Hayden Christensen’s Darth Vader takes center stage in Obi-Wan Kenobi Part III and this is the Darth Vader of legend, the one an entire galaxy feared. James Earl Jones’ voice might still be coming out of the helmet, and we might not get to see Christensen’s face for most of his time on this episode, but there’s still so much concealed rage in a performance that’s rooted in Anakin’s sense of betrayal that it’s hard to look away.
Of course, Christensen isn’t the only one whose acting is top-notch in Obi-Wan Kenobi Part III. McGregor is Kenobi, and he plays the broken side of the character about as well as it’s possible to, while still imbuing Obi-Wan with a tiny bit of hope. We’ve still got a way to go till the A New Hope version of the character with a twinkle in his eyes, but it’s now easy to how, even though Obi-Wan is still not the fighter he was, and he has avoided the Force like the plague, he can become that man – the one Leia, Luke and the entire galaxy needs, by the end of this limited series.
But first, scary Anakin …
Christensen never got the chance to be this, and his turn as Anakin Skywalker was met with a mixed reception from fans back in the day. Time and hindsight made most fans realize he wasn’t truly the problem, as he was saddled with a pedestrian script, but Obi-Wan Kenobi introduces the notion that, perhaps, Christensen’s best days as Anakin Skywalker are still to come.
Ironically, his best days as Anakin might come as Darth Vader, because this is a scarier Vader than we’ve gotten to see in a while, one that has definitely earned the reputation he has by the time A New Hope rolls around. But this Vader, particularly when faced with his former Master, is also a man in pain. One who feels like he was not just abandoned, but betrayed, by the people he cared about. One that feels justified.
And one that, ultimately, because of those things, ends up not killing Obi-Wan when he should. What is that thing the Jedi say about feelings? Well, in Anakin’s case, they have always been kind of right. There are no positive feelings in the way he approaches Obi-Wan, in his thirst for revenge, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t ruled by feelings in that moment, instead of common sense. And, in the end, his feelings doomed the galaxy once, and then ended up saving it – in more ways than the obvious.
The galaxy’s hope
We touched upon this briefly after the first two episodes, but Leia Organa, is actually the galaxy’s last hope, not Luke Skywalker. Which shouldn’t discount Luke’s role in the original trilogy, but it does conceptualize it. Luke and Leia are truly two halves of a whole, and the galaxy was always going to need them both. We just didn’t know that for Obi-Wan to get to the point where he could begin to train Luke, both physically and mentally, he would need Leia.
Throughout this episode, and even as he fights Vader and is clearly losing, Obi-Wan isn’t really using the force, even if he’s fighting with his lightsaber. He’s only used the force once in this show – to save Leia. And at this point, it cannot be said that this reluctance comes from a desire to stay hidden, as he’s face to face with Vader. Instead, Obi-Wan’s fear goes deeper. He won’t use the Force, he can’t, because the Force failed him. Or worse, he failed the Force.
It would be impossible for Obi-Wan not to believe this to some degree considering what happened with Anakin. But his reluctance isn’t as much about Anakin as it’s about his role in Anakin’s training, and Anakin’s life. Other people’s mistakes aren’t on us, and even if Obi-Wan could have done better by Anakin, he still didn’t make the decisions that turned his former Padawn to the dark side, Anakin did that himself. But guilt is a very bad advisor, particularly in loneliness.
However, if Obi-Wan is going to get out of this one, if he’s going to save Leia and become the man he needs to be, for Luke, for Leia and for the rest of the galaxy, he’s going to have to trust himself again, and above all things, trust the Force. And, if he does, he might just find that his former Master is there, ready to give him a hand.
Leia now sees the world
Obi-Wan Kenobi Part III also shows us a change in Leia that, in many ways, explains who she becomes later, not just a Senator, but a Rebel hero. Because Leia sees the world now, sees the Empire, for what they are, in a way that would have been hard for her to truly grasp form Alderaan. Her parents have tried to protect her, and that makes sense, but Leia would have never become the leader she ended up being without this adventure. Without Ben Kenobi.
And in the end, when Ben Kenobi is gone, and Luke Skywalker is broken, when the galaxy needs not a Princess, or a Senator, but a General, that’s what Leia Organa will become. For the people she loves, but also for the ones she doesn’t know, but that once helped her. Because you don’t need the Force, or power to make a difference, and Leia Organa now knows that. And she will never, ever forget it.
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Obi-Wan Kenobi Parts I,II and III are now streaming on Disney+.