Obi-Wan Kenobi’s explanation of the Force is brilliant

In Obi-Wan Kenobi Part 3, amidst the tension building with the threat of Darth Vader looming, Kenobi and Leia share some truly touching and tender moments together. In one of them, as they ride the cargo transport to Mapuzo, Leia asks if he can make it go any faster. When he responds that he can’t, she then begins inquiring about the Force.

This leads to a poignant moment between them, as Obi-Wan explains what the Force is like.

Leia: Can’t you use the Force on it or something?

Obi-Wan: That’s not how it works.

Leia: How does it work? The Force? What does it feel like?

Obi-Wan: Have you ever been afraid of the dark? How does it feel when you turn on the light?

Leia: I feel safe.

Obi-Wan: Yes, it feels like that.

I absolutely love that moment, and I love everything about it.

First, it’s a good explanation of what the Force is, as we’re curious to hear what this great, yet broken, Jedi Master would say. It’s like light illuminating the darkness. It’s said in a way that is so understandable to a ten-year old girl, yet so poignant for an older Master as well.

Because here I don’t think Leia is just asking out of curiosity. As we know, the Force is strong with her, even if she doesn’t realize it yet. By Kenobi explaining it like this, he is connecting with her and allowing her to learn more about the Force. Remember, years later she will tell Luke that, “You have a power I don’t understand and could never have.” But Luke responds that she has that power too, and Obi-Wan knows it. He’s teaching her here, passing on a lesson to a new apprentice, about the Force. About how it illumines everything, about how it provides safety amidst the darkness and dangers of the galaxy. It is that very light that Leia will grow to be guided by, and to guide others by, but here she’s asking out of curiosity – and I choose to think that there’s something deep within her that’s awake, that when she hears this answer it connects with her even more than she can fully comprehend, but that it’s describing what she feels too. I think Kenobi intended it that way.

But even more significantly than a lesson to his pupil, this sheds light on the Master. Where is Kenobi at right now? The entire series has shown how he is a broken man who has lost faith and is burdened by the weight of his failures. He’s given up his Jedi ways, burying them in the sands of Tatooine alongside his lightsaber. We’ve seen evidence of that over and over again. Yet here, in what seems to be a true moment of honesty, Obi-Wan peels back the curtain and shows us that he still does believe in the Force. It still is light in the darkness. Even if he’s broken by his failures, it hasn’t caused him to give up on the Force.

Yet what happens when things still feel dark and hopeless? I think that’s the point of the series, showing how Obi-Wan moves from the hopelessness of his past to the purpose of his future. I think we’ll see him fully recover and embrace his Jedi ways. I think this answer, and the show overall, demonstrate that Kenobi has lost far more faith in himself and the Jedi in general than in the Force overall, but he’s nonetheless still walking in darkness.

I think there’s a demonstration of that in the fight with Vader that happens later in the episode. Obi-Wan is consumed by fear, stalked by the terrifying Sith Lord in the dark of night. And when Vader calls out to him, in the darkness, it’s Kenobi’s lightsaber that ignites instinctively, giving light. It’s ignited out of reactionary fear. He’s reliant on that light to guide him, but as Quinlan Vos wrote on the safehouse wall, “Only when the eyes are closed can you truly see [the way].” In other words, the Force is the light to guide you to the way. When your eyes are closed, and you’re not relying on what you can see to guide but on the Force itself, you will follow the way forward.

In this series I think Kenobi still very much believes what he tells Leia, that the Force makes you feel safe like light in the dark. But I think he’s also trying to find that light, to hold to faith in that light, when all around him – and even more, when all within him – feels like darkness.

It’s a powerful moment, conveyed with brilliant writing and equally brilliant delivery from Ewan McGregor and Vivien Lyra Blair, not only explaining the Force but shedding light on where Obi-Wan Kenobi is at – and where Leia Organa will soon be. Decades later, as the Resistance is in the throes of darkness, it is a saying from Leia that resonates with the leadership and inspires them to keep going: “Hope is like the sun. If you only believe in it when you can see it, you’ll never make it through the night.”

How does one persevere through the darkest moments of life? By keeping hope, by following the light of the Force, and allowing it to guide your way even when you cannot see. Having been lost in the darkness for so long, it’s precisely the light that Kenobi is trying to find in these moments.

3 thoughts on “Obi-Wan Kenobi’s explanation of the Force is brilliant

  1. I have mixed feelings about the series, while the production is fine, with good scenarios and CGI, and MacGregor is doing his part in good acting, I think the direction os very, well… basic, and the dialogues are also pretty weak. There are moments of brilliance like the one you described but mostly I feel like I am watching Scooby-Doo. I believe the majority of the Star War fans are now way beyond their 30s and the series should be a little more oriented to the adult viewers. Maybe I am wrong.
    So far I like “The Mandalorian” better.


  2. I love every exchange between Leia and Obi-Wan. I think he would have made a good dad if not a Jedi. I love the moment when he describes real mum Padmé to her as a « leader. Very emotional.
    There’s only one thing I’ve been bothered with so far in the series, is that it doesn’t really match with A New Hope. Leia doesn’t seem to know Obi-Wan really well, or at all in the movie. She calls him for help like « you don’t know me but you helped my dad in the clone wars » while here they’ve literally been through hell together. I know Leia is 10, and she’s 20ish in Episode 4, but you don’t forget this kind of experience even after 10 years I guess, right? It just feels a little off with the original trilogy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My own headcanon as to why Leia says that in A New Hope is two-fold: (1) first, Bail is the one who sent her (as seen in Rogue One), so she’s the messenger on his behalf. That’s why she mentions her father, not herself. (2) Then second, as to the formality of it, I think Leia is in full-on diplomatic mode in sending this message, so she’s keeping it formal and professional, not personal (compared to later on the Death Star when she exclaims “Ben Kenobi! Where is he?”). In her situation, it makes sense to not let on any more information than she needs to when sending this message. She knows Ben will know who she is. But the less anyone else who might intercept the message knows, the better.


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