Obi Wan Kenobi was in six of the nine main Star Wars movies. It was only a matter of time before he’d get his own show. And now that show is here.
The Obi Wan Kenobi television series is set about ten years after the prequel trilogy. Obi Wan has been in a dark place. Emperor Palpatine overthrew the Galactic Republic and wiped out the Jedi. Imperial inquisitors hunt the last remaining Jedi. And it’s all Obi Wan’s fault.
Well… sort of. From the jumble of the prequels you can conclude that Obi Wan was to blame because he failed to properly train Anakin Skywalker. You could also claim the utter stupidity and cowardice of the Jedi caused them to stand by while the populace sheepishly voted to go full fascist empire. Anakin was at the side lines and killed a bunch of children.
But, this show goes with the ‘Obi Wan feels guilty because Anakin killed all the Jedi’ interpretation. He’s on Tatooine, has a meaningless dreary job, and spends his time spying on Luke, while Luke’s Uncle doesn’t allow him anywhere near the boy.
Then, villains kidnap Leia from Alderaan, and Bail Organa asks his old Jedi friend for help.
Obi Wan — played by Ewan McGregor once more — is haunted by his past. He has yet to confront his demons and gain some measure of peace.
Darth Vader, played by Hayden Christensen and voiced by James Earl Jones, is still on Mustafar. He spends his time looking for Obi Wan to take his revenge on his old master for cutting off his legs and tossing him into a flaming river and leaving him to die.
Third Sister Reva — Moses Ingram — is an inquisitor for the Empire. She ruthlessly hunts for Obi Wan to gain Darth Vader’s attention. Ambition seems to drive her, but there are hidden depths to her that only become apparent later.
And then there is a young Leia, played by Vivien Lyra Blair. Leia has much more agency than Anakin ever did in the Phantom Menace, and she is an interesting part of the story. Simply because of her status in the later movies, the writers couldn’t just fridge her to motivate Obi Wan, and they did a decent job of making her interesting in her own right.
I enjoyed watching this show. It is better than a lot of the other Star Wars that came out the last few years. It’s not as good as the Last Jedi. Obi Wan showed some real emotions, and we even saw deeper into Darth Vader’s psyche. The conflict between Obi Wan and Anakin becomes more real than it ever became in the prequel movies.
On the other hand, the show was hemmed in by established lore, and the forces of convention behind characters. You can’t have Leia in a show and not put her to use, or try to show the lead-up to Star Wars 4, for example. And in the end, those conventions and strict guideposts weigh down the show. I was disappointed in the end of the show.
Oh, and on a separate note: Obi Wan should have spat at Qui-Gon Jinn at first sight. If the fall of the Galactic Republic can be thrown at anybody’s feet, it’s that bastard and his arrogant delusions.
The bottom line is this: this show does not add anything to the Star Wars stories. It doesn’t really tie up any loose ends, or create meaningful new arcs. It’s more of the same, and while I like that, I don’t love it, and I suspect this approach is leading to diminishing returns for Disney.
Below, a spoiler-filled analysis of why I did not like the ending.
Remember how the climactic battle in Episode Three really falls flat. Obi Wan and Anakin duke it out and then Obi Wan starts ranting at his friend who is on fire ‘I can’t kill you’. You’d think the utter failure of that scene would cause you not to repeat it in Obi Wan Kenobi. Then again, apparently there are people who loved Revenge of the Sith.
I hate Revenge of the Sith, though. Really, utterly, despise it. The writing is terrible, the acting is bad, and the worst is: an enormous amount of money was spent to lay a giant turd at the feet of the original Star Wars trilogy. The missed potential almost hurts me physically.
That shadow hangs over Obi Wan Kenobi. The show does indeed do an admirable job of showing what Obi Wan wrestles with. He used to live a good life in the light, and now hides in a cave surrounded by the ghosts of his dead comrades.
Darth Vader is ruled by an intense all-encompassing hatred for his old master. Understandable, given the man cut off several limbs and burned him so he has to walk around encased in armor.
In the final episode they confront each other, and it starts well enough. Obi Wan completes his arc by forgiving himself, and defeats Vader. We also learn that Darth Vader sees his old self as weak and killed off everything human in himself. That would have been a far better arc for his fall from grace in Revenge of the Sith, in fact.
However: Obi Wan defeats Vader, then walks away AGAIN. Sorry, Obi Wan: this man killed your friends, you saw him kill children, and he just told you it’s who he is. And you let him walk away?! F*ing psycho. This is where the established lore is a problem. Because, of course, Luke has to deal with Vader in Episode 6.
But they could have found a better way around that. I personally would have Obi Wan about to deliver a killing blow, and then have him buried under a ton of rubble, Vader crawling away, his suit severely damaged. Vader thinks his old master dead, and Obi Wan escapes with a broken arm and leg –his fighting days over. But that was not meant to be, apparently.
I loved Reva’s arc, up until the moment Darth Vader didn’t kill her. It would have been such a monumental ending if Darth Vader defeated her, then the inquisitor killed her. She tried to go at it alone, and failed because of it.
The arc now is weird. She redeems herself by not killing Luke. So, we get a spin-off series? That’s the reason I thought of for ending her arc this way. I can understand that, even if I don’t feel it was a good way to end her arc. She was a cool character.
In my mind, I’ll just remember her as epically dying while fighting Darth Vader, until I can’t keep that up when a spin-off show emerges.