Regarding the jedi masters’ intentions in ROTJ, I had never given it much thought to be honest. I don’t think I even realised there was a debate until recently. To me it was clear that both Obi-Wan and Yoda wanted Luke to kill Vader, for several reasons:
Obi-Wan says that they have already lost when Luke says he can’t kill his own father. He then shuts down the idea of redemption when Luke suggests there is still good in Vader. This would be some really bizarre reverse psychology if Obi-Wan actually intended for Luke to somehow stop Vader peacefully. Also, this is not totally solid as it was cut, but in the ROTJ script there is more dialogue in this scene and Obi-Wan says quite explicitly that Luke is to ‘destroy’ Vader.
Yoda’s intentions are less clear in dialogue but I still get the impression that he wanted Vader to be killed. He says it was ‘unfortunate’ for Luke to find out Vader was his father, and considers the knowledge a burden. This could really only be the case if the intention was for Luke to kill Vader. If the plan was for Luke to somehow turn his father instead, knowing about him in advance would have been more of an asset than a hindrance.
Lastly, the dramatic tension of the film hinges on Luke believing in Vader’s redemption when literally no-one else would. He manages to force a resolution without resorting to killing, defying all expectations in the process. It’s bizarre to me to think his mentors secretly wanted the same thing, and they just refused to say that or worse heavily imply the opposite.
I addressed that already. He’s saying that Luke has to be willing to kill him if it comes down to it. He doesn’t intend him to stop him peacefully but we don’t know that he intends him to stop him at all. They’re sending Luke to Vader to face his fear and become a Jedi, not to kill the enemy faction’s leader and win the war.
I don’t see how that follows with the burden. It’s unfortunate and it’s a burden because it’s really harsh to find out that your father is Darth Vader regardless of what you do. It’s painful. It never even occurred to me that he would be saying that strictly in a tactical sense of how Luke is going to fight or neutralize Vader. That’s not how he delivers it.
The dramatic tension comes from a lot of things. There’s the Battle of Endor, of course. On the other side it’s mainly about Luke believing in Vader’s redemption while Vader himself doesn’t. Obi Wan and Yoda might have a pessimistic outlook on that but they’re not telling Luke not to try. They never explicitly say that Luke needs to kill Vader and not to try anything. The important part is that Luke goes to face Vader again regardless of the outcome. That’s what is holding him back from being a Jedi, which is what Yoda says.
Just look at what Obi-wan says in 2 duels with Anakin/Vader. “I will do what I must.” That is what Obi-wan expects of Luke in confronting Vader and Palpatine.
- That was made after Return of the Jedi.
- Return of the Jedi is long after that part in the story, after they’ve already tried to kill them and failed. In fact it makes even less sense for them to tell Luke to go kill both Vader and Palpatine when they couldn’t, and Luke is barely trained.
- Killing Vader and Palpatine has no effect on the Battle of Endor, so it’s not about restoring the Republic or anything.
- Obi Wan doesn’t even “do what [he] must” in the Obi Wan show!
Well, if you are going to ignore the PT, not much I can say. I feel the PT is crucial to understanding the motives of a Jedi.
But here is the key.
Stopped they must be. On this all depends. Only a fully trained Jedi Knight with the Force as his ally will conquer Vader and his Emperor. If you end your training now, if you choose the quick and easy path, as Vader did, you will become an agent of evil.
And sacrifice Han and Leia?
If you honor what they fight for…yes!
If you choose to face Vader, you will do it alone. I cannot interfere.
Artoo, fire up the converters.
Artoo whistles a happy reply.
Luke, don’t give in to hate - that leads to the dark side.
Strong is Vader. Mind what you have learned. Save you it can.
I will. And I’ll return. I promise.
Note it is about conquering Vader and the Emperor, not killing them. Don’t give into hate, that leads to the Dark Side.
And then in ROTJ
Then I am a Jedi?
Ohhh. Not yet. One thing remains: Vader. You must confront Vader. Then, only then, a Jedi will you be. And confront him you will.
Remember, a Jedi’s strength flows from the Force. But beware. Anger, fear, aggression. The dark side are they. Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny.
So, did they expect Luke to Kill Vader? If he had to yes. But showing compassion is part of being a Jedi. Compassion is why neither Obi-wan nor Luke killed Vader. If killing him comes from fear, anger, or aggression, they it would be wrong to give into that.
But the PT makes it even more clear that a Jedi should not just indiscriminately kill. Anakin knew this when he had Count Dooku at his mercy. But Palpatine egged him on to do it.
So we come back to Obi-wan saying he would do what he must and the wording of what Obi-wan and Yoda said to Luke. They did not say to go and kill Vader. They said he must face him. That Vader and the Emperor needed to be conquered. They expected him to go, act like a Jedi, and do what he must to achieve that goal. If that included killing them, he had to be willing to do so. If that meant showing compassion, then that would be what they expected. Obi-wan was ready to kill Vader if he had to, but he never had to. He defeated Vader without having to kill him. Leaving his redemption for his son to achieve.