*****STAR DESTROYER-SIZED SPOILERS!!*****
Debuting with a lot of fanfare at the recent Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim, Disney+’s “Obi-Wan Kenobi” miniseries has concluded with a finale that pulls out all the stops and throws in every cameo that it can, perhaps to make it seem more impactful than it actually was. Produced/directed by “Mandalorian” veteran Deborah Chow and executive produced by star Ewan McGregor, Disney+’s “Obi-Wan Kenobi” is less about storytelling and more about filling in missing bits of Star Wars canon.
Parts 1 and 2.
The first two parts of this miniseries saw Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) living an anonymous, Force-free existence on Tatooine as “Ben,” carefully watching over the young heir apparent to the Force, Luke Skywalker (Grant Freely), who is being taken care of by his Uncle Owen (Joel Edgerton) and Aunt Beru (Bonnie Piesse). Meanwhile, young Princess Leia of Alderaan (Vivien Lyra Blair) has been kidnapped by mercenaries in an attempt by ambitious Imperial Inquisitor Reva (Moses Ingram) to lure the surviving Jedi Kenobi out of hiding.
The miniseries began with great promise, despite a few minor nits. In this link is my extensive review of parts 1 and 2, which were presented together when the miniseries debuted on May 27th.
Operating on a tip from fraudulent Jedi-turned-ally Haja (Kumail Nanjiani) in Part 2, Kenobi and young Leia arrive on the planet Mapuzo, once a lush green world, and now a semi-desert, due to Imperial strip-mining. Arriving at the rendezvous point on a dry plateau, Kenobi and Leia wait to no avail. Growing impatient, an impetuous Leia decides to accept a ride with a mole-faced hover-truck driver named Freck (voiced by Zach Braff).
With no alternatives, Kenobi follows the lead of his ‘daughter’ as the two of them do their best to shield their identities from the seemingly affable, yet Empire-sympathetic Freck. Along the way, Freck stops to give a ride to a squad of local Imperial stormtroopers, forcing Kenobi to work even harder to maintain his charade of a grieving widower traveling with his young daughter.
Note: At first I wondered why Kenobi didn’t use the Jedi mind trick on the weak-willed stormtroopers, but it’s later established that Obi-Wan has deliberately shut himself off from the Force, for fear that Force-sensitive Imperial Inquisitors might hone in on his location and discover Luke, as well.
Arriving at a laser-gated Imperial checkpoint into town, a suspicious Freck quietly voices his concerns about his passengers to a guard, and all hell breaks loose. Kenobi uses a blaster (“so uncivilized”) to destroy a nosy Imperial probe droid, and a few stormtroopers as well. An Imperial officer named Tala (Indira Varma) arrives on the scene, and it’s soon revealed that she is the very contact Kenobi was hoping to meet. Tala gives Kenobi and Leia refuge within an old maintenance shed, where other fleeing resisters of the Empire had come seeking sanctuary.
Note: The shootout at the laser-gate entranceway is, like a handful of other action sequences in this miniseries, almost childishly silly (see: Leia’s cartoonish chase in Part 1, and the too-easy transport getaway at the end of Part 2). It’s never explained why Kenobi and Leia couldn’t have simply walked around the laser-gated checkpoint, as it was surrounded by easily traversable ravines with plenty of hiding spaces. Destroying the checkpoint only confirms their presence within the city.
Leia and Kenobi’s safe cover is endangered when Inquisitor Reva arrives that evening with no less than Darth Vader himself (Hayden Christiansen). Taking point, Vader conducts a methodical, person-by-person search of the small village, brutally and randomly using the Force to choke and snap the necks of innocent bystanders. Kenobi, realizing his very presence jeopardizes Leia’s safety, leaves the child under Tala’s protection, telling them both to board their waiting transport without him. In a deserted quarry of the mining town, Kenobi meets Vader once again. With Kenobi’s force skills diminished, Vader brandishes his own lightsaber one-handedly, quickly taking the superior position against his outmatched former master. Kenobi, out of options, attempts to appeal to Vader’s true nature as Anakin Skywalker. At one point he asks his former pupil, “What are you?” To which Vader replies, stingingly, “I am what you made me!”
