It’s safe to say that no stone has been left unturned by the online geek community when it comes to analysing and deconstructing the Star Wars saga. Countless articles and hours have been devoted to the continuing Skywalker saga, every Death Star corridor traversed, the entire forest of Endor explored. And while fans continually debate the much-maligned prequels and attempt to predict what the future holds for this franchise following The Rise of Skywalker, sometimes what can be side-lined is just how tragic the undoing of those father/son dynamics are throughout the series, be it a flesh and blood relationship or that of a parental figure/entrusted guardian.
While George Lucas might have had a rough idea of the direction he wanted to take his prequels long before their conception, as far as he and the viewers were concerned with 1977’s A New Hope, Luke was an orphan. Those absent parental roles being occupied by his aunt and uncle before they meet their untimely end after being unceremoniously turned into scorched human kebabs. Incidentally, that horrific discovery by Luke of their charred bodies is something you’d never see in the Disney era of the franchise. The grieving farm boy is then taken under the wing of long AWOL Jedi Ben Kenobi (aka Obi-Wan Kenobi) for a painfully fleeting period of time before the old hermit himself is also shown the mortal door.
Of course, Obi-Wan crops up again in ghostly form in Empire to help guide his brief protégé – an ethereal guise that was initially intended to be Luke’s own long-deceased father until Lucas took over scripting duties after the author of his original draft, Leigh Brackett, sadly passed away. Out went the benign Skywalker father and in came the most feared member of the Galactic Empire and chief adversary from the first film, Vader. That devastating plot twist at the end of The Empire Strikes Back – arguably now the most famous and recognisable in all movielore – still holds an incredible amount of power all these years later, but when put against the final film in the original trilogy, Return of the Jedi, it’s painfully apparent just how little time together Luke has with his evil father after that staggering revelation.
Granted it’s a little longer than the short-lived, ill-fated reunion between Han Solo and his morally-compromised son Kylo Ren in The Force Awakens, yet Luke has merely a few moments during a hushed truce between him and his dad before their final duel on the new Death Star. And what does Skywalker Sr. do in that one-on-one on Endor but hit his son with yet another revelation every bit as earth-shattering as his own admission back in Cloud City. In the end, Luke is mercifully granted the opportunity to see his father’s human face behind the electronic mask, and it must have taken all his strength not to chastise his dying pops for failing to let him know about his secret sister earlier than he did.
In the prequels it falls to a younger Obi-Wan to mentor a know-it-all child, who will supposedly bring balance to the Force, at a time when the apprentice Jedi should be enjoying his twenties as a free and single guardian of peace. Obi-Wan is finally forced to confront and ultimately fight and severely maim his now teenage trainee who has succumbed to the dark side towards the end of Revenge of the Sith. All in all it proves to be a pretty thankless role for Obi-Wan, having failed at the mission bequeathed to him by his own dying Jedi Master, Qui-Gon Jinn. Obi-Wan is finally sent to live out the rest of his days in a solitary life within the unforgiving desert world of Tatooine. That is until the teenage son of his former friend-turned mortal enemy comes sniffing around his pad years later.
When all is said and done, it’s actually Obi-Wan who is the most paternal of the vast array of Star Wars characters, even having the propensity to forgive and forget when it comes to the offspring of the very person who caused such upheaval in his life. One day he’s a respected member of the Jedi Council and a General in the Army of the Republic, the next he’s having to avoid stepping in Bantha fodder and make do with that tiny, inadequate hut he calls home. Ben Kenobi is the endlessly forgiving and eternally patience father figure we should all aspire to be like. It’s perhaps no surprise that Han and Leia paid tribute to him in the naming of their son, even if that proved to be a disastrous decision which would go on to cause another further woe and misery to the Skywalker bloodline.
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