My positivity about Obi-Wan Kenobi is running out. The series’ penultimate episode, while being the strongest so far, failed to completely quell my worries about the overall series. There’s the chance that the finale is able to completely redeem everything we’ve seen so far, but the general track record of the Star Wars TV series, combined with the lackluster nature of Obi-Wan, doesn’t exactly inspire my confidence.
I fear part of why this series is less effective than it should be is the fact that it was a COVID production. It hasn’t stopped a lot of film and television from achieving their goals — the diner scene in tick, tick…BOOM!, which combined individually-filmed Broadway stars into one musical number, comes to mind — but Obi-Wan Kenobi seems limited in its cast and set pieces, and I can’t help feeling that part of that is because of its production time. Additionally, there aren’t many aliens seen on-screen, and the visual effects seem cheaper than typical Disney Star Wars, which indicates a lack of preparation time and intricate care. It boggles my mind that a Star Wars show, which would theoretically have an unlimited budget, can feel so much like a network-produced drama.
“Part V” begins with something that the fans have been clamoring for, though the end result may not be as show-stopping as some might have hoped. We get a flashback of Attack of the Clones-era Anakin and Obi-Wan, practicing dueling just as Master and Padawan would. This is the clearest look we’ve gotten at Hayden Christensen so far in this series, and it doesn’t look like there was much de-aging work done on either him or Ewan McGregor. They look as they do now, with their Clones-style hairstyles and costumes informing us where we are in the timeline.
The flashback is limited to a training session which is spliced throughout the episode, in which Obi-Wan’s lessons and Anakin’s gentle vengeance parallel their arcs in the “present” timeline. In fact, Vader uses Obi-Wan’s lessons against Reva by the episode’s end, showing that Anakin did indeed respect and practice the teachings of his old Master — even using them for evil after his turn to the Dark Side. I like that the lines of the Light and the Dark become slightly more gray once we realize that certain tactics can be used by both, for similar or dissimilar outcomes.
In his first scene in the episode, Vader makes Third Sister Reva (Moses Ingram) the new Grand Inquisitor, fulfilling a promise he made to her in “Part III.” She’s hell-bent on tracking down Kenobi and his rebellious allies, using a beacon she put into Leia’s droid L0-LA59 as a method of finding their location.
That location is the planet Jabiim, where Obi-Wan once again meets Haja Estree (Kumail Nanjiani), a con man who helped him and Leia escape Daiyu in “Part II.” Unless he serves some additional purpose in the finale, I honestly see no reason for Haja to reappear, but it’s always nice to see Kumail Nanjiani. His dialogue in “Part V” is limited to quips and unhelpful urges, though his appearance is, to quote the best Star Wars villain, “a surprise, to be sure…but a welcome one.”
Following the tracking beacon, Reva besieges the rebels into their base and uses the reprogrammed droid to seal them in. Leia is the only one who can fit into the vents to repair the damage and ensure that the hangar doors can be opened, and thus, into the vent she goes…for nearly the entire length of the episode.
Obi-Wan’s negotiations with Reva yield some answers and confirmation of some prior theories: Reva was indeed the youngling seen in “Part I”’s Order 66 flashback, and that’s how she knows Vader’s true identity. She witnessed him murder her friends, and played dead in an effort to escape. At some point, she became an Inquisitor, but she’s had an ulterior motive this entire time: all that she wants is to make Anakin pay for what he did to the younglings.
I’m not sure if I love or hate Reva’s turn on a dime. Her new motivation fits in with her backstory, but not much else. Why even kidnap Leia and draw out Obi-Wan in the first place? Why hasn’t she made more moves to gain Vader’s favor in the last decade if her primary goal is to get close to him, and later kill him to satiate her desire for revenge? In putting Reva on a redemption arc, the series only evokes more questions, many of which I doubt will be addressed going forward.
The first truly epic set piece of the series arrives when the stormtroopers break into the base and a firefight breaks out. The rebels are forced back, and Tala (Indira Varma) takes the front line with her droid NED-B. As Leia rushes to repair the hangar doors — not fast enough, based on Haja’s urgent shouts — the siege becomes a battle, and Tala sacrifices herself using a thermal detonator, giving Obi-Wan and the others a chance to seal themselves in even further into the base.
I find Tala’s departure more frustrating than anything else. I felt no shock or sadness at her passing, which only proves that Obi-Wan Kenobi is far more interested in attempting to give the fans what they want and providing exciting visuals than introducing side characters who are worth the emotion they’re trying to elicit.
