Both Hayden Christensen and James Earl Jones return to the franchise to breathe life into one of the most terrifying villains in cinematic history -- and Obi-Wan is not prepared!
One of the most beloved and terrifying villains in all of cinema, it is still exciting every time Darth Vader's breathing is heard. Hinted at in the two-part premiere, Anakin Skywalker takes center stage in this week's "Obi-Wan Kenobi."
We knew it would be inevitable that Ewan McGregor's Obi-Wan would come face-to-face again with his old Padawan, Hayden Christensen's Anakin Skywalker. What we didn't expect was how soon it would happen.
We were also a little surprised at how poorly the whole thing went for old Ben. We knew he was out of practice, and perhaps even more damningly, out of hope, but we still thought he would fare a little better against his old student.
As exciting as it was to see the glimpses of Hayden so far this season, it was even more chilling when he was fully armored up and the towering voice of James Earl Jones erupted from that iconic masks. Some things are just magic!
Honestly, knowing that Hayden and James are willing to step back into this role makes us want a Darth Vader series more than anything after this. The time is now. Marvel Comics have been running Darth Vader comics for years now, so there's plenty of precedent for putting him in the lead.
For now, though, Vader stepped into the light as the force (natch) behind the Inquisitors that have been trying to track down not just any Jedi they can find to dispatch them, but Anakin's old teacher in particular.
Underneath his single-minded focus, there's a secondary power struggle happening now between the embattled Moses Ingram's Reva (racist "Star Wars" fans are the worst!) and Sung Kang's Fifth Brother.
What those fans need to realize is that both performers are overacting to the hilt in their roles. And also that overacting is a staple dating all the way back to 1977 when Mark Hamill first whined that he was going to go to Toshi Station to pick up some power converters. This is space opera, after all. It trades in melodrama.
The plot of this episode crept forward only incrementally, with Obi-Wan and Leia arriving on the mining system planet of Mapuzo in that cargo transport. They finally meet up with their contact after a strange encounter with a mole-looking alien fans are convinced is Zach Braff.
After Kumail Nanjiani's comic relief role in the premiere, Zach was given full credit for this episode, but his role is not evidently apparent, nor do the end credits identify it. We've narrowed it down to this goofy alien in what would be a put-on voice, or a silent role as a loader droid (but that hardly makes sense).
The whole aside with the mole-ien (see what we did there?) was to get Obi-Wan and Leia to the village where they could then have their close encounter with the Inquisitors and Lord Vader himself. In other words, it was a thinly veiled plot device to move the characters from Point A to Point B.
We did get a very poignant sequence with Obi-Wan and Leia as they struggled to keep their cover story straight with a small platoon of Stormtroopers who join them on the ride.
After Obi-Wan accidentally calls Leia by her real name, he covers by saying that was her late mother's name. "Sometimes when I look at [her], I see her mother's face," said Obi-Wan, and it was clear that he meant every word of that, remembering Padme Amidala.
It was a beautifully performed moment from Ewan McGregor, who continues to knock it out of the park with his haunted performance. Even Leia picked up on it, asking if he knew her real mother before sadly asking him if he was her father.
Like Luke later, he couldn't bring himself to tell her the truth about her father. In this case, though, considering Vader showed up just a few moments later, it was probably a good call. Talk about needing therapy!
The mole alien sequence also introduced us to Indira Varma's Tala, a rebel sympathizer working from within the Empire. Honestly, we have a feeling she won't survive the series, though she's still with us so far.
After Vader shows up, Obi-Wan tasks Tala with getting Leia to the space port, but Leia urges her to go back and save Obi-Wan. Somehow everyone seems to forget that this is a child, because Tala does just that, leaving the relatively defenseless, impulsive and reckless Leia to find her own way to the port and the pilot that's set to take her and Obi-Wan off the planet.
Of course, it goes about as well as you might expect. As Leia gets to the end of the tunnel, she finds Reva instead of the pilot. Actually, she finds them both, but the pilot is in no condition to fly anymore... or breathe.
