The Return of Kenobi Review – Part III

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| June 14, 2022


Obi-Wan tries meditation, beseeching his late Master Qui-Gon Jinn for help, as the voices of his failings tauntingly haunt him. The peace and assurance he is seeking are fleeting. I thought it was odd that Obi-Wan was asking Qui-Gon for strength during his meditation. When a Jedi dies, they don’t become saints or angels, able to bestow a special Force blessing on those who prayerfully petition them. They become one with the Force. All Jedis know that’s where their true power is sourced from. 

The horribly scarred back of Darth Vader comes into view. Metal mechanisms attend to their Master, attaching all four of his prostheses, assembling his iconic suit, and piecing together a machine that shells the husk of a man. The helmet descends, and Vader takes his first audible breath in this series. 

Fortress Vader, a dramatically situated stronghold on Mustafar, is perfectly fit for a Sith Lord’s home. The Third Sister, Reva, has contacted Darth Vader and is giving him the rundown on their current situation, spinning a tale to fit her narrative. She blames Obi-Wan for the Grand Inquisitor’s death. Darth Vader, with the powerful, booming voice of James Earl Jones, doesn’t seem concerned with the details and assures her she will be the next Grand Inquisitor if she can deliver Obi-Wan. 

Little Leia inquires about what the Force feels like. Perhaps she thinks she may be sensitive to it but hasn’t had anything to compare it to? Obi-Wan asks her, “Have you ever been afraid of the dark? How does it feel when you turn on the light?” “I feel safe,” she replies. “It feels like that,” he assures. Throughout this series, Obi-Wan seems like he has felt anything but safe. He’s unsteady, unsure of his next move, and scared. His faith has been shaken, and he can’t seem to step out of the shadows into the light. 

They finally reach their destination: Mapuzo, located in a mining system, a planet once full of life, families, and fertile fields which has now been strip-mined and ravaged by the Empire. The barren landscape is beautifully stunning in a simplistic way, and the sweeping music certainly adds to the view. 

As Obi-Wan and Leia make their way down a dusty, lonesome road toward the rendezvous point, Obi-Wan sees Anakin on a far hill, in the brown robes of a Jedi, glaring at him. This isn’t portrayed as a Force vision or dream but seems to be a hallucination that only Obi-Wan can see. He stops and stares. Is this a dark omen, foreshadowing what is to come? 

Fortress Inquisitorius makes its first live-action debut. It is the underwater, heavily armed headquarters of the Inquisitors. This is where the Jedi and force sensitives are taken to be tortured until they turn to the dark side or die. In the video game Jedi Fallen Order, there is a level where you must infiltrate this stronghold. The Third Sister arrives with a commanding air to educate the fellow Inquisitors of her correspondence with Lord Vader and plan their next move. The Fifth Brother is not keen on her power grab for the title of Grand Inquisitor and is going to do what he can to obtain the title himself. Probe droids are sent out to gather intel in search of Obi-Wan and the Princess. 

On display around the Inquisitor’s war room are the lightsabers of the Jedi who have been captured or killed.

Obi-Wan and Leia make it to the rendezvous, and Obi-Wan becomes impatient, disregarding all the previous training he bestowed upon Anakin about having patience. (?)

Obi-Wan is convinced they are on their own, that people are not all good, and no one is coming to help them. He snaps at Leia for a second time since being on Mapuzo, which is very out of character. Obi-Wan has always been calm and collected, with a dry sense of humor and stoic even in the face of hardship. This Obi-Wan seems like ‘a crazy old man’ who’s been alone far too long, who’s forgotten about hope. Leia becomes the galaxy’s beacon of hope as she matures. Maybe this time with Obi-Wan has shown her what happens when people lose their faith, so it steeled her determination to help others in their most desperate hour? 

