The penultimate episode of Obi-Wan Kenobi was released today, and there was very little promotion of the episode in the week leading up to it by Star Wars. The reason why is evident: there’s very little about it that wouldn’t be ‘spoilery.’
So if you haven’t watched it yet, don’t read any further, as this review contains full spoilers about the episode. We see Darth Vader and the Empire hunting Obi-Wan Kenobi and the rebel cell helping him, and in the process there’s a pretty compelling story being told.
Let’s dive in to our review!
On Coruscant sometime prior to Attack of the Clones, Anakin Skywalker greets his master, Obi-Wan Kenobi, for a sparring session in the Jedi Temple. The episode returns to this duel several times, each time using it as a framing device to add context to the actions of Kenobi and Darth Vader, showing how they can anticipate the others’ moves.
In the present day of the series, Darth Vader stands on the bridge of his Star Destroyer as it nears Jabiim, and he knights Reva as the Grand Inquisitor. On Jabiim, Roken and the rest of The Path (including Haja Estree) prepare to get a group of civilians and Force sensitives to safety, after which they will get Leia to safety. Before they can do so, however, the Empire arrives. Lola (Leia’s droid that was hacked by Reva) disables the power, trapping the rebels in the base on Jabiim as the Empire lands their forces outside and begins assaulting the door to break it down. Obi-Wan rallies the troops inside and says they need to hold off long enough to escape. Leia volunteers to climb into the small hatch and repair the door, which Kenobi trusts her to do.
Obi-Wan decides to buy some time by asking to speak with Reva. They speak through the door, and Obi-Wan acknowledges that Reva must have been a youngling in the Temple the night Order 66 happened, and that’s how she knew Anakin was Vader. She says that they thought Anakin was coming to help them, but he killed all her friends – her family – and she pretended to be dead. She asks where Obi-Wan was while his padawan was killing them all. He concludes that she isn’t actually helping Vader, but hunting him, and offers her the chance to help him do so. She says she doesn’t need his help, and uses her lightsaber to cut down the door.
The Imperial troopers converge on the base, and Kenobi and members of The Path fight to hold them off as others retreat into the hangar. In the process, Tala is shot, as is her droid, NED-B. Using his final strength left, NED-B shields Tala from the blasterfire while Kenobi fights to get to her. But realizing the severity of her wounds, Tala pulls out a thermal detonator and uses it to sacrifice herself while taking out some of the Imperial troops. With Kenobi devastated by this, Vader realizes that he is already theirs and orders Reva to halt the attack. Obi-Wan surrenders, telling the others to get to the transport. He is taken before Reva, where he makes a final offer to her to join him. He tells her that he’s actually bringing Vader to her. She sees the opportunity, and as Vader arrives Kenobi escapes from the troopers. Vader storms the base and finds a transport leaving, which he pulls out of the sky and breaks apart… only to discover it was the wrong transport as he watches the other one, carrying Kenobi, Leia, and the rest of The Path, flees safely.
Reva attempts to sneak up on Vader to kill him, but he’s ready for it and stops her with the Force. Using nothing but the Force, Vader counters every attack. He takes Reva’s lightsaber and duels her with it, and eventually stabs her through the gut like he did in the Temple during Order 66. Vader says she is foolish to think he didn’t see it coming. The Grand Inquisitor then appears and takes his title back from her. They leave her behind to die, but she finds Kenobi’s damaged comlink lying on the ground, which has a message from Bail Organa mentioning Owen and the boy on Tatooine. At this, Kenobi – aboard The Path transport, with hyperdrive damaged – senses that something isn’t right. The last shots in the episode are of the Lars Homestead, and of Luke sleeping peacefully…
This was another brilliant episode, but that’s no surprise by this point. Maybe the biggest thrill of all, though, was seeing Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker again! The episode was a masterclass in storytelling, weaving together these flashbacks to illustrate and shed light on what’s happening in the present day of the series. The training duel is referenced five times throughout the episode, each one perfectly timed and placed within the larger context.
1. The first flashback to this fight is the beginning, used to establish the close relationship between master and apprentice, when days were better. The sudden cut to Darth Vader aboard his Star Destroyer perfectly captures the heartbreak of what has been lost.
2. The second flashback to the fight comes as the Empire arrives at Jabiim and Kenobi knows Vader doesn’t have the patience for a siege and will instead launch an attack. Roken asks how he knows this, and we see the continuation of their training duel. Obi-Wan lectures his padawan on being too aggressive, saying that, “A Jedi’s goal is to defend life, not take it.” But Anakin responds back, “Mercy doesn’t defeat an enemy, Master.” We’ve grown to know that sentiment well from watching Anakin, which is a warning about what he will eventually become. And here, Obi-Wan knows Anakin well enough to know what he’s going to do. He’s not going to show mercy; he’s going to press the attack.
