Obi-Wan Kenobi (2022) Episode 3 Review
“I am what you made me.”
Obi-Wan Kenobi episode 3 has landed and with it, the much-awaited return of Darth Vader since Rogue One. But brace yourself, the results are, well, underwhelming.
While the episode does a great job in visually suiting up Darth Vader in a sequence akin to Iron Man suiting up (Jon Favreau’s influence is felt here) and the ensuing scene, it does not maintain that quality of writing moving forward.
For one, Vader does not sense Obi-Wan, and while the Jedi master may have learned to detach himself from the force like Luke, there’s nothing in the storytelling to indicate this. Moreover, Vader is in his prime and should be able to weed him out quickly. It’s then when I realized, he is too powerful of a character — any which way, you quickly write yourself into a corner. Something that was evident in the confrontation between Kenobi and Vader in the episode’s conclusion.
We saw a ruthless Vader take apart a room full of rebels, with effortless skill. It was breathtaking, and the new standard for how to showcase the character. This is to say, the show had an uphill battle, perhaps they should have tapped Rogue One writer Tony Gilroy to join the writer’s room and help polish the scripts. Some might argue he may have been too busy serving as showrunner and lead writer on his own series, Andor. I would counter this by acknowledging his proven track record of writing on a whims notice. But I digress…
The show has painted a versatile Kenobi, using his wit to defeat his enemies without wielding his lightsaber. While it is reasonable for that wit to escape him in confronting his former pupil, it is a mistake.
This episode was on the verge of greatness, we were close.
It is justifiable for Kenobi to be frightened by the endeavor of confronting his greatest failure and choosing to run instead. After all, he has been inactive for a decade and no longer in his prime, facing a more powerful adversary. So what does he do when he is cornered out on the dirt road by Vader?
He uses his surroundings to his advantage.
Using the wit he’s displayed thus far, he wields the force to raise the dirt around him and mask himself like a gas grenade. The musical score could kick in to build suspense here.
The music could evoke the feelings Kenobi is feeling at this very moment, fear.
He searches for an exit, but he doesn’t see one, meanwhile, Vader taunts him. (Think Bane monologuing in his match against Batman in The Dark Knight Rises.)
What is this building towards? A confrontation.
As previously mentioned the series has been building towards the moment when Kenobi finally lights up his saber, unfortunately, it is wasted when he looks aimlessly around him.
Instead, they should have held out until Vader finds him, forcing him to light up his saber in reaction to the attack. Capitalizing on the very moment the show had been building towards.
The episode does a good job of using the night sky to contrast the visually striking effects of a lightsaber match. But this is the part where we should have seen the cunning Vader we saw in Rogue One, a formidable opponent in his prime wiping the floor with his former mentor. We should have seen a sith lord in total control of the situation, pushing Kenobi to his limits with enough restraint to ensure he suffers a slow painful death later.
But that’s not the only problem with this sequence.
When Tala comes to rescue Kenobi, she makes one strategic mistake. She blasts one of the storm troopers which gives away her position. Vader would have capitalized on this mistake, pulling her away from her vantage point effortlessly and snapping her neck as Kenobi watched.
Again, Vader is too powerful — you very quickly write yourself into a corner.
Let’s try this again, shall we?
Tala arrives, scans the situation, and strategically uses her blaster to blow up the mechanism that creates a fire cover for Kenobi.
In this scenario, she still gives away her position and should have died consequentially too, but she doesn’t risk capture with her first blast as she did in the episode.
Even if you could fix all that, it doesn’t explain why Vader didn’t drag Kenobi through a path of flames once more. Nor why he didn’t take apart the loading dock droid, NED-B, piece by piece. Or more simply, why he didn’t put out the flames like he did a moment before.
Darth Vader is too powerful — you quickly write yourself into a corner.
But, the series is riddled with problems…
The show is at its midpoint, and I am beginning to think actor/producer Ewan McGregor letting slip the potential for more episodes beyond the initially confirmed 6-episode order is true. Because we are moving way too slow for the story to be near its conclusion — we are nowhere of value, and that is concerning because bringing back these characters is proving to be a futile effort.
Initially, attaching Deborah Chow to this mini-series was an exciting prospect. After all, she proved to be a stand-out director in season 1 of The Mandalorian. Taking the helm of series highlights, The Sin (Chapter 3) and The Reckoning(Chapter 7). It should benefit from her singular vision. Why then does it feel like a poor display of her talent?
It all points to the writer’s room, which consists largely of scribes who have developed duds in their past. The only promising talent here is acclaimed Pixar writer Andrew Stanton, who contributed to parts 5 and 6. A notable mention is Stuart Beattie, who surprisingly wrote Michael Mann’s Collateral (2004) and also developed the franchise highs of Pirates of the Caribbean, but also its lows.
Thus far, the series has seemingly wasted the talent of Rupert Friend as the Grand Inquisitor. It wastes compelling conflict within the ranks of the inquisitors for irksome antics. But above all, the show has wasted a valuable opportunity to revisit these characters after 17 years.
One thing the series does not fumble is the return of Hayden Christensen as Darth Vader. I was concerned they would repeat the same mistake they made in The Book of Bobba Fett, where they displayed the character heavily without his helmet. Because there is no reasonable explanation as to why Christensen would agree to return, if he was going to spend the entire time under his helmet and be dubbed over. While there is plenty of time for that to happen, I hope it doesn’t overuse this strategy, if at all. The return of Christensen actually works rather well, he brings a physicality worthy of the character, honoring everything that came before while bringing a different energy to his movements. I also worried they might choose to use his voice, but rest assured James Earl Jones has not been replaced as the voice of the iconic character. Vader lives!
Here’s hoping the series ends with a bang.