Obi-Wan Kenobi episode 3 Part III review Darth Vader reunion showdown wasted with sloppy execution and construction but Reva and Leia are good

This discussion and review contains spoilers for Obi-Wan Kenobi episode 3, “Part III,” on Disney+.

After the excellent two opening chapters to Disney+’s Obi-Wan Kenobi limited series event, I didn’t know what to expect from “Part III.” And that’s part of what made it so exciting — the series has zigged when I’ve expected it to zag, taking us off of the familiar sands of Tatooine at the end of the first episode, introducing a young Princess Leia as our second lead, and teasing the mysterious obsession that Reva has with the crestfallen Jedi. Sadly, I’m bummed at how familiar large swaths of “Part III” felt, and even when it did surprise me with how quickly it forced Obi-Wan to confront Vader, the long-awaited showdown lacked polish, structure, and stakes.

I like that “Part III” opens with more unanswered pleas for help from Obi-Wan Kenobi to his former mentor, Qui-Gon Jinn. I have zero doubt that we’ll be seeing Liam Neeson reprise his iconic role in some fashion when Obi-Wan is at his lowest — which, judging by the way this episode wrapped up, might be right around the corner. Given how important it was for Luke to commune with the ghost of Obi-Wan in Return of the Jedi, it would create another layer of symmetry in a series that loves its poetic callbacks.

This moment is interspersed with shots of Darth Vader being “assembled,” leaning heavily into the Frankenstein of it all. We’ve seen these types of shots before, but something about it this time makes it feel even more sinister and unnatural — beyond the complex circuitry keeping him alive, the only thing fueling him is pure rage. The series is adding more to the mythos that Vader created for himself between the two trilogies, alongside depictions in Rebels, Jedi: Fallen Order, and Rogue One. This scene also shows us that Reva has a direct line to Vader, much to the surprise of her fellow Inquisitors. I really hope the show is able to stick the landing on her character, because I’m fascinated by the crumbs it’s dropped so far.

Obi-Wan Kenobi episode 3 Part III review Darth Vader reunion showdown wasted with sloppy execution and construction but Reva and Leia are good

A sweet moment of Leia being curious about the Force and asking Obi-Wan to explain it caps off the excellent opening of the episode. “Have you ever been afraid of the dark?” asks Obi-Wan. “How does it feel when you turn on the light?” It’s a nice, simple way to explain the unexplainable to a child, and I was happy that he managed to fix Leia’s droid L0-LA59, aka Lola. With BB-8, Chopper, K-2SO, and BD-1, the modern era of Star Wars has been ripe with cool robos.

Sadly, “Part III” hits some snags once the pair has made it to Mapuzo, which might be one of the most uninspired planets I’ve seen in all of Star Wars. It looks like the view you’d get from any gas station 30 miles outside LA. While I loved the neon lights and grime of Daiyu, this place was wholly unforgettable and honestly pretty cheap-looking, which is a bummer considering that the episode tries to drop some really important moments here.

Obi-Wan has visions of a Revenge of the Sith-era Anakin, which again feeds into the supernatural nature that Vader is assuming. This is followed by a forgettable and poorly staged series of conversations where Obi-Wan and Leia try to conceal their identities from a group of stormtroopers. This all feels overly familiar, even as Obi-Wan casually drops the news that he remembers glimpses of his pre-Jedi family, including a brother. My gut says that this is just a throwaway line, but I could envision a world where this becomes something much more substantial.

After escaping the troopers and turning off the world’s worst laser barricade, they make contact with Tala, an Imperial officer who’s joined the proto-Rebellion after witnessing the heinous acts of the Empire firsthand. She’s played by the excellent Indira Varma, whom most might recognize as Ellaria Sand from Game of Thrones. For those keeping track at home, she joins The Mandalorian’s Pedro Pascal, The Force Awakens’ Jessica Henwick, and Revenge of the Sith’s Keisha Castle-Hughes as members of House Martell that have all made their way to a galaxy far, far away.

Obi-Wan Kenobi episode 3 Part III review Darth Vader reunion showdown wasted with sloppy execution and construction but Reva and Leia are good

This episode finally comes to a boil as the Inquisitors arrive at the village our heroes are hiding out in, though this time Darth Vader has joined them. Seeing the look of terror on Obi-Wan’s face as he feels this incoming presence of evil adds to the excellent non-verbal work that Ewan McGregor has been doing all season. Vader’s entrance matches that terror — when he arrives, he’s a monster, and he’s shot as such. His iconic and unnatural breathing, the ominous music, and the seemingly random acts of extreme violence all show the legend of evil that he’s become. While the Inquisitors’ presence on Tatooine was intimidating, Vader’s here is on a whole different level.

Obi-Wan tries to run to buy Leia and Tala enough time to escape, but he’s quickly found by Vader. But while this scene has glimpses of brilliance, it just ultimately felt incredibly messy. I understand that it’s no small feat to carry the weight of decades of anticipation, but the setting, framing, and beats here all felt slapped together. Showdowns like this in Empire and Jedi did a great job of setting up a sense of place that helped feed into the tension, but I got none of that here from the random dirt mounds and scrap bins scattered across this… junkyard? Mining facility? Dig site? The fact that I’m not even sure what this place was is telling in itself.

I appreciated just how outmatched Obi-Wan was, struggling to defend with both hands on his saber while Vader effortlessly sent him reeling. I liked the exchange with Obi-Wan crying out, “What have you become?!” and Vader coldly replying, “I am what you made me.” But those brief moments couldn’t assuage my disappointment at the otherwise sloppy execution of a long-awaited scene.

Obi-Wan Kenobi episode 3 Part III review Darth Vader reunion showdown wasted with sloppy execution and construction but Reva and Leia are good

The confrontation ends on a similarly low note. While Vader pulls Obi-Wan into the fire to mirror what had happened to him a decade earlier, Tala shows up, fires off a few shots, and manages to save Obi and escape. I understand that sometimes characters need to have their power scaled up and down to match the current situation, but given how much we just saw Vader wreck an entire town, I don’t think a few blaster shots and waist-high flames would stop him from getting his revenge 10 years in the making.

Like most halfway points in Star Wars, Obi-Wan Kenobi ends on a downer. Despite not really digging this episode, I’m happy with the place things are at right now. The pieces are all here for a really compelling back half of the story. Now that Reva has Leia, I’m curious what she intends to do with her. Will Vader unknowingly confront his daughter? Will Reva reveal more about her backstory and motivations? And will this defeat be the catalyst that Obi-Wan needs to finally be able to commune with Qui-Gon? Honestly, as long as we leave this boring ol’ Palm Springs planet, I’ll be happy.

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