Not that anyone was really that worried, but it’s a pleasure to say that Obi-Wan Kenobi‘s first two episodes are excellent. It delivers everything you’d expect of a series based around Obi-Wan post-Revenge of the Sith; a look at a man just trying to survive as the Jedi are actively hunted by the Empire, but coerced out of hiding to do one last good deed for a friend.
The production value is excellent, which has always been one thing you can rely on from a Star Wars project in the Disney era, but the score is simply incredible. As Part I opens, you hear music that sounds like it came straight out of A New Hope and you’re instantly transported right back into the galaxy we know and love. The music is on point throughout both episodes, perfectly encapsulating moments of fear, sadness, and warmth across the roughly 50-minute runtime for each installment.
The characters are all well written — Obi-Wan feels like the same man we left behind after he walked off into the twin sunset in Revenge of the Sith, or at least a believable version of him knowing everything the man has suffered over the last 10 years. Reva — confirmed to be the Third Sister in the Inquisitorius — seems a great villain so far, and Moses Ingram’s performance is fantastic as you constantly see her rage simmering under the surface.
The Grand Inquisitor feels like the same character we met in Star Wars Rebels, and Rupert Friend plays the part exceptionally well. Even the Fifth Brother, often maligned for his incompetence in Rebels, feels more interesting here. His personality feels a little less cartoonish than it did in the animated series.
Not everything worked for me — Reva’s motivations feel slightly contrived at this early point in the story, while Kumail Nanjiani’s character arc felt a little rushed and unearned — but otherwise these first two episodes were close to perfect.
It’s heartbreaking watching Obi-Wan in the show’s early scenes. To see this kind and compassionate man wrestle with his urge to help others while knowing that he needs to avoid drawing attention to himself to protect Luke is so sad. Obi-Wan’s been living a life of repetition and monotony for 10 years, doing just enough work to keep himself fed and earn a little bit of money. He’s used to a life in the shadows now, but its joyless. You almost have to remind yourself that he’s doing this for Luke, as you wonder what the point is in him continuing on if he’s not going to help others.
You can see the events of Revenge of the Sith have changed him. “Ben” seems a shell of the man he once was. When a fellow Jedi tracks him down and asks for help, Obi-Wan refuses. He tells him that the war is over, the Jedi already lost, and he should bury his lightsaber in the desert like he did. He still has nightmares about Anakin and Qui-Gon, and sometimes asks his old master for guidance even though he knows he won’t get an answer.
You’d think he’d abandoned his faith completely if not for his intention to train Luke in the ways of the Jedi one day. His conversation with Owen Lars is illuminating for that reason, as it’s the only sign that he hasn’t completely abandoned his old religion. You can see it hurts him when Owen points out his failure with Anakin, as he’s not wrong. Joel Edgerton reprises the character well, instilling an anger and protectiveness that we never got to see in the prequel films. It’s nice to see as it helps build a base for the man we meet in A New Hope, who doesn’t hide his disdain for Obi-Wan when Luke asks him about the old hermit.
It was always going to take something special to drag Obi-Wan away from Tatooine. After all, what’s more important than the son of the Chosen One? Well apparently, it’s the daughter of the Chosen One. As we reported exclusively back in February, a 10-year-old Leia Organa finds herself in trouble and the Organas ask Obi-Wan to help rescue her. It makes sense that Bail would want one of the greatest Jedi’s help in rescuing his adoptive daughter — though I must admit I have no idea how he was able to find Obi-Wan’s cave so easily — and so Obi-Wan reluctantly takes a trip to Daiyu.
I’m particularly grateful to get Leia in this series, as it means we get a far greater look at Alderaan than the glimpse we had in Revenge of the Sith. The planet really does look like a paradise; the city elegant and peaceful, surrounded by lush forests and snowcapped mountains. We don’t get much of the city beyond some establishing shots — most of the scenes are either indoors or in the forest — but it’s a lot more than we had previously.
The casting of Leia seems spot on. Perhaps this is confirmation bias, but you can imagine Vivien Lyra Blair growing up into Carrie Fisher one day. She even seems to have Leia’s eyes! Blair does a great job of portraying the mischievous and stubborn personality of the character we know and love.
