This review contains full spoilers for episode four of Obi-Wan Kenobi, now available to view on Disney+. To remind yourself of where we left off, check out our Obi-Wan Kenobi episode 3 review.
In an echo of A New Hope, Obi Wan Kenobi’s fourth chapter sees our robed Jedi visit an Imperial stronghold, accompanied by an ally in disguise, with the goal of rescuing an imprisoned Princess Leia. But what should be a thrilling prison break is instead a bland series of events devoid of the emotion and character development that has previously made Kenobi such a great watch. Mercifully the shortest of the run so far, episode four is the season’s first misstep.
Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi's Great Moments
Star Wars is no stranger to remixing its own past. The Force Awakens is a flashier version of A New Hope, while Obi-Wan Kenobi itself is a longer rerun of Luke’s story from The Last Jedi. But this week’s faux Death Star jailbreak does nothing interesting in its replication of events, and so acts as a hollow call-back rather than an interesting evolution. Kenobi sneaks through identical, often perilless corridors in search of his ward, with little more than a blast of water offering any kind of interesting hazard on his journey.
A key issue here is that there are no genuine stakes, the classic problem suffered by prequels. We know both Leia and Obi-Wan will survive this ordeal. But where strong prequel stories will add dangerous wrinkles to characters’ pasts — we only need to look back to last week’s fiery ordeal with Vader for a great example — episode four opts for an overly straight and simple rollout of events. Tala and Kenobi get in, grab Leia, and run away, and at no point does the danger level rise above mild peril. Even Tala, a character whose fate is unknown, never feels truly threatened.
Episode four’s biggest mistake, though, is the fact there’s little emotional depth. The most interesting thing about this story is that Obi-Wan is wrestling with not just his connection to the Force, but his relationship with Anakin. There’s no meaningful advancement on these emotions this week and thus no complex problems for Obi-Wan to contend with. Leia’s capture seemed the perfect set-up for Kenobi to encounter Vader again, as it would force him to consider what is more important; his duty to Leia or his shattered bond with his former brother. This would add uncertainty to a story with an otherwise obviously successful outcome. Character motivation, rather than fates, is what Kenobi needs to focus on and nothing of consequence in this department is explored.
The decision to go for a straight, plot-focused episode would have worked had this been a genuinely thrilling espionage story, but once again director Deborah Chow’s action sequences fail to generate any excitement. Battles in the Fortresses’ corridors lack energy and are shot in an oddly static manner. The simplicity of the situation also means there’s little of interest for Obi-Wan, Tala, or Leia to do; a few blaster bolt deflections is as good as it gets. This is all capped off by the group being rescued by two Rebel pilots who, more or less, appear out of nowhere, which prevents Obi-Wan from having to devise an interesting method of escape.
Despite these problems there are the odd moments of intrigue or visual flair that prevent the episode from being a complete misfire. Obi-Wan’s discovery of dozens of people frozen in amber-like cells raises questions of what exactly the Inquisition does with the Jedi it hunts. Leia’s ability to completely block Reva’s mind interrogation is another demonstration of the young princesses’ Force sensitivity, and hopefully signals that future episodes will explore her link to Star Wars’ governing mystical power. Reva’s ambitions of impressing Vader has caused enjoyable tension among the Inquisition and I’m hopeful that it will backfire on her in glorious fashion as the series draws to a close. The final reveal of Lola now functioning as a tracker for the Inquisition also promises something more explosive on the horizon. And Obi-Wan’s rescue of Leia, lit only by the red lamps of the torture chamber and the blue glow of his lightsaber, is a fantastic use of light and shadow that ranks among Disney+’s more visually arresting sequences.
After a strong initial run, Obi-Wan Kenobi stumbles with a dull fourth episode. Devoid of the emotional depth and character-study elements that have so far proven the show’s strengths, episode four is a by-the-numbers prison break story that unsuccessfully attempts to echo the adventurous thrills of A New Hope. Static action and a lack of interesting problems to solve hold the main events back, but Reva’s plans and the Inquisition’s collection of frozen Force users does lay some groundwork for more fascinating future chapters.