‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ episode 5: The force unleashed
Leia was successfully broken out of Fortress Inquisitorus in ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ episode 4 (opens in new tab), but old Ben and his friends can’t afford to rest on their laurels. A tracker installed in Leia’s droid companion Lola has led the Empire to Jabiim, and Darth Vader is personally overseeing the operation.
Those tuning into Disney Plus (opens in new tab) this week can expect revelations regarding Reva’s backstory, plenty of plot advancements and Darth Vader finally going ‘Rogue One’ and then some! Not to mention the moment prequel fans have been waiting for, Hayden Christensen properly reprising his role as Anakin Skywalker.
A frustratingly convenient plot device sullies the episode but raises the stakes to satisfyingly high levels for the series finale. At this point it’s clear that ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ isn’t ‘The Mandalorian (opens in new tab)’, but if it manages to stick the landing there’s still no telling where it could end up on our Star Wars TV shows ranked, worst to best (opens in new tab) list. If you’re not quite up to speed, check out our Obi-Wan Kenobi streaming guide (opens in new tab) to find out more about the show and its release schedule.
Ardent Star Wars fans will immediately recognise the Coruscant skyline and young Anakin’s distinctive leather tunic. As the padawan turns around to greet Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), it’s evident this is the terrace the younglings were training on in the opening sequence of the very first episode.
Whether this is a subtle nod to what’s revealed later in the episode or a rehashed set, it’s nice to finally see Hayden Christensen properly reprise his role as Anakin Skywalker. It’s hardly the clone wars flashback we’ve been waiting for, but it’s nice to see Ewan and Hayden back together again, especially since prequel love is a lot easier to come by these days (and rightly so).
“Are you ready?” says Obi-Wan. Anakin ignites his lightsaber: “Are you?” The absence of Anakin’s bionic hand places this moment just before ‘Attack of the Clones’. As the blue lightsabers clash, the screen cuts to a close-up of Darth Vader (Hayden Christensen/James Earl Jones), gazing out from the command deck of his star destroyer, presumably Devastator (opens in new tab).
An imperial officer announces the arrival of the Third Sister (Moses Ingram) where she reveals that the tracker – placed in Lola in ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ episode 4’ (opens in new tab) – has led them to Jabiim. Pleased with Reva’s efforts, the Dark Lord orders her to kneel and dubs her Grand Inquisitor.
The transport carrying Obi-Wan, Leia (Vivien Lyra Blair), Tala (Indira Varma) and Roken (O’Shea Jackson Jr) touches down on Jabiim, where a crowd has gathered to see if the infiltration of Fortress Inquisitorius was a success. As Obi-Wan steps off the ship he spies a familiar face, Haja Estree (Kumail Nanjiani), the fraudster turned good guy who helped him onto the Path back on Daiyu. It turns out his run-in with Reva left him no choice but to flee his shady operation and head for Jabiim. Once again, he steals the scene and we can only hope he features in next week’s series finale.
Obi-Wan soon turns his attention back to Roken, eager to get Leia on the first ship back to Alderaan, but the rebel leader explains that a backlog of travelers formed when operations were put on hold during Leia’s rescue. Happy to pay the weary travelers back, Obi-Wan agrees to help.
Back on Vader’s ship we’re treated to a cool shot of the Dark Lord staring into the perpetual blue stream of hyperspace before Reva advises him that they’re nearing Jabiim. Vader tells her to: “Lock down the facility,” but when the gutsy inquisitor warns him the rebels could survive a siege for days, he reveals that his intention is not to break the defenders but Kenobi.
Back on Jabiim and evil red-eyed Lola emerges from Leia’s jacket pocket and sneaks into a vent full of wires before we cut to Obi-Wan gazing at a wall of Aurebesh (opens in new tab) and reading: “The light will fade, but is never forgotten.” He then looks down towards a box of lightsaber hilts, symbolic of the life left behind by those Jedi who outran the Empire and escaped into obscurity.
