It's always darkest before the dawn, and in Obi-Wan Kenobi's world, the Dark side has never been stronger.
Last week's episode left our heroes in quite the valley, with Leia (Vivien Lyra Blair) captured by the relentless Inquisitor Reva (Moses Ingram) and Ben (Ewan McGregor) reeling from his first run-in with his former student-turned-Sith Lord. Intent on making his former Master suffer as he suffered on Mustafar, Darth Vader (Hayden Christensen) enacted a literal trial by fire, with himself as judge, jury, and would-be executioner.
In the end, Obi-Wan was saved by a new ally but left out of commission with brutal burns covering his body.
When its titular character faced a similarly debilitating injury, The Book of Boba Fett made liberal use of the Adventures-in-Comaland trope. Inspired by that, fans took to social media to speculate about what kinds of tortured dreams or flashbacks Kenobi's unconscious mind may conjure up. Many were hoping we would see Ben reliving memories of the Clone Wars, if only so that we, the audience, could look upon the face of pre-Vader Anakin Skywalker once again.
Other fans wondered whether we'd finally see the normally straight-laced Kenobi shirtless in a bacta tank during his healing process. Well, one out of two isn't bad.
While we didn't get tortured dreaming, the scene of Ben submerged in the iconic tank was intercut with shots of Vader in his own healing chamber, drawing attention to the wounds that can be seen on both Ben and Vader's bodies and the ones that lay beneath the surface.
Healed enough that the injuries wouldn't affect the plot again, Ben sets out to find Leia. Thanks to the assistance of Roken (O'Shea Jackson Jr.), they determine that Leia is on the water moon of Nur, being held in Vader's Fortress Inquisitorius. Undeterred by the base's reputation as being impenetrable, Ben asks for assistance in rescuing the young princess.
“I can't lose her,” he pleads. Our hearts break when McGregor imbues Kenobi's usually level tone with such understated feeling. The galaxy truly does seem to use him as a punching bag.
Ben says he'll go alone to rescue Leia if he has to, and for fans of The Clone Wars, it evokes a tragedy that certainly continues to haunt the Jedi.
You see, this isn't the first time Obi-Wan Kenobi has gone to rescue someone he cares deeply about from a well-guarded fortress.
Tether to the Past
With some exceptions, Obi-Wan Kenobi has so far shied away from referencing other Star Wars media in live-action. For the fans who stick to the films, it means you're not missing anything of vital importance. For those fans who have imbibed the additional content like water through a firehose, characters never seen in theaters play a big part in this story.
One of those characters is the Duchess of Mandalore, Satine Kryze, a woman whose greatest downfalls were being a pacifist leader in a franchise literally defined by “Wars” . . . and being loved by Obi-Wan Kenobi.
It's a story for another time—one that brings Obi-Wan Kenobi together with one of the most compelling storylines being explored in The Mandalorian. However, it's appropriate to know that Satine and Obi-Wan's story ended with her being imprisoned by an old enemy of Obi-Wan's. That adversary used Satine as bait to lure the Jedi to Mandalore, and the ploy worked. Obi-Wan defied the Jedi council's order to stay away, raced to Satine's aid on his own, snuck through Mandalore's heavy defenses, and rescued the Duchess from her prison cell.
And then the bantha poodoo hit the fan.
Suffice it to say, Ben Kenobi is not looking to relive that experience when attempting to free Leia.
Thankfully, Ben has a shot at a better outcome due to the loyalty of Tala Durith (Indira Varma), a once-sincere Imperial officer and now double agent who seems to be seeking restitution for crimes committed on the Empire's behalf. According to Varma, there may be a deeper reason why Tala is so committed to the success of Kenobi's mission, but her earnestness shows there are still those who have hope that resisting evil is worthwhile. That's something the cynical Ben desperately needs to be reminded of.
Tala notices how the past weighs on Kenobi as they travel to Nur. His body isn't the only thing that needs healing. “The past is a hard thing to forget,” she remarks, but it's necessary if he's going to help Leia.
Eyes downcast, Ben whispers, “Some things can't be forgotten.”
Perhaps that line would have landed a bit more fully if we had seen some flashbacks. Then again, maybe Ewan McGregor's portrayal of Ben's perpetually haunted face expresses more than flashbacks ever could.
Tie to the Future
If Obi-Wan is tethered to the past, Leia's story in this episode has a more direct tie to the future. For this is not the last time that Obi-Wan Kenobi will journey into the galaxy to rescue Leia Organa from the Empire.
George Lucas' premise for the original Star Wars movie was compelling and elegant in its simplicity: a wizard and a farm boy seek to rescue a princess captured by a villain of pure evil. In many ways, this episode is Ben Kenobi answering that call to adventure that Luke will also be confronted with nearly a decade later.
Obi-Wan Kenobi Chapter 4 has a vibe so reminiscent of A New Hope it feels more like we're rewatching a classic film than new Star Wars content in 2022.
Once again, Vivian Lyra Blair shows she's a (recently turned) ten-year-old powerhouse who imbues Leia with maximum willfulness and more than a little cunning. The original trilogy never explored Leia's Force abilities, but Vivien's portrayal reestablishes how formidable the young princess is without ever wielding a lightsaber. She and Moses Ingram are perfectly matched in their interrogation scenes. As iron sharpens iron, they push one another to greater and greater heights.
Still, the heart of the episode—and the series—is the bond between Leia and Obi-Wan. The mutual annoyance both displayed early on has dissipated, and we see how deep their connection has grown. Vivien and Ewan's chemistry is electrifying. The story lives and dies with them, and they are the reason we are riveted to the screen.
While Vader has been steeped in the Dark side for a decade at this point, the shadows Ben has experienced are no less real. His lingering pain (and the disillusionment it has caused) is understandable, but it's time to come back into the Light. And in the final moments, as the newly-rescued Leia reaches over and takes Ben's hand in hers, we know Leia will be the one to lead him there.
After all, it's no coincidence that “Luma,” the name Leia used for herself in the previous episode, means “light.”
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This post was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.
Jessica L. Johnson is a longtime fangirl excited to be making her way in a galaxy of freelancing. She is the co-host of Stories by Darksaber Light, a podcast analyzing Star Wars and storytelling, and a monthly guest host on the Rule the Galaxy podcast. In the real world, Jessica is a copyeditor working in trade publishing. If you let her, she will prattle on about Clan Kryze and how all of Star Wars ultimately ties back to them.