When Luke Skywalker first meets old Ben Kenobi in Star Wars: A New Hope, he asks the hermit if someone named “Obi-Wan” is dead. Ben replies, “He’s not dead, not yet,” and eventually reveals, “He’s me!” But in the most recent episode of Star Wars Rebels — “Twin Suns” — Hera and the gang think Obi-Wan is dead. But why?
Mild spoilers for Star Wars Rebels “Twin Suns” ahead.
Before Ezra heads on his mission to find Master Kenobi in “Twin Suns,” Hera says, “Senator Organa confirmed his death.” Obviously, Hera along with Kanan and seemingly the rest of the Rebellion have been lied to by Bail Organa and Mon Mothma, because not only does Obi-Wan show up in this episode, but obviously because he doesn’t die until sacrificing himself to Darth Vader a few years later. (Even then, he’s still around, showing up as a ghost to chat with Luke and Yoda in later films.) Ignorant of all of this, Hera assures Ezra that Obi-Wan wouldn’t sit out helping the Rebels saying, “If he were alive do you think he’d be hiding on some backwater world instead of helping us?” Yep. That’s exactly what we think he would be doing: hiding.
In Rogue One, Bail Organa and Mon Mothma chat about an old Jedi, definitely making it clear they both know Obi-Wan is alive, meaning that this stuff on Rebels about people thinking he’s dead is by design. Part of this is because Obi-Wan has been shamed into hiding. In Star Wars #15 of the current canon Marvel comic books, it was made specifically clear that Obi-Wan is told to stay away from Luke and not train him as a Jedi. Basically, Owen Lars (Anakin’s half-brother by marriage) thinks Luke will get killed the second he gets involved in any kind of life outside of farming. So, part of Obi-Wan’s anonymity is an extension of extra caution to protect Luke from literally everything.
Even at the time of Rogue One, the Rebel Alliance isn’t openly defying the Empire in the political arenas. In fact, the democratic government doesn’t formally dissolve until halfway through the original film, meaning Senator Bail Organa had to keep a lot of stuff under his hat. Apparently, this includes making everyone think Obi-Wan and Yoda are both dead. In Obi-Wan’s case, it makes a certain amount of sense, since he’s linked to keeping a Luke a secret. But this plan is a little shoddy: Why let Leia run around in the open? They think it’s okay just because they changed her last name?
Also, what’s Yoda’s excuse for hiding? Just ‘cause he’s tired? Did Yoda and Obi-Wan use the death of all the Jedi as an excuse to retire? Bail, Yoda, and Obi-Wan’s scheme isn’t exactly the witness protection program, mostly because the only person who changes their last name is baby Leia.
The real answer for all these hiding-out shenanigans is that Yoda and Obi-Wan were waiting around for the plots of the regular movies to happen. But, until that does happen, it’s probably a kindness that people like Hera think they’re dead. Otherwise, she and all the other Rebels would be super-pissed that the most powerful dudes in the galaxy were just chilling out in huts doing practically nothing.