The following is a spoiler-filled review of the first two episodes of Obi-Wan Kenobi.
While it can be a little tiring to continuously return to the Skywalkers in the Star Wars universe, few people can say that they didn’t love Ewan McGregor as the titular Obi-Wan Kenobi. The Disney+ series takes the familiar character from the series and throws him into a strange in-between. We know old Ben Kenobi and Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, but how did one come from the other? Obi-Wan Kenobi takes a look at the Jedi’s time on Tatooine and ten years after the fall of the Jedi Temple. Star Wars Rebels fans will recognize some familiar faces, with the series including the Sith Inquisitors, who hunt down the remaining surviving Jedi.
The series, which seems to be just a simple story about a man waiting out in the desert, watching the child of his former padawan, is far more adventurous than it lets on. While the marketing might have you believe that we’ll see a young Luke, the truth of the matter is Luke is a distant character so far. We know a lot about Luke, given how similar his upbringing is to his father. But the series takes a sharp left and takes us to the planet of Alderaan where we follow a precocious and playful young Princess Leia (Vivian Lyra Blair). It’s immensely refreshing to take us off of the depressing sands of Tatooine where we’ve frankly spent way too much time with one Luke Skywalker, and spend some quality time with the better Skywalker sibling (yes, I said it).
Leia’s life, as you might imagine, is rather charmed on the surface. She is a princess of Alderaan, lives in a palace, is surrounded by servants, and clearly has her parents wrapped around her finger. But it’s quickly obvious that the fact that she is not an Organa by blood is one of her insecurities. However, Leia managed to inherit the best traits of her parents. Yes, she’s rebellious and playful, but she’s also quick-witted and highly insightful for her age. She quickly cuts people down with words who insult her and deduces Obi-Wan’s brooding in a matter of minutes.
It’s a powerful reminder of just how complex Leia’s character is compared to so many of the other characters. Far from the stereotypical rogue or chosen one, the series offers us a look at the woman who would one day lead the rebellion. From her kind-hearted respect for the droids to her quick thinking on her feet, it’s easy to admire the character. Of course, this continues the recent tradition of father figures of surrogate children. We have Mando and Grogu, and then Omega and the Bad Batch, and now we’ve got Obi-Wan and Leia.
For his part, Obi-Wan is very much a broken man at this point. Haunted and plagued with guilt over the loss of Anakin as well as the slaughter of his fellow Jedi, a decade later and he is butchering meat somewhere on the Tatooine sands. He steals a bit to feed his steed and bargains with the comical local Jawa. But his life is aimless. He watches Luke from a distance, but Uncle Owen (Joel Edgerton) is quick to keep him away. It’s obvious that Obi-Wan wants a connection to Luke, especially when he gives him a toy that he barters off of a Jawa. And he’s looking for the human connection in the wrong place.
The series goes a bit heavy-handed when it comes to the message. The Inquisitors repeat multiple times that Jedi hunt Jedi, saying that Jedi and their desire to help people often lead to them getting caught. That, and the fact that most of the Inquisitors are former Jedi who turned to the dark side. Among them is Third Sister aka Reva (Moses Ingram) and the Grand Inquisitor (Rupert Friend). Both are rather comical cookie-cutter villains. The Grand Inquisitor has been loved for his ruthlessness and the intensity in which he chases down his prey, but he’s a drop in the bucket compared to Reva. Ingram is rather imposing as Third Sister, but the character is operating at an extreme. Obviously, we know that only a Sith deals in absolutes, but is it asking too much for a bit of nuance?
By the end of the second episode, we are emotionally knocked on our feet as we watch Obi-Wan learn that Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) is still alive. Much like the scene in Rebels where Ahsoka sensed Anakin’s presence in space, this sends him down a spiral. After all of his nightmares, the nightmare continues. The Sith Lord Darth Vader is Anakin Skywalker. The episode ends with a look at Christensen’s Vader in a Bacta tank, a chilling cut from Obi-Wan whispering his name.
Critics and haters of the prequels might find some things to love, but I’ve come to the recent conclusion that not as many people hated the prequels as it seemed. As a person who grew up watching the prequels first, Episodes II and III remain my favorite in the series – yes, even the sand scene. It’s not hard to find others who agree, as the rise of the internet and social media gave marginalized and underrepresented voices a platform, the prequels saw a renaissance. It’s exciting not only to revisit McGregor’s Obi-Wan, especially at such a tortured time in his life but also for Christensen to get a second chance in the public eye. Similarly, exploring Leia’s connection to Obi-Wan is exciting, and you can begin to see why she would name her only child after old Ben Kenobi.
With four more episodes to go, it already feels like that’s not enough time. With characters we’ve yet to see still waiting in the wings, Obi-Wan Kenobi proves that you can still revisit the Skywalker saga but that story must offer a new perspective from the one before, and the series has accomplished that.