Obi-Wan Kenobi Finally Reaches Its Potential In Part 5, A Masterful Slice Of Star Wars
The following article contains spoilers for Part V of Obi-Wan Kenobi. If you haven’t seen it, go have your day made and then come back here to check out my thoughts.
While I’m someone who has been enjoying Obi-Wan Kenobi, there have been times where it has also been disappointing. After part four, I was worried we weren’t going to get a show that delivered on the promise of its premise, cast, and crew. In fact, it seemed likely it was going to fall well short. I was ready to make peace with that, as I was happy to see Ewan McGregor back as the legendary Jedi Master in a decently made show. Then I saw part five, and it’s the first time this show has felt essential to the Star Wars mythos. It is by far the best of the series so far thanks to solid pacing and a commitment to bring everything into focus before the finale. Better yet, it accomplishes all this while building towards a climactic final sequence of its own.
Previously it has often felt like a show that got made because Lucasfilm/Disney knew the fans would eat up Ewan doing anything as Kenobi again. I couldn’t escape the feeling of wanting more at times, or simply wanting parts to hit harder or feel bigger. Some of this is due to me expecting that these Disney+ shows to look and feel like movie scale efforts, with standard drama TV runtimes. Here, the show occasionally reaches the look of a typical Star Wars movie, while often feeling firmly like a typical TV show in scale with a movie sized script stretched out a little. It’s as if I’m watching pieces of an assembly edit of the not-quite-finished version of the Obi-Wan movie, sliced up into six sections.
It has been easy to see how the writing of the first four episodes could have been much tighter and less repetitive (Leia being kidnapped twice in three episodes is not efficient writing). The story elements shown in Parts I-IV could have avoided plot holes by simply being the first hour of a 2.5 hour movie, as opposed to the majority of a ~four hour miniseries. The best Star Wars stories are very economical in their storytelling, accomplishing a lot of narrative quickly (which is what made the opening crawls in the movies so effective). I say all this not to complain, this is a TV show, it’s okay if it looks like one! Disney should stop setting themselves up for failure though by saying there won’t be a difference between the movies and the shows for the MCU and Star Wars. At the end of the day what we need most are stories that are well told and entertaining, and Part V gives us that in spades. I couldn’t be more surprised by how much I loved this episode.
I was all in after the first episode, didn’t love everything in part two, thought most of part three was really good (but it raised many questions about both character and story logic), and I found part four both highly enjoyable but also frustrating, as it did little to advance the key narrative (much of it was repeating better moments in Star Wars) while also sticking Reva (Moses Ingram) and Leia (Vivien Lyra Blair) in a repetitive state for most of its runtime. There were multiple scenes that equated to Reva saying, “tell me what you know” and Leia replying, “nah.” In a regular show, it wouldn’t be a problem to take some detours or to get a little repetitive, but this is a miniseries. They conceived of this season as a full standalone story, so when we spend 1/6th of that barely moving anything forward and not deepening the dynamic between the lead players, it’s slightly concerning. Part four also included the unintentionally hilarious moment of Tala (Indira Varma) lightly slapping a storm trooper during an escape, which leads to her making Troopers look weaker than they’ve ever yet looked in live action (and they’re amongst the dopiest, most killable roadblocks in a major franchise). This is nothing against the very talented Varma, but the choreography of her escape was lacking. Star Wars is filled with moments that are silly, so this honestly fits right in. However, no such moments exist in Part V.
Part five not only moves everything forward a ton, but it deepens the dynamic between three of our leads (Kenobi, Vader, Reva) and is legitimately exciting thanks to the stakes feeling high from moment one. Reva has brought Vader to the doorstep of Kenobi, Leia, Tala and their rescuers, with the good guys jammed firmly into a corner and with little chance for escape. These are the kind of situations we want to see Jedi Masters figure their way out of. However, the episode actually begins in a place I did not expect, but one that warmed my little nerd heart.