Note: As a Star Wars fan since 1977, I had very mixed feelings about this rematch. I’d always assumed that the Vader/Kenobi duel on the Death Star was the first time these two had fought since their fateful encounter at Mustafar in “Revenge of the Sith” (2005). Their visually murky rematch at the quarry also saps some of the power from their eventual reunion in “A New Hope.” That said, I appreciated the return of the more frightening “Rogue One”-style Darth Vader, who uses the Force in brutally random attacks.
With Kenobi exhausted, Vader uses the Force to drag the older man through a freshly-set field of flames at the quarry, returning the ‘favor’ done to himself by Kenobi on the lava-world of Mustafar. Tala, sensing Kenobi’s danger, rushes to his aid, inexplicably leaving 10-year old Leia, the subject of a recent kidnapping plot, alone in a dark tunnel to fend for herself (!). Arriving to aid Kenobi, Tala manages to rescue him from his fiery near-death, while a squad of nearby stormtroopers–and Vader himself–do almost nothing to stop her. They soon take off in Tala’s ship, which was standing by for their escape.
Needless to say, Leia is soon cornered by Reva, who unconvincingly pretends to be an ally, only to fail Leia’s smell test. Leia is, once again, captured.
Note: I think I might’ve yelled an expletive or two at the screen when Tala left behind 10 year-old Leia–a recent kidnap victim–in order to go rescue a middle-aged man. Like some other choices made in this miniseries, it felt utterly illogical, even for a space fantasy. No adult in their right mind would ever leave a vulnerable young kidnap victim’s side. Even harder to believe was that Tala could just scoop up an injured Kenobi right out from under the watch of Vader and his squad of stormtroopers, who get off a few random shots seemingly to earn their paychecks. Like too many escapes in this miniseries, it’s almost childishly easy.
After receiving bacta treatments for his burns, a recovering Kenobi awakens aboard the transport, and remembers Tala’s rescuing him from the fire set by Vader. Kenobi’s grateful for her assistance, but as soon as they set down on Jabiim, he quickly meets with a pilot named Roken (O’Shea Jackson) to begin work on a rescue plan for Leia, using armored speeders in a direct assault (as we saw in “The Empire Strikes Back”…still the single greatest thing to come from the Star Wars franchise, in my humble opinion).
On the watery moon of Nur, within an Imperial stronghold, Reva’s interrogation of the captive Leia isn’t going as planned. Reva realizes the child has formidable willpower, so she tries to break her by demoralizing her, telling Leia that Kenobi is dead, and that no one is coming for her. Soon, the interrogation becomes increasingly brutal, as Leia is handcuffed to a platform; her resolve never breaks…
Note: This scene only serves to foreshadow Leia’s later abduction and interrogation by Vader and his mind-probe aboard the Death Star in “A New Hope.” An issue I have with this miniseries is that we keep seeing repeating beats from earlier films; Kenobi leaving Tatooine to help Leia, Leia brutally interrogated by Imperials, another rescue from an Imperial fortress, etc. Unlike “The Mandalorian,” or even the animated “Rebels” (both of which feature all-new characters and stories), the creatively lackluster “Obi-Wan Kenobi” seems too fixated on familiar repetition, with very little genuine innovation.
Using her security clearance, Tala once again dons her Imperial uniform in hopes of bluffing her way into the Imperial fortress on Nur. As Tala pulls her superior Imperial rank to gain entry, Kenobi uses a small rebreathing apparatus (as seen in “The Phantom Menace”) to clandestinely swim inside the base by way of the surrounding ocean. Once inside the base, Kenobi overpowers a stormtrooper and makes his way deeper inside, creating distractions using Force-generated aural effects (as we saw him do aboard the Death Star in “A New Hope”). Deeper into the complex, Kenobi discovers the bodies of Jedi–including younglings–suspended in tubes, and surrounded by an amber-like substance. Whether they’re alive or dead isn’t made clear yet. Unable to help them at the moment, Kenobi presses on to the detention level, with information carefully fed to him by Tala.
