Disney Plus revelers were left champing at the bit when 'Obi-Wan Kenobi' episode two ended with a tantalizing teaser of Darth Vader chilling in his bacta tank. Unfortunately, poor old Ben didn't look nearly as relaxed. In fact, he looked like he'd seen a ghost, and not the sparkly glowy Jedi kind!
As you can imagine, episode three is all about Darth Vader's return and yes, we now know that James Earl Jones has reprised his role as the Dark Lord's menacing voice (with a little assistance from an AI). But although Obi-Wan and Vader finally cross laser swords, this probably isn't the rematch you've been hoping for. Old Ben can barely find his lightsaber's on switch, let alone put up much of a fight against the Empire's finest.
For 'Obi-Wan Kenobi' to be considered one of the best Star Wars TV shows master and apprentice will have to face off in a big way, and with three episodes still to go, we're confident that's still on the cards. Here's our hot take on the series' most action-packed episode yet…
If you've missed our review on the first two episodes of 'Obi-Wan Kenobi', released simultaneously, be sure to check it out alongside our Obi-Wan Kenobi streaming guide to find out more about the show and its release schedule. We've also put together a guide to all the Obi-Wan Kenobi Easter eggs that we spotted in the first couple of episodes too.
The episode begins with Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) meditating aboard the cargo transport he and Leia (Vivien Lyra Blair) stowed away on at the end of Episode 2. “Are you there, master,” he says as he tries to reach out to his old mentor, Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson). Kenobi's thoughts are soon corrupted by the voice of Reva: “He's alive, Obi-Wan,” as the camera cuts to two mechanical clamps being lowered into Darth Vader's (Hayden Christensen) bacta tank.
A visceral montage of the Dark Lord's body being encased in the terrifying life-support suit reminds us of the horrific injuries he sustained during his duel with 'Obi-Wan' on Mustafar. It's not by accident that this is the most intimate depiction of the former Jedi's grueling day-to-day existence. It becomes clear later in the episode that Darth Vader is not yet the self-assured Sith Lord from the original trilogy, but very much hung up on his past, hellbent on destroying his former master.
The montage cuts between Obi-Wan's agitated expressions – once again we're treated to another stellar performance from Ewan McGregor. As the notorious kabuto-inspired helmet is lowered onto Hayden Christensen's head we hear the unmistakable hiss of its airtight seal, before what is arguably the most famous sound effect in movie history, Darth Vader's unnervingly even breaths.
An establishing shot of Darth Vader's Castle (AKA Vader's Fortress) on Mustafar then cuts to the Dark Lord's throne room, where he's receiving a holoprojection from Reva Sevander (Moses Ingram). The Third Sister provides an update on Kenobi's whereabouts and we find that Vader shares the inquisitor's obsession on finding the errant Jedi.
This scene finally confirms that James Earl Jones has reprised his role as the villain's menacing voice, something Lucasfilm had successfully kept under wraps. It was evident in 'Rogue One' that Jones's voice has changed slightly (as does everyone's over the years) and due to this Vader's cleaner tone, we wouldn't be surprised if some digital jiggery pokery has been used to make it more akin to the original trilogy Vader. Whether or not this was necessary is up for debate – we love the added grit and menace to Jones's 'Rogue One' performance – but either way, hearing the veteran voice actor's unique timbre beneath the mask was a real treat.
When we return to Obi-Wan he's fixing LOLA, Leia's droid companion (collective awww) before the youngster asks Ben a question that only a child would ponder: “What does it feel like? [the force]” Obi-Wan uses a delightful analogy that a child would relate to: being afraid of the dark and then turning on a light and feeling safe. This is particularly pertinent, since the ageing Jedi has spent the entire journey from Daiyu, in fear of Anakin's existence.
The cargo transport touches down on Mapuzo and the pair of fugitives sneak off into the barren countryside. Obi-Wan does his best to quell Leia's youthful optimism, pointing out the Empire's ravaging of a landscape once covered in fields before he stops to stare at a hooded figure, none other than Anakin Skywalker, in the distance. The apparition soon disappears – another indication that Obi-Wan blames himself for Anakin's turn to the dark side and perhaps an ominous sign that although a shred of Anakin still exists, Darth Vader has almost completely destroyed him.
The inquisitors' transport, the Scythe, then lands in an obelisk-like building surrounded by sea called Fortress Inquisitorius. Only Reva exits the ship before heading into the complex to address the Fifth Brother (Sung Kang) and Fourth Sister (Rya Kihlstedt). When she reveals Obi-Wan's location the other inquisitors question her judgement. The Fifth Brother attempts to forcibly stamp his authority, announcing that he's “next in line” to the position of grand inquisitor. However, when Reva reveals she's had an audience with Darth Vader, her peers reluctantly fall in line.
