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Near the end of Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith we see that Obi-Wan leaves Anakin to die on Mustafar after their duel, not actually confirming he was dead and later found out he survived.

In the final episode of Obi-Wan Kenobi, after defeating Vader by destroying his suit's breathing gear, he again leaves him to die without actually confirming the kill, and again, Vader survives.

So why did Obi-Wan make the same mistake again of not confirming whether Anakin/Darth Vader was dead or not? He even said earlier in the episode, "This ends today, either he dies or I do."

So was Obi-Wan just not emotionally able to do it, or he was stupid enough to repeat his mistake?

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    If it's anything like Episode 3 (I've not seen the episode yet) it will be that he can't emotionally bring himself to do it. "You were my brother, Anakin! I loved you!"
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Jun 22, 2022 at 10:09
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    @NKCampbell One of the strongest tenets of Buddhism and, evidently, the Jedi way is that the consequences of killing another being are virtually impossible to divine, and rarely ever good. Who steps up to fill the void? Someone not hampered by attachments to his son, that's for sure. No Vader means no Vader turning on Palpatine. Remember it wasn't Luke who threw down Palpatine, literally. Without Vader, perhaps he would not be defeated. How long then does Palpatine and the Sith rule with an iron, mass murdering fist? Probably much worse happens then. Jun 22, 2022 at 23:38
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    Well....Palpatine's granddaughter as it turns out. So - the entire Skywalker family really didn't factor into it at all did they? ;) @PaulD.Waite
    – NKCampbell
    Jun 23, 2022 at 15:19
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    @NKCampbell Fricking Skywalkers. Of course, Rey might never have discovered her force powers without Kylo Ren completing their dyad, and there's likely no Kylo if Vader dies at Obi-wan's hand. Prequels, they're tough. Jun 23, 2022 at 17:00
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    @NKCampbell But, but, Rey is a Skywalker, kind of, retroactively, sort of.
    – chepner
    Jul 4, 2022 at 20:41

3 Answers 3

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Recall what happens when Anakin kills Dooku, which I paraphrase as follows:

Palpatine: Kill him.

(Anakin kills Dooku)

Anakin: I shouldn't have done that, it's not the Jedi way.

And that's your answer: it's not the Jedi way. This whole scene is showing you how much Anakin has fallen into being Vader, even claiming he (Vader) killed Anakin (himself). By contrast, Obi-Wan shows how much he has not fallen from being a Jedi, and how he has risen from his weakened and defeated state he started the show in. He has a defeated, wheezing, essentially defenseless Vader in front of him. But he will not kill someone in that state, for that is the Jedi way.

The scene also suggests that Obi-Wan still sees a glimmer of Anakin within him. The blue/red lighting changes in the scene suggest a switching persona between the old, good Anakin (blue) and the new, wretched Vader (red). Obi-Wan acknowledges that he cannot save Anakin himself, that when it comes to him there is nothing but Vader, but he can perhaps also see that Anakin is still there to be saved. It would just have to be done by another.

Allowing himself to be pulled in to killing Vader just sullies himself and draws him closer to the dark side, which serves no good purpose. Vader may go on to be a scourge, but he is the puppet of another. Obi-Wan trusts in the Jedi way and the will of the Force. An act of "benevolent" murder may save some immediately foreseeable troubles, but what new ones unlock as a result? Who steps up to fill the void? Could it be Obi-Wan himself? Will Obi-Wan be in no (mental) condition to guide Luke towards the redemption of Vader and the defeat of the Empire? Perhaps the Empire could not be defeated at all, for it was not Luke who took out the Emperor but Anakin. Let go of this attachment to vengeance and what you think you know is coming soon, and you can see and be guided by the Force to something greater and further out.

As far as the line "This ends today. Either he dies, or I do", recall that in the Clone Wars series Satine describes Obi-Wan as "a bundle of half-truths and hyperbole". Granted, Satine was in an agitated and argumentative state at the time, so not inclined to be flattering, but the description is nevertheless quite consistent with Obi-Wan's character. Obi-Wan frequently does make use of half-truths and hyperboles, e.g. "from a certain point of view", in order to motivate others to the ends he wishes to drive them. Or, at times, just to amuse himself, as he also has a certain degree of curiosity—in said series he also delays rescuing another Jedi because he wants to see which orifice a mind control worm is going to enter, and bets on it with Anakin—and a penchant for snark.

As such the line in question may just be his flare for the dramatic kicking in to help him convince the other person to accept that he's going to leave and bait Vader away. He could always argue later, as he does in the OT, that "Vader killed Anakin" is true and satisfies his claim that one of them would die. Or just other metaphorical deaths, such as the sort of psychological death Obi-Wan starts the series in; or the tortured state of having lost again and having no choice but to go on indefinitely suffering from it for Vader.

Finally, note that Obi-Wan completes his reconnection to the Force and the Jedi ways during his battle with Vader. Reconnection to the Jedi ways reinforces the point this answer starts on, and reconnection to the Force reinforces the subsequent point: he may get an instinctive impression from the Force that the long run is better served by letting Vader survive, so that he may later be redeemed and the Empire overthrown. So he may have started with "one of us must die", only to feel in that moment that in fact both of them must survive.

