I Have Failed You

Hovering above a lava field, exhaustion apparent on their sweaty faces, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader (formerly Anakin Skywalker) stare each other down. Heated emotions are clearly running through them, hot like the lava which surrounds them on all sides. Having engaged in a running battle, one that has put them both in harms way, this small moment of reprieve will not last long, but it is long enough for Obi-Wan Kenobi to address the foe who stands before him. A stern look on his face, Kenobi delivers a line packed with painful contrition:

“I have failed you, Anakin. I have failed you.”

We do not know precisely what Obi-Wan is thinking as he speaks, precisely what failures run through the Master’s mind as he addresses the former student whom he loves. But we really don’t need to know, and we can otherwise fill in those blanks on our own. Rather, the statement is Obi-Wan’s all encompassing mea culpa, an admission to the young man before him that as teacher he failed his student.

Juxtapose this with what came before, the last time Obi-Wan and Anakin spoke as friends. In that moment, as Kenobi prepared to depart for the planet Utapau, he admitted to Anakin that he had trained him since he was a boy and had taught his student everything he knew. And yet, now, as the two stand above the lava fields of Mustafar, sweat dripping down their faces, Kenobi acknowledges the hardest of truths: that everything he taught Anakin was simply not enough to keep the young man from heading down a dark path.

To Kenobi’s guilt-ridden admission, though, we can add another layer.  In Attack of the Clones, Anakin admits to his Master that he is the “closest thing to a father” the boy has ever had, and later complains to Padmé that Kenobi is “like my father.” One could see the father-son relationship without any explicit statements, but those statements certainly help solidify the familial connection Kenobi and Skywalker shared. In a very real sense, Kenobi adopted the young boy, raising him as his own. In this regard, the statement “I have failed you” is not only a teacher admitting that he failed his student, but it is equally that of a father painfully conceding that he has failed his son.

In turn, other layers can be tacked onto these. Thinking about the familial relationship differently, we can imagine Kenobi as Anakin’s older brother, a point which is actually reinforced when Obi-Wan admits moments later that “You were my brother, Anakin. I loved you.” Taken through the lens of brotherly love, Kenobi’s failure is that of an older brother who did not keep his younger brother from going astray. Or, one could easily view the statement through the lens of friendship, with the Jedi Master confessing that he failed to aid his “good friend” in his most dire moment(s). 

In noting these four layers, and even recognizing there could be others, I dare not dig any deeper. It feels fruitless to begin “explaining” specific failures Kenobi may be thinking in this particularly moment, and besides, as I already said, we can fill in those blanks for ourselves. Instead, what makes this line stand out to me, what makes it one of my absolute favorite lines in all of Star Wars, is the raw emotion and honesty inherent within it. Kenobi’s words are packed with pain, with remorse, with anger, and frustration. What he says is loaded with candor, with sincerity, and with the maturity of a Jedi Master. In this moment, Obi-Wan Kenobi takes on the weight of his own actions AND the actions of his former protege, placing the onus squarely on his own shoulders.

“I have failed you, Anakin. I have failed you.”

“I have failed you, Anakin.”

“I have failed you.”

“I have failed.”

It is a failure Obi-Wan Kenobi will live with for the rest of his life.


This post is part of the Star Wars ComLINKS series. Check out more Star Wars ComLINKS over at Anakin and His Angelswcomlinksbanner1

5 comments

  1. Excellent choice! This easily stands as one of the most powerful moments in the entire Star Wars Saga. I love how it colors what happens in the Original Trilogy too. For me, now I can’t watch Obi-Wan’s encounter with Darth Vader aboard the Death Star in ‘A New Hope’ without thinking of this scene, without feeling it – this exchange in particular. This moment colors everything before and after it, and rightly so.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would agree that it is a powerful moment. There is a heavy weight to the exchange, a recognition (at least for the audience) that neither individual is truly listening to the other. Lenovo offers his mea culpa to Anakin but he isn’t even talking to Anakin, he is speaking to Darth Vader.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love this line so much. Mostly because of Obi-Wan’s willingness to take responsibility onto himself. He doesn’t blame Palpatine, he doesn’t blame Padme (whom he knows about at this point), he doesn’t blame Yoda/Windu or anyone…he blames himself. I think that is so powerful to come to that clarity at that moment. I feel like it would be so easy to push aside the blame especially this early into the betrayal, but he doesn’t. He knows that at the end of it all, he was his master and he failed him.

    This is something I wanted to write and discuss ever since you shared that tweet…but you put it so well, I’m not sure there’s much more I can add.

    Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

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