Leia takes charge and flags down a transport with a friendly alien mole-beaver person named Freck, voiced by Zach Braff. She stumbles through their fake alias story but gains traction as she explains their dilemma of being lost. As they make introductions, she turns to Obi-Wan and says, “Father, aren’t you going to say hello?” Are we going to get the infamous line?! Sadly, we did not. A missed opportunity.  

They board the back of the transport, which bears a flag of the Empire. Freck makes small talk with them about where they’re from. Further down the road, Freck stops to pick up four stormtroopers whose transport is late. The troopers make small talk asking why they are there. 

Worst. Case. Scenario.

Leia butts in with a creative flair and says he had brought her there to see the place he had met her mother before she… Leia trails off as Obi-Wan explains that her mother isn’t alive anymore, and it’s been very difficult for them. He ends up calling her by her real name in which one of the troopers catches the slip. Obi-Wan chalks it up to it being her mother’s name, being confused, and things not being easy. “Sometimes when I look at Luma, I see her mother’s face,” Obi-Wan says to Leia, “We all miss her very much.” Leia seems to understand something much deeper at that moment. Obi-Wan is comfortable in telling truths “from a certain point of view,” and what he says rings true. 

The troopers reach their post and exit the transport leaving Obi-Wan and Leia alone in the back.

“Sometimes when I look at Luma I see her mother’s face. We all miss her very much.”

Leia isn’t about to let that moment go, “You knew her, my real mother, didn’t you? The whole time I’ve known you, you’ve been hiding something. Lying to me,” she can sense he’s been holding back the truth. “Are you my real father?” she heartbreakingly asks. My heart ached for little Leia, who was desperately seeking answers about her mysterious biological parents. 

“I wish I could say I was, but no, I’m not,” Obi-Wan says to her. She lets out a heavy sigh sensing the truth in his words, “Sometimes I try to imagine what he was like.” Surprisingly, Obi-Wan gently commiserates with her, explaining that Jedi are taken from their families when they are very young. He has glimpses, flashes of his family: his mother’s shawl, his father’s hands, a baby brother. “Then I joined the Jedi, and I got a new family just like you,” Obi-Wan says in a positive tone trying to help her appreciate the love the Organas have for her. 

“Are you my real father?” “I wish I could say I was, but no, I’m not.”

Obi-Wan saying he wishes he could say he was Leia’s father didn’t have anything to do with Obi-Wan having hidden feelings for Padme. Obi-Wan’s heart belonged to Satine Kryse. The two never acted on their love, instead dutifully fulfilling their responsibilities in their strict roles. Leia and Luke deserved better from their biological father. Anakin let everyone he loved down when he turned to the dark side, initiating a chain of events that led to further suffering for years to come. Obi-Wan wanted to save Leia and Luke from learning the horrible truth about what their father had become. Obi-Wan was at Padme’s side as she birthed the twins, holding Leia’s brother as her mother died. Obi-Wan wished better for Padme’s children, and he had dedicated his life in hiding to protect them. 

Freck stops at a checkpoint with a laser gate, saying it’s a standard inspection. He tells the stormtroopers he picked up a couple of strays and hints that maybe they should check them out. Obi-Wan and Leia are asked to step out of the transport. A probe droid flies over a hill and approaches to scan their faces. Obi-Wan steps in front of Leia and knows as soon as the droid gets a clear view of his face, the jig is up. As soon as the droid gets a lock on him, the facial recognition registers his identity. Obi-Wan blasts the droid and is a blur of motion as he uses a blaster to quell the threat of the four troopers. Obi-Wan makes the use of this clumsy, random weapon look elegant.

Obi-Wan and Leia are stopped by another transport of Imperials as they’re about to make their escape. They receive help from an unlikely source: Imperial Officer Tala Durith. She guns down the troopers with her and explains that she will take them the rest of the way. Obi-Wan, for once, doesn’t question the help realizing what this double agent is risking. 

