Portrayed by actors Sir Alec Guinness (who was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his work in Star Wars: A New Hope) and Ewan McGregor on-screen, Obi-Wan Kenobi was a legendary Jedi Master who trained and served along with Anakin Skywalker as a general in the Republic Army during the Clone Wars. When Anakin fell to the Dark Side, Kenobi, disgraced and blaming himself for his friend’s corruption, dueled the newly appointed Sith known as Darth Vader and delivered the nearly fatal blows that would force Vader to live his remaining life in the robotic suit the Emperor created for him. Later, serving as a mentor to Vader’s son, Luke Skywalker, Kenobi would confront his fallen student again, this time losing his life in the encounter. After becoming one with the Force, Kenobi would continue to appear as a ghostly apparition, still offering Luke guidance in his times of need.
When it comes to The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, Obi-Wan Kenobi may be long gone, not even appearing in shimmering Force ghost form, but the Jedi Master’s presence and influence are inescapable, even in these newest films in the franchise. Despite the absence of his physical presence, Kenobi’s legacy continues on, even touching the lives of characters like Rey and Kylo Ren.
They named their son, Ben.
If there’s one moment that competes with the emotional power of Rey igniting Luke’s lightsaber in The Force Awakens, it’s the scene when Han Solo reveals the name he and Leia chose for their son. With one desperate and pain-filled shout of “Ben,” Han’s utterance of the name conveys the tragic hopefulness he and Leia must have felt as parents, and broadcasts the dark fate that lay ahead as the father confronted his son.
The decision by Han and Leia to name their son Ben after old “Ben” Kenobi is a decision (and reveal) that communicates a number of key things with a single word. As mentioned, it speaks to a happier, more hopeful, time in the galaxy, but, given Han’s dismissing of “that old fossil” Kenobi (as well as the Force and the Jedi Knights) in A New Hope, the name further reveals how Han and his worldview (Galaxy view?) has changed since we last saw him in Return of the Jedi. Not only is Han now a believer in the Force and those who wield it, but the man whose last name is an obvious nod to his loner status has rejected the insecurities and fears of his past life and become part of a family.
While that family clearly dissolved due to unfortunate events, bestowing the name of Ben upon their son reminds us what a powerful and important role Kenobi played in the lives of the Skywalkers, while also refusing to allow us to forget that failure and somberness that was inseparable from the Master Jedi.
Luke Skywalker becomes Obi-Wan Kenobi
While actor Mark Hamill has clearly adopted a bearded and weathered appearance in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi that calls back to Kenobi, it’s even more interesting that Hamill is now at the same age that Guinness was when he filmed A New Hope and originated the character. Star Wars has always had a focus on the cyclical nature of the events that affect the galaxy, whether it be the creation of the latest super weapon or the confrontation of the light vs. the dark, so seeing Luke reach the moment where Kenobi’s previous role becomes his is utterly satisfying in certain ways.
Unfortunately, even with the little knowledge we have of Luke in The Last Jedi, it is clear that Vader’s son resembles Kenobi in more ways than just appearance and age. Living in self-exile as a broken and disenfranchised former Jedi who was betrayed by his student, Luke must constantly have his old mentor on his mind and often marvel at how he could end up enduring a fate so close to the Jedi Master who instructed him and served as a living warning of the power of the Dark Side.
We have yet to see if Luke will make it through the end of The Last Jedi, but it does not seem unbelievable that, in the end, he will become one with the Force, once again following in the footsteps of his old Master.
There is another…
One of the biggest questions surrounding The Force Awakens is the mystery of Rey’s parentage, and, even here, Kenobi’s presence can be felt. While it might not be the specific theory I personally subscribe to, there is a surprisingly convincing argument that Rey is Kenobi's granddaughter.
Fans behind this theory initially point to Rey’s British dialect, something not necessarily uncommon in the Star Wars universe, but certainly something Rey shares with Kenobi. While only a minor, and perhaps insignificant, connection, the theory is strengthened by events revealed in the Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series that’s now considered canon under the Disney/LucasFilm banner. Following the adventures of Anakin and Obi-Wan during the legendary Clone Wars, the series reveals that Kenobi has had a least one major romantic interest during his time as a Jedi, and even reveals that his connection with her was strong enough that he’s considered leaving the Jedi Order to pursue his feelings. While there’s no indication that the relationship was consummated, if it was revealed that Kenobi had a secret offspring, it wouldn’t be the first time the Jedi Master had willingly obscured the truth or committed to a questionable decision.
Perhaps the strongest evidence to support the Rey/Kenobi theory is his presence in The Force Awakens. When visiting with the Force-sensitive Maz Kanata on Takodana, Rey happens upon the Anakin’s lightsaber, the blue-bladed weapon Kenobi once presented to Luke Skywalker in A New Hope. When Rey touches the weapon, she experiences what fans have called a “Force-back” (Force-influenced flashback), witnessing the moments from Luke’s confrontation with Vader on Cloud City, the destruction of Luke’s new Jedi order, and more. The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams has also revealed that the last line heard in the vision (a voice whispering “Rey … these are your first steps.”) comes from Kenobi, and actor Ewan McGregor was actually employed to record that single line in the film. While it remains to be seen what actual weight this carries in regards to Rey’s mysterious path, it does seem to be an oddly specific incident of the character of Kenobi being linked with the latest Jedi in the Star Wars saga.
No matter what the conclusion regarding his connection to Rey, it’s clear that, much like the presence of Darth Vader, Kenobi continues to inform and influence the Star Wars universe and its characters, even today.