Obi-Wan Kenobi showcases a soldier who is haunted by his past. Once a Jedi knight who fought amongst great Jedi Masters, Obi-Wan is now known as “Ben”. He is hiding from Inquisitors and turning his back on the face of injustice. Since Star Wars transitioned from film to TV, this is the first show where the main character doesn’t wear a helmet. No disrespect to The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett.
Obi-Wan Kenobi is a study of Ewan McGregor’s underrated character from the prequel trilogy. The prequels didn’t receive a lot of love and appreciation from fans due to creative differences from the original. At the heart of McGregor’s performance is the story of a broken man in exile. He’s being asked to fight a war he doesn’t want to be part of anymore. But history defines his legacy in the universe of Star Wars. The show brings a new depiction of his character’s burdens and regrets to screen.
Ten years after the events of Revenge of the Sith, Obi-Wan works at a factory in Tatooine. At the end of each day, he boards a bus to the empty cave, and cooks a single-portion stew. When he’s not working, he keeps a close eye on Luke Skywalker (Grant Feely), but it is unclear whether he does this due to obligation or devotion.
On Tatooine, a group of Inquisitors arrive to hunt down Jedi’s hiding from the Empire. Reva (Moses Ingram) works with Darth Vader (a dual role with Hayden Christensen and James Earl Jones) to hunt down Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan receives a distress signal from an old friend, Bail Organa (Jimmy Smits). Bail needs help to rescue his kidnapped daughter Princess Leia (Vivien Lyra Blair). Obi-Wan is reluctant as he doesn’t define himself as a Jedi knight anymore. Ultimately, Obi-Wan is unable to resist the temptation. He sets on a course that will collide with the past he desperately wants to bury.
Deborah Chow, a veteran director of The Mandalorian, directs and shows the missing link between the two sequels. Obi-Wan is a tale of redemption and finding courage to face ones past. He doesn’t speak a lot, but his actions and emotions tell a story of guilt. Ben begins the journey hiding and scurrying away from the Inquisitors, then finds the determination to fight with courage. Obi-Wan was a man barely uncomfortable with using the Force. He must first he finds his purpose in life, to bring peace and fight injustice in the universe. Chow is the perfect director to show the deeply scarred emotion of Obi-Wan.
Obi-Wan Kenobi focuses on the titular character’s emotional journey. We also learn about Reva. Reva’s path to find vengeance is fueled with passion and anger. The contrast in both of these character’s stories begins strong but fizzles out due to the latter’s underserved story. As a Sith Inquisitor, Reva is determined to find Obi-Wan. Even if it means kidnapping the daughter of a general. She’s more ruthless and ice-cold compared to her colleagues the Grand Inquisitor (Rupert Friend) and Fifth Brother (Sung Kang).
Both of these characters are interesting, especially their past and how they are unable to move from it. Ingram makes a strong performance as Reva, a formidable Third Sister on the hunt against the Jedi. Despite the predictable narrative arc, she does a great job as an antagonist and delivers a worthy and fantastic performance.
Following Ingram’s debut in the Star Wars universe, she received hateful and racist comments and messages on social media. John Boyega and Kelly Marie Tran have both been vocal about the racist comments they received from Star Wars fans and sidelining POC characters. Tran has penned an article in The New York Times about the harassment she faced. Before Ingram debuted on the show, LucasFilm had warned her that racist messages were ‘likely to happen.’ Star Wars is moving away from white-centered narratives and producers are bringing diversity to appeal to younger audiences. This includes the upcoming Ahsoka, Andor, and Lando, starring Rosario Dawson, Diego Luna and Donald Glover. But even with that diversity, Ingram, Boyega and Tran received a lot of hateful comments because fans are threatened by the changes.
Obi-Wan Kenobi understands the character’s emotional turmoil and fleshes out relationships that weren’t given the time to develop in the movies. The show’s penultimate episode brings Anakin and Obi-Wan together, showing the viewers the young and old Jedi knights before the war changed their lives. Christensen’s brief role as Anakin before turning into the dark side of the Force, and the eventual Sith Lord Darth Vader, makes this one of the most meaningful transitions ever. Especially, in the final showdown, when Darth Vader’s helmet splits in half and reveals a glimpse of his scarred face, and vows to stay true to the fascist Empire, completely forgetting his former identity. The lightsaber duel between the former master and the apprentice is perhaps a nod to what will happen in A New Hope, and it bridges the gap in a satisfying way.
At the end of the show, Obi-Wan finds a new purpose — a new hope. It’s a thrilling show that reveals the perils of an emotional man that finds a new way to overcome his past. McGregor’s performance drives the show. When the show is muddled in the middle McGregor brings the charisma back. Even if Obi-Wan is on the path to becoming older and wiser, McGregor is still familiar as ever. Obi-Wan Kenobi is predictable and yet, a fun show. It brings cool and classic light saber battles, a beautiful world for any generation of fans and tells an interesting story that is necessary to the pantheon of the Star Wars universe.
For more from Nuha, check out her review of The Boys here!