They arrive in a small town. Tala explains they were given the correct coordinates by Haja Estree, but she was delayed because of the arrival of the probe droids. Obi-Wan admits they didn’t wait around because he hadn’t expected anyone to meet them. The Empire is on high alert. They’ve locked everything down, but a pilot is still willing to take them. They must lie low until the scheduled departure. She makes sure it’s clear before she leads them to a safe house behind a droid maintenance shed. 

Meet NED-B, just a loader droid, not designed with the means to communicate. “What if he has something to say?” worries Leia. “Actions speak louder than words,” Tala reminds her. NED-B opens the secret panel to the safehouse to let them through and shuts it behind them. He remains a silent guard as he goes about his usual work. 

“We have safe houses like this throughout the galaxy. Trying to link the systems. Some call it the Path. You’re not the first Jedi to come through here. It all leads to Jabiim, and from there, we give them new identities and get them out. There’s a lot of good people risking their lives out there,” Tala goes on to explain the Empire hunts anyone who is Force-sensitive, even children, and that if they are found, they’re never heard from again. No one knows what happens to them.

Obi-Wan notices something carved into one of the wooden walls, “Quinlan was here.” Tala explains he helps now and again smuggling younglings. “Only when the eyes are closed can you truly see,” Obi-Wan reads the carving from the wall. “See what?” Leia asks. “The Way,” Obi-Wan answers. The Way refers to The Way of the Force. It also reminds anyone who may have lost their ‘way’ to refocus inward and reconnect with the mystical energy field that connects all living things in the galaxy. 

Tala and Obi-Wan reference ‘the Path’ and ‘the Way’ in quick succession, which made me think of the Mandalorian’s famous line, “This is the Way.” They’re not connected in this instance. Interestingly though, Indira Varma, who plays Tala Durith, and Pedro Pascal, who is the Mandalorian, co-starred together in season four of Game of Thrones. I wonder if it was a nod or just a coincidence? 

We need to talk about Quinlan Vos. Quinlan is one of my favorite characters. I was introduced to him in the Republic series of comics. He was later featured in The Clone Wars animated series. He has a brief cameo in Episode I: The Phantom Menace and is later referenced only by name in Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. The canon novel Dark Disciple featuring Quinlan and Asajj Ventress is a must-read story of redemption. 

Quinlan never adhered to the strict rules of the Jedi, making him a maverick. He was very effective in undercover work in the criminal underworld due to his willingness to do what needed to be done to ensure true justice was wrought. He was a powerful force for good but did have brushes with the dark side. He trained Aayla Secura, who was killed during Order 66. I would love to see a live-action Quinlan Vos take a lead in one of the many upcoming Star Wars series. I am tired of him being sidelined in brief references. He is an impressive character that deserves screen time. It came as no surprise he survived Order 66. 

Kenobi. Right! Where was I?

The stormtroopers are making their rounds. They knock on the droid maintenance shed door and take a look around while NED-B silently stands by, a hammer gripped behind his back, ready for a fight. I appreciate that the stormtroopers on Mapuzo do not have pristine armor. The armor is dirty and worn, scuffed and uncared for. It’s obvious the Empire has lax standards for what they may deem as their less important operations. 

Tala moves up the timeline of their rendezvous with the pilot with the close call of being discovered by the troopers. As she removes her Imperial overcoat and changes into civilian clothes, Leia approaches and asks, “Is it scary? Having to pretend?” “Sometimes. But it’s worth it if I can help people.” Leia wants Tala to teach her how to shoot. “She’ll make a good fighter one day,” Tala says to Obi-Wan. He agrees with her but asks why she chooses to risk everything? Tala explains, “I joined up when the Empire stood for something. By the time I realized what they really were, it was too late. I made some mistakes.” “We all did,” Obi-Wan agrees. 

As Tala opens another secret door that leads into a system of secret tunnels, Obi-Wan loses his breath and has an unstable moment reminiscent of when he felt when Alderaan was destroyed in Episode IV: A New Hope. He places his hand on the wooden door frame to steady himself. Obi-Wan and Tala go to the front door to get a better look at what the disturbance may be. 

