The biggest surprise that came in the first two episodes of Obi-Wan Kenobi, at least for a certain segment of Star Wars fans, came at the end of episode two when Reva, the Third Sister, turned on the Grand Inquisitor and drove her lightsaber right though his gut.
She left him for dead, wanting to hunt Kenobi on her own and receive the credit for it from Darth Vader, and the last shot we see of the Grand Inquisitor is him lying motionless on the ground as Reva walks away. It certainly leaves the implication that he’s dead – but that is almost certainly not the case.
How are we so sure? Well, it’s because this isn’t the last we see of the Grand Inquisitor in the Star Wars canon. In this article, I’ll explain briefly why it matters (i.e. why is it so important that he not be dead?), why I’m almost sure he’s not dead, and how this can fit together. Let’s dive in.
Why it matters
Though this is the Grand Inquisitor’s first live-action appearance, he was first created for the animated series Star Wars Rebels. The Inquisitors were first created for that series, which begins five years before A New Hope. He was present from the series premiere and was the main antagonist of the first season of the show. At the end of season one, the Grand Inquisitor captured Jedi Kanan Jarrus and was interrogating him on a Star Destroyer above Mustafar, but the heroes came to Kanan’s rescue. The Grand Inquisitor engaged the Jedi in a lightsaber duel, at the end of which the villain was left hanging on for his life above a raging fire. Kanan was willing to save him, but the Grand Inquisitor willingly let go, falling to his death, saying, “there are some things far more frightening than death.”
With how prevalent of a player he is in Rebels, set four years after the events of Obi-Wan Kenobi, it would present a massive continuity break in the Star Wars canon, the likes of which would be easily unprecedented in this new era of storytelling. And it’s not even close; there have been some continuity variations, but they’ve been minor details. Nothing like this. So it’s a big deal.
Why he’s likely not dead
And that is the main reason why I think we can be totally confident he’s not dead (at least not permanently…). Beyond the most obvious fact that this would be a total breach of canon the likes of which Lucasfilm surely wouldn’t allow, I think there are plenty of further evidences to give us confidence that there’s zero chance they’d do away with Rebels.
For starters, showrunner Deborah Chow stated in an interview before the series released that having Maul in it was never in her plans. Why? “Dave [Filoni] did a beautiful job of telling that story already,” she said. Want to guess where that story was told? Rebels. So Chow is obviously quite familiar with what was done in Rebels, and is careful to honor that.
On a related point, she has a good relationship with Dave Filoni, having worked with him on The Mandalorian. She has spoken very highly of him, and he returned the favor at Celebration yesterday by sharing how he knew that the series was in good hands the moment she was hired. Chow has mentioned how Filoni is a sounding board and consultant for her on all things Star Wars, and Filoni is actually credited in the Obi-Wan Kenobi series as receiving special thanks. Filoni, of course, was the creator and showrunner of Rebels too. He’s very protective of the stories he tells, and even more protective of the characters he creates. There’s no chance he’d be on board with such a contradiction of his series.
And rather than moving away from Rebels, Lucasfilm has leaned entirely into it – such that now it could well be said that the show is almost a must watch for any fan who wants to understand the context of this new era of Star Wars storytelling. That’s been clear for a while, but it’s also worth noting that the very next day after this Obi-Wan Kenobi episode dropped, it was announced that some major Rebels characters are being brought to live-action in the upcoming Ahsoka series. Quite frankly, there is no way that Lucasfilm is going to double down on Rebels in all of the shows moving forward, only to contradict a major part of it in this series.
At this point some may object and ask why this even had to happen if we already know he’s going to surive. “Doesn’t that lessen the impact?” Absolutely not (I mean, the two main characters of this show both survive too, but that doesn’t lessen the stakes!). The importance of this event is in how it develops Reva’s story! This is an often overlooked aspect of storytelling for some Star Wars fans. Remember when people were upset about Snoke’s death in The Last Jedi? The point was to develop Kylo Ren’s character! The Grand Inquisitor’s not-dead-yet injury in Obi-Wan Kenobi is meant to further develop Reva’s character. If it matters to her, and matters to the story that’s being told, then it’s a meaningful development – regardless of whether we know what’s going to happen. Especially in a franchise like Star Wars, which very frequently tells prequel stories, this is essential for fans to grasp.
How it could fit together
So if there’s no chance that this series is contradicting Rebels, and therefore the Grand Inquisitor isn’t really dead, how does that work? Here’s where I’m going to get into speculation, but first I want to give an illustration.
Last year, as The Bad Batch was releasing episodes weekly, and there was a two-part story on Ryloth. At the end of the first part, Senator Orn Free Taa was shot in the head, and the impression that the audience was left with was that he was dead. Well, according to a canon book that was previously published, he was alive after the events of the series. So was that a contradiction? Some complained that it was. Most of us were willing to wait for a further clarification, all the while assuming he was still alive. And, it turns out, that indeed was the case, as was revealed in the next episode. So have patience. Keep a level head. Don’t just jump at the chance to criticize Lucasfilm before you use some common sense and assume that there will be a reason given.
And what could that reason be? Well I think the most obvious answer is probably the most likely one: he’s not really dead, just severely wounded. There’s nothing that says he died, we just see him lying motionless. I think we’re supposed to assume he’s dead, but there’s nothing that says he really is (and for a Star Wars villain, that’s basically as good as saying he’s definitely alive). But I think him surviving his wounds could serve two important purposes in the show. (1) First, on a practical level, it could remove him from the hunt for Kenobi, therefore saving him for the events of Rebels without having to wonder why the top Inquisitor wouldn’t be hunting the top prey. This would pave the way for others – namely, Reva and Vader – to fill the gap and take point on things. (2) Second, though, the Grand Inquisitor surviving could be a key point in Reva’s story. With him dead, who’s going to know she was the one who killed him? But if he survived, he’d be alive to tell the story about what really happened. Reva seems to be on shaky ground with the other Inquisitors anyway, and this could further complicate things for her.
Moving beyond just this show, I think it also could fit really well with the character of the Grand Inquisitor we already were familiar with – and actually add more depth to him. The key line here is the very last thing we hear him say in Rebels, choosing willingly to fall to his death because, “there are some things far more frightening than death.” He’s talking about Darth Vader. He would rather die than face Vader after having lost to the Jedi, because he’s far more afraid of Vader than he is of dying. Then a few years ago, a Star Wars comic that is set after those events has Luke Skywalker encounter the Grand Inquisitor in a Jedi Outpost, after which the Grand Inquisitor pleads with Vader for release, which the Sith Lord refuses – and as that happens the Grand Inquisitor remarks that, “there are worse things… than death.” It’s a strange moment, but it appears that Vader has preserved the Grand Inquisitor’s spirit and trapped him in this Outpost, as a way of catching other Jedi.
Basically, Vader won’t just let the Grand Inquisitor die. Vader forces him to serve the Sith Lord’s purposes regardless, and with that it becomes much easier to see just why the Grand Inquisitor is so terrified of Vader. And I think if this show has Vader save the Grand Inquisitor’s life, not for compassion but rather for selfish gain, it can further our understanding of why the Grand Inquisitor feels so afraid. He is trapped, left to be a servant of Vader.