Note: While the strategy is beat-by-beat of what we saw in “A New Hope” (with R2-D2 and C3PO guiding Luke’s group through the Death Star’s innards), the addition of the preserved-in-amber Jedi is left ambiguous; are they being dissected for their Force abilities? Are they prospects for cloning a Force-sensitive army, as we saw factions of the surviving Empire attempt later on in “The Mandalorian”? This feels like a thread that will be picked up in a future series…
Kenobi then frees Leia, and asks Tala to create a major distraction for his escape. Caught by Reva, Tala lies, saying she is a double-agent, but Tala’s ruse doesn’t convince. At any rate, it buys Kenobi enough time to flee the detention area into a corridor below the outside waterline. Sealing the blast door behind him, stormtroopers attempt to break through, as the windows maintaining water integrity inside begin to crack. Using the force to hold the windows together long enough for Tala and Leia to escape, Kenobi allows the glass to shatter after the stormtroopers enter, drowning them, and allowing him to escape. Stealing an Imperial officer’s trench coat and cap, Kenobi hides Leia under his newfound garment, as they make their way into the hangar. Once there, a squad of Alliance speeders arrive, strafing the Imperial forces in the open bay–allowing Kenobi, Leia and Tala to climb aboard a speeder, and escape. Reva angrily (and loudly) denounces Tala as a traitor, while Kenobi and the others flee.
Note: Kenobi tucking Leia under a trench coat in order for her to escape is one of those examples of childish action I mentioned earlier, much like Leia’s escape from her bumbling kidnappers in Part 1, or the padded pursuit of her through the streets of Daiyu. There are times when the action of this series feels deliberately dumbed down for kiddie consumption, which robs it of impact.
Reva has to answer to Lord Vader for the escape of Leia, Kenobi and the turncoat Tala. Needless to say, Vader isn’t pleased. He Force-chokes and levitates Reva simultaneously, reminding her that her recent promotion to Grand Inquisitor is a fragile one. She assures Vader the renegades will be found. To ensure this, Reva’s placed a tracking device aboard Leia’s tiny hovering droid, Lola, in another callback to “A New Hope.”
Note: One factoid of this series that I found impressive was the use of vocal AI to create Vader’s voice. Actor James Earl Jones (“The UFO Incident”), who voiced Darth Vader in the original trilogy, as well as the closing moments of “Revenge of the Sith” and in “Rogue One,” did not lend his talents to this series. The now 91 year-old actor’s voice was artificially recreated using a program similar to software designed to ‘de-age’ Mark Hamill’s voice in The Mandalorian, Chapter 16: “The Rescue” and The Book of Boba Fett, Chapter 6: “From the Desert Comes a Stranger.”
The penultimate episode opens with a flashback to when present-Darth Vader was a young Jedi Padawan named Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christiansen), whom we see engaged in lightsaber practice with his master, Obi-Wan Kenobi, in the Jedi temple. The sparring begins playfully, but soon becomes more intense, as Anakin continually chooses more aggressive shortcuts to victory; a dangerous, shortsighted strategy that becomes relevant to the events of this episode.
Note: A bit of digital de-aging is used to make both Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen appear as their 2002-era selves from “Attack of the Clones.” While the effect is subtly noticeable (even on an iPad), it’s not so distracting that it calls undue attention to itself. At the time of filming, McGregor was only 50 and Christensen is only 40–not exactly senior citizens, but not quite young enough to play themselves 20 years ago without some digital attention.
Tala, Kenobi and Leia find themselves in an underground base on Jabiim, where they are reunited with Roken and, surprisingly, Haja (Kumail Nanjiani)–the fake-Jedi con artist Kenobi and Leia encountered on Daiyu. Haja’s aid to the ‘real’ Jedi Kenobi forced him to flee, and set him on a nobler path as well. As Reva and Vader’s forces reach Jabiim, Vader orders a lockdown on the base. With Imperials executing a patient strategy of near-continual bombardment to the under-siege base, Kenobi replays a holographic message from Leia’s worried adoptive father, Bail Organa (Jimmy Smits), but is unable to answer. Kenobi attempts to buy time by parleying with Reva, who is still separated from him by a thick wall. The two begin talking, and Kenobi quickly deduces how Reva knew of Darth Vader’s true identity as Anakin Skywalker–she was one of the younglings at the Jedi Temple the night “Oder 66” was carried out. Young Reva only survived that night only by pretending to be dead, as Darth Vader–formerly Anakin Skywalker–mercilessly slaughtered her fellow students. Kenobi has discovered Reva’s secret…a secret that might be used somehow to turn her against the source of her rage, Darth Vader.
