From the very first scene, there was a sense that something about the fifth episode of Obi-Wan Kenobi was going to be different — that it was going to take things to a whole new level. Several storylines paid off in an Empire Strike Back-inspired siege that was filled with intense action, but really shined thanks to the psychological warfare between old pals Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader.
If you’re like me, the instant you saw it you knew: that Padawan tail dangling off the side of a person’s head. Immediately, you knew this was Anakin Skywalker as we remember him from the prequels. He looked a little older (by virtue that actor Hayden Christensen is now literally 20 years older) but nevertheless the episode began with a flashback of Anakin and Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) having a duel. And, as the episode would later reveal, this was not just any duel. It was a duel that was part of Anakin’s failed Jedi Trials, and that played out across the episode acting as a parallel story to explain the actions of our two main characters.
That was the first surprise. The second was that this memory wasn’t from Obi-Wan’s perspective, as one might expect. But, instead, from Vader’s as he stood on the bridge of his ship, thinking about his old master. Last episode, things ended with Reva (Moses Ingram) telling Vader that she’d placed a tracker on Kenobi. Which, after his little trip down memory lane, had already paid off. Reva reported that Kenobi was going back to Jabiim and, as a reward, Vader made her the Grand Inquisitor.
On Jabiim, we once again saw Haja (Kumail Nanjiani), who fled there after his recent showdown with the Inquisitors, but the reunion is short-lived. Vader’s ship arrives and before everyone can escape, Leia’s droid Lola sabotages the base (thanks to Reva’s tracker). They’re trapped. Kenobi, thinking back again to his battle with Anakin, knows that Anakin won’t hesitate. He will attack at full force, which he believes they can use to their advantage.
With the refugees trapped and the Empire mounting a ground assault on the base, I couldn’t help but think a bit of the battle of Hoth, which tracks with the excellent online theory that each episode of Obi-Wan Kenobi is directly inspired by a corresponding Star Wars film. So if this is Episode V, The Empire Strikes Back, someone has to fix some wires and stuff to get people to escape (in this case, Leia) and there’s going to be some kind of big revelation. This comes when Obi-Wan, in an effort to slow the Imperial attack, talks to Reva and realises she’s a double agent. She’s not serving Vader to serve Vader. She’s serving Vader to get revenge on him for killing her family.
Most people predicted some of this — guessing that the main Youngling in the series’ first scene was Reva — and it’s now confirmed. What was great about the reveal though is that it was far from straightforward. Reva wants to kill Vader, yes, but she’s no Jedi. She’s got the Dark Side in her. And so she shames Obi-Wan for not being at the Jedi Temple during Order 66. For not saving her friends. They’re on the same side here, but not really.
That’s why Reva finally does what she should have done in the first place and uses her lightsaber to cut through the door. The ensuing battle between Reva’s Stormtroopers and the refugees was ultra-intense, mainly because we’ve rarely seen a blaster battle in such close quarters before. Sure, Obi-Wan is there with his lightsaber, but there were blasters going off, people grappling — it was just raw and impactful. Then, to really raise the stakes, as the Stormtroopers got closer, Tala (Indira Varma) and her silent droid NED-B begin to take fire. Tala is badly wounded. Obi-Wan tries to save her and NED-B uses himself as a shield to prolong her life a few seconds longer. She then decides to pull a Vasquez from Aliens and use a thermal detonator to kill all the Stormtroopers, as well as herself. Honestly, it was a noble, worthy death but after we learned so much more about her past earlier in the episode, I feel like the character was gone much, much too soon.
With Kenobi and the survivors seemingly trapped, the episode goes back again to the duel. Because Obi-Wan and Anakin have such a deep, strong bond, they can each basically predict what the other one is going to do, which is what Obi-Wan decides to exploit. He knows Vader expects him to surrender and save everyone. So he does so, hoping to draw the Sith Lord into a situation he’s not suspecting. At first, the plan seems a little silly, especially when he gives Haja responsibility for not just Leia but a little communicator with the biggest secret in the galaxy on it. A communicator he will soon drop.
Kenobi surrenders to Reva and says he’s doing it so she can finally kill Vader as she desires. Reva then, almost as if she wanted it to happen, leaves Obi-Wan alone with two Stormtroopers as they wait for Vader. Vader arrives and, of course, Obi-Wan took out those guys and escapes. Vader gives chase and when he arrives at the hangar, which is now open thanks to Leia fixing the wires to the doors and getting Lola back, he uses the Force to hold the ship back. It’s a powerful moment of Force strength. He wills the ship back to the ground and rips through it looking for his former master. But we realise, again, Obi-Wan is a step ahead of him. That ship was a decoy and the real one makes its escape.
As Vader stands there, realising he’s been bested by Obi-Wan again, just as he was in his Jedi Trials, Reva makes her move. But Vader anticipates it. He praises her and Kenobi for their plan but she’s caught red-handed, kind of literally. A lightsaber battle begins, if you can call it that, as Reva attacks over and over with her blade while Vader uses the Force to block and dodge. He eventually steals her saber, splits it in two, and gives her a fair shot at a battle. That doesn’t go too well either. Vader defeats her easily and reveals that he knew she was the Youngling from the temple, as he rams his saber through her gut. (Which, by the way, when he had two sabers, was I the only one who thought he was going to give a Dooku decapitation?)
The original Grand Inquisitor (Rupert Friend) returns, all healed up thanks to him having two stomachs (a fact not revealed in the episode but apparently the explanation) and he and Vader leave her for dead. But is she? A wounded Reva crawls along the ground and finds Obi-Wan’s all-important communicator that Haja dropped in the escape. She hears words like “child,” “Tatooine,” and “Owen” from the message sent by Bail Organa (Jimmy Smits). Instantly, Obi-Wan knows something is wrong. He can feel it. And not just the fact the ship he and everyone are on has a damaged hyperdrive and the Empire on its tail. The episode then ends with a return to Tatooine. Specifically, the Lars homestead, and a young boy sleeping soundly in his bed.
I’ve enjoyed Obi-Wan Kenobi up until this point but there was always this sense of holding back. Like something was coming. This might have been it. I truly feel like this episode was not just the best one yet, but better than all the other ones combined. Beginning with the welcome fan-servicey moment of seeing Anakin and Obi-Wan back in their Jedi days, and then using that as an explainer for the mental chess match the two are playing, was very good storytelling. Reva’s turn against Vader was unexpected and cool. Tala’s sacrifice was too soon but powerful. And, of course, the action was just spectacular. Can Obi-Wan Kenobi wrap everything up in one final episode? Last week I would have said no. Now, after that dynamite chapter, I say yes.
- When the episode ended and I instantly began raving about it, I saw a not-so-surprising name come up. Deborah Chow directed of course, as she does every episode, but head writer Joby Harold co-wrote this chapter with none other than Andrew Stanton, one of the geniuses behind films like Wall-E and Finding Nemo. That man knows story.
- The episode was filled with amazing Vader shots. Seriously. Go back and look at the framings, the lighting, the reflections, it’s probably the best Darth Vader has ever looked, and that’s saying something.
- Do we think Hayden and Ewan were de-aged at all for their flashback? Hayden kind of looked like it, but if it was done, it was subtle. Either way, I didn’t care. It was just hugely rewarding to see this relationship we know so well not just from the movies, but the animated shows too, be the driving force of this story.
- What surprises are you expecting in the finale? I think Qui-Gon’s ghost is a lock. Maybe some Alec Guinness footage and a time jump? Let us know below. We don’t have long to wait.
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