Back on Mapuzo, a still untrusting Obi-Wan is ready to give up on Haja Estree's (Kumail Nanjiani) promise of help when Leia spots an industrial vehicle in the distance. The youngster immediately beckons the vehicle – much to Obi-Wan's dismay – and introduces them both as daughter and father from Tawl. We find the vehicle is piloted by an alien called Freck, voiced by Zach Braff (who does his best Seth Rogen impression). Props to Lucasfilm for the design of this character. He looks like a mole – fitting for a resident of a mining planet.
Leia fabricates a story and although somewhat sceptical, the jovial Freck is all too happy to offer them a lift (much to Kenobi's displeasure). As the pair hitch a ride on the back of the vehicle, we see it is adorned with the ominous symbol of the Galactic Empire. During the journey, the alien reveals he's all too happy with the Empire's occupation and before long he offers a ride to four stormtroopers. We loved the tension as Obi-Wan and Leia converse with the troopers and it's also nice to witness the soldier's as something other than faceless fodder.
But when Obi-Wan calls Leia by her real name – and not the alias they've been using – he raises suspicion. He manages to explain the slip of the tongue by fashioning a story that he accidentally called his daughter by her recently deceased mother's name. The troopers buy it and disembark.
Leia then questions the sincerity of Obi-Wan's story, asking: “You knew her, my real mother, didn't you?” Obi-Wan deflects, causing the child to ask if he's her real father. A sweet moment ensues where Kenobi says he wishes he was. He then consoles the child by talking of his separation from his own family when he joined the Jedi Order.
The moment is interrupted by an imperial checkpoint. When one of the stormtroopers enquires about Freck's passengers, the mole-like being says: “Thought you might wanna check 'em out.” When the suspicious trooper calls for a probe droid, Obi-Wan soon realizes he had no choice but to fight, but not before the recon unit scans his face and delivers the data to Fortress Inquisitorius. Kenobi only uses his blaster in the ensuing scuffle – further building tension for when he's finally forced to reignite his lightsaber – and in an uncharacteristically graphic but viscerally satisfying scene, the checkpoint's energy beams cut a falling stormtrooper in half.
When a troop transport carrying three stormtroopers and an imperial officer arrives, Obi-Wan and Leia have little choice but to surrender. But in a surprising turn of events, the officer shoots the three troopers and provides safe passage to a nearby settlement.
In a moment of downtime, a visibly shaken Leia tells Obi-Wan that she “didn't mean to run away,” and it was, “just for fun.” It's nice to see Leia's vulnerable side here and we don't see it enough. Vivien Lyra Blair's performance is delightful and at times downright uncanny, but little Leia isn't the princess who sassed Grand Moff Tarkin and throttled Jabba the Hutt just yet and the script doesn't always reflect that.
The fugitives are taken to a droid maintenance workshop run by a large, mute loader droid called NED-B, with a hidden room out back, so they can wait in relative safety for a pilot to shuttle them offworld.
The rogue imperial officer, Tala Durith (Indira Varma), reveals she is part of an underground movement that's ferrying enemies of the Empire to a planet called Jabiim. A sharp knock at the workshop's front door kills the conversation as two stormtroopers arrive in search of the fugitives. They soon move on, but it's clear staying put is no longer safe so Tala contacts the pilot to move up Obi-Wan and Leia's scheduled departure.
As they ready themselves Tala reveals that she joined the Empire and before she realized what she'd gotten herself into it was too late. When she confesses her mistake, Obi-Wan interjects by telling her they all made mistakes to which she replies: “I can't imagine Obi-Wan Kenobi doing anything wrong.” The former Jedi shifts nervously, “It's just Ben, these days.” This is yet another example of how disillusioned Kenobi really is and McGregor sells it with aplomb. Tala opens a sliding door to reveal a secret tunnel, but before the trio can leave, Kenobi senses a strong disturbance in the force that sends him into a stagger.
Ben moves to the workshop's front door and peers out. Stormtroopers line the street as a pair of inquisitors round the corner. Then, deep breaths signal the source of the disturbance, Darth Vader. As the Sith Lord paces down the dark street he ruthlessly uses the force to drag an innocent man through an open window and out onto the street. When his son runs out and attempts to help he is thrown against an exterior wall before his neck is snapped.
Star Wars has never shied away from adult themes (planet-destroying super weapons, slaughtered younglings and all that) but it usually leaves something to the imagination. Heck, even Reva gasps at Vader's penchant for brutality for goodness sake! Much like Vader's glorious final scene in 'Rogue One' (although somewhat toned down), witnessing the Dark Lord's incredible power in live-action, and not just the pages of a novel or comic book, is thrilling stuff. Just be mindful if younglings are watching at home.
