She attempts to take Leia to safety, but Obi-Wan stays behind when he sees Vader has arrived on the planet. This kicks off a long-awaited confrontation between master and apprentice. Anakin is full of hate for Obi-Wan, saying, “I am what you made me” and throwing Obi-Wan into a pile of burning slag so that Obi-Wan can feel what it was like for Anakin on Mustafar. Obi-Wan narrowly escapes through a combination of Vader’s own desire to kill him slowly and Tala’s intervention. However, Tala going to help Obi-Wan means no one is there to stop the Third Sister from capturing Leia.
Obi-Wan’s characterization comes through deftly this episode, shown in actions as much or more so than with words. He’s focused on running and hiding, even when confronted with his old-friend-turned-rival. This Obi-Wan is also a far cry from the one who called blasters “uncivilized.” His casual willingness to use a gun for dirty tricks also shows how far he’s fallen from Jedi pride. The one glimmer of hope he has is when he describes to Leia what the Force feels like. It’s a beautiful description, and thoroughly sets up a contrast between the two characters. Leia still feels there’s good in people. While Obi-Wan will undoubtedly come out of this series with some of that optimism rubbed off on him, it’s still a nice addition to the dynamic. Leia’s presence also helps the show feel like a seamless extension of the Original Trilogy. Vivien Lyra Blair continues to be excellent in this role.
The star of this episode, though, is inevitably Vader. His presence isn’t all that scary at first, the armoring scene providing visual detail unmatched by the bland dialogue in the conversation between him and Reva. By the time he confronts Obi-Wan, though, he’s firing on all cylinders. James Earl Jones sounds almost pitch-perfect when delivering the villain’s threats, just like he did 40 years ago. It’s almost like Jones’ voice hasn’t aged at all — whether or not that’s due to Disney audio magic, it’s a treat.
Some of the action here is muddy, both too sterile and dark to reach the Original Trilogy’s much-copied heights. In particular, I found the beginning of the Vader fight distractingly dark until the lightsabers were lit. Once the two legendary rivals were cast in neon, though, the scene earns its darkness. The colors here are classic Star Wars iconography, making the fight look like a living movie poster. It’s just begging for fanart. Then director Deborah Chow goes in for the kill with the gold of the fire Vader casts Obi-Wan into. If there was any doubt this episode was a Revenge of the Sith role reversal redux it’s gone now, with shots paralleling Anakin burning before Obi-Wan. Vader’s inventive, ironic cruelty puts him firmly back on the pedestal as a great movie monster.
There’s also some great directorial flair elsewhere. The cuts between Reva and Vader make it feel like the heroes are truly surrounded. I especially liked the brief beat in Natalie Holt’s score matching Reva’s footsteps as she approaches Leia’s hiding place.
Some other choices didn’t work as well: the first-person lightsaber scenes reminded me of the much cheaper look of the Halo TV series, and some overhead shots look unmoored since the setting is so bland. Overall, though, the character work and the thrill of seeing the Prequel actors in live action again makes this episode a standout. Vader will surely appear again in a finale, but the show pulled no punches with his mid-series fight.