The episode comes out of the gate with a flashback of Kenobi and Anakin training. At first when it cut back to the present with Vader I was worried we wouldn’t go back to the flashback. I wondered if the folks behind this show thought a quick flash was good enough to serve as nothing more than fan service. I held out hope we’d go back and get more pieces of the scene throughout, and indeed we did. I should have found my lack of faith disturbing. I’m glad they finally used a moment like this, as we didn’t get to see these two training in the prequels, and the parallel to their current situation allows us to feel the connection between the two in a way the show has not remotely achieved prior to this. This feels like the continuation of the bacta tank cross cutting at the start of Part IV, just ike example of how Part V helps previous moments feel more cohesive. It’s great to see Hayden back as Anakin, it’s even better that it serves a solid narrative purpose. I’m also happy to report Ewan’s mullet hasn’t aged a day. 🥰
One of the other best things about this episode is Reva, and how they finally revealed her backstory. Most of us had guessed/assumed that she was the youngling from the first scene of the show, and that she was most likely on the path to turning against Vader. Yet it was the way it was done here that made it work for me, even in spite of it being one of the oldest tropes in the Star Wars playbook. She has always had this plan, and while she has no love for Vader and the Sith, she doesn’t hold any appreciation for Kenobi either. She’s done horrible things due to a moral blindness she’s been saddled with since her traumatic youth. She blames both Vader and Obi-Wan for the slaughter of the younglings she called friends and family.
We hear details of her experience during Vader’s assault on the Jedi Temple. Unfortunately, they mirror that of the many school shootings we have here in the United States. The connection has been addressed in the past, but her discussion with Obi-Wan makes it impossible to ignore. Reva isn’t just a survivor of a terrible attack, but she was betrayed by someone she trusted. Hayden being back as Anakin makes this all the more effective, as he was the figure of terror for young Reva. She had to pretend to be dead in order to survive their encounter. You feel bad for her during this scene, but we also recognize she is bloodthirsty herself. Any chance she could become a true “Jedi” has long since evaporated. She lives and breathes for revenge. All Kenobi can do is hope to wield her rage to his advantage, to find a way to save the innocents he has endangered by asking for their help.
I was convinced Tala Durith should have been killed at the hands of Reva last week, when in an attempt to create a distraction, Tala gets discovered as a spy. It was odd considering how brutal and hot tempered Reva is that she would rather have Tala arrested. It gave Tala the chance to easily escape (resulting in the previously mentioned slap of a Storm Trooper). This scene only went down like this because she’s a character the writers didn’t want to kill off yet, which is fair and happens in a lot of media. It is weird that they kill her in the very next episode. At least her real death here was effective and gave Kenobi an emotional push. Her and her droid companion go down to buy time for the others to escape, which feels more like the type of scene I’d see in the upcoming Andor series, but I loved it as part of the already dramatic Part V. Watching characters who have been key players in this story meet their demise at the hands of the Empire goes a long way to add stakes to the proceedings.
We all know that Reva has not worked for some people as a character thanks to much online discourse, but overall I’ve found her to be a nice addition to show. That said, there have been things done with her character that don’t give Moses the best material to work with. Leia and Reva’s interrogation in Part IV was not only repetitive, but served to diminish Reva’s standing as a villain (seeing that a young child couldn’t have been less afraid of her is weak sauce no matter who the child is). To me it’s been very obvious what her arc was going to be from the beginning, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. The initial Order 66 flashback in Part I was there to help set her up, and since we know she has her own agenda, we know she’s partially putting on a performance, which is why I like her overly aggressive demeanor and constant yelling. This episode finally brings her role into complete focus. To me this is not a character who is meant to be redeemed, but one who was driven into her own kind of rage and sense of morality by the trauma she suffered as a child.
Yes, it is another case of a force user Vader supposedly trusts turning on him, as we’ve seen in both Jedi: Fallen Order (with one of his inquisitors no less) and Starkiller (his apprentice) in The Force Unleashed video games. However, those are games that I’m sure much of the causal fan base hasn’t played. Not everyone likes video games! Not everyone consumes every piece of Star Wars media. Plus, Moses is the best she’s been as the character yet in this episode. Seeing the flashbacks of her as a child witnessing Vader’s mass murder is horrifying. It’s intimidating as hell to see glimpses of those moments through her eyes. Their confrontation at the end of this episode is truly a highlight moment for Vader, not only in this show, but in general. This feels like a sequence that will get fans talking as much as the end of Rogue One did.