We then see Lola setting to work on the wiring and with a loud clunk the huge doors above the landing pad close, preventing ships from taking off or landing. Roken then announces the arrival of an imperial star destroyer and Obi-Wan senses that Vader’s onboard. “He’ll attack next, he hasn’t the patience for a seige,” says the Jedi, before we return to the flashback of Anakin and Obi-Wan duelling.
It’s a clever idea to have both Vader and Obi-Wan reflecting on the same moment. It’s just a little hard to believe that their minds would go straight to a training encounter that must have played out hundreds of times over and not a more poignant moment, like their duel on Mustafar in ‘Revenge of the Sith’. We then cut to Vader as he orders the attack; old Ben was right.
Obi-Wan then makes a speech to the concerned civilians awaiting transit. He doesn’t intend to directly engage the Empire’s troops, but keep them at bay until the transports can escape. The plan is to seal the facility and launch the transports, the only problem being the ‘malfunctioning’ landing pad doors.
It’s hard not to compare this narrative with the evacuation of Echo Base in ‘The Empire Strikes Back’, where an ion cannon is used to disable a star destroyer waiting in orbit, allowing just enough time for a single transport to make the jump to hyperspace safely. But in ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’, the fleeing rebels don’t seem at all phased by the Imperial starship’s presence. Sadly, this sullies the impact of an episode intended to highlight Darth Vader’s weakness, by ignoring one of his strengths, the might of the Empire.
Tens of imperial troops form up at the front of the facility, before Reva orders their gun emplacements to fire at the blast doors. A frustrated Roken is having no luck opening the landing pad doors and when it’s suggested that he climbs into a nearby vent to find the source of the problem, Leia volunteers for the job, as the only one small enough to fit. Roken sarcastically brushes off the girl’s offer, prompting a delightful response from Obi-Wan: “Do as she asks. You trust me? I trust her.”
As Leia enters the vent, Obi-Wan’s comlink begins to sound and he finds a secluded spot to receive a message from Bail Organa (Jimmy Smits). It’s a foolish move that puts both Leia and Luke in danger but then again, Bail is Leia’s adoptive father. However, what makes no sense at all is why he needlessly spills a laughable amount of sensitive information: “if he’s [Vader] learned of the children… If I don’t hear from you soon, I’ll head to Tatooine. Owen will need help with the boy.” Unless somehow Bail is being forced to speak against his will, it’s difficult to defend this as anything more than a lazy plot device.
Tala then appears, admitting to Obi-Wan that she helped round up four families that were massacred by inquisitors on Garel. She explains how she had no idea what was going to happen and had little choice but to watch, but this was the moment that prompted her to rebel against the Empire. This is yet another interaction between the two that prompts Obi-Wan to continue the good fight, it’s also a neat little reference to a planet that featured multiple times in ‘Star Wars Rebels (opens in new tab)’.
Roken breaks up the moment by alerting the pair that the blast doors have sustained heavy damage from the Empire’s bombardment. Obi-Wan tells him to notify Reva that he wants to speak with her. It works and the Third Sister approaches the door and communicates with Obi-Wan via the force. Kenobi quizzes Reva on how she knows Vader is Anakin Skywalker when he puts two and two together and realizes she was a youngling at the temple during Order 66.
We then witness a flashback of Anakin, flanked by 501st clone troopers, cutting down some of the younglings from the very beginning of the series. Reva explains that she tried to help, but ended up playing dead. As she details the harrowing experience, it dawns on Obi-Wan that the newly dubbed Grand Inquisitor has been bidding her time and rising through the ranks in order to kill Darth Vader.
The Jedi Master offers to join forces, but Reva questions his ability to deal the final blow, noting his absence when his former apprentice was assaulting the Jedi Temple. “Why didn’t you stop him? Why didn’t you save us?” she asks, “I don’t need your help.” She then thrusts her lightsaber blade through the blast doors and forces them open. Kenobi uses force push to send Reva flying before she orders her troops to advance.