Obi-Wan tells Tala to get Leia to Alderaan while he distracts the imperials. He looks outside again to find Vader dragging a moaning woman along the streets before turning and looking for an escape route from the workshop. In a slightly jarring edit, the camera cuts to NED-B – not a viable exit – and the next time we see Kenobi, he's magically made it outside…
Vader senses his old master and follows suit, leaving the inquisitors with orders to sweep the town. What we hope will prove to be just the first round of the fight of the century, takes place in a quarry. It makes sense, given the mining location, but isn't the most inventive of battlegrounds for a saga that's previously wowed fans with the carbon-freezing chamber, Emperor's throne room and Theed power generator.
When Vader finally confronts his old master and ignites his lightsaber, old Ben stares at his own lightsaber hilt as if he can't remember how to ignite it, let alone fight his powerful old apprentice, turned super villain. So he runs…
Rather fittingly, fear is what finally gets the former Jedi to ignite his brilliant blue blade as he struggles to predict Vader's whereabouts. When the pair face off for the second time, Obi-Wan says: “What have you become?” Vader replies: “I am what you made me”, before the Jedi skedaddles once again. This is perhaps the best exchange of dialogue in the entire series yet, perfectly summing up Vader's hatred of his former master.
Back in the town, Reva begins sniffing around the droid maintenance workshop before we cut back to Kenobi and the sudden hiss of Vader's lightsaber, which the old Jedi just about manages to parry. A few more swings ensue and it's apparent that Hayden Christensen has David Prowse's powerful physical performance (in the original trilogy) down to a tee.
Meanwhile, Leia has been pestering Tala to turn back and help Obi-Wan, insisting that she can make it the rest of the way on her own. The resistance fighter finally agrees – unaware that Reva is hot on their trail.
Obi-Wan eventually runs himself into an opening with no immediate escape. With the Jedi master cornered, Vader uses the force to spill a giant container of vintrium and then raises Obi-Wan into the air. He then uses his lightsaber to ignite the spillage and says: “Now you will suffer, Obi-Wan.” Kenobi is forced into the flames for a few seconds before the Dark Lord quells the inferno and orders a stormtrooper to retrieve the hapless Jedi.
But before the order is fulfilled, Tala, perched on higher ground, shoots the imperial trooper and then blasts an explosive canister which reignites the flames. NED-B then retrieves the injured Obi-Wan as Vader looks on. Quite why Vader doesn't distinguish the flames like he did just moments ago appears to be a Death Star-sized plot hole, but the way he just stands there, gazing at Kenobi through the flames, making no attempt to navigate the fire suggests one of two things. He's unhappy with the Jedi's lack of fight and wants him to live another day to provide better sport. Or, he's experiencing conflict with the Anakin Skywalker that we know still exists. Either way, any reasons why should have been made a little more obvious and little less like an oversight.
The episode ends with Tala readying a transport for Kenobi, while Leia is still making her way through the tunnel. Just as the youngster reaches the exit, she bumps into Reva and the body of the pilot who was supposed to take her offworld.
The whole tunnel sequence feels a bit messy, because Reva manages to get ahead of Leia and Tala heads off to save Kenobi, but we're not given any visual cues as to how they reach either destination. To get ahead of Leia, Reva must have realized the tunnel lead to the spaceport and travelled above ground to head her off. Even a tiny bit of footage showing her walk away from the tunnel entrance would have made this more obvious.
As for Tala, you can just about see that the tunnel is in fact a network of tunnels, hence why she was able to get to Obi-Wan without running into any resistance. But how she knew exactly where to find the Jedi in peril – and managed to notify NED-B in the process – is anyone's guess…
Episode 3 of 'Obi-Wan Kenobi' is the most fun we've had yet and the main cast have continued to deliver fine performances, but jarring edits and a couple of curious plot decisions prevent this episode from being awarded a higher score than the first two. The best mini series are tight knit, super-slick productions, something the series' second half must deliver.
Obi-Wan's continued inability to kick imperial butt may disappoint some, but indirectly abetting Darth Sidious's rise to power and almost killing your best mate weighs heavily on the mind, and we're very much enjoying the tension created by this unusual dynamic. That said, we'll definitely feel short changed if Vader and Ben don't go at it again hammer and tongs before the series' conclusion. But you don't need a force vision to know that's going to happen, right?
Get the Space.com Newsletter
Breaking space news, the latest updates on rocket launches, skywatching events and more!
Mike is a freelance writer for Space.com with over ten years experience. He also serves as Deputy Editor for N-Photo: The Nikon Magazine. As you might expect, he's an avid photographer, but he's also a bit of a sci-fi buff so you're just as likely to find him reviewing Star Wars Lego as the latest cameras.