The good news on the other side is that Tala did manage to make her way back to where Obi-Wan was, making a huge difference in his potentially parallel story with Leia. The princess is sure to be in custody seconds after the end credits started. Obi-Wan nearly was.
It was clear right away that Obi-Wan and Vader sensed one another, which is why Obi-Wan sent Tala with Leia while he ran away from the village to try and lure Vader away.
It's also why Vader started indiscriminately killing innocent civilians, including children, in an attempt to lure the great Jedi Master out to save the innocent. Well, that didn't quite work, but it was in line with his killing of younglings in "Episode III."
Obi-Wan got his first look at what had become of his student, with Vader telling him he'd become what Obi-Wan made him. Obi-Wan tries to run a few times, but confrontation and battle was inevitable.
Vader quickly surmised what we've been seeing all along, and that is that time has not been kind to his old Master. Add to that the emotional trauma of seeing Anakin like this after thinking him dead all these years, and it's no wonder Obi-Wan's heart wasn't in their duel.
It was pretty telling how angry Vader still is by things when he created a fire and threw Obi-Wan into it, clearly wanting to inflict upon him some of the same pain and torment he endured at the end of "Revenge of the Sith."
He could have burned him there, but Vader actually put the fire out, clearly having even more nefarious plans for Obi-Wan. Luckily for our hero, that's when Tala showed up with a strategic blast to reignite the flames as our silent loader robot friend who helped them hide out in the first place, NED-B, helped carry Obi-Wan to safety.
You know, NED-B could also turn out to be Zach Braff. Much was made of the fact that loaders aren't given the ability to communicate, with Leia nevertheless talking to him in a friendly manner. The droid was already protective of her, ready to attack. So if Zach's role isn't a one-off, perhaps NED-B will gain a voice before the series ends.
NED-B might also offer a connection to a familiar name from the "Clone Wars" series, Quinlan Vos. He and Obi-Wan had many adventures together in those years, with Obi-Wan finding a message from him etched into the wall of NED-B's place. "Only when they eyes are closed can you truly see," read the message, with Obi-Wan filling in the end: "The way."
In the closing moments, we were a little surprised Vader just watched NED-B save Obi-Wan rather than do anything to stop it. But perhaps a fire he didn't start and control is still a little triggering for him, even though we also got a glimpse of his hellish homebase on the planet Mustafar.
Perhaps it was just a case of the plot demanding he let Obi-Wan go. Or maybe Anakin knew this would set up an even more dramatic encounter later. We all know how much Ani loves drama; something that clearly did not change after he became Darth Vader.
Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of this episode is realizing just how inconsequential the entire Iniquisitor storyline is now that Vader is directly involved. Be honest, who really cares anymore whether Fifth Brother or Third Sister emerges victorious in their power struggle?
It's a testament to the strength of the character, but also the depth of history between Anakin and Obi-Wan meant that it could go no other way. Of course that is going to be the dominant dynamic. The anticipation for the characters and the fans has been years in the making.
But by triggering that reunion now, it diluted the other big villains of the series. Now, all the stuff with Reva kidnapping Leia again is going to just feel like a distraction, with fans probably growing impatient as they await the main event that's inevitably going to come.
The writers have a monumental task at this halfway point now to make sure the back half maintains our attention and excitement as much as the first half did, now that the biggest emotional impact moment of the whole series has already happened.
The fallout can be compelling, but we're also going to need real stakes beyond just saving Leia. We need to see how Obi-Wan processes this before fully becoming the old hermit Ben Kenobi back on Tatooine. Will this be their only encounter of the series?
It would be surprising if that were so considering how eager Vader was to get his hands on his old Master and torture him relentlessly. How do we get from this point, where Obi-Wan was in his Force-powered grip to him losing track of Ben for another decade?
"Obi-Wan Kenobi" continues with new episodes every Wednesday on Disney+.