Rage and Revenge

*Contains spoilers for the Star Wars saga and Obi-Wan Kenobi

Seventeen years after the conclusion of the Star Wars prequel trilogy, Ewan McGregor has returned to his iconic titular character in Disney+’s Obi-Wan Kenobi series. The show is set ten years after the events of Revenge of the Sith, with Obi-Wan living on Tatooine to watch over a young Luke Skywalker.

While Obi-Wan’s self-appointed mission is to protect Luke, he is also called upon by Bail Organa to rescue Luke’s twin sister, Leia, from kidnappers. The kidnapping is a plot by Reva, a Jedi-hunting Inquisitor, to draw Obi-Wan out of hiding and deliver him to Darth Vader. Vader is seeking revenge over his former master for the horrible injuries Obi-Wan inflicted upon him ten years earlier. Reva is attempting to gain Vader’s favor and achieve the role of Grand Inquisitor. This is not simply a desire for status and power; Reva has a greater plan: to get close to Vader so she can enact her revenge on him.

One of the most heinous acts committed by Anakin Skywalker (later known as Darth Vader) after he succumbs to the dark side is the massacre of the Younglings, young children training to become Jedi. We learn that Reva was a Youngling who survived the slaughter and seeks revenge on Vader for killing the only family she had, her fellow Younglings. Thus, Obi-Wan Kenobi is the story of two characters set on revenge: Reva and Vader.

The Path to the Dark Side
In The Empire Strikes Back, Obi-Wan warns Luke, “Don’t give in to hate. That leads to the dark side,” seeking to save Luke from the fate that befell his father. In Return of the Jedi, Emperor Palpatine coaxes Luke, “Give in to your anger” and “Let the hate flow through you!” as he also knows that both hate and anger lead to the dark side. In Obi-Wan Kenobi, Reva has already succumbed to the dark side in her hatred of Vader. The irony is, that due to her desire for revenge, she has become just like the person she hates most. Reva’s blind rage causes her to lash out and harm anyone who stands in her way.

While anger is a powerful emotion, it is not necessarily always bad. The Bible says, “In your anger do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26), making a distinction between the emotion of anger and the sin that may come from it. God was often angry at rebellious Israel. Jesus was angry at the disbelief of his disciples and the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. The difference is that God’s anger is righteous; it is the correct attitude a holy God has towards evil. Reva had every right to be angry at Vader for killing her adopted family. This should have inspired her to seek justice and to fight the Empire’s oppression. Instead, her anger fueled a desire for revenge, which led her to join the galaxy’s oppressors who had caused her so much pain. Thus, the pain and anger from Reva’s past hurt led her to bring pain and suffering to others.

Hope for the Lost
Despite the focus on rage and revenge in Obi-Wan Kenobi, the series also highlights the central theme of Star Wars: hope. Luke believes there is still goodness in his father, despite all the atrocities Vader has committed, and he helps lead Vader back to the light. What about Reva? Could she return from the dark side as well? When Reva finally gains the opportunity to enact her revenge against Vader, she fails. He overpowers her and strikes her down like he did when she was a child. Since Reva cannot kill Vader, she seeks to kill Vader’s son, Luke. But when she tries, she sees a younger version of herself in Luke: an innocent, defenseless child. Reva realizes that if she kills Luke, she will become exactly like the person she hates most. So, she chooses to abandon her rage. While we do not know what will ultimately become of Reva, it seems that she has forsaken the dark side and that her path of revenge is over.

What does this teach us? No one is without hope. Hope is one of the greatest Christian virtues, as it is rooted in God’s love (1 Corinthians 13:13). Jesus offered salvation to a criminal who was crucified beside him (Luke 23:42-43). Paul was a murderer of Christians before Jesus called him on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3-5). Christ died for us when we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). We are never too far from God for him to save us, and nothing can separate us from his love (Romans 8:38-39). No matter how lost we think we are, we still have hope because of God’s great love for us.

Paul warns against seeking revenge, reminding his readers that it is up to God, who is perfectly good and just, to avenge evil (Romans 12:19). Although Reva’s anger was justified, she channeled it into enacting vengeance instead of seeking justice. Her unchecked rage almost turns her into the target of her revenge. This shows us the danger of revenge—it can create a never-ending cycle of pain and suffering. Thankfully, Reva recognizes this before it is too late, reminding us there is always a chance to turn from evil. Likewise, there is hope for salvation for any of us, no matter how lost we think we are. Why? Because Jesus’s “came to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10).

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Timothy Fox

Timothy Fox has a passion to equip the church to engage the culture. He is a part-time math teacher, full-time husband and father. He has an M.A. in Christian Apologetics from Biola University as well as an M.A. in Adolescent Education of Mathematics and a B.S. in Computer Science, both from Stony Brook University. Tim lives on Long Island, NY with his wife and children. He also blogs at freethinkingministries.com.