Didn’t really think the next episode would lead to me saying things like “Zach Braff, don’t be such a narc,” but here we are…
Obi-Wan is trying to contact Qui-Gon through the Force, but only feels Anakin. Leia breaks his meditation, and he returns her droid, having fixed her during their journey. The cargo ship lands on Mapuzo, and they follow Haja Estree’s coordinates to their rendezvous, but no one is there. Leia suggests that they wait, but Obi-Wan insists that they’ve been tricked because not all people are good. Leia flags down a transport being driven by a fellow named Freck (Zach Braff), telling him a story about how they’re farmers who got lost and need a lift to the nearest port. Freck talks of not minding the Empire’s presence on the world, and how there’s nothing wrong with a little order. He picks up a few stormtroopers who need a lift. One of them aggressively questions Obi-Wan about the Jedi they’re looking for, and notices when he calls Leia by her real name rather than the cover name they’ve supplied—Obi-Wan insists that he’s used the name of Leia’s mother (who they’ve told the troopers is dead) because he sometimes sees her mother when he looks at her.
The troopers offload at their stop and Leia mentions that she can tell Obi-Wan knew her birth mother. She asks if he’s her biological father, which he answers in the negative. When she mentions how much she wishes she knew who her parents were, Obi-Wan tells her what little he remembers of his family before he was taken by the Jedi. Reva contacts Lord Vader on Mustafar, who tells her all that matters now is Kenobi, and that if she succeeds in this mission she will be the new Grand Inquisitor—but if she fails, he’ll kill her. She tells the assembled inquisitors of her directive, which Fifth Brother is furious about because he’s “next in line” to be Grand Inquisitor. Reva tells them to send out probes to the mining systems where the cargo ship was likely headed.
In the meantime, Freck pulls over at a checkpoint and tells the troopers there that he has people who should be looked at in his transport. The stormtroopers tell Obi-Wan and Leia to step out of the vehicle, and bring over a probe droid; it scans him, so Obi-Wan shoots it and begins to fire at the rest of the troopers. One gets a hold of Leia, but Obi-Wan manages to hit him too. More troopers arrive, but their superior officer shoots them down. Her name is Tala (Indira Varma), and she was the contact that Estree sent them to, but when she arrived at the rendezvous, they had already gone. Everything is going on lockdown now, but she believes she can get them to the transport they were promised. She brings them into the small town by the port and hides them in a room behind a droid maintenance facility—the loader droid, NED-B, who watches over the place cannot speak, but he looks after the people who pass through.
The room they hide in has carved messages on the wall from others who’ve used it, some of them Jedi; they call this covert network of hiding places throughout the Empire “The Path.” There’s a tunnel that will lead them to the ship they’ll use to escape, but Obi-Wan stops: He can feel Anakin’s presence. Vader is coming down the main thoroughfare, dragging and murdering townspeople while the inquisitors look on. Obi-Wan tells Tala to get Leia to safety while he distracts Vader. He successfully directs him away to a mining area, they play a little cat and mouse, and eventually they cross lightsabers. Vader notes that Obi-Wan seems weakened. As they’re running, Leia stops and tells Tala to go help Obi-Wan, insisting that she can make it to the ship. Reva comes across the hiding place and notes the Jedi symbol, getting angered.
Vader scatters out the mineral that they mine on the planet, telling Obi-Wan that he means to make him to feel all the pain that he has felt. He ignites the substance and drags Obi-Wan through it, telling him his pain has only begun. Troopers arrive and Vader tells them to retrieve Obi-Wan, but Tala begins picking them off from a sniper vantage point, and NED-B collects Obi-Wan. As Leia arrives at the ship port, Reva tells her that the pilot meant to meet her is no longer available, but she’d be happy to help…
The mechanics of this episode are pretty wonky in terms of explaining why people can do certain things and not other things (i.e. why can’t Vader crush this droid or go around the big fire field he made, is he just mad because walking around it ruins his vibe, blink twice for yes, V), but that is pretty on par with how things operate throughout the films, so I’ll allow it, I guess?
But it’s also low on explanation in moments when we should at least get some, which I’m less forgiving about. Obi-Wan, you need to tell Tala that the reason you can’t come with them right now is because you’re like a beacon of familiar, tasty Force-candy to Lord Vader, and you’d rather he only licked you right now instead of this whole town. She’ll ask why, but you don’t have to answer that part—you just need to explain that you’re a danger to them right now.
Also, we need to talk about the fact that Obi-Wan keeps insisting that Leia reminds him of Padmé when her behavior has been just as much (or more) like Anakin throughout these episodes. The only reason I can buy is that Obi-Wan is trying to come to terms with how much he misses Padmé—or, perhaps better put, is all up in his OT3 feelings, as he was very bad at realizing how much he and Anakin and Padmé were exactly that—and projecting a little. But it doesn’t change the fact that they should stop insisting that Leia is exactly like her mom on account of being a girl. She has plenty of Anakin’s sparkling personality traits, too; tell me you can’t imagine tiny Padawan Anakin insisting on stopping and talking to strangers while newly-appointed Master Obi-Wan looked on in horror.
Really freaked out by how effectively this show illustrates that stormtroopers are basically just cops, and whether or not you get out of a situation unscathed is entirely dependent on how much said cop cares about their job on any given day. You can see the difference between the ones who aren’t paying attention or treat it like a means to earn a paycheck, versus the ones who are angling for promotion, or worse, truly believe that theirs is a higher cause. It makes them scarier for more realistic reasons; never mind the ability to shoot straight, what you need to be afraid of is a stormtrooper who wants to talk to you.