There’s no longer a red tint in Vader’s eyes as he stands on the bridge of his personal Star Destroyer, the Devastator. We know what’s coming, and it can’t come soon enough; Vader soon makes his way down to the surface of Jabiim and, in a sequence that echoes his arrival on the Hoth base in The Empire Strikes Back, he steps into the hangar just as the rebels’ ship is taking off. Unlike in Empire, this is Vader in his prime, and he is powerful enough to use the Force to stop the escape ship in its tracks and force it back down, utterly destroying it in the process. This is a direct callback to the no-longer-canon 2008 video game The Force Unleashed, in which Vader’s secret apprentice, Starkiller, used the Force to ground and subsequently desolate a Star Destroyer. Rey attempted to do the same thing in The Rise of Skywalker, though hers ended in an aerial display of lighting and explosions as opposed to an impressive grounding.
Despite Vader’s theatrics, the Path is able to endure, as it turns out that the ship he destroyed was only a decoy. The real ship rises further off, and Vader can only watch as Obi-Wan slips through his grasp once again. He won’t be able to rest for long, though, as Reva chooses this moment to attack him. The cunning Sith Lord uses Obi-Wan’s flashback tactics against Reva, and after impaling her on her own blade, he reveals that he knew her plan all along, and that he’s only been using her for her “useful” rage. I can see where Vader is coming from, but it feels more like a writers’ excuse than anything else. Why else would he indulge her for ten years? The chances of both of them, impatient as they are, playing the long game seems more unlikely than not.
The second bombshell comes when it’s revealed that the former Grand Inquisitor (Rupert Friend) is still alive, despite Reva’s best efforts. It’s never explained in the series, but his species has two stomachs, which is likely how he was able to survive his impaling from “Part II.” We knew it was coming, based on his future canon appearance in Star Wars Rebels, but it’s still satisfying to see him grin in Reva’s formerly-smug face.
Reva’s fate is left up in the air, but along with the fact that we never actually see her die and the new rumors about a potential spin-off, there’s no doubt in my mind that she’s still alive. After all, Vader is only a secondary villain in this series, and though the writing is inconsistent and can be irritating, Reva has been set up as the primary antagonist for a reason. She’ll live to fight another day in next week’s finale.
On the escape cruiser, Obi-Wan realizes that he left behind his holoprojector on Jabiim. On it is a message from Leia’s adoptive father Bail Organa (Jimmy Smits), which exposits the hiding places of both Skywalker twins. The fact that it’s left by Reva’s “body” only further sets up what could possibly be a truly entertaining finale. A shot of young Luke Skywalker (Grant Feely) on Tatooine is the shot we’re left with before cutting to black.
“Entertaining” is a good word to describe the state of the series. It’s enjoyable, but not what we thought it would be. I’m now fully convinced that Obi-Wan Kenobi is not meant to be a necessary entry in Star Wars canon, and is instead for the diehard fans like me, who will watch every new piece of Star Wars content whether it’s good or not, and those curious as to what Obi-Wan was specifically up to during this point in his life. But even that feels in danger of being retconned — as the series progresses, Obi-Wan has less and less of a reason to relegate Luke to Tatooine, and his motivations in A New Hope become thinner by comparison.
In regards to easter eggs and the “nerdy stuff” that I pride myself on, “Part V” is relatively light. We see fleeting shots of various alien species (including reptilian Trandoshans), Obi-Wan’s holoprojector is likely the same one used by his Master in The Phantom Menace, and Roken (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) uses a bowcaster, Chewbacca’s signature weapon, but aside from that, it seems that this episode was more focused on creating a path to the finale than sprinkling in little tidbits for the diehards. What it does do is call back with specific scene and shot choices — Vader’s entrance into the base is a prime example — which is arguably better than specific background details. They’re easier to spot, but not distracting enough to take you out of the experience.
Of course, there’s always downsides. Consistency has never been the strong suit of the Star Wars universe, and this episode only proves it. Tala gets mowed down by a blaster shot, and manages to survive long enough to pull off a suicide death (which is being used more and more in the Disney Star Wars era). At this point, blaster wounds only do what the plot needs them to do, which is only one of a long list of inconsistencies and plain lazy choices in service of the plot. To make things worse, Tala’s wound even looked survivable!
As with many of these shows, I’m praying that the finale will be able to stick the landing. There are rumors floating around the internet that it will be feature-length, and while runtime doesn’t necessarily equal quality, perhaps a little time is what Obi-Wan Kenobi needs to adequately tie up all of its plot threads and give some due diligence to the characters and saga-spanning arcs it’s failed to heed thus far.