3. The third flashback comes as Vader orders Reva to stand down, saying that “Kenobi is already ours.” We then see Anakin gain the upper hand on Obi-Wan in their duel, urging his master to admit defeat. In this sequence, we see Anakin employ a series of furious slashes down with his lightsaber – which is the exact same thing Vader did in his duel against Obi-Wan on Mapuzo in this series, and the same move Luke will use to defeat Vader years later in Return of the Jedi. We see that this flashback also informs Obi-Wan’s actions too, as he realizes that “it’s over” and that Vader wants him.
4. The fourth flashback is used after Obi-Wan speaks with Reva, having allowed himself to be taken prisoner and given up his weapon to Haja. He tells Reva that he’s bringing Vader to her, and when she asks why he thinks that Vader won’t see it coming, Obi-Wan responds, “because all he’ll see is me.” In their training duel, Anakin manages to disarm Kenobi, saying, “There. Your weapon’s gone. It’s over.” He’s clearly quite happy about it, but Obi-Wan says, “Your need for victory, Anakin, it blinds you.” That frustrates his padawan. And it sets up the fact that Vader is still blinded by his need for victory.
So the fifth and final flashback comes after Vader catches the wrong transport, inadvertently allowing the right one to escape. We see a defenseless Obi-Wan maneuver around Anakin and use the Force to grab his lightsaber. This leads to one final lecture: “You’re a great warrior, Anakin. But your need to prove yourself is your undoing. Until you overcome it, a Padawan you will still be.” Obi-Wan knows Anakin well-enough to know that his lust for power has blinded him, that his need to prove himself is his weakness.
This also helps explain why Vader let Obi-Wan leave after burning him in Part 3. It’s not like Vader was wanting Obi-Wan to leave, but some people wondered why he didn’t do more to try to stop Tala from rescuing him. But if it wasn’t already obvious, this is why. “Well, I think that came as a shock to Vader to see how disconnected from the Force Obi-Wan is at this point,” Hayden Christensen said in a recent interview. “I think Vader wants Obi-Wan to be able to put up more of a fight.” Vader feels an incessant need to prove himself, and that’s primarily true when it comes to Kenobi. This is the man who, in Vader’s mind, took everything from him. Earlier in the season he told Obi-Wan “I am what you made me,” and we see that it’s actually true. The Darth Vader that we see in this series was trained by Obi-Wan Kenobi. But it was also Obi-Wan who took everything from him. In Revenge of the Sith, Anakin thinks that Obi-Wan turned Padmé against him (which sheds more light on why he thinks Kenobi is just doing it again here with Reva, telling her “He was wise to use you against me”). Anakin thinks that Obi-Wan robbed him of everything, and that obviously includes his limbs and livelihood after his defeat on Mustafar too. Vader needs to prove himself against his former Master, and Obi-Wan uses that against him.
What is interesting is that I think this line is intended to help connect to A New Hope as well. In that film, when Vader faces Obi-Wan again he says, “When I left you I was but the learner. Now I am the master.” I’m still thinking – hoping – that there will be another duel between the two of them in this series, but for the first time I’m actually wondering if it’ll happen. I’m not sure what to think about that, but regardless, I think this episode is intended to show us that Vader is still the learner. Because he’s still exploited by, defeated by, his need to prove himself, and Obi-Wan told Anakin years before that, “Until you overcome it, a Padawan you will still be.” He hasn’t overcome it by this point, so he knows deep down that he’s still the learner.
In all of this, what this series – and this episode in particular – does really well is showing how Darth Vader still is Anakin Skywalker. For as much as Vader wants to think that they are separate people, and for as much as there’s a certain point of view where that’s actually true, this is nonetheless still Anakin. There’s an arrogance that is a weakness, one that typically hides behind brute strength and natural ability but that can be exploited by a more powerful, thoughtful person like Kenobi. Because he too is still the same person, even with all the pain and discouragement and loss and grief. He is still the kind-hearted Jedi Master who looks to help others, and who always seeks to protect life rather than take it. He got the reputation of “the Negotiator” during the Clone Wars because he would rather talk than fight, despite the fact that he was a skilled warrior. And in this episode we see that same Jedi: he tries to talk with Reva instead of fighting her, and he only fights in defense of other life. He willingly surrenders his weapon at one point because he knows there are other ways to win besides fighting. That is an extremely Jedi-like thing to do, exemplified years later by Luke Skywalker when he surrendered his weapon in Return of the Jedi and then didn’t need it in The Last Jedi. In one situation he saved the Resistance; in the other, he saved his father. Luke bested Vader in combat, yes, but Anakin was redeemed by Luke declining to fight any longer.
