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*Imperial March intensifies* Ever since the release of Rogue One nearly six years ago, Star Wars fans have eagerly waited to see more of Darth Vader's post-Revenge of the Sith savagery on their screens. While it took just over half a decade to see that wish fulfilled, Lucasfilm did not disappoint with the third episode of its Obi-Wan Kenobi television series on Disney+. Hoping to draw out of his old Jedi instructor, the dreaded Sith Lord (Hayden Christensen) shows no mercy to the people of Mapuzo, Force choking and snapping the necks of random citizens with impunity.
The episode also features the bifurcation of a Stormtrooper, a rather shocking visual that perfectly underscores the enormous dangers faced by Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) once he decides to leave his quiet life of solitude on Tatooine to rescue young Leia. Still, it's interesting to see just how much this show is able to get away with when compared to previous galactic outings like The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett, which have largely held back on showing gratuitous violence.
"Fundamentally, tone is driven by the scripts, but also by [director] Deborah Chow, who is such a terrific filmmaker and has a great handle on the juxtaposition of tone that's inherent in Star Wars, between the dramatic and the stuff that has a lighter touch," Kenobi head writer and executive producer, Joby Harold, tells SYFY WIRE. "Historically, in Star Wars, people get cut in half and Vader does scary things. There's precedent there, so we're just falling in line. But you know, it's scary out there for Obi-Wan and so, you want to feel some of that. Otherwise, his journey might feel inauthentic."
In terms of Vader's iconic voice, the show's end credits do provide a shoutout to the legendary James Earl Jones, who lent his bassy pipes to dependable Darth for the original trilogy, Episode III, and Rogue One. However, there has been a lot of back and forth between fans on whether the 91-year-old actor recorded new dialogue for the Disney+ project or if the Obi-Wan Kenobi team utilized the same voice synthesizing tech employed for young Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) in the Season 2 finale of The Mandalorian. Unfortunately, Harold wasn't able to settle the debate for us.
"I can't speak to the specifics about the recording process, but I can say that the notion of his voice and that imagery is so deeply rooted in the psychology of Star Wars," said the writer/producer. "It’s amazing and it's terrifying and hearing it come to life is amazing. It gives me chills just thinking about it."
Those reverential chills stretch all the way back to Harold's childhood, where one youthful illustration foretold his destiny to bring "the best cinematic villain of all time" to the screen:
"My mom — she's going through all her old stuff — you know, the way you keep kids' stuff ... and she found a picture I drew of Vader when I was like five, and it's terrifying. It's just this big brooding mass, haunting this five-year-old and I'm trying to exercise the demons by drawing them out. And there's tiny little X-wings crashing in the background. It’s part of your life in a way that you can't quite wrap your arms around until you're writing a script and slugging Vader and you're like, ‘Oh, my God! This is Vader!’ When he extends his lightsaber, that's a moment to write. So trying to find the ways to not live in awe of that too much and instead [say:] ‘Alright, get to the business of the characterization’ [which] is difficult, but at the end of the day, super fun."
Episodes 1-6 of Obi-Wan Kenobi are now streaming on Disney+, with the fifth and penultimate chapter premiering today.