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Star Wars: The Force Awakens Obi-Wan theory

Could the old Jedi become more powerful than we ever imagined in ‘The Force Awakens’?

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ILLUSTRATION by MARTIN ANSIN for EW

“That wizard is just a crazy old man … I don’t think he exists anymore.”

So said Luke Skywalker’s moisture-farming Uncle Owen, who was not the first person in the galaxy to underestimate the power of Obi-Wan Kenobi. That was one of the reclusive Jedi master’s secret strengths: misdirection, camouflage, making you think he didn’t matter or wasn’t even there. Whether Kenobi was incepting two Stormtroopers with the idea that these were not the droids they were looking for, or slipping through the corridors of the Death Star to disable its tractor beam, old Ben was great at going unseen. With Star Wars: The Force Awakens heading to theaters this December, I think we’re once again witnessing him hide in plain sight.

While fans have relentlessly speculated about the parentage of new characters played by John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, or Oscar Isaac, wondering if any may be the descendants of Luke, Princess Leia, or Han Solo, almost no one has floated theories about Kenobi. Looking at The Force Awakens teaser trailer, with its starship graveyard, its scorched Darth Vader mask, and the recovery of the lightsaber Luke inherited from his father, it’s clear J.J. Abrams’ new film will be as obsessed with legacy as the original trilogy was with destiny. So far, there has been no hint of Kenobi, but he is a towering figure in Star Wars lore, the archetypal wise old man, the senex – the keeper of secrets. Maybe now he’s one of them, one of the better shrouded mysteries of Episode VII. Whether his connection to the story is revealed at Comic-Con, some later date, or held as one of the movie’s surprises, there must be some thread of Kenobi in this story.

Now, of course, Uncle Owen’s claim has borne out – Obi-Wan is no more, cut down in the original Star Wars by Darth Vader’s lightsaber. He reappeared in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi as a specter of the Force, appearing and speaking to Luke at critical moments. Alec Guinness, who originated the role, is also no more, having died in 2000, and although Ewan McGregor has recently expressed interest in resurrecting his performance as the character from the prequels, there’s no place for a young Obi-Wan in The Force Awakens, set 30 years after the events of Jedi. Nobody expects a ghost to age, but they don’t get younger either. 

The continuation of Obi-Wan’s story may stem from hidden history. What was he doing all those years while living amid the dunes of Tatooine besides watching and protecting Luke from afar? There’s a new comic on the way that will explore exactly this question. My theory: Kenobi was lying low, avoiding the Empire, but there’s nothing that says he whiled away his days in full exile. Although Jedi were prohibited from love, the fall of that monastic order may have liberated Kenobi from such vows. It’s possible he had a child, and three decades later, a grandchild would be just the right age for an interstellar adventure.

So, if anyone from the new cast could be a descendant of Kenobi – who? It would have to be someone major, and since Ridley’s Rey and Boyega’s Finn are the only characters suspiciously without surnames they seem to be the most likely candidates. In an interview with Japanese TV, Ridley said: “I am ‘solitary,’ that’s how I begin — that is probably a big clue as to what it is,” which many assumed was a hint she’s a Solo. But despite Han’s lone-wolf last name, he’s a social kind of guy, playing cards, and hanging out in saloons. But who, like Rey, spends his days in the desert, living as a scavenger – albeit on a different planet? If Kenobi turns out to be her grandfather, she may have inherited not only his survivor instincts but also his Force sensitivity.

As for Finn, well … since this panicky runaway Stormtrooper seems to have a knack for getting in over his head, and since Marvel’s Star Wars comics – which are considered canon – recently revealed Han has a secret wife, Sana, who has dark skin, maaaaaybe Finn is the one who’s really Han’s kid. (Imagine how annoyed the smuggler would be to have a rogue son sign up as a Stormtrooper.)

But we still have Han to carry on his own story. Kenobi’s torch must be passed to a new generation, hopefully someone willing to light the way on, as the old man said to Luke in the original movie, “some damn fool idealistic crusade.”

Tune in to “Behind The Scenes” today, July 8, on EW Radio for our Comic-Con 2015 Star Wars special — including interviews with everyone you see below: John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, and galactic veterans Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill and Anthony Daniels. Sirius XM 105, 3 p.m. Eastern/6 p.m. Pacific.

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