“Obi-Wan Kenobi” finally treated viewers to an unmasked, unmarred Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker — not yet Darth Vader.
“Part V” is peppered with flashbacks from what looks to be circa “Attack of the Clones,” based on Christensen’s rattail and Ewan McGregor’s fascinating wig. The episode opens with the Jedi Master and padawan at the Jedi Temple on Coruscant, beginning the day’s training in lightsaber combat. As the fight progresses throughout these interspersed scenes, it becomes a microcosm of Obi-Wan and Anakin’s overall relationship and arc.
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At first, both parties are eager, lighting up their blades to enter what should be a fun and rewarding session. By the next scene, we see Anakin starting to lose control and attack his master with abandon.
“You grow too aggressive, Anakin,” says Obi-Wan. “Be mindful. A Jedi’s goal is to defend life, not take it.”
“Mercy doesn’t defeat the enemy, master,” says Anakin. “Which is why you’re gonna lose.”
It feels a bit weighty for combat training, but there’s contextual urgency to this practice between Obi-Wan and Anakin. At the time of their session, the Clone Wars are just starting, which means both Jedi will enter the fray soon on behalf of the Republic, dealing far more with daily enemies and deadly weapons than the more meditative, peaceful aspects of the Force. Defeating the enemy — especially after assassination attempts on Padme (Natalie Portman) — is at the top of Anakin’s mind.
There is another flashback that needs mentioning, which is Reva’s (Moses Ingram). When she gets Obi-Wan alone, he asks how she knew Darth Vader’s true identity. She’s much younger than he is — young enough to have been a youngling at the Jedi Temple the day Anakin turned to the Dark Side and murdered every child in the temple.
“They were the only family I knew, and he slaughtered them,” Reva says through gritted teeth. She’s not serving Darth Vader, but stalking him for revenge. As a child, she witnessed Anakin and Obi-Wan’s closeness firsthand, and as an adult she knows their weakness for each other can be an asset in her quest for vengeance.
Ingram’s performance has been consistently brilliant all season, but this adds new depth to Reva’s fervent fixation on capturing Obi-Wan. She has spent 10 years getting to a position where she can kill Darth Vader, and his former master is the winning card in her hand against him.
In the present, Vader closes in on the Path refugees, knowing that Obi-Wan will eventually give himself up to save them. Obi-Wan is equally aware that Vader knows this — it’s fascinating to watch them move against each other in this timeline, their minds still linked from years together before “A New Hope” reacquaints them effectively as strangers.
“Admit you are beaten,” Anakin says in the flashback, his eyes alight both from the lightsaber and his menacing yet juvenile hunger to win. In the present, Obi-Wan surrenders — to save innocent lives, but also to use Reva against Vader.
“What makes you think he won’t see me coming?” she asks Obi-Wan.
“Because all he’ll see is me.”
In the training, Anakin finally knocks away Obi-Wan’s lightsaber.
“It’s over,” he says with a maniacal grin. It’s just one of many times that the padawan’s hubris — his need for victory, as Obi-Wan puts it — will blind him to the true nature of a face off with his master. Anakin thinks it’s over when he faces Obi-Wan on Mustafar; when he strikes him down on the Death Star in “A New Hope,” and in the present as he heads to Obi-Wan and Reva. He is wrong every time.
Obi-Wan manages to board the transport and escape, leaving Vader to battle Reva. Ingram’s uninhibited fury pairs chillingly with the expressionless Vader helmet. He barely moves, walking almost lazily as she runs and leaps around him in combat, eventually stabbing her through the middle with a lightsaber — evoking those horrid memories of the day at the Temple.
Anakin was lost to the Dark Side that day, but now Vader is tying up loose ends, clipping the connections to his past. He took on the title of Darth Vader at the end of “Revenge of the Sith,” but “Obi-Wan Kenobi” is not a Vader origin story. It the definitive end of Anakin Skywalker, whose essence will not break through Vader’s steely exterior until his last breaths in “Return of the Jedi.”
“Part V” has more action than other “Obi-Wan Kenobi” episodes, between the flashback sequences, the attack on Balnab, and Reva’s duel with Vader. But it’s as character-driven as anything we’ve seen thus far, continuing to dig deeper into Anakin and Obi-Wan’s relationship which is one of the most critical and compelling in Star Wars canon. It’s the beating heart of the prequels (despite their flaws), and only makes the original Star Wars films even more meaningful.
New episodes of “Obi-Wan Kenobi” air Wednesdays on Disney+.
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