Obi-Wan Kenobi S1E4: Part IV

by thethreepennyguignol

A prison break episode is the perfect opportunity to explore just exactly what our main characters can do.

Bring a team together, point them at a prison – either proverbial or literal – and you basically have a plot-relevant reason for everyone to show off just how great they are at everything they do. Fit everyone into their roles, up the stakes, and off you go.

Which, after last week’s Obi-Wan outing, I think we really needed. Seeing him come face-to-face with Anakin again and find himself utterly overtaken by the power of his former apprentice serves as a strong reminder of just how far removed we are from the Obi-Wan we last saw in Revenge of the Sith; this episode, more than anything, is How Obi-Wan Got His Groove Back, because any prison break is going to require all the skills our mains have to hand.

Not just Obi-Wan, actually, come to think of it – Indira Varma’s Tala Durith gets a great outing in this episode, breaking Ben into the Inquisitor’s Great Hat of Doom In the Sea and navigating their way through the chaos waiting for them inside. It’s an impressive feat to be able to deliver a performance as layered as this – Tala performs as an Imperial officer and convinces, but underneath it, her true allegiances are clear. There’s a ruthlessness to her despite her obviously narrative-approved good intentions – she picks off a would-be exposer without a second thought – and it’s always interesting to see Star Wars play with that moral grey area that surrounds the necessity of violence to resist a violent regime.

But, to Obi-Wan again. As an action-heavy episode, Part IV works well: it forces Ben’s hand to engage with his former powers, from Force manipulation to lightsabre proficiency, and God, it feels good to see him back in that regard. There are pursuits, shootouts, daring escapes, and Obi-Wan is in the middle of all of them, his abilities slowly blossoming again as he reminds us of his power and strength in this world.

But more than anything, I think this episode was there to underline his humanity and ability to connect with other people; that’s his true skill, his biggest and most important one, the skill that failed him so spectacularly when he was unable to protect Anakin from the Dark Side. The episode ends, not on some triumphant battle sequence, but on Obi-Wan and Leia quietly holding hands in a near-empty ship; this is the version of Kenobi fundamentally most important to the character, beyond the sabre-twirling and laser-deflecting. It’s a moment laced with sadness, after the loss of one of their team, but in it, and not without good reason, there is hope, in the care these two characters have for each other, and especially in the fact Obi-Wan seems to open to allowing that care to flow both ways.

This story is about him reclaiming both sides of himself; his literal, physical power, and his emotional strength and ability to care, too, and that’s what makes it so rewarding for me. Do I love seeing lightsabre battles and fighter pilots and great big silly panto castles in the sea? Of course. But I love seeing emotional growth and the warmth of the broader SW universe most of all.

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