This whole story is working hard to connect threads in terms of the intervening years when the Empire was in full power, and the ways that the previous era was remembered. Tala’s comment about Obi-Wan Kenobi is meant to illustrate that: the fact that people know who Obi-Wan is, that his survival probably would come as a surprise to many because he was such a major player in the Clone Wars. Additionally, we’re getting more fill-in on Vader—particularly for folks who didn’t watch Rebels, which, if you didn’t, what’s wrong with you, and yes I mean this rudely, I don’t want to hear the “I don’t like cartoons” excuse—which is useful because… well, there have always been a lot of things about Vader that didn’t make sense.
See, the issue with creating this universe piecemeal, without having the entire mega-narrative decided upon (and Lucas didn’t, no matter what anyone says) is that there are certain bits that don’t quite align. One of the major bits is Vader’s role within the Empire, a place where he behaved like the biggest dog, yet often seemed to be asserting that dominance among a military force who… kind of didn’t know who he was: Vader in the board room choking a guy who calls his use of the Force a “sad devotion to that ancient religion”; Leia talking about how Governor Tarkin is “holding Vader’s leash”; the number of officers, post-Battle of Hoth, who somehow think they’ll survive after giving the Sith Lord bad news. Rogue One tried to make up for this by making Vader out to be an enforcer, the guy who gets called in once you’ve screwed up badly enough for the Emperor to notice, and that halfway works, but still doesn’t explain the reaction to him in the original films.
What Rebels and now this series are working toward is a different setup entirely—the idea that Vader’s primary work for the Empire was about eradicating the presence of Force-users and Force sensitives throughout the galaxy, using the Inquisitors as investigators and vanguard. It’s an important position (to Palpatine, at least) that instantly makes sense of many things that weren’t adding up, particularly Vader’s lack of fame among the Empire’s military ranks. It helpfully creates that tension we’re seeing throughout the original trilogy, where there previously was none that we could account for.
Having said that, we can now get into the important part: being that Anakin Skywalker is the most extra fucker in the entire galaxy. We’d previously seen the whole setup on Mustafar due to Rogue One, but in all seriousness, I will never be over the fact that this guy gets roundly defeated by his arguably favorite person in the universe, wakes up as half-a-robot enslaved to the shadow demon running the galaxy, and decides that the way he will handle said feelings is by building a throne room in the place where he got burned up and left for dead. A throne room where he can brood and cry in private and take holographic audiences with the people he gets to boss around. How much did the Emperor have to shell out for his sadness kingdom? The furnishings are sparse, but they don’t look cheap.
Which means that while the end of that confrontation between Vader and Obi-Wan was brutal, it was incredibly on-brand for The Sad-Man Formerly Known as Anakin Skywalker. I want you to know how it felt, so I’m going to recreate the scenario as closely as I can manage for the time being, and then cart you off to the scene of the crime and do reenactments with our positions reversed, every Tuesday before supper. We’ll invite the inquisitors over to have an audience. I can yell at you about being the Chosen One while you writhe in flame, and that will definitely heal me somehow.
I’m allowed to make jokes to cover my emotions, you can’t stop me.
Still, I appreciate that the anger in Vader is palpable, that it’s morphed into an ugly and malignant thing that has far more control over him than he has over it. As an arc to get us to A New Hope, it works—Vader doesn’t seem anywhere near angry enough at Obi-Wan in their final duel, and this is an attempt to work out why. The idea that perhaps he’s already worked through some of those feelings, that they both have before coming to that place, it makes sense. I’m assuming there’s another confrontation still to come, though. We’ve got three more episodes and things are only getting worse.
Sand and Jawa Junk:
- Everyone keeping quiet in the interviews when people asked if they had James Earl Jones on deck for Vader, I see y’all, trying to make me worry about it…
- Pink mullet spice dealer (Tetha Grig) from last week was Esther-Rose McGregor, Ewan’s own daughter, which is real cute on account of him talking about having “lost his daughter” as he’s looking for Leia. It also explains why that whole scene felt strangely emotional for no discernible reason.
- I really love the description of the Force being like turning on a light when you’re afraid of the dark. Excellent work, sir, why didn’t you tell Luke that one. (It’s okay, I’m sure Leia got around to telling him eventually.)
- In talking about his family to Leia, Obi-Wan mentions remembering a baby brother, which is definitely a sly reference to the original canon where Owen Lars was actually Obi-Wan’s brother. (I will always bring this up because it’s been erased from collective memory, but this was common knowledge; Owen was supposed to be Luke’s adopted uncle until the prequels happened.)
- Obi-Wan mentions the name Quinlan more fondly than I ever would have expected, but nothing brings out the rose-colored glasses like years of isolation and loneliness, I suppose: He’s talking about Quinlan Vos, who I commonly
lovingly?refer to as “hippie stoner Jedi.” Like, imagine you met a Jedi who was just some dude on the boardwalk who’s never wearing a shirt any time you encounter him, and he keeps trying to get you to go surfing during real bad weather? His bong is shaped exactly like his lightsaber hilt, which makes it real weird every time he offers you a hit? (Is that a euphemism? You tell me.) That’s Quinlan Vos. Quinlan and Obi-Wan did interact occasionally during the Clone Wars, and let’s just say that their management styles differed. Obi-Wan would see to his own rising temper by making bad puns—it was glorious.
Until next week, everyone go tend to your burns! Both physical and psychological.