Obi-Wan Kenobi: Series Premiere Review
*This Review Contains Full Spoilers*
Given that Star Wars in the middle of a legacy revival, it was only a matter of time until we saw Ewan McGregor return as Obi-Wan Kenobi. From tons of franchise legends returning in the modern sequel trilogy to The Book of Boba Fett bringing back the titular fan-favorite bounty hunter, it only felt right that fans’ wishes of seeing McGregor return as Obi-Wan would come true. Finally, they have as Obi-Wan has his own series that picks up right after Revenge of the Sith.
Obi-Wan Kenobi takes place in a dark era of Star Wars canon. After Emperor Palpatine has gained power and turned Anakin Skywalker into Darth Vader, Order 66 goes into effect, where Jedi are hunted down and exterminated by Jedi that have turned to the dark side called Inquisitors. The series puts fans smack dab in the middle of the moment that the Jedi became extinct, and it introduces us to an Obi-Wan that is far from the one we remember. Before the series released, director Deborah Chow compared Obi-Wan’s story in the series to Wolverine’s in Logan, and you can see similarities right away.
Obi-Wan has completely given up his Jedi mentality and simply reserved himself to a less than stellar life on Tatooine keeping a close eye on a young Luke Skywalker until the day he needs to be trained. With Obi-Wan always acting as this distinct and unyielding force for good in Star Wars lore, it’s really intriguing to see where he’s ended up. He barely even uses the force and has buried his lightsaber, essentially burying his past with it. Even when a fellow Jedi asks for help after Inquisitors come to Tatooine, he outright refuses causing that Jedi to be captured, killed, and hung in the town square. He might not show much emotion, but he’s definitely a tortured soul that’s haunted by his past.
Obi-Wan certainly feels like he’s in an identity crisis, especially as the Inquisitors grow closer, but there still isn’t much in his story just yet. While the first two episodes act as a good reintroduction to Obi-Wan and establishes where Obi-Wan’s journey is heading as he’s tasked with bringing a kidnapped young Leia (Vivien Lynn Blair) back home, nothing too substantial happens in them. There are some threads that are nice like teasing a reunion between Darth Vader and Obi-Wan and creating mystery and intrigue around Inquisitor Reva’s (Moses Ingram) personal determination to capture Obi-Wan. However, most of the side characters make little impact and the story, at this point, feels too early to say much of anything about. However, the performances are undoubtedly strong.
Although a surprise to no one, McGregor slips back into one of his most iconic roles with ease and is already mixing the sadder, more broken shades of Obi-Wan with some of his classic charm as the character. There are certainly more emotional beats ahead with Vader now looming in his mind, so his performance is only going to get better, hopefully. Blair and Ingram are also both showing some strong breakout potential with their distinctly different performances.
Blair follows in Carrie Fischer’s footsteps well delivering a loveable snark and sense of rebellion that’s super fitting for Leia. It is a bit of a shame that the story structure of Obi-Wan and Leia’s journey together shows signs of being a classic, but overused Western story arc seen in films like True Grit, Logan, and Toy Story 4 with Obi-Wan doing one final good act and finding personal redemption before riding off into the sunset. But hopefully McGregor and Blair’s performances can do something new with this story structure and give it new meaning. Ingram also shows some great villain prowess as Reva through her daunting screen presence that makes you terrified of her and her hatred of Obi-Wan creates a mysterious intrigue around her personal motivations.
The only thing that Obi-Wan Kenobi really drops the ball on or is vastly underwhelming is how the series handles the impact of Order 66. Don’t get me wrong, the opening is incredibly intense and the Inquisitors showing up definitely leaves a strong foreboding impact, but it doesn’t feel like Obi-Wan really needs to hide much. Truthfully, there’s so little tension for Obi-Wan being discovered that Leia talks publicly and loudly to him about being a Jedi and there’s no real reaction from anyone until a bounty is put on his head. Given the impact that Order 66 has, it should feel like the mere mention of a Jedi would raise everyone’s ears, but the stakes surrounding it feel too low.
As for the Inquisitors, there’s a certain decision made that is incredibly questionable and kind of upsetting. Obi-Wan Kenobi introduces the Grand Inquisitor (Rupert Friend), a fan-favorite villain from Star Wars: Rebels who plays a major role in lore, but quickly dispatches him for seemingly no reason other than to make new character Reva the true villain. It just feels like bad fan-baiting and could have some bad consequences if Reva doesn’t pan out or if there isn’t some greater plan surrounding the character.
Obi-Wan Kenobi has some worrying signs surrounding its overly familiar story structure and some questionable choices with the Inquisitors but shows all the potential to be the triumphant and emotional return for McGregor as Obi-Wan that fans have always hoped for.