*Warning: The following article contains spoilers for episode five of Obi-Wan Kenobi*
Obi-Wan Kenobi’s fifth episode is a definite step up from last week’s dull episode, but the problem with the show sticks out like a sore thumb. It’s too busy trying to make us relive through nostalgia and fan service instead of actively challenging the viewers that Obi-Wan Kenobi can be more than a Vader rematch 1.5 before he eventually gets killed by Anakin in A New Hope.
Was it cool to see Hayden Christensen in his Attack of the Clones get up as he spars with Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor)? Of course, and the sparring sequence is great because it gives us insight into who Anakin was before the Dark Side consumed him. He’s erratic and would instead prove himself to Obi-Wan how great of a winner he can be instead of learning the true ways of the Jedi. The de-aging is still [very] weird, but it doesn’t much matter since the flashbacks always contrast with what’s happening in the present. Obi-Wan feels a great disturbance in the force, as he knows who Vader (voiced by James Earl Jones) is deep down more than anyone else. And even if we know their eventual fates, having flashbacks intercut with “present-day” action adds genuine stakes to what we’re seeing.
Both McGregor and Christensen are excellent in their respective roles, and the flashback scene they share immediately recalls their banter in Attack of the Clones. Christensen’s performance was unfairly maligned by critics when the movie came out, but it wasn’t his fault. The script was embarrassing, not his performance. He did an excellent job with the material he had. Regarding Anakin and Vader, Obi-Wan Kenobi’s material is infinitely better than the prequels. Christensen excels at bringing back the good ol’ days of his training as a Padawan, even if the de-aging on his face is disconcerting.
The six-episode run feels very limiting because it could’ve deepened Obi-Wan’s connection to Skywalker with more episodes. As such, every action scene in this episode feels rushed, and most character arcs are half-baked as best. You couldn’t get me to care about Roken (O’Shea Jackson Jr), Haja Estree (Kumail Nanjiani), who magically shows up just for plot convenience’s sake, and Tala (Indira Varma), who bites the dust. The sacrifice mirrors what Obi-Wan will ultimately do to save Luke (Mark Hamill) in A New Hope. Still, there’s not a single ounce of emotional investment in the character, even if Varma is a decent actress. Throughout the series, she did a decent job with her [underdeveloped] character, but her demise feels unsatisfying.
I may sound like a broken record here, but the show wouldn’t have been as interesting if Moses Ingram wasn’t part of the cast. Her character is the most fleshed out above the rest and the most intriguing. In this episode, we learn that Reva’s impulsive nature wasn’t because she wanted to impress Vader. But she used Kenobi and Leia (Vivien Lyra Blair) as bait, so she could kill him to avenge what he had done for her during Order 66 as a Youngling. It’s an incredible twist and makes total sense in the context of Reva’s character.
The entire conversation where Reva reveals all to Obi-Wan is riveting, and Ingram’s performance adds incredible complexity to an already tortured character. The cherry on top was Reva’s confrontation with Vader, which is the best action sequence of the show by far. She can’t hit him, no matter how hard she tries; Vader’s use of the force is too powerful for anyone to challenge. And then the Grand Inquisitor (Rupert Friend) arrives, showing Reva that she was never one step ahead of the game and was played by Vader all along. Brilliant.
But the episode leads up to the most unimaginative of finales, recreating something we’ve already seen twice: Anakin fighting Vader. And since they won’t die, bringing in some form of weight will be a daunting task. Of course, Deborah Chow and screenwriters Joby Harold and Andrew Stanton gave some weight to the story through flashbacks, but since that has been done, what else does this show have to offer? Nothing but cheap fan service that will recreate what we loved about Revenge of the Sith, but with Anakin in the Darth Vader suit. Honestly, Star Wars can be better than this, and the fleeting moments in which the show shines are the perfect demonstration that the franchise can be incredible when it wants to be. Unfortunately, it wants to please too many people, resulting in yet another divided fanbase. I long for the days when Star Wars was lauded as a sci-fi benchmark and audiences wanted to be challenged. Now we want to point at things on the screen we know and do nothing else after. Hopefully, the last episode will be something to remember and leads to an at least cathartic [re] Duel of the Fates…
The fifth episode of Obi-Wan Kenobi is now streaming on Disney+.