Note: A few things to unpack here. Reva’s backstory of playing dead as Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader slaughtered her classmates is particularly disturbing in this era of school shootings as a now-gruesome fact of everyday life. In fact, the episode aired not long after the real-life mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, where a terrified young girl managed to stay alive using that exact same strategy. It’s unsurprising (and wise) that these episodes open with a content advisory warning.
When George Lucas made the decision to portray Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader as a butcher of innocent children in “Revenge of the Sith,” the character instantly became irredeemable to me. Everything Anakin Skywalker did up until that point could be attributed to acts of war, overzealousness, the need to avenge his mother, or stopping those he felt stood between him and saving Padme’s life, but slaughtering innocent young children was a step too far. Even Anakin’s eventual return to ‘goodness’ in “Return of the Jedi” (by saving only his son) somehow rings hollow now. Anakin Skywalker will forever remain a villain in my book, even after his alleged ‘redemption.’
The time Kenobi gained in parlaying with Reva allowed Roken and the others to board their ship and secretly prepare to lift off. When Imperial forces eventually force their way deeper into the base’s stronghold, Tala remains behind to hold them off, along with her mute, freakishly strong loader droid, NED-B. The protective robot is itself destroyed while shielding Tala’s mortally wounded body. Kenobi is deeply saddened by Tala’s heroic sacrifice. As Vader and his forces makes their way into the subterranean hangar bay, the Dark Lord arrives in time to see a transport blasting off. Using the Force, he holds the ship in place for as long as possible, while the freighter’s thrusters resist his power. Vader’s will soon tears the ship apart, where it is revealed to be an empty decoy, piloted by remote. With Vader’s focus on this deception, the real freighter, fully loaded with passengers, escapes into space…
Note: We see Vader use the Force to hold a fleeing spaceship in place, like a natural tractor beam. This is similar to a power that Rey (Daisy Ridley) wields in 2019’s “The Rise of Skywalker”, when she uses the Force to stop an Imperial transport she believed to be holding Chewbacca captive. That ship was eventually destroyed as well, when the inexperienced Rey applied excessive energy. Here, Vader crushes the escaping ship deliberately. If Vader succeeded in destroying the correct ship, he would’ve also unwittingly murdered his own daughter, too.
With Kenobi fleeing into space, Reva is having a really bad day. She’s relived painful childhood trauma with Kenobi, and she’s failed Vader yet another time. Now, adding insult to injury, she learns that the Grand Inquisitor (Rupert Friend), whom she ‘killed’ on Daiyu in Part 2, has survived. The secret, he tells her, is mustering the will to survive. When Vader comes calling on Reva, she considers betraying him, instinctively drawing her crimson lightsaber, which Vader easily blocks with the Force. For her incompetence and betrayal, she is forced to one knee–as Vader impales her. Leaving her to gasp out her last, Vader exits. Lying on the ground, reaching for her discarded lightsaber, Reva somehow (?) wills herself to survive impalement as well. She also notices Kenobi’s left behind holo-communicator, with its saved messages from Bail Organa, who makes references to a certain Force-sensitive boy living on Tatooine…
Note: It was hard enough to accept that Darth Maul (Ray Park) survived torso bisection in “The Phantom Menace,” but in “Obi-Wan Kenobi,” we now see two characters surviving lightsaber impalement–one of whom is merely human. Yes, the Grand Inquisitor had to survive his ‘death’ in Part 2, because the character returns in “Rebels” later on, but now Reva survives as well? In the words of Dr. Evil, “This is pretty ri-goddamn-diculous.”
The final chapter opens with an incognito Reva (miraculously recovered from her impalement) on Tatooine making inquiries to a local vendor in town about the location of the Lars moisture farm. The vendor quietly gets word to his friend Owen, who immediately returns home to warn his wife Beru.
