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Obi-Wan Kenobi episode 4 review - less drama than blasting womp rats

Obi-Wan Kenobi adds to Star Wars canon by using only the faintest hint of drama in an episode that has us worried about where this is all going

Obi-Wan Kenobi episode 4 review

Our Verdict

The Star Wars Disney Plus series gives only the illusion of change in fluff-filled episode.

After a storming episode featuring the return of Darth Vader, Obi-Wan Kenobi clamours forth with a slightly confused rescue mission. Not that the substance of ‘Part IV’ is flawed exactly, more that enough isn’t made of what it was going for, leaving me feeling distinctly underwhelmed.

Leia (Vivien Lyra Blair) has been kidnapped by Reva (Moses Ingram), and Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) is covered in burns from his fight with Vader. Lots of that classic Star Wars despair for the future. Obi-Wan Kenobi needs help to go find Leia, but people are reluctant due to the Empire being, well, the Empire. Meanwhile, our young princess is about to be tortured.

Then, it all gets conveniently sorted out over the course of a half-hour that takes what feels desperate and resolves it without much difficulty. It’s clear where Obi-Wan Kenobi plans to take us in the last two episodes, and it’s a shame that along the way, the sci-fi series has ended up losing momentum in fear of its own status quo.

At first, it seems like Obi-Wan and Tala might have to improvise in order to get to Mustafar to save Leia. But then, the man who seemed dead set on not letting their mission disturb his life caves and agrees to help.

Soon they’re on their way to the Empire’s stronghold, with some elaborate subterfuge to achieve their mission. This is all well and good, but this is the shortest episode of Obi-Wan Kenobi so far, and just doesn’t make enough of its subject matter.

Tala poses as an Imperial soldier to cover for Obi-Wan, and they act quickly to save Leia, who’s in Reva’s clutches. This inherently struggles to create any tension because we know that Leia leads a long life after this, and the TV series does nothing to counter that.

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Obi-Wan Kenobi was always going to bash against its own placement as a mid-quel between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. What’s disappointing is how little it even tries to complement what’s there. Obi-Wan remarks that the building they’re in, a brutalist monolith built within an endless ocean, is meant to be a tomb, full of Jedi the Inquisitors brought in.

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There’s the implication that Leia might end up in one of these tombs, and the mission becomes to save her somehow, but that doesn’t happen. Instead of adding flavour to the canon, Obi-Wan Kenobi simply folds to it and reverts everything to the way it was. Nothing really happens while some cool stuff goes on with lightsabers and Stormtroopers.

It’s a pity. Reva is primed to be a fascinating wrinkle for Darth Vader, a dedicated acolyte that’ll overstep without hesitation. Ewan McGregor continues to bring gravitas to Obi-Wan, inhabiting a powerful cocktail of fear and dread in his proximity to Vader, a Sith that’s outstripped him in every way that matters.

We’re barrelling towards Obi-Wan and Darth Vader having a proper swing at each other. That’s great! But just because we know how the fight will end doesn’t mean there can’t be any injuries. Something to make us believe this point in time for Star Wars was harrowing. Pre-empt just how needed the “new hope” in A New Hope was.

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There’s something to the incompetence of the Empire here. Director Deborah Chow and writer Hossein Amini have the Imperial presence as threatening, but also hollow, and not altogether the smartest. The depiction needs more commitment, though, because ‘Part IV’ just makes it all seem like a giant nuisance.

If Obi-Wan Kenobi has a greater point than that, it has two episodes to make it. Let’s see how strong the Force really is.