I have to say I was surprised that the showrunners for Obi-Wan Kenobi didn’t tease out the first confrontation between Darth Vader and Obi-Wan. Instead, we get the first (of what I hope are at least two encounters) between the former Master and Apprentice. Part III of Obi-Wan Kenobi wastes no time establishing a tone for the series moving forward and ending on a hell of a cliffhanger.
Spoilers ahead of Part III of the Disney Plus limited series Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Before I get into the meat of the episode, I want to make something clear as a fan of the Star Wars franchise: If you call yourself a fan of Star Wars and then proceed to send hurtful and racist messages to people of color like Moses Ingram, you are NOT a Star Wars fan. I think I can safely speak for the rest of the fandom when I say “get out” if that’s the way you’re going to act.
Picking up where the Part II left off, Obi-Wan Kenobi attempts unsuccessfully to commune with the spirit of his former master, Qui-Gon Jinn. This lends credence to my idea from my last recap/review that Obi-Wan has essentially cut himself off from the Force for the past ten years in-story. It’s not an uncommon thing from the Star Wars canon (both Legends and Disney canon). Jedi have the ability to cease connecting to the Force (such as what Luke Skywalker did in The Last Jedi). It makes sense that Obi-Wan, both as a response to the trauma he endured during the Clone Wars and his fateful fight with Anakin, would seek to distance himself from the Force and any connection to his past as a Jedi.
Obi-Wan and Leia land on the mining planet Mapuzo, which is currently under Imperial occupation. While the landscape is beautiful, a dark shadow looms over everything as we see the Empire abusing the local inhabitants. When the contact who is supposed to get them off-world doesn’t meet at the coordinates Obi-Wan received from Haja, Leia flags down a passing freighter, who’s pilot is more than happy to take them further down the road (and eventually sell them up the river to the Empire). There are some quiet moments between Obi-Wan and Leia, particularly the two of them empathizing with each other over their shared past as adoptees. For the first time in live-action, we get to hear Obi-Wan reminisce about a family he barely remembers. There’s a hint of regret in Ewan McGregor’s performance in this scene that I find most endearing.
On the other side of story, Hayden Christensen is back in the armor as Darth Vader. While the voicework is still handled by James Earl Jones, it is Hayden Christensen in the rest of the scenes. Watching Vader be pulled from the bacta tank and fashioned into his armor is a cool visual but also shows just how physically isolating the process is. Stuck in a suit that keeps him alive but never soothes the unbearable pain of his injuries, Vader is hate personified in Part III. Now that Vader knows Obi-Wan is alive, he commissions Reva (the Third Sister) to find Obi-Wan. The fact that Reva incapacitated the Grand Inquisitor (framing Obi-Wan for the deed) is irrelevant to Vader. It also sets up a wonderful little dynamic between the Fifth Brother and Reva. As can be expected from an organization run by the Sith, the idea of murderous competition between the Inquisitors seems to be encouraged, with an eye toward only the strongest and most devious being able to ascend the ranks. I’m not entirely convinced that Reva wants to become Grand Inquisitor, though. There’s something about her exchange with the Fifth Brother during the early parts of the episode that hint she’s after something more. What that goal is, however, is very much still up for debate.
Despite the trials of being betrayed by Freck (the freighter driver), Obi-Wan and Leia soon find themselves in the company of Tala (portrayed by guest-star Indira Varma), a member of the Imperial military who secretly helps Jedi and Force-sensitive children escape the clutches of the Empire. Earlier in the episode, Obi-Wan opines to Leia that not all people in the galaxy are good, whereas Leia (in her child-like naivete) still thinks people are inherently good. The truth, as always, is in-between those two sides of cynicism and idealism. Tala reveals that Jedi like Quinlan Voss (a legacy character from the Clone Wars that many fans have been wanting to see included in live-action for years) help people because it’s the right thing to do, which I think goes a long way to restore some of Obi-Wan’s lost faith.
That faith is tested when Vader and the Inquisitors descend on the village Tala, Leia, and Obi-Wan are hiding in. Vader begins to indiscriminately attack the populace, using Obi-Wan’s penchant for heroics to draw out his old master. Leia and Tala make their escape (which Tala later decides to abandon in order to save Obi-Wan while sending Leia on to the pilot who’ll get them off-planet). Obi-Wan, though, lures Vader away from the village and Vader dutifully obliges.
The confrontation between the two characters isn’t even a contest. Obi-Wan has allowed his skills and power to wane over the past ten years whereas Vader has been neck-deep in blood since the Empire took over the galaxy. With terrifying nods to horror classics, Vader stalks Obi-Wan, reminding his former master and friend that Obi-Wan made Vader what he is now. The fact that Vader refuses to see his own part in what happened to him is part of the tragedy of the character and I’m glad they held firm to that in the writing. Vader is at his most terrifying here, casually lighting some of the Mapuzo minerals ablaze and slowly dragging Obi-Wan through the flames. Only the intervention of Tala and NED-B (a loader droid programmed to help the underground) prevent Obi-Wan from being burned more severely.
But that’s not where the episode ends. Instead, we see Leia reach the destination where the pilot is supposed to be waiting for her. But the pilot is dead on the floor and Reva is waiting for the young Princess. I love cliffhanger endings like this.
Rather than teasing out the first confrontation between Vader and Obi-Wan, the writers decided to give us a brief moment between the two former friends turned bitter enemies. Obi-Wan is left scarred and beaten while Leia is now at the mercy of Reva, which is a fate the young Princess does not deserve. I’m excited to see where the story goes from here.
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