Obi-Wan Kenobi has had its eponymous Jedi master run into a number of returning characters from the wider Star Wars universe, from Leia and Bail Organa to Darth Vader himself. But this week, the show reintroduced a character Star Wars fans haven’t seen in live action in a long time... a long time.
[Ed. note: This piece contains spoilers for Obi-Wan Kenobi episode 6.]
Since the first episode of Obi-Wan Kenobi, the show has teased a reunion between Jedi masters and their former pupils. Obi-Wan and Anakin, of course, but also Obi-Wan and his own master, the Jedi Qui-Gon Jinn. Periodically through the series Obi-Wan has reached out to his master with the Force, but received no answer.
As to why he’d expect an answer from a character who died nearly two decades previous, that’s covered in the final moments of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, in which Yoda informed Obi-Wan that Qui-Gon found a path to “immortality” through the Force — that is, he discovered the technique that allows Obi-Wan and Yoda to communicate with the living as Force ghosts in the original Star Wars trilogy.
The scene implies that Yoda taught him a training practice that would eventually allow Obi-Wan to commune with his former master for further training. In Obi-Wan Kenobi, it seems that practice has not yet been made perfect.
Until the very end of the show’s finale.
“I was always here, Obi-Wan. You just were not ready to see it,” Qui-Gon tells Obi-Wan on the sands of Tatooine. He’s not specific about what has changed in Obi-Wan, but given that the younger Jedi just came off of a confrontation with Darth Vader in which he finally had it drilled into his head that he was not solely responsible for Anakin’s turn to the dark side — well that seems like the show’s message.
Liam Neeson goes uncredited in the episode, but the force ghost who appears to Obi-Wan in the desert is undoubtedly the same actor who portrayed him in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. Neeson has expressed reticence about appearing in Star Wars’ Disney Plus series before, telling IndieWire just this April that he prefers film. “Yeah, I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to TV, I must admit, I just like the big screen, you know?”
But just a month later at Star Wars Celebration, Lucasfilm announced that Neeson would return to the world of animated Star Wars television for a Qui-Gon-focused episode of the anthology series Tales of the Jedi. And with Obi-Wan, it seems the company convinced Neeson to dabble in live action as well. And it’s true that it’d be hard to find a bigger screen than the Volume, the massive LCD screen technology Lucasfilm leverages to give the Star Wars TV shows their stunning vistas without on-location shoots.
Neeson isn’t the only Star Wars veteran who returned for the final episode of Obi-Wan Kenobi. The show also features a brief scene with Ian McDiarmid’s Emperor Palpatine, though his appearance in heavy makeup and through hologram could disguise a lot of digital lifting, including the speech simulation technology Lucasfilm is now known for leveraging. In contrast to Neeson, McDiarmid has returned often to the Star Wars universe, appearing in Return of the Jedi, all three prequel films, Rise of Skywalker, and voicing the Emperor in several animated Star Wars shows.