Reva was confident the entire episode, denying she needed any help to take down Vader (oops). There’s obviously also a clear parallel to her cockiness and that of Anakin’s in the prequels, which heightens their interactions for me. In the end she uses Obi-Wan to get to Vader, even if Obi-Wan got the better end of the deal. I don’t have to tell any of you how skull meltingly awesome Vader bringing the shop back down to the ground is. As he rips the ship apart looking for his former Master, I wondered what the fakeout was going to be, and yep, the ship they were really on took off just in time to get away. Vader is left gazing defeat in the helmet, realizing he is still the learner thanks to the lesson we’ve been cutting to throughout the episode. I hope this isn’t the only reason for Vader’s line in the original movie. Him facing off against Kenobi and losing once again (in an all timer epic showdown) would really seal the deal for why Vader would say, “now I am the Master” eight years later.
As Vader reflects on his failure to capture the man who sliced him to bits ten years ago, Reva stealthily sneaks up behind Vader, like a predator stalking prey that is unaware it is about to become dinner. Then Vader easily, and continually, stops her with nothing but the Force. She is desperate, angry, and devastatingly outmatched. He doesn’t even see her as being worthy of lightsaber combat. He shows her he could kill her at any time, and wants to bask in her defeat. It doesn’t help that she caught him at a sensitive moment. When it becomes clear she is not a threat to him at all, he takes her lightsaber from her, breaks the double edged saber in half (seeing Vader wield double lightsabers did for me what I imagine cocaine does for some people). He then graciously tosses her one, because he’s such a good guy. Okay okay, maybe he just wants her to know that he’s better with a lightsaber (classic Anakin/Vader).
Vader toys with Reva in a way that makes his confrontation with Kenobi in Part Three seem like a loving parent tickling their child. He is agile and able to make her attempted assassination seem laughable, yet it doesn’t come at Reva’s expense as a character. It makes us root for this massive underdog, who we know stands no chance. She should have teamed up with Kenobi, and by the end of this episode she knows it. I so badly wanted her and Obi-Wan to go against Vader together. Perhaps with Duel of the Fates playing? Yeah yeah, that would have fan service for sure, but the key in this case is it would have been BAD ASS AS HELL. Plus she wouldn’t have gotten treated like a chew toy being tossed around by a pissed off puppy. It’s always great to see Vader go full crazy, and we certainly get that here. I want to continually give props to Ingram, who is wonderful at portraying someone who won’t give up, but quickly realizes she will likely die at the hands of the evil she escaped as a child. It’s her performance that helps make this sequence effective. The cross cutting between her younger self and her on the ground as Vader approaches, leading to him stabbing her, is scary stuff.
Of course she never stood a chance, this is Darth Vader, nearly a decade before the original Star Wars. This dude hasn’t fully left Anakin behind yet, but not the nice parts of Anakin, the bitter pieces. The pieces that had him justifying the murder of a tribe of Sand People. Reva thought she was actually rising up the ranks and gaining Vader’s trust. Instead, she was being used the whole time. Does that completely make sense? Not as much as I’d like, but that can be said about many shows and movies. Does it make sense that the Grand Inquisitor and Darth Vader leave Reva alone after they stab her once? Not so much, if only because this is the exact same way she stabbed him in episode 2 and…he’s alive! That’s my biggest and only criticism of this episode. That being said, if it leads to a kickass fight with her and Obi-Wan against the Inquisitors and Vader then I’ll be quite happy. I just wish the show would find a better way to keep characters alive, as the writing in that regard lacks creativity. Oh well, I can say the same for a lot of movies and TV (which I’ve said a few times in this piece, but not every gripe needs to be a deal breaker).
