From the perspective of the larger Star Wars storyline, Obi-Wan Kenobi seemed as though it would be about the Jedi Master spending his early retirement years keeping a watchful eye on the Skywalker twins. But the more time we spend with the show, the more apparent it is that this is about Obi-Wan processing his trauma from the betrayal of his closest friend and the utter destruction of the Jedi Order. “Part IV” shows him taking one step further in reclaiming his former identity and grappling with losing his entire way of life.
It suffers slightly in its depiction of yet another infiltration of an enemy vessel (we’ve seen quite a few of these in the Star Wars television shows, and while they’ve always been a hallmark of the franchise, on the small screen, they have a habit of coming across as slightly monotonous). And the fact that it separates Obi-Wan and Leia, whose interactions have fast become the show’s highlight, also doesn’t work in its favor. Still, the show careens forward, bringing us ever closer to a (presumably) inevitable showdown between old friends.
As we catch up with the Kenobi gang, Obi-Wan mounts a rescue mission to save Leia (again) from the clutches of Reva. She’s brought the young princess onto an Empire ship, where she confers with Darth Vader on the progress of her development goals (It feels weird but watching their interactions really emphasizes how much Vader occupies an upper-middle management type role within this power structure). Reva plans on torturing Leia into revealing details about the secret resistance tunnel that helps surviving Jedi and other fugitives escape the clutches of the Empire. But Leia, predictably, isn’t going to crack that easily, with their exchange providing a highlight of the episode. Leia is defiant, Reva is humorously frustrated at having her plans derailed by a mere child, and both are determined to hold the line.
Meanwhile, Obi-Wan and Tala have managed to sneak on board the ship, using Tala’s credentials as an Imperial officer to give themselves a slight veneer of legitimacy. As Obi-Wan makes his way through the ship, he makes a gruesome and unexpected discovery: Darth Vader has been storing the bodies of Jedi on the ship, in a tank that seems to double as a mausoleum and trophy case. But before he has time to fully process that, his attentions are diverted back to the impending escape attempt.
There’s a lot of action in this episode – everyone is going, going, going the entire time. Sometimes it feels as though this sense of momentum is achieved at the expense of the character moments that have so far helped Obi-Wan Kenobi stand out. Any Star Wars show can launch a daring rescue mission, but the quieter scenes have been the most effective in this show. A lot is happening here, but it doesn’t feel like any of it is particularly important.
With only six episodes to the show’s name, it’s disappointing that any of them should come across as filler, but it’s hard not to feel like that’s exactly what this is. After the slow burn of the first episode and the rapid character development in the following two, “Part IV” is a little bit of a narrative void flowing into the final two episodes. It’s still, of course, exciting – even at its worst, the show is capable of holding our attention. But the next episode will have to do some heavy lifting to get us to a reasonable point of closure leading into the season finale.