The Inquisitors line themselves up respectfully at the end of the street, awaiting orders. He has arrived. Vader starts marching down the street in his full powerful stride, cape billowing behind him, his mechanical breath threateningly echoing in the silent town. He’s the image of a resurrected nightmare. 

Obi-Wan is transfixed on Darth Vader. This is his first time seeing Anakin in the suit. Obi-Wan knits his eyebrows together briefly. Reaching out to the Force? Trying to examine the mind behind the mask? It stops Vader in his tracks, almost as if he’s heard his name being called. There is a long pause, and then Vader goes to work.

Reaching out, Vader Force grasps a civilian, dragging him from his home through a large window, lifting him high in the air while Force choking him to death. The civilian’s teenage son runs out of the house to try to stop it, but Vader Forces pushes him back and then snaps his neck with a hand gesture. He leaves their bodies in the street behind him as he draws closer to where Obi-Wan is hiding. 

Obi-Wan knows he must protect Leia and lead Vader away as a distraction. He urges Tala to take Leia and promise to get her back to Alderaan. Vader Force grapes another civilian and drags her through the street behind him, her terrified shrieks leaving a wake of terror. Vader senses a couple hiding behind a storage crate and reveals their position by knocking down the crate. He takes a long look at them, envying what they have and remembering what he lost, getting lost in the moment. As he is about to write yet another tragedy for these innocent victims, he remembers he’s after Obi-Wan and senses his prey is escaping. 

Obi-Wan sneaks away into a vintrium storage yard, the main mineral export of Mapuzo. Warily keeping an eye out, he is attempting to lead the Empire his way but stops when he sees Darth Vader standing in front of him. This is no hallucination. Vader ignites his lightsaber, and it burns red in the darkness. 

Obi-Wan’s face is a mixture of shock, disbelief, and… is that fear? He slowly removes his lightsaber, seemingly unsure of how to hold it after all of these years. He’s unsteady and uncertain of himself, awkwardly hesitant. The confident general from the Clone Wars is gone. The well-practiced standoff stance is a fleeting memory from a different life. Vader stands steadfast, immovable, waiting for Obi-Wan to accept his challenge. Obi-Wan runs away. 

As Obi-Wan moves around one of the large hills of vintrium, the dreaded shaky-cam returns. I do not like this choice of film style for parts of this series. It’s an abrupt change in cinematography style trying to expound upon the unsureness of our characters’ internal feelings. It feels cliche and amateur for the scale and talent involved with this production. 

“You cannot run, Obi-Wan,” Vader chides. Obi-Wan ignites his lightsaber. It burns bright blue. He searches the darkness for his former friend. This is the first time Obi-Wan ignites his lightsaber in the series. This moment should have been lingered upon like it was for Vader, but it felt rushed with the choice of cinematography and unfocused with the shaky cam. 

Vader slowly approaches, lightsaber now sheathed. Obi-Wan steels himself and holds steady, “What have you become?” “I am what you made me,” Vader evenly counters. Obi-Wan sheaths his lightsaber and runs away again, not ready to face the past. Obi-Wan is trying to buy time for Leia to get to safety, but it’s difficult to watch him continually disengage and scurry away. He is genuinely feeling fear and dread for any direct engagement with Vader. 

Back in the village, the stormtroopers and Inquisitors start searching the buildings, interrogating the citizens. Reva, the Third Sister, with her overwhelming omniscient knack of knowing how to drive the plot, decides to examine the droid maintenance shed which hides the safehouse. Leia and Tala traverse their way through the tunnels. Leia suddenly urges Tala to go help Obi-Wan saying she will be fine to continue on her own. Leia must be able to sense he’s in trouble. Tala finally agrees to go back for him. Leia hugs her, and they part ways. 

