This should be the most straightforward Obi-Wan Kenobi episode yet: an urgent rescue mission running, barely over 30 minutes without its credits, on which Obi-Wan must fight through his not-quite-healed Vader injuries and his rusty command of the Force to mount a daring infiltration of enemy territory with the help of Tala (Indira Varma) and her imperial clearance. And it certainly is straightforward, perhaps to a fault.
“Part 4” opens with Obi-Wan in shallow-focus disorientation, getting hauled away from his fiery sorta-rematch with Darth Vader, and going through what has become a Star Wars rite of passage: doing time in a bacta tank, baby! The most evocative and promising parts of the episode — at least those that don’t involve sweet defensive lightsaber moves — come in these early moments, where Obi-Wan’s stay in the bacta tank, treating his burns, is intercut with shots of Vader’s even-more-mangled body in his own bacta tank (presumably more of a second home for the former Anakin Skywalker). When our hero wakes up, the show bites a little from a Last Jedi motif, following Obi-Wan’s “Where’s Leia?” with an answering cut to Fortress Inquisitorious, a base on the watery moon of Nur. A rhyme worthy of George Lucas, between two creative works he didn’t have a hand in. Neat.
But while hints of the sequel trilogy have been promisingly incorporated into this narrative, Obi-Wan Kenobi increasingly seems like it’s attempting to answer a more tediously fan-friendly query: What if the Star Wars prequel trilogy was more like Rogue One (a prequel itself, you may recall)? The answer, sans the big-budget visual splendor of director Gareth Edwards, is a murky stew of regret, occasional badassery, and self-seriousness. Like certain sequences of the unfinished other prequel trilogy that Rogue One and Solo were forming before Lucasfilm pivoted to TV, this episode sets up a thrilling heistlike operation while only intermittently accessing the buzz of urgent energy that powers the best mission movies.
So, yes, Obi-Wan convinces Tala and her rebel-techie associates to help him throw together an impromptu rescue plan: Tala will use her clearance (and a fairly unconvincing bit of imperial browbeating) to hot-desk at the fortress for a bit, opening up a path for Obi-Wan to sneak in undetected. Phantom Menace fans will glory in the sight of McGregor returning to his Jedi-reflex regimen: He swims, as he did in the lake on Naboo. He hides from the bad guys, as he did by the lake on Naboo. He defects blaster shots with his lightsaber, as he did slightly further away from the lake on Naboo.
While Obi-Wan eludes probe droids and Tala bluffs her way around the fortress, Reva does some bad-cop-worse-cop inquisitor stuff with Leia. Her pre-torture interrogation, in search of more information about the Underground Railroad–ish network known as the Path, is the first scene of the series where Reva feels like a dimensionalized and possibly even unpredictable human, rather than a cool idea in search of firmer ground. Moses Ingram is best at conveying the seething woundedness beneath Reva’s attempts at fearsome, outsize intimidation, as she bitterly tamps down wistful childhood memories of once having her own little droid buddy. She’s less assured when attempting to chill Leia by repeating variations on “Nobody’s coming for you,” which, in terms of repeated Star Wars lines, is not exactly “I’ve got a bad feeling about this” or “You assume too much.” But that’s more on the writers, who increasingly seem as if they’re returning to a bank of stock phrases labeled “stuff that will make dialogue sound like something you’d hear in a movie or show.” (Maybe we should just be grateful that no one on the rescue mission says “You’re up.”) Anyway, Leia is having none of it, at one point asking if Reva’s hard, presumably mind-invading stare constitutes a staring contest.
The laugh isn’t quite enough to distract from some of the seemingly unforced errors committed by the Inquisitor program — or the depiction of it; it’s hard to tell. It turns out they had already intercepted intel that tipped them off to the existence of the Path but, as Reva nonsensically explains, “thought it was a lie.” Ah, yes: the throwing out of hard-won intel based on the assumption of fibs. Classic cloak-and-dagger stuff.
