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Love, Star Wars style: How Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi have that "love story dynamic" (including an epic breakup)

The Obi-Wan Kenobi Disney+ show is still Star Wars' greatest break-up story

Star Wars
Image credit: Lucasfilm

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Valentine’s Day is this week, which means romance for some and heartbreak for others. The same goes for the heroes and villains of the Star Wars universe, who – depending on which canon you subscribe to – celebrate their version of Valentine’s Day this month, too. Star Wars boasts plenty of happy couples, however, the franchise also has more than its fair share of bust-ups.

The prequels gave us Anakin Skywalker and Padmé Amidala’s ill-fated marriage. The sequels followed suit with Han Solo and Leia Organa’s estrangement, as well as whatever the heck the Rey/Kylo Ren coupling was. Marvel’s licensed Star Wars comics also got in on the action with Doctor Aphra and Magna Tolvan’s doomed love story.

Yet all these failed romances pale in comparison to the rift between Obi-Wan and Darth Vader depicted in 2022 Disney+ series Obi-Wan Kenobi. Showrunner Deborah Chow intentionally brought a “love story dynamic” to the pair’s bromance gone bad, and as a result, two straight dudes wound up having the greatest break-up story in Star Wars history.

Everyone needs closure – even Jedi Masters

Star Wars
Image credit: Lucasfilm

A big part of what sets Obi-Wan and Vader’s conscious uncoupling apart from the competition is that so much of it happens on screen. We actually get to see them go through many of the emotional milestones that follow a split. Sure, these former BFFs parted ways in-universe 10 years earlier (in 2005’s Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith) but their wounds are still plenty fresh.

For his part, Obi-Wan is the classic ‘regretful break-upper.’ Even though he had a very good reason for ‘dumping’ Vader – the guy killed a bunch of adorable Jedi trainees and plotted to control the galaxy, after all – Obi-Wan can’t help blaming himself for how it all went down. It all got a bit messy, and our guy feels responsible for more than just Vader’s severed limbs, third-degree burns, and adult-onset asthma.

Obi-Wan’s in a post-break-up funk so intense that not even the excitement of a rescue mission can snap him out of it. He’s a shell of himself, and learning that Vader is still alive brings all his guilt and remorse back to the surface. Heck, it’s easy to imagine the Jedi Master reaching for the nearest tub of blue milk ice cream between scenes. Obi-Wan’s not fully whole again until he gets the closure of looking Vader in the eye and saying, “I’m sorry.”

Darth Vader? More like ‘Dumped Vader’

Star Wars
Image credit: Lucasfilm

Meanwhile, Vader is the token jilted ex. His arc in Obi-Wan Kenobi isn’t simply about revenge – it’s about making his one-time mentor feel how he’s been made to feel. When Vader attempts to set Obi-Wan ablaze midway through the series, it’s about more than just recreating the outcome of their last fight in reverse. There’s an emotional undercurrent to the act; in effect, Vader’s saying, “I need to know that my pain is also your pain.”

Like so many folks who’ve been dumped, Vader’s obsessed with Obi-Wan in a way that verges on self-destructive. When he’s not fantasizing about getting payback on his former friend, he’s replaying the good times in his helmeted head – and neither train of thought is healthy. It’s a sign of how ill-equipped Vader is to move on that he’d rather wallow in nastiness and nostalgia than take a moment to interrogate his own role in getting kicked to the curb.

So, it’s no surprise that when Obi-Wan Kenobi’s climatic showdown finally rolls around, Vader literally tries to bury Obi-Wan and, with him, their shared past. He wants to suppress everything and learn nothing. And why not? That’s so much easier than owning up to his mistakes. Even when Obi-Wan has apologized, Vader won’t relent. On the contrary, the Sith Lord pulls another textbook break-up move: he refuses to let Obi-Wan define what their relationship was and is.

Obi-Wan’s true victory is getting over Vader

Star Wars
Image credit: Lucasfilm

“I'm not your failure, Obi-Wan,” Vader hisses. “You didn't kill Anakin Skywalker. I did.” In break-up speak, this translates as: “You don’t get to define why we split up or who I am. I wanted this as much (or more) than you did, and my life now is what I want it to be.” It’s an understandable sentiment, but also an empty one. After all, Vader’s the one left screaming with impotent rage when all is said and done, not Obi-Wan.

Indeed, Obi-Wan Kenobi leaves us in no doubt who’s moved on and who hasn’t before it wraps up. Obi-Wan is essentially back to his old self, only wiser and stronger from working through his issues. Vader is still a slave to his own bitterness, despite assuring his new quasi-squeeze Emperor Palpatine that Obi-Wan “means nothing” to him now. (Sure, Darth, we believe you.)

This then is Obi-Wan Kenobi’s final word on break-ups: some of us learn, some of us don’t, and life keeps marching on regardless. It’s a disarmingly resonant message coming from a largely unsatisfying show – and a fitting end to the greatest break-up story in Star Wars history.

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