I’m a Star Wars fan so I go into watching new Star Wars shows like the Obi-Wan Kenobi series already wanting to like them. It’s kind of akin to being a grant reviewer and being assigned a grant to review whose focus is already a passion of yours.
However, after what I would call an overall disappointing recent movie trilogy with Rey and Kylo Ren, I’m a little cautious about what to expect with other new efforts like the Star Wars Stories. I have enjoyed The Mandalorian with Baby Yoda. On the other hand, The Book of Boba Fett has been kind of a mess so far. Clunky. And why two Star Wars series in a row featuring bounty hunters?
So what’s the deal with the new Obi-Wan Series? If you read on be warned that there are many spoilers ahead.
Obi-Wan Kenobi series
While I’ve been waiting a long time for an Obi-Wan series, as its premiere drew nearer I was worried the now Disney-centric Star Wars powers-that-be might not get it right.
The good news is that I generally liked Obi-Wan Kenobi’s first season. The less good news is that the makers blew it on some important fronts. Still, there was far more good than bad.
In Episode one out of six, we find an older, palpably tired Obi-Wan on Tatooine ostensibly keeping a distant watch on young Luke Skywalker. After a decade of this existence, it seems like a lot of the life is gone from Obi-Wan.
The main new development in this universe from the end of The Revenge of the Sith is that there are Jedi hunters now roaming the galaxy. These so-called Inquisitors are force-sensitive and some are former young Jedi who have turned to the dark side.
We meet the Grand Inquisitor who seems like a Darth Vader junior in appearance. Not too exciting.
What I liked
What’s more interesting is a young woman inquisitor, kind of nicknamed Third Sister by the Grand Inquisitor, but whose name is Reva Sevander. Reva has a mission to catch Obi-Wan Kenobi.
She wants it so bad you can feel it.
Eventually, the Inquisitors and Reva show up on Tatooine, of course, and things get ugly. For instance, Obi-Wan chooses not to help a frantic young Jedi being hunted by inquisitors and instead advises him to give up and hide, with disastrous results.
We feel that this is not the same old Obi-Wan anymore.
At some point on her adoptive home planet, ten-year-old Princess Leia gets kidnapped by Reva with the real intention of drawing in Obi-Wan. Reva doesn’t know that Leia is anything special beyond leverage to get Obi-Wan. In the words of Admiral Ackbar, “it’s a trap.” Ob-Wan knows this but he must go, especially after Leia’s adopted father and Obi-Wan’s old friend Bail Organa, pleads for help.
Overall, the setup of this reality for the new show felt right to me. The first two episodes worked pretty well.
One of the best parts of the whole series is the bond between Obi-Wan and ten-year-0ld Leia, who seems remarkably similar to a younger version of the older Leia that we already got to know in the movies.
Obi-Wan, Darth Vader conflicts resonate
I also loved the moment when Obi-Wan first learns that Anakin Skywalker survived their lightsaber battle and Anakin’s lava burning on Mustafar. It’s a huge shock and that’s portrayed well. Viewers probably have an “oh yeah, he didn’t know, ouch!” kind of feeling.
Another one of my favorite elements of the Obi-Wan Kenobi series overall is getting a little look inside Darth Vader’s thoughts and memories. Very interesting. At one point he’s shown remembering a friendly encounter with his master Obi-Wan. I wish there was more of that.
The dynamic between the two old friends, master and apprentice, plays out through the rest of the series. It’s admirably gray, reflecting their conflicted feelings about each other. Things aren’t that simple.
What does Vader want to happen to Obi-Wan and vice versa?
It seems they just cannot go all out and kill each other (despite both having opportunities) but they end up fighting nearly-deadly battles. Good stuff. The last fight between them was nearly as good as their battle on Mustafar in The Revenge of the Sith. You can see an image above of Obi-Wan being unsure about what to do.
Ewan McGregor’s performance as Obi-Wan is spot on overall too.
Where the Obi-Wan Kenobi series disappoints
Unfortunately, the series exhibits some clunky moments as well as lazy writing and plot development. There are too many times when characters suddenly appear in other places, sometimes really far away to confront other characters.
For me watching, there were just too many moments when I thought, “wait, how did that happen?” Sure, we’re talking about a space opera set in a world of magic in the form of the “force” but basic plot development requires some work and should be solid. It often wasn’t.
Come on writers and producers, is it that hard to keep the plot coherent?
Then there’s an intense scene where Vader indirectly burns Obi-Wan to make him suffer as Vader did on Mustafar. At that point, the show essentially seems to be at a moment where Vader can kill or capture Obi-Wan easily.
Yet somehow Vader just stands there as Obi-Wan is whisked away even with a crowd of stormtroopers at his disposal. Sure, there’s a fire there, but it wasn’t that big. And, yes, Vader isn’t sure what to do and is kind of an emotional mess, but we only realize that later. The fire scene with Obi-Wan was kind of an illogical dud. Just one or two lines or thoughts from Vader could have made it work and resonate with later scenes when we realize Vader has no particular plan and may be conflicted even on what to do with Obi-Wan.
One of the challenges with prequels is that we know the key characters aren’t going to die so that could have been an issue too, but it’s fairly easy to set that aside as one watches.
Lightsaber schmight saber
Then there’s the whole Jon Snow-like resurrection trend in Star Wars lately where people who really should be dead, turn out to not be dead. At one point Reva clearly kills the Grand Inquisitor with a wicked lightsaber jab, but actually we later learn the dude is just fine. Huh?
The same thing happens later when Darth Vader clearly kills Reva with another wicked lightsaber thrust up through a large part of her abdomen and chest, likely hitting the heart, lungs, and numerous other major organs. Yet with no explanation she’s alive and doing well enough to go off to another planet and track down young Luke.
Don’t lightsabers work so well anymore? Kyber crystals aren’t what they used to be?
Or is it that those on the dark side can somehow routinely survive apparently fatal lightsaber blows? That needs some more development if it’s going to be a common plot device. One line from the Grand Inquisitor about strong dark feelings helping one survive doesn’t cut it.
This annoying trend may have started with the Star Wars folks deciding to bring back Darth Maul for another series after Obi-Wan literally sliced him entirely in half. How did that work? It doesn’t seem to be cloning.
Big picture, season 2 of Obi-Wan Kenobi series?
Getting back to the more positive, Indira Varma’s performance as Tala, a double agent officer in the Empire, is excellent. I almost felt like there could be some romantic chemistry between Tala and Obi-Wan. However, this show has no room for romance, so far at least. Tala has a definite Rogue One vibe to her and I wish she had made it through to the end.
Kumail Nanjiani is fun as phony Jedi Haja, who ends up being an Obi-Wan ally. There was some comic relief there and Haja, thank goodness, has no Jar Jar Binks vibe at all.
Looking ahead, a season 2 is not a sure thing but with solid ratings I think it’s likely.
There’s much more that the show could get into in a second season. I have a feeling it will focus more on Luke. Maybe Obi-Wan, freed from the strict Jedi rules by the order being in ruin, gets to have some romance?
Overall, I give the Obi-Wan Kenobi series 3.5 stars out of 5.