The Obi Wan Kenobi series on Disney+ is bringing back Hayden Christensen to presumably play some version of Anakin Skywalker / Darth Vader. The questions are how and why.
The is all purely speculation on my part, but the how is very likely in some sort of guilt-and-loneliness-induced vision. Spending twenty years living in a cave on Tatooine after a lifetime of high adventure as a military commander and Jedi Knight is clearly not going to be an easy endeavor. So, using his memories to bring back the ghost of his best friend seems like a reasonable response for Obi Wan. But there’s one particular question I have, that may not have as simple an answer as one might think: Why did Obi Wan leave Anakin/Vader burning alive in the lava pits of Mustafar?
Was he unable to bring himself to kill the man he’d considered a brother? It’s possible. But, after watching the man he thought he knew effectively kill Amidala along with many Padawan children in the Jedi Temple, Obi Wan knew very well that the Sith Lord lying in the flames was no longer Anakin Skywalker. And Obi Wan knew very well that Darth Vader would do nothing less that cause mass death and destruction at the behest of his master, Darth Sidious. Ending this one life likely would have saved millions more.
Obi Wan Kenobi is an old school honorable man, but he’s also proven to be a realist in many instances. He had very sensible doubts about Qui Gon Jinn taking on young Anakin. He very distastefully used a blast to kill General Grievous. And, when he knew he was too old to fight at Luke Skywalker’s side, he allowed himself to be slain by Vader in order to continue helping Luke the best way he could: As a Force Ghost.
Back to the honorable man argument: Would killing a defeated opponent violate the Jedi Code? Very likely, yes. But he had just dismembered Vader, and left him burning alive alongside a river of lava. Wouldn’t it have been more merciful to just finish him off, rather than allowing him to suffer a slow, torturous death on the burning sands? Was it truly more ethical to leave Vader like that?
There’s not even a question of how, practically-speaking, Obi Wan could have finished off Vader. He would have just used the force to lift Vader off the sand, and levitate him over to take his head off. Every part of that was within Obi Wan’s power to accomplish.
Here’s a much more interesting theory: Did Obi Wan leave Vader alive to provide Darth Sidious with his prize? As damaged as Vader was after the duel with Obi Wan, that did not change the fact that Sidious invested more than a decade grooming Anakin via gaslighting and other temptations. He spent a whole lot of effort over a great amount of time poisoning Anakin’s mind to the point where he would willingly choose the Dark Side over the Jedi Order, and one couldn’t doubt just how determined Sidious was to turn The Chosen One over to his cause.
Obi Wan knew this just as well as he knew that Anakin’s and Padme’s children would shine like a beacon to Sidious if he’d had any desire to seek them out. With Vader by his side, Sidious had no reason to actively search for another apprentice. If he had been so inclined, he may well have found Luke and/or Leia before they were ready to defend themselves against him in any capacity. But Sidious had the prize that he had longed for, and set about his quest to consolidate power, and conquer the galaxy.
It’s possible that Sidious may not have been able to complete his conquest without Vader by his side. But Obi Wan had little reason to think that the evil Sith emperor was lacking in the resources necessary to accomplish his goal, with or without Vader. So, he used Darth Vader as a shield to protect Anakin Skywalker’s children until the time came where they would be capable of ending Darth Sidious’ reign.
I may be totally off-the-mark here, and Disney+ may really just be bringing Hayden Christensen back to get a little nostalgia bump. Or, maybe they actually want to give him a chance to play the role of Anakin/Vader with a more competent filmmaker than 1999-2005 George Lucas, and thus redeem himself from the bad reputation that he got saddled with due to the prequel trilogy. But they do have the chance to do something really cool, and really emotional when they get Christensen and Ewan McGregor back on-screen together for the first time in more than fifteen years. I hope they ask the question that I have here, and I hope the answer is at least as interesting as my theory. I suppose we’ll find out soon enough.