi. He also sees Anakin, a friend he failed because of his inability to see beyond the Jedi. Reconciling these two identities, and thus his relationship with the Force, is the only way he is going to be able to protect Leia and, in turn, Luke. It is the only way he can become Obi-Wan Kenobi once again.