The Obi-Wan Kenobi series has garnered much attention, positive and negative, and it’s added several wrinkles to the Star Wars canon. One element where Obi-Wan Kenobi has succeeded involves young Leia and Obi-Wan. The crux of the series is that Obi-Wan must rescue Leia from the clutches of the Empire. During this series, her bond with Obi-Wan, or “Ben,” results in something surprising: It legitimizes the naming of Leia’s future son, Ben “Kylo Ren” Solo.
Thanks to the wonderful acting of the leading duo, audiences now understand why Leia would name her firstborn after a man she seemingly had no real connection with in the original trilogy. In Obi-Wan Kenobi, the exiled Jedi becomes Leia’s first hero and is the spark that began her journey as one of the iconic heroes of Star Wars.
With its initial announcement, Obi-Wan Kenobi got fans excited for Darth Vader clashing with Obi-Wan Kenobi again, but no one suspected the surprisingly emotional and effective father/daughter day plot beats with Ben Kenobi and Leia Organa.
Ewan McGregor plays a man full of regret trying to do his best for the little one he has been tasked to protect. Meanwhile, Vivien Lyra Blair is the epitome of precociousness as a young Princess Leia. Already there are the signs of a leader, someone that takes charge and doesn’t hold her tongue.
In a short time, Ben and Leia form a strong connection. From the way they glance at each other as they try to stay hidden, there is a kinship similar to Obi-Wan’s brotherhood with Anakin. When they are masquerading as a father and daughter, Leia believes for an achingly brief moment that he could be her father when he laments about her dead mother. It’s a clear sign of his respect for Padme.
Ben begins as her rescuer but evolves into something akin to a surrogate parent. He teaches her valuable lessons about life when asked about the Force.
“Have you ever been afraid of the dark? How does it feel when you turn on the light?” Ben asks. “ I feel safe,” Leia responds. “Yes, it feels like that,” Ben explains.
This all culminates in their final interaction in the final episode as he divulges to her priceless information about her parents, “You are wise, discerning, kind-hearted. These are qualities that came from your mother. But you are also passionate and fearless, forthright. And these are gifts from your father. Both were exceptional people who bore an exceptional daughter.”
Star Wars had long established Obi-Wan’s obligation to Anakin Skywalker’s son, Luke Skywalker, but with the Obi-Wan Kenobi series, we finally see how Obi-Wan had an obligation to Anakin’s daughter, Leia Organa, as well. The series also gives a lost Jedi a chance to live again and make amends for at least some of his mistakes. He is able to pour the love and warmth he wished he had given to his (figurative) brother. He connects with her through a mutual longing of those they have both lost.
And this changes Leia too. When the series begins she is brimming with energy, restless and longing for purpose. By the end of the series, she is given that purpose, and she understands what she can do in her part of the galaxy.
When you put this new context together with Star Wars: A New Hope, everything that Obi-Wan Kenobi has done for Leia, her family, and the galaxy is quite phenomenal. For Leia to name her son Ben Solo is the greatest honor, with Obi-Wan’s memory able to live on in someone she loves. It is a sweet and moving gesture, and it retroactively addresses the questions that lingered around the Ben Solo name. After all, why name your child after someone who was important to someone else? This also adds an additional layer of tragedy to the character of Ben Solo. Someone named after one of the greatest Jedi of all time falls spectacularly to the Dark Side.
Adding new layers to an already established narrative dynamic can be dangerous. You run the risk of shattering the foundation that was already there. And Obi-Wan Kenobi did tumble as a series with juggling new canon several times. However, when every element syncs, from the writing, to the acting, you can have these beautiful and moving connections that reinforce everything that is in their orbit. Ben Solo is not just a nice nod to a character from the original trilogy anymore. He is the bearer of a name held by a man who meant the world to a young, passionate woman who needed guidance.