A bald, pale, mutilated male face attached to a breathing mask in a tank of water; still from "Obi-Wan Kenobi"

What Darth Vader revealed in Obi-Wan Kenobi is correct

If you’re going to bring back an iconic villain, that’s the way to do it.

[Editor’s Note: This story contains spoilers for “Obi-Wan Kenobi” Episode 3]

Calling Darth Vader one of the most iconic villains of all time is no exaggeration – and Disney has just brought him back in the best way possible.

“Obi-Wan Kenobi” Episode 3 provided fans with a rich live performance of Vader, with Hayden Christensen wearing an elegant helmet and the legendary commentary of James Earl Jones. Commanding the Third Sister (Moses Ingram), he terrorizes the city and battles Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor), giving Star Wars fans a real feast of Vader’s footage, leaving three full episodes of the show.

Since the Star Wars villain’s debut in 1977 (voiced by Jones and embodied by David Prows), Darth Vader’s rattling breath, body armor and fluttering cloak have become almost synonymous with power and horror, a legacy that permeates the Star Wars canon and big cinema to this day. But unlike many major fictitious antagonists, Vader’s universe is still expanding. Star Wars, for decades since its premiere in theaters, has included books, movies and graphic novels and television without stopping.

Nevertheless, in live action, Vader remains largely untouched. He died in “Return of the Jedi,” which excludes the character from all sequels. “Rogue One” from 2016 surprised fans not only with a cursory glance at Vader in the Death Star, but also with a stunning sequence of lightsaber fights during the climax. While “The Mandalorian” and “The Book of Boba Fett” set an interesting precedent as Hamill grew old to bring the adult Luke to the forefront, Vader was not drawn into “The Force Awakens” and their sequels by flashback or any other methods (technology resurrected Peter Cushing in “Rogue One” with mixed reviews). This is a remarkable restraint on the part of Lucasfilm, especially since the character doesn’t really have to be old at all.

Obi-Wan Kenobi

Lucasfilm Ltd.

So it would be easy to lure fans into six episodes and save Vader’s main revelation and showdown for the “Obi-Wan” finals, but the show didn’t do anything like that. Vader is shown healing in his bacta tank, dressing in a suit, and then doing what he does best: intimidation. Before the episode ends, he meets Obi-Wan face to face and briefly encounters lightsabers – echoes of their epic battle on Mustafar in “Revenge of the Sith,” but Obi-Wan, heavily weathered and weakened, while his old Padawan waited for exactly this moment. The fight is short, but probably just teasing for what else “Obi-Wan” has in store.

If ever there was a time to bring Vader out of the proverbial canonical bacta tank into the active Star Wars universe, then this is the series. “Obi-Wan Kenobi” takes place 10 years after the “Revenge of the Sith,” with Vader and the Empire constantly rising to power. This Vader contains more Anakin Skywalker than any other on television or film. Before he attacks, he senses Obi-Wan’s presence; For some reason – be it fear, respect or mercy – he hesitates. As he tortures the townspeople, reaffirms his journey through the Dark Side, he uses Obi-Wan’s Jedi instinct to save the innocent to pull him out and destroy him. By setting the earth on fire and forcing Obi-Wan into flames, this Vader exhibits a distinct, calculating sadism. He is not here to suffocate with someone and not fight with someone; he wants his old Master to suffer just like him, to burn almost to death and survive as something barely recognizable.

This lingering connection goes both ways. At the top of the episode, Obi-Wan recovers from the news that Anakin is alive and even has hallucinations in his hood in the desert. It’s exciting to see the characters intersect in the middle of the series, to feel the weight of their broken bond that still haunts them both. It is undoubtedly the central relationship of this series and a truly compelling case for dusting off Vader’s helmet after all these years.

The new episodes of “Obi-Wan Kenobi” premiere on Disney + on Wednesday.

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