At Obi-Wan’s behest, Tala provides just enough distraction to interrupt the next, presumably more painful phase of Leia’s interrogation, allowing Kenobi to kill the lights, hit the lightsaber, take out a couple of troopers, and save Leia (again). They run and fight their way out (that’s where Obi-Wan’s classic defensive lightsaber twirls come in) with Tala, saved from an army of troopers at the last moment by some makeshift rebel pilots. Vader confronts Reva about her seeming failure, but Reva, absolute master of wriggling out of trouble during her status meetings, reports that she has slipped her quarry a tracker, so they won’t get far. That rumination on lost droids was a sleight of hand: She has placed the tracker inside Lola, Leila’s trusty droid pal.
And that’s the episode. Obi-Wan rescues Leia and they escape, but Reva is hot on their trail and won’t give up, not unlike the end of “Part II.” Presumably, at some point in the two remaining episodes, Kenobi will again confront Vader, not unlike what happens at the end of “Part III.” Then maybe Leia can get captured a third time, and Obi-Wan Kenobi will reveal itself as the first live-action Star Wars story to take place in a time loop.
Of course, it’s really more of a metaphorical time loop, with echoes of the past and foreshadowing of the future mixing together in an infinite chain of sequels and prequels. Or, if you will, a tomb disguised as a hallway, like the secret storage of preserved Jedi that Obi-Wan discovers at Fortress Inquisitorius. It’s the episode’s creepiest, most memorable image. It’s probably also a gallery of Easter eggs that don’t tell us much we don’t already know. (Other than any die-hards hoping for a live-action glimpse of elderly Jedi master Tera Sinube getting a monkey’s-paw comeuppance.) The shared pain of Obi-Wan and Reva is there, somewhere, hinting at something more complicated and regretful. But the show only has two episodes left to dig a little deeper and turn those old Jedi reflexes into something new.
Notes From the High Ground
• Okay, so Reva’s tracker gambit seems predicated on the idea that Leia and her droid will make some kind of stop at a major Path base and stick close to Obi-Wan for a substantial period of time. But is this a safe assumption? Leia’s ultimate destination is her well-known home on Alderaan, after which (if not earlier!) Obi-Wan would likely head back to his unknown-to-the-Empire cave. Of course, you’ve got to work with what you have, and what Reva has is a small droid that can discreetly hold a tracking device (except when said tracking device glows evil Sith red). But given that Vader is obsessed with finding Obi-Wa and only secondarily interested in destroying the Path (a major hub of which was already discovered/destroyed), and that putting a tracker on Leia might accomplish one of those goals but could very well accomplish neither, it seems like it shouldn’t really earn Reva a pass from her extremely angry boss.
• So far, Maya Erskine and O’Shea Jackson Jr. rep the major casting disappointments of the season: charismatic and funny performers I was excited to see in a Star Wars, brought on to perform the vital function of being sad about Wade. Who’s Wade, you ask? Why, he’s the not-quite-trained-for-this pilot who tragically perished while helping with the deus ex machina rescue at episode’s end. RIP Wade and all of his characteristics, whatever they may be.
• Fortress Inquisitorious! Bless these makers of live-action Star Wars shows gamely rolling with previously established Saturday-morning-cartoon naming conventions.
• Amid a lot of familiar Jedi moves, Obi-Wan introduces a new one: hiding a child in his coat. We are cruelly denied any flashbacks to Anakin’s Jedi training when Obi-Wan would have utilized this ancient practice, as well as to the bittersweet moment when he realized Anakin would no longer fit under his coat and Anakin insisted on having his own oversize coat much too early, contributing to his downfall.
• Watto Watch: Okay, obviously Watto was unlikely to show up on Nur, although, honestly, the way the Inquisitors run things, it would not be surprising if one scrounged up spare probe-droid parts by strong-arming junk dealers back on Tatooine while another complained in a strangled voice about how much time they were wasting. More broadly, this might have been the single lowest alien population ever seen in a Star Wars episode. And don’t think we Wattoheads haven’t noticed that through all of the different Jedi we see, alive or dead, there never seems to be a Toydarian in their ranks, despite their resistance to mind tricks!