Obi-Wan Kenobi’s third episode is some of the most thrilling television Star Wars has ever produced. It’s also a testament to Darth Vader’s enduring power as a tragic, terrifying villain.
The first two episodes of Obi-Wan Kenobi arrived on Disney+ last week. For Ewan McGregor’s returning Jedi, life has been pretty bleak since the events of Revenge of the Sith: he’s a butcher scrounging for slices of meat, retreating to his cave in Tatooine each day, and struggling to sleep without nightmares and voices plaguing his head.
His purgatory is disturbed by the Inquisitors, hunting down Jedi at the behest of the Empire. They have their own issues to contend with: by the end of the second episode, Reva (Moses Ingram) impales the Grand Inquisitor (Rupert Friend) with her lightsaber in a bid to take charge.
After a young Princess Leia (Vivien Lyra Blair) is kidnapped, Obi-Wan hesitantly agrees to find her. Not long after securing her and making a run for it, Reva gives him some harrowing news: Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) is alive, having survived Mustafar’s flames, and has been transformed into Lord Vader.
Obi-Wan Kenobi spoilers ahead, you’ve been warned…
Darth Vader looms over Obi-Wan Kenobi in Episode 3
The third episode picks up immediately from the conclusion of Episode 2: Obi-Wan, troubled by the revelation of Anakin’s survival, calls out to Qui-Gon Jinn: “Master Jinn, Master, are you there Master?”
This moment cuts between Obi-Wan’s distress and Vader’s outfit being assembled, emerging from his bacta tank and transforming into the Sith Lord like Iron Man. “He’s coming master,” Obi-Wan warns. Already, it feels like the most tangible emotional conflict Star Wars has seen in years.
Soon, the frame soars across the flaming lava of Mustafar, with Vader telling Reva: “Kenobi is all that matters.”
This is a good time to confirm the news you’ve been waiting for: yes, James Earl Jones is back as the indelible voice of Vader. “Fail me and you’ll not live to regret it,” he tells Reva. Within minutes of the opening episode, we have another all-time quote uttered by the villain.
Obi-Wan and Leia run from the Empire
Meanwhile, Obi-Wan and Leia are on the long road home, arriving on a distant, baron planet with no sense of direction. “The Empire came in and ravaged it all,” the world-weary Jedi tells the young princess, admitting that it’s a “losing battle” against the powers that be.
Deborah Chow and the show’s writers have further deepened Obi-Wan’s struggles, with every affliction and doubt enriching the character’s later appearance in A New Hope. For example, in a brief moment, he sees a specter of Anakin alone in the fields, cloaked after falling to the Dark Side.
After wandering for hours, Leia hails a passing vehicle and asks its driver, Frick (who appears to have been voiced by Zach Braff), to give them a ride to the spaceport. Believing their tale of a father and daughter lost while visiting family, he lets them hop aboard.
Things get a little tense when Frick picks up some local Stormtroopers, who question Obi-Wan about why he’s there and if he knows anything about a runaway Jedi. Just when they appear to have escaped any harm, a security check sees Obi-Wan leap into action with his blaster. One poor Stormtrooper is fully cut in half by a laser, enough to make me gasp – it was awesome.
Obi-Wan finally faces off with Darth Vader
An Imperial officer (played by Indira Varma) shepherds the pair to safety in a nearby town, only for Vader, Inquisitors, and Stormtroopers to arrive moments later.
It’s here the episode kicks into a gear we’ve never really seen from Star Wars. In the original trilogy, Vader is a commanding, slow-moving tank. In Rogue One, he was a lightsaber-swooshing, Rebel-flicking force of nature. In Obi-Wan Kenobi, he’s somewhere in the middle and substantially scarier, mercilessly breaking residents’ necks in his hunt for Obi-Wan.
Likening a mainstream, pop culture IP to horror may seem a bit trite, but it’s true. Obi-Wan doesn’t just battle Vader – he runs. With only the blue glow of his lightsaber to guide him, he’s constantly on the back foot against Vader. They clash sabers, but Vader is barely putting in any effort; it becomes scarier the more you realize how much he’s toying with Obi-Wan.
“What have you become?” Obi-Wan asks, to which Vader responds: “I am what you made me… the years have made you weak.”
The end of the episode packs its most brutal moment: Vader sets the ground aflame and drags Obi-Wan across it, with his haunting silhouette standing over the blaze. “Now you will suffer Obi-Wan; your pain has just begun,” he tells him. Thankfully, he’s saved by the Imperial officer’s droid and rushed away to receive medical attention.
Then comes the final kicker: Leia, who’d been told to find the pilot who’d take her home, runs into Reva. This is where the episode ends; but it’s also where the fun begins.
Episode 4 of Obi-Wan Kenobi hits Disney+ next Wednesday, June 8.