This episode works better on its own than the previous three episodes, and it’s by far the most entertaining of the first five. In even better news, now all the babies who kept pointing out that the Grand Inquisitor was alive and well at the start of the animated show Rebels can calm down. The second he was stabbed I knew he’d be back, which is why patience is a virtue in TV (and being a whiny weirdo in fandom circles is not). This doesn’t mean having questions is a bad thing, far from it. I’m referring to the people who act as if a show has actively assaulted them or ruined their childhood. We need to let the show tell its story and try and see where it could be going instead of being so reactive immediately.
This show has been clunky at times, there’s no denying that. I’ve only truly loved the first episode before this. Part I set up Obi-Wan’s journey and why he would leave everyone’s favorite desert planet nicely. While I’ve certainly had fun watching the show, for every moment I love (Kenobi stealth killing stormtroopers, Leia asking about her parents, seeing Clone Troopers that aren’t CGI, etc) we have a question rooted in what we’ve seen before. Leia would have hated the Empire earlier if she was kidnapped by them twice, right? Vader wouldn’t have had to call her a liar and a traitor in the original Star Wars because she very clearly would have always been against them. Unless he…doesn’t know about her being abducted despite all his minions knowing? When Vader and Kenobi were separated by the fire, why didn’t he use the Force to destroy the droid who rescued him? Or to carry Obi-Wan over the fire back to him? He can stop a spaceship mid take off and bring it back down but he can’t shove that droid around? I could go on, but you get the idea and the point is these are nitpicks if the story works, and in this episode, it very much works. The best parts may not be about Kenobi himself, but he’s still the connective tissue to everything happening. He’s the one discovering his old Jedi ways while morphing into the Ben Kenobi we met in 1977. Ewan is great as that version of the character, and seeing him as the mullet wearing teacher he was years ago was delightful.
Something that blew my mind in the credits was that one of the two credited writers is none other than Academy Winning filmmaker Andrew Stanton. Stanton received Best Screenplay Oscar nominations for his work in Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Wall•E, and Toy Story 3. He won two Oscars (for Best Animated Feature) for his work directing Finding Nemo and Wall•E. This is the first time he has been credited with anything to do with Star Wars (or anything love action since 2012’s underrated John Carter). Learning of his involvement after seeing this episode that stands head and shoulders above the previous four episodes makes me want to give him a lot of credit. Obviously I have no idea what he actually worked on specifically or brought to the table, but his talent appears to have been a major asset. He’s also credited as a co-writer for the final episode (Part VI), which gives me a lot of faith for what we’ll get next week.
This would be a good time to give props to the director, Deborah Chow, who has had to navigate a tricky time in iconic lore. Making a sequel to the prequels, that both tells us something new while being boxed in with many elements is no easy task. Part V is 35 minutes of dramatic tension, nostalgia, and intriguing character moments that had me unable to look away from my TV. And I like Reva! I think she’s a cool character on paper being played by a great actress. The problem is we’ve all known exactly what was going to happen with her character since the first episode, which means the way her arc is accomplished needs to be better to bring any excitement to her scenes. In part V, the execution is fantastic.
These moments between young Obi-Wan and Anakin, Obi-Wan and Reva, and Vader and Reva are so strongly executed that they’ve raised the bar on the whole show. The previous threads have come together and paid off while setting up a finale that has the potential to be supremely exciting and grand. I’m hoping for plenty more of Vader and Obi-Wan, and of course a massive throw down between them now that Kenobi is back to his old Jedi ways. I don’t quite know what part six has in store, but I hope it’s closer in length to part 1 (still the longest), so we can take our time with character beats and big action sequences in equal measure. Part V was the first that truly felt like it centered on Vader and Kenobi throughout, and playing off that established dynamic is the sweet spot for this show. If it nails the landing, it could easily become some of the most exciting Star Wars we’ve gotten in quite a while while making fans cry sweet sweet nostalgia tears (I will be one of them). For now, at least we have part five, a truly great slice of Star Wars.
Obi-Wan Kenobi – Part V | Grade: A–