Darth Vader will have a rematch with Obi-Wan Kenobi in the latter’s upcoming Disney+ show, but the events of Star Wars: A New Hope mean that the Sith Lord can’t win, at least not without changing (or breaking) canon. After years of rumors over a movie based on the Jedi happening, Lucasfilm announced Obi-Wan Kenobi back in 2019. The TV show is bringing back Ewan McGregor, and taking place a decade after the events of Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. While the focus will obviously be on the title character, Obi-Wan Kenobi will have at least one other familiar face in the mix: Darth Vader.
Confirmed in December 2020, Hayden Christensen is reprising his role as Vader for the show – and not only that, but the pair are confirmed to have a rematch of some kind. This is somewhat surprising, given that everything in Star Wars so far has implied that their duel in A New Hope was the first time they’d encountered each other since Anakin Skywalker’s fall to the dark side. There is, however, room for maneuver in this, since the 1977 movie never explicitly states when they last faced one another (and couldn’t, given the prequels wouldn’t happen for several decades). But while the rematch between Vader and Obi-Wan doesn’t necessarily break Star Wars canon, it could potentially do so depending on the outcome.
While it remains unclear just how the showdown between the Jedi Master and his former Padawan will go down, their meeting in the original Star Wars suggests Darth Vader cannot win. When they come face-to-face on the Death Star, Vader tells Obi-Wan: “I’ve been waiting for you, Obi-Wan. We meet again, at last. The circle is now complete. When I left you, I was but the learner; now I am the master.” While the idea of him leaving Obi-Wan would fit with him simply leaving the Jedi to join Palpatine and become a Sith, Vader links this both with the last time they met and him being the student. And if he was “the learner” the last time they met, then while that could still apply to their rematch, it would indicate he doesn’t win, as otherwise it seems unlikely he would refer to himself in such terms.
Darth Vader becomes an all-powerful Sith Lord in the years between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, and with the dark side comes further arrogance and confidence in his abilities (two things Anakin already had plenty of). If Vader had defeated Obi-Wan after Revenge of the Sith, then, while not completely impossible, it wouldn’t make much sense to still say he was “the learner” the last time they met, and is only now the master. Given that the show is about Obi-Wan, not Vader, then it makes sense the titular character wouldn’t lose the rematch, since he is the hero of the story, although it doesn’t necessarily guarantee he will win either. Whether Vader and Obi-Wan face each other in person or, as is a possibility given the Force bonds shown in the Star Wars sequels, through the Force itself, the likeliest outcome may actually be a stalemate.
Since both characters survive it, then at the very least neither kills the other. It’s possible to win without killing, of course, but there’s no suggestion either was particularly injured by whatever happens here either, albeit there is plenty of time to have them heal or fix any wounds. Obi-Wan and Darth Vader already have one victory each, and so perhaps the most interesting way to leave their legacy is with a draw; given they do eventually reconnect as Anakin returns to the light side, then having neither be the overall “winner” of their trilogy of fights could be a neat way of cementing the pair as equals in Star Wars.
It isn’t impossible that Obi-Wan wins, as it would still fit with Vader’s words in A New Hope (arguably even more so), and there’d be a way of doing it that is tinged with sadness and regret at having to face his former student and friend once more. It all depends on the story, but there’s a risk of less narrative weight in that decision, since it’s something audiences have seen before and repeats some of the themes of Revenge of the Sith. Having a draw, or Obi-Wan walking away from the Vader rematch while having the upper hand, may be the best option to serve his character arc and stay true to what’s been established in Star Wars previously.