Vader gets the jump on Obi-Wan and ignites his lightsaber, taking a swing at him, taking him by complete surprise. Obi-Wan ignites his lightsaber again just in time to block the blow, but Vader knocks him back. Obi-Wan regains control as Vader takes some swings at him, driving the offense. Obi-Wan is very much out of practice. “The years have made you weak,” even Vader seems surprised by Obi-Wan’s unpreparedness. 

This lightsaber fight closely resembles the slower-paced fights from the Original Trilogy. It’s nothing like the insanity of the epic finale of Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. Vader does three one-handed downward overhead hacks at Obi-Wan. The move reminded me of Luke’s overhead slashing right before he cuts off Vader’s hand in Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. Vader Force pushes Obi-Wan onto his back, “You should’ve killed me when you had the chance.” He slowly stalks forward as Obi-Wan attempts another escape. I appreciate there is nothing hurried about this encounter. 

Reva finds the safehouse. She examines the diverse wood carvings on the wall and inscriptions from those who have passed through this part of ‘The Path.’ She focuses on one in particular and has a momentary outburst of frustration. Was she able to see through the Force who was behind this one? Was it someone she knew? Someone she thought was dead? Was it just frustration that the Inquisitors are not making as large a dent in the remaining Jedi populace as they had thought? Now would be a great time for an explanation. We’ve only got three more episodes left, and we don’t know very much about Reva yet. Reva finds the secret tunnel system. 

Obi-Wan reaches a dead end and decides to stand and fight. Vader Force pushes over a container of vintrium, and then Force grabs Obi-Wan dangling him in the air like a rag doll. Obi-Wan is attempting to fight it but is out of practice and is unable to shake off the grasp. Vader slightly bends down and ignites the spilled vintrium. Did I mention vintrium is highly flammable? 

“Now you will suffer, Obi-Wan,” Darth Vader hurls Obi-Wan into the flames, holding him down with the Force, “Your pain has just begun.” Vader is seeking justice for having to endure being burned alive. He wants Obi-Wan to know what he experienced. 

Tala arrives and crests a hill overlooking this tragic scene just as some stormtroopers catch up to Vader. Vader quenches the flames with the Force and commands them to bring Obi-Wan to him. Tala shoots the vintrium storage container reigniting the minerals, creating an intense blazing barrier between Obi-Wan and the Empire. NED-B retrieves Obi-Wan. Vader looks on through the tall flames as Obi-Wan escapes him. It’s a lingering dramatic moment. 

Obi-Wan is charred and in pain, but he’ll be okay. His burns are nothing like what Anakin endured. They’re going to make it to Jabiim, Tala at Obi-Wan’s side, and NED-B working on obtaining transportation. Leia, on the other hand, may not make it. Reva got to the pilot before Leia did. Leia, sensing something is off, tries to run from Reva. Now that Reva has met Leia, does she know all of Leia’s secrets? Does she know who Leia’s biological father is? Does she know Leia is Force sensitive? 

We’ll have to wait until Part IV to see what happens next. Let me know what you thought of Part III in the comments! 

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Matthew Snyder
Matthew Snyder
1 year ago

I saw someone online comment about the “I wish I could say I was (your father)” line, about how it confirmed Anakin’s suspicions. It made me feel bad, because I got the impression this was the same kind of commentary that thinks the Holdo Maneuver ‘ruins space battles’.

So far, OWK is not exactly covering itself in glory. I like it, but at this stage I’m content with it being 5 hours in the Ep III/Ep VI realm of storytelling, and not up there with the best of the best in this universe. Some of the action verges on comical. So it doesn’t need people thinking OB1 had a thing for Padmé; there’s enough wrong on its actual merits to not need additional critical shenanigans.

If you’re starting out with a main character who you know going in will be alright at the end of it all no matter what kind of peril they face, you can’t add to the stakes of their journey by pairing them up for the whole show with another character you know going in will be alright at the end of it all no matter what kind of peril they face.

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