A firefight ensues and it’s nice to see Obi-Wan batting those blaster bolts back like it’s 2005. The stormtroopers push the defenders back into a series of corridors, where we see NED-B kicking imperial butt and using an old battle droid-issue E-5 blaster rifle to boot!
As Obi-Wan helps drag a civilian to safety, Tala is left taking the brunt of the onslaught with NED-B and takes a blaster bolt to her stomach. The loader droid is soon overrun and the advancing stormtroopers pin the Jedi down as he attempts to fight his way over to his fallen comrade.
The mute droid kneels in front of Tala, shielding her from a flurry of blaster bolts before finally succumbing to the damage. The renegade imperial officer places a hand on NED-B’s chest and realising the extent of her wounds, activates a thermal detonator. She looks back at Kenobi who shouts “No!” as she blasts the controls to a nearby door, blocking his path. This is a subtle homage to Qui-Gon’s death in ‘The Phantom Menace’, as a then young Kenobi is powerless to help his master, shut behind a forcefield.
The series hasn’t been afraid to shy away from mature scenes and this one certainly conveys the lengths people are willing to go to fight the Empire.
Back aboard the Devastator, Darth Vader is told the Grand Inquisitor has broken into the facility, but the Dark Lord calls for Reva’s troops to halt. The flashback duel continues as Anakin violently corners Obi-Wan and demands him to, “admit when you’re beaten.” This then cuts to Obi-Wan, deep in thought. “It’s over,” he mutters before telling Roken he’s going back. The rebel protests, but Obi-Wan insists that Vader only wants him. He hands Haja his lightsaber, blaster and commlink, before handing himself over to the imperials.
Reva tells Obi-Wan: “You’re gonna die soon,” before the sassy Jedi Master retorts: “You’re not bringing him to me, I’m bringing him to you.” He points out that families are back in the facility and asks Reva if she’ll let them suffer the same fate as the younglings back on Coruscant. Kenobi offers to work together, prompting Reva to beckon two stormtroopers to take him back inside.
The flashback continues and despite Anakin’s advantage, Obi-Wan manages to give his apprentice the slip and they continue dueling. Anakin eventually knocks Kenobi’s lightsaber from his hand and declares victory, but his master tells him that his need to win clouds his judgement.
Vader finally arrives at the facility and when Reva explains that Kenobi is inside, the Dark Lord insists on personally bringing him in. Meanwhile, with just two stormtroopers to guard him, Kenobi effortlessly breaks free and heads back to the landing bay.
Leia is still trying to find the source of the problematic door, when an aggressive Lola tries to attack her. The girl grasps her droid and removes a tiny restraining bolt, causing the real Lola to flicker back to life.
As Vader realizes that Obi-Wan has dispatched his captors, he strides deeper into the facility. A close-up of Reva connotes that she intended for the Jedi to escape.
Lola and Leia finally get the doors open and the civilians begin boarding the transports. Obi-Wan runs over to Leia, who immediately inquires as to Tala’s whereabouts, before we cut to Haja rushing with the flow of the crowd and unknowingly dropping Obi-Wan’s commlink in the process.
Vader effortlessly uses the force to open sealed doors as he strides through the facility, before reaching the landing pad just as the transport is taking off. The Dark Lord uses the force not only to stop the transport in midair – engines firing – but proceeds to yank it down onto the ground. He then rips three huge chunks out of the hull to reveal the interior, only to find nobody is aboard. A second transport at the back of the landing bay then takes off before Vader has a chance to react.
Darth Vader’s display of raw power is a moment many fans would have thought they’d never see in live action, a Vader we’ve only been privy to in comicbooks, novels and videogames. And yet here he is. From ‘Rogue One’ to the final season of ‘The Clone Wars’ to ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’, there’s no denying that so far, Disney has hit the mark when it comes to Darth Vader.
But there was more to come…
We return to the flashback, where Obi-Wan manages to snatch Anakin’s lightsaber and forces him to yield. He tells the young Jedi that he must stop trying to prove himself: “Until you overcome it, a padawan you will still be.”
