Spoiler warning … this recap is for people who have been watching Obi-Wan Kenobi on Disney+. Do not read unless you have seen episodes one to three.
Expectation v reality is a funny thing. In these days of enhanced internet hype, online engagement with teasers and trailers seems as important as the TV show or film itself. Never mind how good a series is, did the trailer break the 24-hour record for YouTube views? I’m as guilty of boarding the hype train as anyone else and I have been burned in the past (not like Obi-Wan in this episode, more of which later). As a result, I’ve tried to become less susceptible to the whole hoopla.
In Obi-Wan Kenobi’s case – alongside the diminishing returns of the big-screen instalments and oddness of The Book of Boba Fett – I greeted each carefully drip-fed nugget of news, speculation or leaked image of Darth Vader with a giant shrug, expecting the series to be nothing but a disappointment. I fully expected that seeing the baddest man in the galaxy sparking up that red lightsaber once again would leave me cold, nothing more than an excuse to sell more toys. And yet here I am, writing breathless blogs on the internet immediately after seeing Part III in which I can barely contain my excitement about Big Bad Vader tearing it up. Consider me impressed.
I mean … how good was that? Far, far better than I had dared imagine. Of course, just because your very low expectations were exceeded doesn’t mean something was great, and repeated viewings will help make up my mind for sure, but I think Part III was brilliant.
To the beginning
We started with Obi-Wan kneeling in meditation, doing his best to reach the spirit of Qui-Gon Jinn, but only really succeeding in going over the most painful moments of his life. I’m still confident he’ll find some clarity and commune with his former master, giving us the Liam Neeson cameo we never knew we wanted. I wonder how he feels now, given his insistence on training Anakin against the wishes of the Jedi council.
There’s no harmony among the Inquisitors, either, with the Third Sister and the Fifth Brother vying for the top spot. I still don’t think the Grand Inquisitor is dead, and Vader will know the truth – I think he’s merely using the title as a carrot to dangle in front of Reva. Office politics and promotions in Star Wars. What next, tea-point chat and a whip-round for a new baby in the team?
Reva’s reaction to seeing the Jedi logo on the tunnel entrance was confirmation, if it were needed, that she was the youngling we saw escaping the temple in Part I, although whether she has a closer connection to Obi-Wan remains to be seen. My hunch is no, she doesn’t, but she used to see him in the corridors and holds him responsible for not stopping Anakin and letting the Jedi fall.
Next up, Mapuzo, a once great planet turned mining system, stripped of joy by the Empire, and Obi-Wan and Leia’s destination, thanks to the coordinates given to them by Haja Estree.
There was some great interplay between Obi-Wan and Leia here, with it eventually dawning on her that he knew her mother. She might only be 10 (and look like she’s seven) but she really is bright, that one.
One thing I can’t quite understand – and it was mentioned by several commenters last week, too – is why Obi-Wan doesn’t change his clothes. Far be it for me to tell the Empire how to issue an APB to all stormtroopers, but something along the lines of: “Male, about 5ft 11in, brown hair and beard, looks exactly like a Jedi” would track him down in far less time that it takes to deploy a fleet of probe droids. And will no one think of the carbon footprint?
I really enjoyed Indira Varma’s performance as Tala, particularly the way she and Leia bonded so quickly. I think Leia’s involvement with the rebellion will be traced back to the moment she hugged Tala in the tunnel on the way to the port – although she’ll have to navigate her way away from Third Sister before then. Abducted once in a series, that’s bad luck. Twice? You’re in real danger of becoming the Kim Bauer of the Star Wars universe.
Jabiim was mentioned, too, which I believe is significant, particularly in terms of who might be waiting for them when they get there. That, coupled with the fact we are yet to see O’Shea Jackson Jr in the series. There’s plenty of online speculation to read if you want to, but if I’m right about who he’s playing, it’s big.
I knew there was going to be a showdown between Obi-Wan and Darth Vader, and had made my peace with the fact it doesn’t quite line up with their reunion in A New Hope, but whatever. Retconning is par for the course with these expanded universes. I hadn’t expected their meeting to happen in the third episode, though, and while it might not have delivered on a fight level (Obi-Wan is far too weak for that, these days), it packed a considerable emotional punch. Obi-Wan was chilled to the core, looking out at his former apprentice snapping necks and force-choking civilians, and wisely chose to run when he first came face to face with Vader.
Eventually, they squared off, and it went about as well as could be hoped. The script at this point was especially good, Vader’s trash-talk very in keeping with the kind of lines he utters in future fights. “I am what you made me.” “The years have made you weak. You should have killed me when you had the chance.” “Now you will suffer, Obi-Wan, your pain has just begun,” and so on. Impressive. Most impressive.
Just as Obi-Wan looked doomed, Tala and the loader droid came to the rescue. As our hero was lying on the ground, being dragged around in those flames, I couldn’t help wondering if the experience might explain why Alec Guinness’s version of Obi-Wan looks so much older than Ewan McGregor’s. Are we going to see him looking aged and shellshocked next week?
Notes and observations
Good for Ewan McGregor and Disney quickly issuing statements about the utterly disgraceful racist comments directed at Moses Ingram after the first two episodes.
QUINLAN VOS LIVES! One of the coolest, most underused Jedi in the Clone Wars, he was rumoured to have survived Order 66, and here was the proof. Maybe he can have a cameo in Ahsoka? If not, I demand a seven-part Disney+ series in 2024. Eugene Brave Rock, Ricky Whittle or Jason Momoa to star.
Obi-Wan says he remembers a brother. This is big news, and my mind is already racing about where that brother might show up. There’s no such thing as a throwaway line in a series like Obi-Wan.
Freck, the mole-like, Empire-loving resident of Mapuzo, was played by Scrubs star Zach Braff.
Leia’s outfit seemed like a subtle nod to her forest get-up on Endor in Return of the Jedi.
Such a joy to hear James Earl Jones return to voice Darth Vader. I had wondered whether Matt Sloan, who has voiced Vader in numerous animated series and video games, would be taking over, but clearly not.
What did you think? Did you enjoy Darth Vader’s return? Do you like where the series is going? Have your say below