This Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi article contains spoilers.
It was a bold move to open episode 5 of Obi-Wan Kenobi with a flashback that put 41-year-old Hayden Christensen back in the boots of a teenage Anakin Skywalker. Director Deborah Chow and her team seemingly chose traditional make-up over digitally de-aging Christensen and Ewan McGregor for the scene where master and apprentice spar more than a decade before the events of the new Disney+ series. And it paid off, with fans immediately posting screengrabs on social media and celebrating that the show had finally given them what they’d been trying to manifest for weeks: the return of Prequel era Obi-Wan and Anakin.
But the flashback doesn’t just exist for nostalgia’s sake — it serves a purpose within the episode. Darth Vader seems to be recalling a lesson his former master tried to teach him all those years ago, while Obi-Wan could be thinking back on this moment as a way to study an overzealous Anakin’s weaknesses. In the end, both hero and villain apply the lesson: Obi-Wan is able to outsmart Vader just as he did in the flashback; meanwhile, Vader breaks down Reva, using her need to prove herself as the Grand Inquisitor to take her off the board completely.
That’s certainly interesting enough on its own, but what about what the flashback reveals about the era in which it’s set? Eagle-eyed fans will undoubtedly recognize this sparring session as taking place somewhere in the middle of the Prequel Trilogy, a few years before Anakin turns to the dark side in Revenge of the Sith. Anakin is still Obi-Wan’s padawan, and still has the rat tail to prove it, which means the Clone Wars haven’t even started, since the young Jedi was knighted right after Episode II. In fact, Obi-Wan’s longer hair and the fact that Anakin still has both of his hands all but confirm that this flashback is set somewhere around or just slightly before the Attack of the Clones era of Star Wars, about 22 BBY (or years before A New Hope) on the in-universe timeline.
Interestingly enough, many of the facets that defined Anakin in that divisive Star Wars film from 20 years ago are already on display during this sparring session with Obi-Wan. He’s headstrong, obsessed with being the best and winning, already suspiciously aggressive for a Jedi, and at odds with his master. In fact, he pushes back against Obi-Wan’s instruction that a Jedi shouldn’t be so aggressive, delivering a worrisome bit of fascist rhetoric in reply: “Mercy doesn’t defeat the enemy, master. It’s why you’re going to lose.”
As we all know, it’s the events of Attack of the Clones that truly begin to set the stage for Anakin’s eventual fall at the end of the trilogy, namely the scene where he slaughters the entire tribe of Tusken Raiders who kidnapped and tortured his mother, but we also see in this Obi-Wan Kenobi flashback that the young padawan was already showing hints of his darker side even before he ever returned to Tatooine. It’s good insight into Anakin’s life between The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones that had previously been reserved to tie-in books and comics, and it’s great to see a little more of that character development happening on screen.
But the dark side isn’t the only thing on display during this flashback. Some fans have quickly formed theories regarding its opening shot. We see Anakin looking off into the distance while he waits for Obi-Wan. Beyond is the Coruscant skyline, notably adorned by a cluster of massive skyscrapers. Does one of those buildings serve as the Coruscant home of a certain senator from Naboo? Some viewers certainly think so.
In Attack of the Clones, Anakin confesses that not a day has gone by when he hasn’t thought of Padme Amidala, the former queen who the Jedi first met as a little boy in The Phantom Menace, and this scene could be nodding to that, assuming he’s actually looking in the direction of her penthouse in the sky. It would also be somewhat of a reference to the first time we actually meet Christensen’s teen Anakin in Episode II, as he’s nervously riding an elevator with Obi-Wan up to Padme’s apartment. When Obi-Wan notes that Anakin is tense, sweating, and needs to relax, the young padawan replies that he hasn’t seen Padme in a decade. But just how long has Anakin been watching from afar and waiting for the day when he could finally reunite with her?
If the fan theory is true, perhaps the most important question to ask is how does Anakin already know where Padme lives before he meets her again in Attack of the Clones? Well, the canon explanation is that all of the Republic’s powerful politicians lived in the same senate apartment complex on Coruscant, so obviously Padme would live there too. But knowing a Padme-obsessed young Anakin, and all the “chemistry” Christensen and Natalie Portman shared in their love scenes in 2002, the real answer could be a much creepier one than that.
Obi-Wan Kenobi and Attack of the Clones are both streaming on Disney+ now.