For one of cinema’s greatest bad guys, Darth Vader has never really been that bad. Despite choking out a few of his own men and ordering planet strikes from a distance, the Vader we see in the original Star Wars trilogy isn’t anywhere near as evil as his reputation might have you believe. Obi-Wan Kenobi, though, is changing all of that, filling in the blanks to finally show us why everyone in the galaxy runs a mile whenever they hear him wheezing.
Part III of the Disney+ series has less to prove than its opening episodes, and that breathing space buys the show a bit of much-needed time. Little Princess Leia (Vivien Lyra Blair) is still on the run with Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor), and the Third Sister (Moses Ingram), desperate to make a name for herself after gutting the Grand Inquisitor, is still hunting them down.
Last week’s Vader tease re-opens the story this week with a full look at Darth’s dressing room, before we see him fully suited-up and sat in his volcano lair barking orders to his Inquisitors. With James Earl Jones (!) back providing Darth’s iconic voice, Hayden Christensen ends up doing a lot less work for his credit (presumably he’s still the guy behind the mask?). But, crucially, Obi-Wan Kenobi has already given us the Vader we’ve been waiting 45 years to see.
Obi-Wan, meanwhile, is still finding his path. Not yet the wise old Jeremy Corbyn-type of the original trilogy, but still a much calmer version of the hotshot Jedi we saw in the prequels, his default mood here is grumpiness.
— Obi-Wan Kenobi (@obiwankenobi) June 1, 2022
Hitching a ride with a star-nosed mole man (voiced by Zach Braff, who, for some reason, does a perfect Seth Rogen impression), Obi and Leia trust the wrong rat and end up in a killer roadblock scene that sees undercover rebel Tia (Indira Varma from Game Of Thrones) save the day. There are plenty of nods to the Old West in episode three, but many more to modern frontiers: the border crossing scenes are straight out of Sicario, while Tia’s network of refugee safe houses is an Underground Railway in all but the name.
Tia comes in strong here as a role model for future badass Leia (and new silent droid NED-8, who steals the show without saying a word), but everything inevitably builds towards the face-off between Obi-Wan and Vader. Meeting one another in an empty quarry, the first new showdown of the series is already better than the CG overkill of the pair’s last fight at the end of Revenge Of The Sith.
It might be a bit much, though, to call this encounter ‘a fight’. While Vader has spent the last 10 years honing his powers, Obi has been working in a fish factory – so he doesn’t really stand much of a chance. Toying with his old mentor, Vader easily overwhelms him and instantly starts dragging him through a fire. Ruthless in the extreme, whatever grain of good Luke Skywalker eventually pulls out of Vader is buried deep here, and Obi-Wan barely escapes with his skin after Tia and NED-8 step in in the nick of time.
Leaving us on a cliffhanger as Leia runs straight into the arms of the enemy, Obi-Wan Kenobi reaches its halfway mark on a high: Obi-Wan finally has something to fight for, and the Third Sister has everything to lose. Better still, Vader is back and he’s badder than ever.
- Obi-Wan briefly tries to contact his old mentor Qui-Gon Jinn at the top of the episode. Will we see Liam Neeson make a future cameo as a Force ghost?
- The mention of Obi-Wan’s brother will send the fandom into a frenzy – although canon lore previously has Obi-Wan mistaking Owen Lars for his own family, so we’re unlikely to get another Kenobi in the series.
- “Only when the eyes are closed can you truly see the way,” reads the graffiti in Tia’s safehouse – giving Obi-Wan the inspiration for his most important piece of advice, delivered when Luke later tees himself up for his Death Star run.
‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ is streaming now on Disney+