The following recap contains spoilers.
If the first two episodes were a cruiser through familiar locales and a ‘hello there’ to some old friends, episode three was like Luke’s X-Wing blowing up the Death Star. The opening minutes reveal Darth Vader’s return to the screen in full armour (and voiced by the brilliant James Earl Jones, 91 years young) as he speaks to Reva from his castle on Mustafar. It’s spinetingling stuff, especially as the scene is juxtaposed with Ben (Obi-Wan) hearing the voices of old mentors Qui-Gon Jinn and Yoda – plus the famous words of his former apprentice, Anakin – don’t make me kill you. Ben suits the character now, as he is far from the powerful Jedi we saw in Revenge of the Sith.
The stage is set for what is to come later in the episode, but first we are introduced to the Yellowstone-esque mining planet Mapuzo as Ben seeks an ally to assist with his mission to return Leia home. Their back-and-forth dialogue remains strong, with Ben even opening up about the family he was taken from when only a youngling (Obi-Wan’s brother, coming to Disney+ in 2023). His speech about Leia reminding him of someone (Padme, her mother) is touching and proves that little focus is applied to the mother of Skywalkers outside of the prequels. But when a shady-looking Frank (voiced by Zach Braff) picks them up and Stormtroopers start quizzing the pair, the action soon ramps up with blaster fights and interrogation.
The first two-thirds of the episode is of a similar pace to the other episodes, but we do get to see Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker in a vision. A Stormtrooper gets cut in half by a beam, proving this show isn’t all about the kids. As we’re introduced to Tala, friend to the Jedi, the stakes start to heighten. The Inquisitors arrive, Ben clutches his chest, and the music stops – a familiar shadow, machine-like breathing, a slow walk. Darth Vader has arrived on Mapuzo, strangling civilians with the force as he marches down the moonlit street like an outlaw gunslinger in the Old West. Metres away from Ben, we know they are about to be reacquainted.
It isn’t long before lightsabers are drawn, blue and red, and a fight begins (not without Ben’s hesitation). The difference in ability is clear, with Vader embracing the dark side and power while Ben struggles to parry his powerful attacks. This is prime Darth Vader, and it is a joy to watch this in a scene some would say best shows his power (in Rogue One he was merely swatting flies, while here he’s toying with the most powerful Jedi remaining). James Earl Jones thrives here, with the memorable sentence ‘I am what you made me’ as Ben struggles to deal with the guilt of Vader’s new look. But thanks to Ben’s new friend Tala, he manages to escape the barbecue his old apprentice tries to roast him on. Leia’s fate isn’t as certain, captured by an angry Reva. Her role in the episode is to impress the Dark Lord and stand by his side.
The entire battle sequence on Mapuzo is what makes Star Wars such a dominant franchise, and where the sequel trilogy failed as a whole. The emotion between Vader and Ben is more damaging than the lightsabers, knowing what they’ve been through and what’s to come. When Kathleen Kennedy promised the rematch of the century, it wasn’t this fight – another fight is coming, which will see Ben take down Vader to ensure the famous James Earl Jones quote in A New Hope makes sense – ‘When I left you, I was but the learner. Now I am the master’.
Other notable points are that we now fully expect to see Liam Neeson pop up, considering Ben keeps talking to his old master and as he reconnects to the force there will need to be a guide to assist him. There’s the possibility of Yoda also, although it is clear another Jedi will be present in the coming episodes as Ben can’t do this alone. We also expect to see more of Luke, and a meeting between Vader and the Emperor. It’s an exciting progression, and we’re only halfway.
Episode 4 cannot arrive quick enough.
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