It’s so heartwarming to see a young Leia running around, constantly escaping the adults and having her own adventures with her droid, which we also exclusively reported on back in April. The music enhances this introduction, and it’s impossible not to get caught up in the moment. It’s great to see her completely tear down her spoilt brat of a cousin too, in a way that only Leia could.
Of course, Leia’s stubbornness becomes a bit frustrating in Part II. While it does feel true to Leia’s character that she would suspect Obi-Wan is not who he says he is, we know she ought to trust him. It makes her running off into the street seem reckless as we know she’s wrong — she nearly gets them both killed. Hopefully now that she knows Obi-Wan can be trusted, she’ll be more cooperative for the remainder of their time together. Presumably, we’ll say goodbye to Leia next week, and the show will pivot to the conflict between Obi-Wan and Vader/the Inquisitorius.
Speaking of the Inquisitorius, I very much enjoyed their live-action debut. Moses Ingram is excellent as Reva, who appears to be viewed as the runt of the litter by her colleagues. The Grand Inquisitor says that they found her “in the gutter”, which seems to suggest that Reva might be the only member of the Inquisitorius who isn’t a former Jedi. It’s interesting that the rest of them would look down on her for that, considering they seem to hate Jedi, but it does help us understand why Reva seems particularly hot-headed.
She’s desperate to prove her worth to both The Grand Inquisitor and Lord Vader, and has her sights set on Obi-Wan as a result. It seems a bit contrived that her goal is Obi-Wan in particular — it’s remarkably convenient that the villain is already obsessed with the protagonist from her very first scene. Unless they believe Yoda is dead, there are other famous Jedi out there for them to bring in. Hopefully her motivation behind bringing in Obi-Wan will be explored in future episodes.
I’ll be interested to see how the group dynamic of the inquisitors changes now after Reva stabbed The Grand Inquisitor at the end of Part II. We know he survives into Star Wars Rebels, and presumably he won’t be too pleased at her betrayal. While the Sith respect such power plays, the Inquisitorius are not Sith. I would think she’d be kicked out, but we’ve seen a picture of her sitting around a table in Fortress Inquisitorius so presumably she’ll be kept on.
Sung Kang was also good as the Fifth Brother, another character who made his debut in Star Wars Rebels voiced by another actor. He seems more measured than he was in the animated series, where he was mostly a menacing and sinister presence. I was surprised his role seemed to be offering some sort of balance to Reva. He was constantly reminding her to check her temper, which doesn’t seem like something that would concern a darksider. It was nice to get that level of continuity by including him in the series though. I have no idea who the other female inquisitor was, but hopefully we’ll get to see more of her.
Another thing that interested me was that Reva knew Vader’s real name. I wasn’t aware that was common knowledge among the inquisitors. Considering how much Vader hates it when people call him Anakin, I was surprised to hear her blurt it out but I guess that was an effort from her to make Obi-Wan emotional. The look on Obi-Wan’s face as he realized Anakin was still alive was perfect, a cocktail of shock, horror, and despair. Ewan McGregor played it perfectly, as he did in every scene he was in. The reveal of the horrifically scarred Anakin in a bacta tank was a fantastic way to end the episode too, leaving us waiting for the next one with bated breath.
The only other thing I wasn’t sure about this episode was Haja, the conman impersonating a Jedi on Daiyu. While I enjoyed Kumail Nanjiani’s performance, keeping the character funny while not hamming it up too much, I felt his character arc was too rushed. While Haja was helping people, he was only doing it for substantial amounts of money. I find it difficult to believe that he’d risk his life to help a Jedi in the very next scene out of the goodness of his heart. That kind of decision required at least a couple of episodes of build up; doing it so quickly felt unearned as a result.
Otherwise, there was a lot to love about these first two episodes: I thought Flea did well playing the scumbag criminal who abducted Leia and I loved Temuera Morrison’s cameo as a homeless clone trooper on Daiyu; Obi-Wan’s decision to take pity on the trooper and give him some credits was a particularly interesting moment, perhaps implying that he doesn’t blame them for Order 66. Bail’s relationship with Leia was adorable, and the opening scene showing Order 66 in the Jedi Temple on Coruscant was both badass and harrowing.
But above all, it was great just to see Ewan McGregor step back into the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi once more. He’s perfect in the role, and it’s great to see what he can do with the character in this new era of Star Wars. I can’t wait for the next episode.