Obi-Wan Kenobi S1E3: Part III
“I am what you made me”.
If there’s one line of dialogue in this third episode of Obi-Wan Kenobi that really stood out to me, it’s this one. Because I think it sums up pretty well what I have come to the show for: at the end of the day, for me, the most compelling part of this show’s potential is exploring Kenobi’s reaction to the existence of Vader and how he navigates his part in his formation.
Fundamentally, this series is tracking what changes between Obi-Wan recognizing Anakin as Anakin in episode two of Obi-Wan, and, by the beginning of A New Hope, telling Luke that Vader killed Anakin, essentially denying that the two men have ever been one and the same. Given Obi-Wan’s love for Anakin – with their relationship arguably being the most significant part of the prequel trilogy – selling the real belief that he could ever feel such anger, such hatred, such disgust towards the man he once saw as his brother that he would basically deny his existence requires some seriously good explanation, you know?
And honestly, this episode delivers. It really does. I thought they were going to keep us waiting longer to see Obi-Wan and Anakin come together properly on-screen, but they’re not willing to hold off any more than we are, and I’m so glad for it. But it’s more than just using Vader as an iconic villain, as he was in Rogue One – this series is here to bring us along on Obi-Wan’s journey of shame, grief, and guilt that leads him to give up on Anakin entirely, to give us that juicy character work which I adore so very much in this universe.
Take Obi-Wan’s first encounter with Vader this episode. He is compelled to leave Leia and their would-be rescuer behind to watch as Vader sweeps through this small town in search of him, and Vader knows he’s watching – he’s almost putting on a show, torturing, killing, destroying everyone he comes into contact with. Making it clear to a helpless Obi-Wan that everything he was taught by his former mentor is now fuel for his cruelty and drive to harm and hurt. I’ve got to give a lot of credit to director Deborah Chow here, who really knows how to give Vader the respect he deserves as one of the cinematic villains – he’s treated with utter seriousness, presented as the embodiment of evil that he needs to feel like to really sell this character. Emerging from the darkness, cloak sweeping behind him, lit by the flash of his lightsabre, it’s downright cool stuff.
By the time Vader finally catches up with Kenobi and confronts him in person, one of the first things he says to him is “you should have killed me when you had the chance” – it’s a heavy statement for both characters, a really clever bit of dialogue that serves to underline the suffering they’ve both been through since their last meeting. It’s both a goad, a reminder from Anakin that Obi-Wan doesn’t have the power or strength to defeat him in battle as he once did; but also, something close to a plea, an acknowledgement that none of Anakin’s suffering or the suffering he has wrought would have happened in the first place if Obi-Wan had killed him on Pollis Massa.
And one which ties back to that “I am what you made me” line. Because Anakin is right – Vader exists because of Obi-Wan. The power Obi-Wan trained him in, the strength he imbued in him, gave him the abilities he now uses, and it was his inability to finish off Anakin which created Vader. It’s all very Frankenstein, the progeny of the creation blaming their creator for their existence and their suffering, and I truly, really love seeing Star Wars delve into this morally grey, emotionally complex part of their grand overarching story. Vader not only represents Anakin’s fall to the dark side but also Obi-Wan’s failure to stop him, and it’s that, I think, which drives him to put the mental wedge between Vader and Anakin by the time A New Hope rolls around.
I love this episode, if only for the narrative tension between Vader, Anakin, and Obi-Wan, because this is the really tough stuff any post-Revenge Obi-Wan stories have to contend with: the pain, the guilt, the fear, the grief, and the hope of re-discovering his best friend in this new, twisted form. To pull it off with such style, such intelligence, and such depth really elevates the first half of this season to an impressive new high, and I’m sincerely excited to see the writers, actors, and director explore more of this fascinating story.
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(header image via Collider)