‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ Episode 3: Turning on the Light (Recap)

It’s happening. The drama, the nostalgia, the expansion of emotional journeys – buckle up, kids; we’re gonna go see a Star War.

Obi-Wan Kenobi Episode 3 opens with Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) still trying to reach out to his deceased master, Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson in the prequels), still without luck. His mind is clouded with voices as he continues to process the fact that Anakin is alive. Meanwhile, Vader (Hayden Christensen, with James Earl Jones voicing) gets suited up on Mustafar and communicates with Reva (Moses Ingram), acknowledging her desire to become the new Grand Inquisitor. He will grant it if she succeeds in finding Obi-Wan.

As Obi-Wan and Leia (Vivien Lyra Blair) fly to the meeting place Haja (Kumail Nanjiani) gave them the coordinates for in the last episode, Obi-Wan fixes the droid Lola and Leia wonders what the Force feels like. “Have you ever been afraid of the dark?” he asks. “How does it feel when you turn on the light?” “I feel safe,” she replies. “Yes,” Obi-Wan says; “it feels like that.” It’s a beautiful moment that reveals what the Force means personally to Obi-Wan. Even if he has shut himself off from the ways of the Jedi and the Force for ten years, we now know it still matters to him. The Force is still with him, no matter how long he’s set aside his old life.

When the two reach their arranged meeting place on Mapuzo, there’s no one in sight. Leia waves down a passing vehicle to ask transport from its driver, a star-nosed-mole-looking-guy named Freck (Zach Braff, doing a voice that made many mistake for Seth Rogen). Freck’s loyal to the empire, and he’s even got a Confederate-like Imperial flag in the trunk-bed. 

On the way, they come across stormtroopers, and Freck invites them aboard. Obi-Wan and Leia make up a backstory for themselves with new names, but Obi-Wan slips and refers to her as Leia. He scrambles for an explanation – it’s because ”Luma” reminds him of her mother “Leia.” It’s the second time Obi-Wan has brought up similarities between Leia and Padmé, and it leads to Leia sensing he knew her mother. After the stormtroopers leave, she asks him if he’s her birth father. He wishes he could say that he is. It’s such a sweet and heartfelt moment; you can tell Obi-Wan really wishes he could help Leia avoid the pain of knowing who her biological father is.

We also learn that Obi-Wan remembers his family, including a younger brother. I’ve always wanted Rey to be a descendant of a Kenobi sibling, so this is how Rey Kenobi can still happen. After all, we don’t know who her mother is yet. (No, I will never stop with this agenda.)

Freck pulls up to an Imperial checkpoint where more stormtroopers summon Obi-Wan and Leia from the vehicle. A droid shows up and almost recognizes Obi-Wan before he pulls a blaster and destroys it, along with the stormtroopers nearby.

Soon after, yet another set of stormtroopers shows up – but an Imperial officer kills them all, revealing herself to be a Jedi ally. Her name is Tala (Indira Varma) and she takes Obi-Wan and Leia to a safehouse in town with a tunnel for easy escape to a port where a pilot awaits them. They also meet a friendly and protective loader droid. All is well until it happens: Obi-Wan begins to feel dizzy, and we realize he’s sensing something powerful. It’s Darth Vader himself storming into town, dragging and force-choking townspeople as he tries to uncover Obi-Wan’s location.

Obi-Wan Kenobi Episode 3 1
Hayden Christensen as Darth Vader in Obi-Wan Kenobi Episode 3. (COURTESY: Lucasfilm Ltd.)

Obi-Wan sends Leia and Tala on ahead, knowing he must divert them and face Vader alone. He leaves town and quickly finds the glowing red lightsaber of his former padawan waiting for him. Rather than activating his own, though, he runs. It’s understandable; Obi-Wan hasn’t used a lightsaber in ten years. He’s out of practice, and emotionally, he’s just not ready for this.

Vader chases him down and Obi-Wan finally ignites his lightsaber, its blue hue glowing in the planet’s dark sand dues. (The coloring of this scene is extraordinary.) “What have you become?” Obi-Wan asks. “I am what you made me,” Vader replies. They clash, and Vader has the upper hand in strength. He hammers and Obi-Wan barely manages a block. In Obi-Wan Kenobi Episode 3’s most intense moment, Vader knocks loose a barrel of something flammable, lights it on fire, and drags Obi-Wan through the flames with a Force hold. Vader’s status as galactic drama king is unmatched – he’s making Obi-Wan experience what Obi-Wan put Anakin through on Mustafar years before.

Meanwhile, Reva hunts down the tunnel leading to the port. Leia convinces Tala to let her run ahead so Tala can go back and save Obi-Wan. Although Tala and the loader droid both help in the rescue, Leia runs into Reva, which is where the episode leaves us.

This is the most compelling and exciting episode of the series so far. Bringing Darth Vader back creates undeniable pain for our protagonist and the show still has plenty of time to examine Obi-Wan’s emotional fallout after this encounter. However, for me, something is still missing, and I can’t quite put my finger on what. At times, the mise-en-scène and pacing aren’t as dynamic as what we’ve seen in The Mandalorian, and I wasn’t as moved by the Vader fight as I was by, say, Mando’s first flight with his new starfighter in The Book of Boba Fett. Overall though, Obi-Wan Kenobi Episode 3 feels huge for the Vader mythos and adds important shades to Obi-Wan’s character. If the show wasn’t a must-see for prequel fans before, it sure is now.

Rating: 8.5/10

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