3 film trilogies into the Star Wars saga, with a few one off’s here and there, and no matter the trilogy, original, prequel, and sequel, a generation grew up with the respective films. As a millennial, I grew up with the prequel trilogy and still to this day, it’s my least favorite, though much of the sequel trilogy is extremely frustrating to sit through. Whatever the gripe a person may have with the prequels, the best part about it is the Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and his journey in failing his padawan who becomes the biggest villain in the galaxy far, far away. However, the character was first introduced in A New Hope, played by Alec Guinness but suffers an ultimate fate early on in the film before getting to know him.
You may recall, after the events of Revenge of the Sith, Master Yoda gives Kenobi some training to do while in exile which then leads into A New Hope taking place 19 years later. 10 years after episode 3 is when Obi-Wan Kenobi takes place with Ewan stepping back into the role after a 17-year gap. Ewan coming back to a role he expanded upon after recasting Alec Guinness for The Phantom Menace, beginning 2 decades prior feels comforting, but the welcome doesn’t live up to expectations fans placed on it after so many years of being promised a return.
Everyone’s favorite planet, Tatooine serves as the opening local for the limited series. There, Obi-Wan is living in a cave, working for some type of harvester, and keeping an eye on a 10-year-old Luke (Grant Feely) as he promised, from a distance. Kenobi’s life has become a repetitive dreadful cycle, day in and day out. This is not the Obi-Wan we have come to know and adore. He’s stiff, out of practice, and insecure about his abilities and connection to the force.
Bringing Obi-Wan back into the bigger picture is a narrative that not many expected but once senator Bail Organa (Jimmy Smits) reaches out to the former Jedi Master for a rescue of his daughter Leia Organa (Vivian Lyra Blair), the series becomes more interesting as the fear would be the entire series would center around Luke, his uncle Owen (Joel Edgerton) and aunt Beru (Bonnie Piesse). Finally, a Disney Plus created story that leaves Tatooine behind for nearly the entirety of the 6-episode series. After Attack of the Clones, who isn’t tired of sand and hearing how coarse it is.
Few exceptions aside, the Disney era of Star Wars hasn’t lived up to the expectations of the original trilogy and following on the heels of Boba Fett the anticipation to continue Kenobi’s story is very promising given the creative team behind the series. Directing all 6 episodes is Deborah Chow, who directed 2 episodes in season 1 of The Mandalorian, knocking both out of the park as the best of that first season. The franchise is at its best when the right people are in control – Dave Filoni and John Favreau being the two that reignited the passion so many people have for this universe. With the flame lit and so many new stories on the horizon, the universe that is supposed to be expanding is still small and contained comparatively. Somehow, one family rules this entire galaxy – we can’t get away from the Skywalker’s.
After the fall of the Galactic Republic, in which Senator Palpatine is discovered to be the Sith lord, the now Galactic Empire reigns supreme. Obi-Wan Kenobi takes place years before the Death Star is at full capacity and the remaining Jedi are being hunted by Darth Vader (Hayden Christensen, voiced by James Earl Jones) and his inquisitors – Grand (Rupert Friend), the Fifth Brother (Sung Kang), and Reva aka the Third Sister (Moses Ingram). To them, the Jedi are a plague upon the galaxy and must be exterminated. To them, Kenobi is public enemy number 1.
Featuring yet another exceptional ensemble cast, the standouts are no doubt lead Ewan McGregor who hasn’t missed a beat in the 17-year gap. Every word and line of dialogue spoken comes with the comfort of knowing Ewan will be a commanding presence on screen. Pleasantly surprising is Vivien Lyra Blair as a young Leia Organa. I imagine this is how the late Carrie Fisher would be as a child. Vivien is perfectly cast – she has the energy, warmth, ferocity, and attitude that Fisher brought to the role in the original trilogy. While the story focuses on the rescue of Leia by the baiting by Reva to capture Obi-Wan, the show is at full strength when Kenobi and Leia are together in more personal settings – after an escape getting to know one another.
Leia did name her son Ben, after all.
The main draw to Obi-Wan would be the much-anticipated showdown between Obi-Wan and Vader – 1 coming early on that would set the stage for the episode 3 rematch for the ages. And the second one doesn’t disappoint while the first would play out as expected due to Obi-Wan’s disconnection to the force. This is a Vader at full strength, 10 years into his reign. Episode 5 showcases his power that is taken straight from the game universe – using the force to keep a ship of the resistance led by Kawlan Roken (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) from escaping off planet to fighting without a lightsaber, dodging each attack swiftly without a thought to it. The final fight would go one to live up to the potential of the series – highlighting a more intimate struggle between the once friends and partners. Deborah Chow’s best directing comes during this sequence – drawing callbacks to both the original and prequel trilogies. It’s also the best use of sound design in the limited series – this was why Haden was brought back – concluding the relationship between the two and bringing closure.
Being a Star Wars fan hasn’t been easy these past few years. What I take umbridge with in this series all starts with the writing that can’t seem to break free from the same guardian type themes with someone to be saved and protected by an older character. Mandalorian has Din and Grogu and this is Kenobi and Leia. Father/son or Father/daughter, this theme has been the backbone for the entirety of the saga. Characters like Reva and Tala (Indira Varma) are shoehorned in and aren’t given the same respect to them though the actors are doing the best with what is given to them. Both deserve better as well as other reoccurring characters that aid Ben and Leia.
Obi-Wan went in with a ton of potential that isn’t executed the way it should have been. There is a lot to like, but more of the same disappointment we are used to within the Disney era. What comes in the finale is what the entire 6 episodes should have been. Where other series are thriving on different services, Star Wars and Marvel have suffered – these series need more than 6 episodes and 38-minute runtimes. It’s not cutting it. In no way is 6 episodes enough time to tell a complete and developed story with a beginning, middle and end. Disney – these shows, characters and creators deserve more.
Created By: Joby Harold
Episodes Directed By: Deborah Chow
Music By: John Williams (Theme), Natalie Holt (Score)
Cinematography: Chung-hoon Chung
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Rupert Friend, Sung Kang, Moses Ingram, Vivien Lyra Blair, Kumail Nanjiani, Hayden Christensen, James Earl Jones, Indira Varma, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Joel Edgerton, Benny Safdie, Bonnie Piesse, Jimmy Smits
Where to Watch: Disney Plus
Release Date: May 27, 2022
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 67%
Based On: Star Wars by George Lucas