How did the bad guys not find Luke Skywalker when he was practically hiding in his father’s old home? This is a subject that has perplexed Star Wars fans for decades. The answer will be revealed in the new Disney+ miniseries Obi-Wan Kenobi, which is currently streaming. But the real question is whether a small continuity flaw can be stretched out to make a TV series worth your time. In this Obi Wan Kenobi review, we will be answering questions like is there really any point in telling a story if you already know how it ends? Thankfully, the answer appears to be yes based on the first two episodes, which are both available to view on Disney Plus today and will be followed by new chapters every Wednesday.
Obi-Wan Kenobi (the show) is a confident, fast-paced, and thrilling new series with a terrific cast, created by writers who know how to employ familiar aspects — and, more significantly, how to leave some out — in a plot that is, above all, character-driven.
Ewan McGregor’s performance in Obi-Wan Kenobi
Let’s face it, this series might have gone either way. It stars Ewan McGregor as a Proper Movie Star with a beard and a lightsaber, and it centers on one of the most compelling characters in the entire Star Wars franchise. But, more than any other contemporary Star Wars show, it’s built on the greatest of Star Wars (the original film) and the worst of Star Wars (the prequels) (the overblown, computer-effects-blighted prequel trilogy). It comes after the stuffy Book of Boba Fett, another tale about a known Star Wars character that tainted the goodwill surrounding the streaming success of The Mandalorian.
Is the new Star Wars plot worthwhile?
Yes, it’s a laser sword and rocket ship-themed fantasy amusement park. However, Obi-Wan, now known simply as “Ben,” is a devastated war veteran who not only lost a surrogate son but also saw his whole civilization crumble. He’s a defeated man with nothing left but a child he’ll never be able to speak to. As a result, he’s a very interesting character.
The plot brilliantly reduces this iconic figure to a shell, and it’s a moving journey to behold in the hands of an actor as good as Ewan McGregor. Following Obi-Wan’s agony over not only a call to adventure in episode 1 but also a terrifying personal revelation in episode 2, I believe McGregor will finally be able to shake the comparisons to Alec Guinness in this season (who originally played Obi-Wan in A New Hope). Guinness gets to portray the sorrow and struggle engraved into this lost man’s psyche.
Other characters in the series
Another clever decision by the writers is to make the adversaries much more than cardboard cutout nasties. Although the dark Inquisitors are fascist fanatics, they aren’t beyond a little office politics. The differences between Rupert Friend’s moon-faced Grand Inquisitor and his impatient underling Reva resemble the Jedi master-apprentice relationship. Despite the fact that Reva is a cruel functionary of an evil state, played chillingly by Moses Ingram, the tormented and ambitious Reva is just relatable enough to be compelling.
The series also focuses on some contemporary subjects, which is unusual for a space shooter. With an oily envoy joking that “the Empire is finally lining some pockets” as he laughs off enslavement and munches canapés, Star Wars continues to serve as a metaphor for the insidiousness of evil. Children unconsciously mimic their parents’ biases, while Obi-Wan wrestles with his role as a role model for the next generation.
The dynamic between McGregor and the fiery Vivien Lyra Blair is a lot of fun in the early episodes, which set up the story in the same way as The Mandalorian did, with our rugged hero-taking Baby Yoda under his wing. Whereas Lone Wolf and Cub was based on a samurai film, the Obi-Wan series is based on Luc Besson’s 1994 hitman film Leon: The Professional. Given that Leon starred Natalie Portman just a few years before she became a significant role in the Star Wars prequels, this is almost certainly planned.
Prequel, sequel, or sequel to a prequel?
It isn’t an Obi Wan Kenobi review if we don’t answer the all-important question, what is this series all about? It’s both a prequel and a sequel to a prequel, taking place between the end of Revenge of the Sith and the start of A New Hope. It exemplifies one of Star Wars 2022’s peculiarities: With no new films in the pipeline to push the series ahead, the franchise is constantly chasing its own tail in ever-smaller intervals between prior adventures.
From Rogue One and Solo to The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett to the upcoming Andor, Ahsoka, and Skeleton Crew, Disney’s Star Wars stewards seem hell-bent on cramming every new series within the same few decades of galactic history we’ve seen before. As a result, the central question of this new series is the same existential problem that has plagued the whole Star Wars saga. How much longer can Star Wars cover the same story? Even though this galaxy is far, far away, it never seems to get any bigger.
Fortunately, Obi-Wan’s authors are aware of this, and while the story begins with “Ben” working as a meatpacker on Tatooine, they quickly leave for greener pastures. The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett both took place on the desert planet, and the later show suffered greatly as a result of being stuck in the same location.
Instead, the Obi-Wan program performs a clever switch, sending our hero on a quest that isn’t so much about protecting Luke as it is about opening up the possibilities for a satisfying galaxy-spanning adventure. While the series benefits from the departure from the overly-familiar Tatooine, the new setting it moves to also appear to be somewhat familiar.
Episode 2 in particular seems like one of those Marvel TV series like Daredevil when everyone kicks the crap out of each other on rooftops at night while you can’t see anything. Despite this, the series generates more tension than you’d anticipate from a setting in which you know who can and cannot die. It’s all satisfyingly Star Wars, with blaster battles, bounty hunter droids, sneering Imperials, and some intriguing worldbuilding like bruised drug sellers and a tragic cameo that freezes Obi-Wan in his tracks.
On top of that, there are a slew of new characters to look out for, including Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Kumail Nanjiani, who seems like he’s having the time of his life, as well as interesting conflicts for the characters we already know.
Obi-Wan Kenobi, it turns out, has a few tricks up his sleeve even when you believe he’s beaten. While we have yet to see how the rest of the series plays out, this latest installment proves that Star Wars is still alive.
That is it for the Obi Wan Kenobi review. The rest of the series will be released every Wednesday, beginning on June 1 with episode 3. In the meantime, check out our in-depth recap and look into the easter eggs, character arcs, and appearances from episodes 1 and 2.