Of course, Vader also declines to use his lightsaber in this episode, but it’s a contrast to Kenobi. Vader doesn’t ignite his own lightsaber against Reva not because he’s being Jedi-like, but because of his arrogance and his desire to simply toy with her. This is Vader at his strongest, using the Force at will. He rips a transport out of the sky like it’s nothing. He tears that transport apart with the Force. He stops each one of Reva’s attacks with nothing more than his hand, using the Force to counter it like it’s a walk on the beach (although he wouldn’t like the sand). The only time he ignites a saber is when he actually uses Reva’s saber, which only serves all the more to highlight his raw power and his arrogance. Vader thinks Reva is so beneath him so as to not even be worth his time. Vader knows about Reva’s betrayal – he’s just been using her all along (I think of Snoke’s line from The Last Jedi when he says, “A cur’s weakness, properly manipulated, can be a sharp tool”) – but he doesn’t really care. All he cares about is Kenobi. So Obi-Wan was right, in a sense, that Vader would only see him.
Speaking of Reva, she really shines in this episode, with Moses Ingram giving her best performance as the character. It’s been a slower build for her character – because this is a series, a storytelling medium many Star Wars fans online seem to not comprehend – but this week it all begins to culminate. In Part 4, Reva tells Leia that the braver she seems the more scared she actually is, and I commented that I think that’s true of Reva as well. She comes off as bold and brash and arrogant and aggressive, but it’s masking a deeper fear. We learn what that is in this episode. As we figured, the opening scene of this series had a purpose behind just highlighting the fall of the Jedi: Reva was one of the younglings in the group. And the kids were killed by Anakin Skywalker (remember when people were upset that she knew who Vader was, and this always seemed like a reasonable guess as to why? Once again, Star Wars fans online need to grasp how a series actually tells stories). She thought he was coming to help them, but he killed them instead. We still don’t know exactly how Reva came to be an Inquisitor – did Vader just take her even though she was playing dead? – but we do know what happened to her. It explains why she’s so obsessed with hunting Kenobi: not only does she partly blame him for what happened too, but she knows that is what Vader wants. And she’s just looking for the chance to get even with Vader. She’s in no means a hero, but she’s also not loyal to Vader or the Empire either. Perhaps that’s why the other Inquisitors think she’s weak.
Oh, and speaking of the other Inquisitors? The Grand Inquisitor is still alive, just like we all figured (again… Star Wars fans on the internet… relax and allow the story to play out). His quick arrival here after Reva’s defeat suggests to me that he was actually aware of Vader’s plan to use Reva to lead him to Kenobi, but that the Grand Inquisitor title was never a serious gesture. He’s still alive, having survived a lightsaber through his stomach – and it seems that will be true of Reva as well, as she seems to live and will likely hunt down Luke Skywalker. Her hearing “Owen” sheds light on her interaction with him in the first episode, so she knows exactly where to look. And as the end of the episode foreshadowed, Luke is in danger.
Which I think is actually fitting, if done right. Vader can’t learn about it, obviously, but Reva is now an outcast, someone with no loyalties to Vader. If she learns about it, then perhaps it’ll work. But it also will likely help explain why Obi-Wan leaves The Path and doesn’t stay in the fight but instead returns to Tatooine, only this time with a purpose and not an exile: because he is reminded of the urgent need to protect Luke. As an aside here, I absolutely loved how Bail Organa told Obi-Wan that, if he didn’t hear from him soon, he would head to Tatooine to help Owen raise the boy. It’s heartbreaking to think about, since Bail fears his daughter is dead, but it shows how committed Bail is to protecting the children of Anakin Skywalker. If Leia is gone, Bail will still commit himself to the task, only with the boy instead. I loved that. And Obi-Wan sensing Luke is in danger is a nice way to show his growth, because he didn’t sense that Leia was in the first episode. He’s grown.
This review has now already gone far too long, but I haven’t even mentioned Tala yet. She quickly became a very compelling character, and it’s proof of how well this series has done it when her death is a truly emotional gut-punch. She told Obi-Wan earlier in the episode that she was part of an Imperial crew that rounded up Force sensitives, but she couldn’t stop them from dying – so now she spends her time trying to protect them. “You’re right, Ben,” she tells him. “Some things you can’t forget. But you can fight to make them better.” That’s what Tala did, all the way to the very end, and it’s what Obi-Wan has learned. In many ways, that’s a summary of the series: Obi-Wan can’t forget the past and is still haunted by it, but instead of giving up he can choose to fight to make it better.
So, with one episode left, I can’t wait to see how this series wraps up. We’ll return with Obi-Wan Kenobi to where it all started, on Tatooine, as he returns to protecting Luke Skywalker. Previously, he did it based on nothing more than rote duty, bound there by fear. But through what’s happened in this series, he’ll return with a resolved purpose to continue the fight in the best way he knows how, protecting the son of Skywalker until the time comes where a new hope will rise to make the galaxy better.