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    There's also the parallel with Reva: like Obi-Wan, she chooses not to exact vengeance, and spares Luke.
    – F1Krazy
    Jun 23, 2022 at 13:54
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    Wait, but again he earlier clearly stated that this "this ends today, either he dies or i do
    – shanu
    Jun 23, 2022 at 16:30
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    @shanu Note that Satine describes Kenobi as "a bundle of half-truths and hyperboles" in the Clone Wars show. Granted she was in an agitated and argumentative state at the time, but it is pretty consistent with his character; from a certain point of view. He's got a bit of a flare for the dramatic, especially if it gets other characters to do something he wants. So quite probably he's just exercising that in that line, being a bit dramatic, allowing for "metaphorical" deaths like "Vader killed Anakin", and just trying to get this guy to accept that he's going to bait Vader away. Jun 27, 2022 at 16:35
  • well sure its the jedi way, but what about the greater good? not killing vader is like indirectly killing hundred people at once
    – shanu
    Jun 29, 2022 at 17:18
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    @shanu Like I said, let go of your attachment to vengeance and what you see coming in the short term. Kill him now, save 100 people today, but trillions suffer and billions die in bondage under indefinite Sith rule as now there's no one to (literally) throw down the Emperor. Jun 29, 2022 at 17:21
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There was no implication he left him expecting him to die.

Part of the larger picture is that Kenobi knows who is truly responsible for everything going on. He kills Vader, then what? It doesn't magically solve anything. He knows Palpatine has used Maul, then Dooku, then Vader. Kenobi killed Maul (well, he thought), and it didn't solve the problem. Kenobi was involved in the death of Dooku. Didn't solve the problem. He knows killing Vader might temporarily deal with the immediate situation, but it won't make a difference in the grand scheme of things. Based on past experience, Palpatine probably has someone else waiting on deck or will quickly get someone, and then Vader will just be another in the list of Sith flunkies Kenobi has seen die without really changing anything. The Inquisition is out finding new Force sensitives, and killing Vader won't stop that either.

It might have a made a difference years earlier, when Vader was setting up the Inquisition, training Inquisitors, and hunting the surviving Jedi, and Palpatine's hold on power might have been a bit more fragile so taking out his apprentice might have signficantly set his plans back, but that window has closed. Killing Vader won't stop Palpatine or the control he wields through the Imperial Forces, and won't prevent him from taking on another apprentice.

An apprentice who Kenobi might not know and thus not have any advantage over, unlike Vader who Kenobi has defeated, and who he knows.

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    You can further support this by including the conversation with 3rd sister at the end. He tell her she's that free because she spared Luke and gave up on revenge. He then adds, "we're both free" because he did the same when he spared Vader.
    – Harabeck
    Jun 23, 2022 at 14:59
  • @Keith Morrison If you killed Hitler in the beginning of WW2 would there be any WW2? If if there is WW2 would it be that destructive without Hitler? The answer to these question will answer killing Vader would be right or wrong. At least Vader could taken as a prision by Obi-Wan Kenobi
    – alper
    Jun 23, 2022 at 15:15
  • @alper I'm not sure which side you're arguing for but "if you killed Hitler, there would be no WW2" is surely not a conventional historical analysis.
    – Cadence
    Jun 23, 2022 at 17:26
  • @Cadence I am on the side of goodness arguing that if Vader was killed it will resolve things in the long run or at least it will help to save human lives. Like if Hitler was killed millions of lives might be saved.
    – alper
    Jun 23, 2022 at 17:41
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    @alper, except your analogy isn't appropriate. Vader isn't the equivalent of Hitler, that's Palpatine. If you want an analogy, think about Reinhard Heydrich. A favourite of Hitler, the primary architect of the Holocaust. He was killed in 1942. Did that stop the Holocaust? Jun 23, 2022 at 19:14
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TL;DR The (future) plot demands that Vader lives

It is a form of Plot Armour


Regardless of the practicality of truly doing away with Vader at this point in time, we all know that Vader existed alive for many more years to come after the events of Kenobi. The writers were constrained by this fact, so no matter how grim the scenario was for Vader, he always had to live.

You can see the same issue when, after burying Kenobi, Vader simply walks away and doesn't verify that Kenobi is dead. Or later on when Vader lets Kenobi escape even though they a separated by some flames.

IMHO this constraint on the writers hampered the story telling, as we already knew the fate of the main characters, so that nothing could actually happen to them. OTOH they don't have the same constraint in The Mandalorian or The Book of Boba Fett, or even with Reva in Kenobi itself.

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    If the constraint is just "Vader must survive" there are infinitely many other outcomes they could have written: duel interrupted by someone else attacking, bits of the ceiling fall on them, Vader falls down a bottomless pit and mysteriously survives, etc. The question isn't why the writers didn't kill Vader but why - of all the ways to not-kill Vader - they chose this one.
    – Cadence
    Jun 23, 2022 at 13:40

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