This review contains full spoilers for episode three of Obi-Wan Kenobi, now available to view on Disney+.
Episode 3 of Obi-Wan Kenobi gives us what we’ve been waiting for. The return of Vader thrills as he’s reunited with his former master for the first time in 10 years, and displays the brutality that comes with his legend. It’s a fantastic sequence that follows an uneven beginning to the chapter, but ultimately excites as to what may be lying ahead.
As we reach the halfway point in the season bridges are starting to be built, not only between the beginning and end of this chapter in Obi-Wan’s life, but also the wider gap between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. Kenobi is the catalyst of Vader’s revenge and the source of Leia’s hope – the balance in the force personified – which requires him to remain level-headed when all around him shifts. It’s something he struggles with as the stakes become increasingly more personal.
Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi’s Great Moments
It’s easy to draw comparisons with The Mandalorian, what with it being another Star Wars show about a veteran warrior escorting a child to safety, but this episode felt more akin to Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Not just in its American South-looking location either, but in the way Obi-Wan recalls how the world flourished before Leia was born. This more sombre approach to storytelling fits perfectly with where we find both our lead character and the Galaxy, both at their lowest points.
The hold the Imperials have during this era is put on full display in both the impressively imposing looking architecture of the Inquisitor base, to more subtle – and arguably chilling – displays of evil infiltrating society like a worn flag on the back of a cart. However, in the darkness is where the light shines brightest, as sitting in this cart gives Obi-Wan a chance to reminisce about both his and Leia’s lost family. It’s a touching moment that further strengthens the bond between Leia and her new friend Ben.
Shortly after we are swiftly reminded that nowhere is truly safe for them. Obi-Wan reluctantly steps into the action, looking every inch a man who’s seen too many battles and would happily put his fighting days behind him, wearing his robes like a suit jacket that’s seen too many funerals. That’s not to say he doesn’t live up to the legend when called upon though, using his uncivilised blaster to full effect. And while it may not have been at the hand of his lightsaber, we do see a stormtrooper cut in half by a laser beam, which is always enjoyable. Obi-Wan deals with these troopers fairly easily but don’t you worry – they’ll be back, and in greater numbers.
That was really my biggest criticism of Obi-Wan as a show so far – its action. The opening half is quite low-octane, and while there’s no comically slow chase scene this time, the highlight is a couple of underwhelming blaster fights. The plot plods along, more concerned with reinforcing bonds established in the first two chapters than hitting plot beats. But all that changes in an absolutely thrilling final third.
Vader breathes new life into the show the moment he arrives. The silhouette is unmistakable and the darkness that fills it unrelenting. It’s Hayden Christensen as we’ve never seen him before, brutal and unforgiving as he brushes townsfolk aside, using his signature force choke and snapping necks like he’s popping bubble wrap. It’s a stark and savage display of power and something we’ve not really seen since the thrilling climax of Rogue One.
Then comes the moment he unveils his red lightsaber for the first time for Obi-Wan to see – a moment that confirms all the fears he had about his former Padawan. The fight is beautifully staged as red and blue cut through the darkness, echoing Empire’s iconic misty duel between Vader and Luke. The choreography hits a satisfying sweet spot between the restraint of the original trilogy and excess of the prequels.
It all culminates in Vader giving Kenobi a taste of his own medicine, letting him writhe in the flames like his master once left him. It serves as a small taste of revenge for Anakin and it’s bold for a show to use such a huge moment like the duel in the darkness so early in its run rather than hold it until the end. It’s exciting, because we don’t yet know what else the showrunners have in store to top this with.
The threads of iconic Star Wars themes weaved through the soundtrack by Loki composer Natalie Holt works to stellar effect, and the moment it cuts out to let Vader’s breathing provide the base of the score is wonderful. It’s a fantastic marriage of familiar, nostalgic Star Wars and something new and exciting, reflecting the show as a whole. This is of course in no small part thanks to Deborah Chow’s brilliant direction over the course of all three of these first episodes. Walking that balance between a slowly unravelling plot and action, while leaving time for pockets of genuine emotional impact, is no mean feat, but one Chow pulls off with consistent elegance.