When And How Did Darth Vader Learn That Luke Was His Son?

Darth Vader remains one of the greatest villains in history a full 45 years removed from his debut in "Star Wars: A New Hope." Initially a brooding villain for the ages, he would later be revealed to be a deeply complex figure — a boy named Anakin Skywalker who wanted nothing more than to become a Jedi, only to be corrupted by the power of the dark side of the Force. The nature of truly peeling back the layers really comes into play in "The Empire Strikes Back" with perhaps the most famous line in cinema history — you know the one.

But that line, in light of "Obi-Wan Kenobi" getting ready to finish up its run on Disney+, raises some questions that fans may be wondering about or never truly considered: when exactly did Vader figure out that his son was alive and, moreover, when did he figure out specifically that Luke Skywalker was his son? The same question lingers with Leia Organa as well, his daughter and Luke's twin sister, who has been a huge part of "Obi-Wan Kenobi" as well. Within "Star Wars" canon lies answers to these questions and those answers could, in turn, impact how we view this show, as well as Vader's actions in general.

A Darth Vader comic holds the key

Marvel Comics began publishing "Star Wars" comics again in 2015 a few years after Disney purchased Lucasfilm, looking to keep the brand in-house since both companies existed under the same roof. One of the key books in that initial lineup was "Darth Vader" by writer Kieron Gillen and artist Salvador Larroca. It is within the pages of "Darth Vader" #6 that a gigantic moment in "Star Wars" history comes into focus as we actually see when Vader discovers that Luke Skywalker is his son. This issue, which essentially concludes the first arc of the series, is set between the events of "A New Hope" and "Empire Strikes Back,"

It is well worth remembering that, as far as Vader knew at the end of "Revenge of the Sith," he had killed Padme and his child did not survive. It is also very important to point out that he had no idea Padme was pregnant with twins. This will come into play as it relates to the Leia situation. However, this issue reveals that Boba Fett was sent on a mission by Vader to find out more about the Rebel pilot who destroyed the Death Star and the bounty hunter does indeed deliver the goods in the form of a name: Skywalker.

This sends Vader into a rage, with his fist clenched, nearly breaking the glass in front of him in the ship he's currently aboard. We also see flashbacks to the climax of "Revenge of the Sith," with Vader playing everything over again in his head with this new revelation. As if this all weren't clear enough, Gillen puts a button on the whole thing by having Vader actually say out loud, "I have a son," making his revelation crystal clear. This is a defining moment for the character and the franchise at large.

But what about Leia?

This realization that his son was alive informs so much. It explains how Vader knew Luke was his son, resulting in the epic "I am your father" line in "Empire." It also does a lot to explain why he wanted to convert Luke and overthrow Palpatine. The nature of the relationship between the Emperor and Vader is, in a word, complicated. So, during the "Obi-Wan Kenobi" timeline, which is set ten years after "Revenge of the Sith," Vader still believes that his bloodline died with Padme, leaving him with nothing but darkness to turn to, channeling all of that rage into ruling the galaxy. He doesn't know Luke is on his former home of Tatooine growing up with Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru, nor does he have the slightest clue about Leia and her connection to the Skywalker bloodline. Little did Vader know just how wrong he was about the nature of his family.

Unlike Luke, however, it would not be until much later in the timeline that Vader would find out the truth about Leia, whom he viewed as part of the Rebel Alliance and a traitor. It is not truly until the final confrontation in "Return of the Jedi" when Luke, far more advanced in the ways of the Jedi, confronts his father once again. During the battle, Vader says "your feelings for them are strong" relating to his Rebel friends. But then he adds the ever-important line, "especially for ... your sister."

It is here, with Vader reading the thoughts of his son in a key moment, that he learns that he has a daughter as well. Later, when Vader is dying he says to Luke, "Tell your sister, you were right," referring to the fact that Luke said he sensed good in his father despite the fact that he was heading up the Empire alongside Palpatine.

The Obi-Wan Kenobi of it all

With Leia, Luke, and Darth Vader all being major characters in "Obi-Wan Kenboi," the show is having to tread lightly as the "Star Wars" canon is pretty explicit. We know exactly when Vader discovered that Luke was his son, and we know when he figured out that Leia was connected to him as well. It was years removed from the events of this show and that is incredibly important. This to say, the show can't really see Vader making any connections in this department or it would contradict what already exists. That having been said, the people behind the show have made it quite clear that they are being respectful of canon as it exists. That explains why Darth Maul is not the villain of the show, as his journey with Obi-Wan ended in "Star Wars Rebels." So, it's unlikely these revelations as they exist will be retconned. Then again, stranger things have happened.

"Obi-Wan Kenobi" is streaming now on Disney+.