One of the main things promised in Disney’s “Obi-Wan Kenobi” show was a faceoff between the titular character (Ewan McGregor) and Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader (Hayden Christensen and James Earl Jones). Only three episodes in, this series delivered, and it’s one of the best faceoffs in the franchise.
The episode starts with Kenobi and Leia Organa (Vivien Lyra Blair) arriving on the mining planet of Mapuzo, where they are supposed to contact someone who will help them. When they don’t immediately arrive in the agreed upon place, they seek a lift from an alien named Freck (Zach Braff) who is friendly with the local Imperials. Meanwhile, Third Sister Reva Sevander (Moses Ingram) orders the Inquisitors to release their probe droids. There is some tension between her and the Fifth Brother (Sung Kang) who is next in line to take over, after the Grand Inquisitor was supposedly killed last episode, but Vader put Reva in charge of the mission, promising to promote her if successful and kill her if she fails.
Freck sells them out when they reach an Imperial checkpoint, but they are bailed out by Tala (Indira Varma), an Imperial officer who helps Jedi, and who they were supposed to meat up with before. Tala is not a full-out rebel, but she helps run a series of safehouses that serve as the Jedi version of the Underground Railroad, whose end point leads to a planet where they receive new identities and are able to start new lives. Jedi Master Quinlan Vos from “The Clone Wars” is named-dropped as one of the major people helping the operation.
They aren’t safe for long, however, as Vader arrives on the planet, and Kenobi knows that he won’t be able to hide for long. He splits up with Tala and Leia to distract his former apprentice, which leads to a chilling and tense fight in the dark in which Vader clearly has the upper hand, taking advantage of how off-balance Kenobi is. I won’t spoil much, but its conclusion draws poetic similarities to their fight in “Episode III,” which left Vader scarred, amputated and burned.
This is some of the best “Star Wars” we’ve seen in a long time. I love how chilling and unstoppable Vader is, and the raw emotions between his and Kenobi’s first encounter since “Episode III” make the fight memorable and full of dread. One of the things that makes Kenobi so effective as a fighter is how he’s able to read his opponents and use their strengths against them — which is precisely how he’s defeated the likes of Darth Maul and Anakin in the past — but Vader is a completely different person from Anakin, and his fighting style and philosophy is completely different from his former apprentice’s. Kenobi doesn’t fully understand what Vader is in this episode, and as such, has no hopes of beating him.
I still think that by the series’ end, Kenobi will beat Vader badly, leaving him battle-damaged and forced to flee, and I think that he will also strike down a few Inquisitors that get in his way. But he’s going to have to learn more about Vader in Episodes IV and V before he can do that, and I think he will also only become victorious once he finally is able to reach out to his master, Qui-Gon Jinn, who he’s been repeatedly trying to reach out unsuccessfully throughout the show. By episode six, I think we’ll have a cameo of Liam Neeson (Jinn’s actor in “Episode I”), and the fans will go crazy as a result of it.
“Obi-Wan Kenobi” Season 1: Part III is a home run, and makes me excited for what is to come.
“Obi-Wan Kenobi” Season 1: Part III gets a 9.5/10