There is a pattern among penultimate episodes of Disney Plus Star Wars and MCU shows. While action scenes exist in the second to last episodes, there is also usually more character development via diving into one or more psyche. It happened with all the title characters in the MCU shows, most recently Marc Spector and Steven Grant in Moon Knight as viewers went into the main character’s psyche within the confines of a mental institution in the realm of the Duat.
In Obi-Wan Kenobi, things are not that metaphorical. Our window into Kenobi and Vader’s thought process revolves around a duel from the past.
The Structure and Character Beats
The episode is structured around a duel between Master Obi-Wan Kenobi and his Padawan, Anakin Skywalker. From there, it is a chess game that Vader is playing with Kenobi, and everyone else acts as pawns.
It’s a great way to put Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen in a scene together throughout the whole episode in a way that does not break the flow of the story.
The duel almost acts like more of a memory than a proper flashback from Vader’s perspective. And that is rare for canon material this high profile. Marvel’s Darth Vader is the go-to canon for fans who want to get inside of Vader’s head. And now there is an episode in live-action, which is great.
These two know each other so well even after a decade because they haven’t changed in their duel strategy, both physical and mental.
Vader is headed towards Jabiim to confront Obi-Wan, putting the unfortunate group of families that had to wait for Leia’s rescue. The level of worry feels unrealistically low for these families, but maybe that is just the mood of people living in the Star Wars universe: Understanding that at any moment, you could be a casualty of war.
Or maybe the direction of the extras was not great. Overall, I think the direction of this episode is solid, but there are some character moments in which Deborah Chow does not do them any favors.
Haja returns but gets very little to do. Asking Kumail Nanjiani to play off Vivien Lyra Blair could have worked in a different circumstance. It worked incredibly well in episode two with Jecobi Swain (where was that kid in this episode?), but like many side characters, Haja is just here to drop that holoprojector. And maybe play a part in a final battle next episode? I don’t know but episode five feels like one episode too late to bring him back.
Roken is officially a waste of a character. And it is a shame because, as I mentioned in episode four, he has an intriguing back story. Star Wars needs to figure out how to give their side characters (who are more often than not characters of color) more to do in these shows. I am still disappointed with Garsa Fwip’s non-journey in The Book of Boba Fett.
A Vicious Cycle
This scene from the romantic comedy classic My Best Friend’s Wedding can be put to good use here as Reva finds herself back where she started. Alone and left for dead (the last part is not so relevant to Julia Robert’s character in Wedding). But everyone is so focused on chasing their obsession that they make mistakes, including Obi-Wan.
Vader gets fooled by the old “ship behind a ship” trick. Reva allows herself to fall into a trap, and Obi-Wan is so sure his plan will work, that he doesn’t cover himself and immediately destroy that message from Bail.
It feels like the end of the arc, but there is no way we have seen the last of her. I don’t expect her to survive whatever comes next, but I hope it is not at the hands of Vader. And I hope it isn’t self-sacrifice to protect Luke. I don’t particularly care to see another person of color sacrificing themselves for a white character (that ALREADY happened with Tala). But that is probably what is going to happen because fans who at least watch the films know that Vader, Obi-Wan, Luke, and Leia are around after this. If you watch the animated shows, you know who else is still around post this show. Reva is not. So all of the stakes are with the new characters introduced in this series.
But there is something to be said for consistently underestimating those who you feel are lesser (and wow does THAT ring true in the real world).
The highlight of the series to me is the fight between Darth Vader and Reva (and credit to Moses Ingram, her stunt double, Hayden, and the coordinators). Although, it is curious why Vader would leave Reva alive. We will see if it is anything more than just to be alive for her to realize how wrong she was about Tatooine being a waste of time. What she does with that information is the big question moving into the season finale.
May the Force Be With You
This line is almost as pervasive as “I have a bad feeling,” often not delivering on the emotional impact intended. I felt an emotional impact when Ezra says it in the last season of Rebels, and I felt it here as Tala goes out with NED-B. Tala (and Indira Varma eating every bit of screen time) was a great character and parallel to Reva. Someone who saw horrible acts committed and used her position and power for good vs. Reva using her position and power for bad.
Did she have to go out sacrificing herself for Kenobi? I supposed in a series where a lot of the characters have to make it out alive, she was a prime candidate to die. But it would have been more effective for her to go out on her terms. Imagine her taking out Reva and completing both their stories. Yes, it would be two women of color going out, but it would be more meaningful. It was just a bummer to watch. But between this show and Ms. Marvel, it is great to see so many South Asians across two of the biggest franchises (still waiting for more Depa Billaba).
And more Tala stories in canon, please.
Star Wars Foolishness
The Grand Inquisitor’s entrance near the end of this episode was the kind of goofiness that Star Wars threatens fans with occasionally. Unless Reva imagined this whole thing, the Grand Inquisitor was hiding on Vader’s ship and then hiding behind a rock waiting to reveal himself to mock an injured Reva.
There had to be a better way to introduce the Grand Inquisitor back into the story than that. If he has a significant role to play in the last episode, fine. But otherwise, they could have held this reveal as a bookend for the finale. This ones on Joby Harold and Andrew Stanton.
Also, I mentioned earlier Jecobi Swain, who did a great job as a con-child in Part Two working with Nanjiani’s Haja. He also played a neighborhood kid in episode two of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier in a cute but small scene with Anthony Mackie. It is nice that someone at Disney noticed him and brought the young actor on for a bigger role in Obi-Wan Kenobi and I hope to see more of Swain in other properties within and outside of Disney.
Separate from this specific episode, I have my own questions on the rules of how Vader and the Inquisitors deal with Force-sensitives: Why did the Empire take some Force-sensitives for torture and kill others? What is the differentiating factor?
I think these need to be defined if stories within the time and covering Order 66 continue.