Still making their way back to Alderaan, Kenobi and Leia wait for the rebel transport to get them off-world. But Reva and Vader have been tracking their ship and now know where and when to attack. Trapped within caverns and cornered by troops, the fugitives’ options are running out. But Kenobi begins to realise some of Reva’s personal motivations and wonders if he can use them to circumvent Vader’s agenda and perhaps buy them all some time…
The penultimate episode of Obi-Wan is certainly the one most jam-packed with all the elements that fans are likely to want and require. After several weeks of great visuals but a slow story, Part V (of VI) doesn’t necessarily change its remit, but it balances them better, keeping the on-screen quality but giving it all a much needed sense of momentum and urgency. Kenobi and his enclave are compleltely out-numbered and trapped, so the question will be how they get out of such a situation and at what cost.
The best quality is the generated tension ahead of everything boiling over, giving the episode a rhythm better suited to its story. Though powerful in tone and visuals, the Force itself hasn’t exactly been very strong in the series: Kenobi’s avoided using it unless absolutely necessary, Vader’s been mostly stoic and menacing and there’s been a lack of ‘These aren’t the droids you’re looking for…‘ moments despite several opportunities. This episode readdresses the balance. We have a flashback to an intense training duel between Anakin and Kenobi which shows Anakin’s growing prowess but lack of humility – with a little de-aging tech applied. Given the revelations about Reva (she was one of the young Jedis betrayed by Anakin under Order 66 and has been working her way towards him and gaining his confidence so she can strike) there’s an anticipation of how she will choose her moment. After all, she has no love for Kenobi either, seeing him as a pawn with which to consolidate her own powerbase from which to pivot. The inevitable showdown between Reva and Vader demonstrates each’s style (Vader remaining hugely powerful but detached, Reva being driven by fury and vengeance). It’s a well-shot conflict and it’s interesting that there’s some truth to Vader’s observation that Kenobi may have suggested to Reva an alliance to bring him down, but that Ob-Wan essentially abandons her to her fate to help the others escape.
Dissected down to basics, each episode remains a rather blatant and formulaic template: arrive, get captured and escape with merely the dialogue and locations changing each week and the pursuing Empire and baddies shaking their dark fists at the sky in Saturday Morning fury. Yes, L’il Leia (still ably presented by Vivien Lyra Blair) is in danger of becoming the ‘Baby Yoda’ maguffin of each segment, to be protected from her physically taller antagonists while being precociously and intellectually a giant compared to others and providing a vital moment for success. Here she’s shuffled off to hide in a vent and mend some wiring which doesn’t stretch any acting muscles but keeps her out of immediate harm’s way. I still think it was a mistake to have that rather luke-warm (no pun-intended) Kenobi/Vader confrontation in the third episode – Vader makes the kind of character that’s imposing in pursuit and arrogant power but sometimes less impressive when just another armoured warrior. Here he works well as a Dark Lord, a general marshalling his troops and imposing order until near the end when he exerts devastating power in stopping the departing craft take off. It’s a whole exercise in less is more, until it needs to be more.
Though it’s unlikely the poorly-armed rebels could stand-up to the storm-troopers barrage, the battle scenes are intense, deliberately shot in a manic fashion where there’s so much ducking, diving and exchanged fire that it’s almost impossible to tell where the danger is coming from. It’s sad (if somewhat inevitable) to see Idria Varma reduced to collateral damage, though she gets to go out in explosive fashion and you can’t ask more than a decent heroic death scene, taking out a battalion of the enemy wile allowing Kenobi to get others to safety.
Fine in the moment, there remain quibbles.
The Lucasfilm series are setting new benchmarks for VFX, largely down to their Stagecraft digital wall that immerses the performances and provides photo-realistic backdrops. Maybe it’s the mere angle of the camera or Deborah’s Chow’s continued eclectic directing choices, but the moment where the storm-troopers amass to blast away at the enclave looks quite obviously a sound-stage with decoration – it’s a singular moment in the episode, one that’s otherwise impressive in that department, but it affects the suspension of disbelief, even if it’s only for a few seconds. Equally, there was a time when lightsaber injuries were largely fatal or disfiguring, but here we see Reva looking like she survives an up-close surgical strike from Vader that would normally and logically be deadly. There’s dialogue about them leaving her here to die in the dust rather than delivering a killing blow, but if you align it alongside the Grand Inquisitor suddenly being back from the dead – restoring continuity – then the Pythonesque ’tis but a scratch springs to mind when it really shouldn’t… Still, it would be a shame to curtail Reva’s story-arc given the revelation she’s the foundling we actively saw in the opener’s flashback. (Again, it’s also interesting that neither Reva nor Obi-Wan has remotely picked up on Leia’s innate Force sensitivity).
But all in all, this is a much improved episode with all the elements you’d want. With one more episode to go – and finally the hints that L’il Luke will be moved more into frame by Reva’s discovery of Organa’s message…there’s still every feeling this series choice was a worthwhile endeavour…
- Production Design / VFX9