Apart from taking a few verbal cues from Yoda, it certainly looks like this is Disney’s attempt at navigating Vader’s much-talked-about line of dialogue in ‘A New Hope’: “When I left you, I was but the learner. Now I am the master.” This whole episode has highlighted a lesson from Obi-Wan that Anakin is still yet to master, and one he arguably conquers by giving up his pursuit of Kenobi. Whether or not he comes to that realization now or during the final episode is anyone’s guess. We just hope it’s the latter and we get the full-on duel we’ve been waiting for.
When we return to Vader contemplating his former master’s teachings, Reva sneaks up and attempts to bring her lightsaber down upon him. She falls a few inches short, her blade locked in position as Vader shields himself using the force. The ensuing bout once again highlight’s Vader’s incredible power as he refrains from drawing his own saber and makes a mockery of Reva by effortlessly sidestepping her strikes and using the force to block blow after blow. The Grand Inquisitor uses every saber trick in the book, igniting her double blades and sending them into a spin, but to no avail.
Suddenly the Dark Lord pulls Reva’s saber into his hands, splits the double-bladed hilt, and offers one of the blades back, challenging her to a duel. Once again she is beaten at every turn. During a particularly fun piece of choreography, Vader throws his saber at his opponent, who dodges it, before using the force to snatch her lightsaber and catching the other upon its return. Reva is beaten and as the Dark Lord strides towards her, the moment is mirrored via a flashback of Anakin advancing on the younglings during Order 66. As Vader plunges his lightsaber into Reva’s chest he says: “Did you really believe I did not see it, youngling.”
We’re then treated to the much-anticipated return of the real Grand Inquisitor (Rupert Friend), who takes great pleasure in sneering at the fallen Reva.
Back on the fleeing transport, we find that the hyperdrive is down and the Empire is in pursuit. We then cut back to a barely alive Reva as she crawls her way over to her lightsaber and suddenly notices the commlink Haja dropped when fleeing. Kenobi senses a disturbance as Reva watches Bail’s message. The episode ends with an establishing shot of the Lars homestead and a close-up of a sleeping Luke. Reva’s coming!
The final 10 minutes of episode 5 is ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ at its best, but it falls short of receiving our highest rating yet due to conveniently ignoring the presence of Vader’s flagship waiting in orbit and Bail’s message serving as a lazy plot point that’s about as subtle as Queen Amidala’s wardrobe.
When Darth Vader finally lands on Jabiim, the episode ramps everything up to 11 as the Dark Lord wields the force in ways Star Wars fans have only ever been able to imagine in live action. Last week we mentioned that the largely absent Vader was missed, but it’s hard to argue with the incredible impact of the villain’s return to the fray. Credit to Disney for holding its nerve, the less-is-more approach has paid off.
That now infamous plot hole in ‘A New Hope’, where Vader tells Obi-Wan: “Now I am the master”, was never going to be neatly tied up in a bow. But using a flashback to imply that Anakin never mastered a key component of Kenobi’s training left us satisfied and although the duel was tame by prequel standards, we couldn’t help but grin from ear to ear, watching the saga’s most proficient duelists – Ewan and Hayden – go at it once more.
At this point, it’s pretty much been an open secret that Reva was one of the younglings at the beginning of the series and this episode does a good job of justifying her unhinged actions, most notably dispatching the Grand Inquisitor (or trying to…). It’s nice to see a morally grey Star Wars character that’s doesn’t (as of yet) suddenly come good right at the last moment and join the good guys. Yes, Reva means to kill the villainous Darth Vader but her motivations are entirely fueled by selfishness and hatred.
As for that thrilling duel between the two antagonists, it was quite simply a joy to watch Vader toy with the hapless inquisitor. And once again, Hayden Christensen’s physical performance has to be applauded. He somehow manages to wield a saber with frightening speed and precision, while at the same time conveying the heavy restrictions imposed via the Dark Lord’s injuries and suit.
Next episode it looks like we’re off to Tatooine and although we’re still cringing at Bail needlessly spilling the beans on the most sensitive secret in the galaxy, the stakes have never been higher.