We’ve become used to the Star Wars franchise throwing visual effects teams endlessly at all of its shows and films, creating a universe that has an impressive but frequently soulless aesthetic. When actors die or grow too old to play their former youthful characters, Disney thinks nothing of bringing them back to life: They play Frankenstein, building an approximation of a human being that feels the tiniest bit off. That’s why the opening scene of the latest episode of Obi-Wan Kenobi feels so surprisingly fresh.
We open on a flashback – Obi-Wan and Anakin are on Coruscant, master and student, conducting lightsaber training. The scene will be intercut with the present, reminding us of not just Anakin’s strategic tendencies but the depth of the relationship between the two. Hayden Christensen returns to play Anakin as Ewan McGregor reprises his role of the younger Obi-Wan, and neither are CGI-ed into oblivion to recapture fleeting youth. They’re both a little bit older (20 years older, in fact, though neither quite looks it), but the fact that they have a few more lines on their faces doesn’t distract from the moment. If anything, it drives home the reunion element of this sequence, that actors and characters we’ve grown to love are being brought back together, making it all the more magical.
But while these scenes remind us of happier times, they do little to make us forget the dire circumstances Obi-Wan and Leia find themselves in during the present. Having been followed by Vader and Reva, the transport station that has served as a means of escape for Force-sensitive refugees of the Empire is now in danger of being destroyed. Obi-Wan tries to buy them some time, first by negotiating with Reva, and finally by giving himself up to Vader in the hopes that they will be so focused on him that the rest will be able to escape.
In the process, we learn a secret about Reva that many have speculated about since the beginning of the series: She was indeed a surviving Youngling in the aftermath of Order 66 and has infiltrated the Empire to get close enough to Darth Vader to kill him. The visual execution of this revelation is a little melodramatic, but the performance of Moses Ingram is enough to make us invested in her revenge scheme almost immediately, even though we know, of course, that she isn’t going to succeed in murdering Vader. It’s compelling enough that one could almost imagine a different version of this show, where Reva lures Obi-Wan away from Tatooine to team up with him to fight against Vader. A different approach to the program, focusing on a secret agent operating deep within the Empire rather than one of our legacy characters, but one that has an appeal all of its own.
Still, better to focus on what we have, which is one of the strongest episodes of Obi-Wan Kenobi’s short run. It’s been a long time since Vader has been as scary as he is in the final scene with Reva, where he reveals with a withering contempt that he’s known who she is all along. When he seems on the verge of defeating Reva, he changes gears, wordlessly breaking her double-edged lightsaber in half and returning part of it to her, allowing the fight to continue. He is not impetuous, as we’ve seen Anakin be a thousand times before throughout the series – he’s playing with his food.
How we only have one episode left of the show is a mystery – we’ve moved far away from the 26-episode series runs of old, but it seems like having only six episodes barely gives us a chance to get invested before it’s over. As it stands, we’re barreling headfirst into the season finale. Although we’ve been treated to some delightful performances from old favorites, it’s a shame that the show hasn’t been allowed to breathe a little bit more, giving new characters a chance to percolate and worm their way into our hearts. Obi-Wan Kenobi has been fairly uneven – sometimes all character development, sometimes all action and nothing else – and the breakneck pace seems to be at least partially at fault. If the show does receive a second season, we can only hope that they take a few more beats and let some moments sit with the viewer for a moment before rushing off to the next CGI set-piece.