After an all-too-brief six-episode run, Obi-Wan Kenobi reaches its conclusion (for now, anyway – a second season seems all but assured at this point) with a finale that is equal parts stirring and frustratingly inconsistent. While some moments in “Part VI” can stand up against the best that the modern-day Star Wars franchise can offer, it wastes too much time with a retread of previous episodes. Still, what we see from Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen is well worth the wait. If nothing else, this episode will serve as a reminder not just that McGregor is perhaps the most inspired casting choice of the prequel series but that Christensen has been unfairly maligned as Anakin for far too long.
We catch up with Obi-Wan and Leia aboard a ship, fiercely pursued by Darth Vader, who has eyes for Obi-Wan and Obi-Wan alone. Realizing that the best chance for everyone’s survival is for him to break off from the group, he leaves the ship, gambling (correctly) that Vader will follow him. Since we’ve already been through these motions at least once or twice in the series, where Obi-Wan faces Vader head-on, it’s frustrating that we’re spending so much of the last episode doing it all over again. It feels like a lot of set-up for something we know is coming and are particularly eager to get to.
Meanwhile, Reva, having survived a seemingly mortal wound like any self-respecting Star Wars character, has found her way to Tatooine in pursuit of the young Luke. Here, Owen and Beru finally get their moment in the sun, as we see them cast as the protective parents willing to do anything to keep their son safe. Owen has always come off as gruff and unsentimental, but Joel Edgerton’s performance in these scenes allows us to see his love for Luke, loud and clear. Although Reva’s intentions and eventual about-face are rushed, Ingram is genuinely moving as Reva finally allows herself to feel the pain of her childhood trauma. As far as redemption arcs go, it’s a pretty good one, and if there is a second season, it would be nice to see the ex-inquisitor turn up again, now that she’s found a little bit of peace.
But aside from this, this episode is all about the climactic battle between Obi-Wan and Darth Vader. Although the choreography leaves something to be desired, with jerky camerawork that often takes away from their movements, it’s beautifully lit, with red and blue flashes filling the screen whenever they strike. (Much of the rest of the episode, especially on Tatooine, is so dark that you can barely see what’s happening, so this is a welcome relief.) Here, Obi-Wan finally gets the opportunity to let Anakin Skywalker go, a release that is cathartic but not without its pain. As Darth Vader, his mask half-destroyed, his voice shifting between mechanical modulation and something more human, Hayden puts in some of his best work of the entire series.
For the character of Obi-Wan, this seems to tidily bridge the gap between the anguish and devastation of the prequel finale and the beginning of the original series, which features the character as a sage elder seemingly without inner turmoiL. With an actor as talented as McGregor, the series is worth the price of admission to see him, initially numb and emotionally detached, become a part of the world again.
The development of his relationship with Leia is a delight, one of the rare instances where the addition of backstory actually strengthens the original series. It’ll be difficult to watch A New Hope again without wishing that they would be reunited once more (and all the nitpickers complaining about why Princess Leia doesn’t acknowledge her former friendship with Obi-Wan are hereby invited to go for a long walk outside and look at the stark natural beauty of a sunset or something.) Looking back on the series, it seems to have a surprising amount of filler for only six episodes. But despite this, it justifies its existence by hitting the major emotional beats well. We can only hope that if they do greenlight a second season of the show, they think long and hard about how they can make it worthwhile.