*Warning: The following piece contains spoilers for episode 3 of Obi-Wan Kenobi*
It took the reintroduction of Darth Vader (Hayden Christensen) and the return of James Earl Jones in his most iconic vocal performance for me to be suckered into Obi-Wan Kenobi like a little kid watching A New Hope for the first time again. But this week’s episode, which will now release on Wednesdays and overlap with Ms. Marvel for some unexplained reason (even though Marvel Wednesdays and Star Wars/Lucasfilm Fridays seem perfectly OK in my book), is entirely brilliant and more than makes up for the flaws the first two episodes had.
Honestly, there isn’t a single most terrifying villain in film/TV history than Darth Vader. I’m a simple man; you put him in anything, the heavy breathing ensues, and James Earl Jones starts speaking, and I’ve got chills beyond belief. This is what happened at the beginning of the episode. Still, director Deborah Chow goes the extra mile in showing Christensen’s Skywalker suiting up as Darth Vader before he makes his first appearance, and holy cow. The build-up towards Vader’s highly-anticipated return in the episode is so brilliantly done that when he does arrive to confront Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) in the mining planet of Mapuzo, none of it feels dull or lazy.
I have my qualms with how Star Wars needs to move away from the Skywalker Saga to grow as a franchise and have indeed expressed them on this site (and other publications) too many times to count, but I have to admit when I’m wrong about some aspects of the show. Having Obi-Wan duel against the Padawan he once taught to take over the Jedi order, only for him to have been thoroughly corrupted (and committed) to the Dark Side’s power, is genuinely terrifying. McGregor’s Obi-Wan is wholly petrified at the sight of Anakin. He even gets appearances from him at random places. Think of Denis Leary’s George Stacy in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Yeah, that part was silly, but it becomes something more near the end. When he sees Anakin in the full Vader get-up for the first time, force-choking anyone he sees (this sequence is incredible), he feels a great disturbance in the force. He wasn’t afraid to confront him in A New Hope, likely knowing his fate beforehand, but he can’t bring himself to fight him here.
It’s rather sad to see Obi-Wan lazily using his lightsaber, thinking there’s still some good left in Anakin, even if there’s no going back for him anymore. On the other hand, the fight is brutal and much more cathartic than I’d ever thought (knowing Obi-Wan and Darth Vader’s respective fates) because there’s genuine emotional weight in how Chow sets up the duel. Obi-Wan doesn’t want to fight Anakin–you can tell it from his eyes and the way he uses his lightsaber, even if Anakin himself wants to show him that the Dark Side is more powerful in every way.
Vader lights up a fire with his red lightsaber and plunges Obi-Wan inside it, in a neat parallel to when his former master left him to die in Mustafar while he burned at the end of Revenge of the Sith. Of course, this fight will lead to another duel in Mustafar (this is where Vader lives, after all, as Chow eloquently set it up at the beginning of this episode). We already know their fates, but the weight put on by Chow’s direction, McGregor, and Christensen’s physical acting. James Earl Jones’ chilling vocal performance is one for the ages and, yes, completely pulled me into the show, as if I thought Obi-Wan Kenobi was great all along!
Christensen gives an incredible first impression as Vader, fully becoming the Sith Lord we saw at the end of Episode III, and is heavily inspired by the late David Prowse’s physical performance as Vader. Heck, Christensen is Prowse reincarnated, and the way he moves in the frame while Jones voices him feels like pure magic. Yes, I may be fully suckered into the show’s weaponized nostalgia, but you can’t help but admire it when it’s done right. Christensen is phenomenal, and it’s great to see him play Vader again, who is far more brutal than he ever was and, yes, even more terrifying than the final sequence of Rogue One!
Moses Ingram also continues to shine in the series as Reva. With the Grand Inquisitor (Rupert Friend) eliminated, we now understand that her sole goal is to become Vader’s number two, even if Sung Kang’s Fifth Brother is poised to become the Grand Inquisitor after his death. It makes for an exciting rivalry that’s bound to grow in the next three episodes, with the full might of Reva’s force revealed in the next one, having successfully captured Leia (Vivian Lyra Blair), who was about to return home safe to Alderaan. Reva is always one step ahead of Kenobi, perhaps even Vader, because she never listens to anyone but herself. She was the best part of the last two episodes, and Ingram’s brilliant acting skills give life to one of the most compelling villains in a Star Wars Disney+ series yet. Scratch that, the best Star Wars Disney+ villain yet. There, I said it.
Star Wars is lucky to have Moses Ingram as part of Obi-Wan Kenobi’s incredibly star-studded cast and for her to bring her incredible talents to Reva. And as a fan, I’m lucky to see a star blossom in front of my eyes and become one of the most exciting actresses to watch after the series has ended. It’s always great to see the new talent on an event film (or show) that you’ve never heard of before and get immediately excited to see the direction in which their career will grow. With Moon Knight, it was May Calamawy with the role of a lifetime in Layla El-Faouly, and now Moses Ingram completely slays her performance in Obi-Wan. I will repeat it to balance out all the unfair hate and bullying she has gotten on social media: Ingram is phenomenal. Her performance as Reva is an absolute all-timer for me in the Star Wars universe, and I cannot wait to see the direction her character will take in subsequent episodes. She’s had the most consistent character arc so far, and the chills I get whenever she’s on-screen are now on the same level as seeing Hayden Christensen back as Anakin/Vader and James Earl Jones voicing the villain yet again.
Does the episode have flaws? Sure. I’m still bugged by the idea of Obi-Wan rescuing a little Leia. Also, some of the writing, particularly during a scene where they meet an alien named Freck (Zach Braff), is a bit embarrassing. Still, the episode more than makes up for its slight flaws with impeccable performances from its cast, a chilling duel between Obi-Wan and Vader, inevitably setting up another “Duel of the Fates” in subsequent episodes. Our titular character is as weak as ever, having no idea what he’ll do next, overpowered by a disturbance in the force, and that Anakin is still alive and eager to control the entire Galaxy. It took three episodes for Obi-Wan Kenobi to be a genuinely great show, and if it stays that way for the final three, I might just enjoy the hell out of it. Time will tell…
The third episode of Obi-Wan Kenobi is now streaming on Disney+.