Aboard the escaping transport we saw at the end of Part 5, Kenobi tells Leia and Roken that the pursuing star-destroyers are after him, not the Jabiim refugees. Buying them time to repair their battle-damaged ship and jump into hyperspace, Kenobi entrusts Leia to Haja’s care while he takes the freighter’s drop ship in hopes of luring Darth Vader’s star destroyer to him. The plan works, as Kenobi returns to Jabiim to face Vader once again. Once there, Kenobi and Vader trade words and ignite their lightsabers. But Vader finds Kenobi considerably stronger this time–buoyed by his need to protect both Leia and Luke, he feels the Force flowing through him once again. After the still-powerful Vader effortlessly buries Kenobi in a cairn of giant boulders, the Sith Lord is surprised to hear the sound of Kenobi’s lightsaber soon afterward. Vader’s former master then effortlessly levitates dozens of massive boulders on his own, before hurling them at Vader, who is caught off-guard by Kenobi’s renewed vigor. Kenobi goes on the offensive once again, slicing into Vader’s armor with his blue energy blade–damaging the breathing apparatus on Vader’s chest, and slicing off the left side of Vader’s mask.
Note: Yes, this reinvigorated rematch feels emotionally ‘correct’ after seeing Kenobi getting his ass handed to him in Part 3, but I still believe these two additional duels between Vader and Kenobi sap some of the gravitas from the duo’s eventual reunion aboard the Death Star in “A New Hope.”
For the first time since Mustafar, Kenobi sees part of Vader’s exposed face once again–hairless, scarred and horribly burned. Kenobi is disturbed by the sight, and begins to cry in pity for his former friend. A tearful Kenobi apologizes to Anakin for what he’s done to him. Vader replies that he is not responsible for ‘murdering’ Anakin–Darth Vader killed Anakin Skywalker, not Kenobi. With his damaged life-support system only allowing Vader short gasps of air (as we heard in “Return of the Jedi”), Kenobi leaves his ‘dying’ nemesis, referring to him now only as “Darth,” not Anakin. With a disabled, wheezing Anakin no longer a seeming threat, Kenobi departs.
Once back in space, Kenobi immediately senses something wrong on Tatooine…
Note: Once again, Kenobi’s inherent mercy prevents him from finishing off his weakened opponent. I appreciated the frightening visage of Anakin’s burned, exposed face and yellow Sith-eye beneath the mask, as well as his vocalizations, which oscillate between Christensen’s own voice and an electronic approximation of James Earl Jones’s Vader. Kenobi’s referring to his former friend as “Darth” is something we hear Obi-Wan call Anakin/Vader in “A New Hope” as well–an acceptance of the fact that his former pupil and friend is truly dead.
On Tatooine, Owen returns to his farm and warns Beru about the Inquisitor coming after Luke. A near-panicked Owen suggests leaving it all behind and taking Luke to safety. A cooler-headed Beru reminds her husband that they prepared for this, and she reaches for weapons hidden within a recessed nook in the wall. Owen only tells Luke that “Tusken raiders” are threatening their homestead, as he orders Luke to remain hidden in the garage, unless he has to flee for his own life.
Note: Nice to see Bonnie Piesse return to the role of Beru Lars from her appearances in “Attack of the Clones” (when Beru was Owen’s then-girlfriend) and “Revenge of the Sith”, where we saw the recently wed couple gratefully accepting their young nephew, Luke, into their home. Luke is Owen’s nephew from Owen’s father’s brief marriage to Shmi Skywalker (Pernilla August), who was Anakin’s mother.
As Kenobi reaches Tatooine, Reva reaches the Lars homestead after the twin suns set. There, she finds surprising resistance from the middle-aged couple. Owen even manages to inflict a painful blow to Reva’s abdomen (the only acknowledgment of her weakened state, following her recent near-death experience), but Reva is far more powerful than either Owen or Beru. She manages to reach the garage, just as young Luke runs out into the night desert, towards the Dune Sea…
Note: Owen and Beru Lars are greatly rehabilitated by this miniseries, which demonstrates that the Lars’ love of young Luke is genuine, and not merely motivated by Owen’s need of another farmhand, as “A New Hope” suggested. It also makes the Lars’ horrific immolation by the Imperial forces later on all the more tragic. These were good people, who gave Luke the value system that made him a good person. Nice that this miniseries reinforces that the galaxy’s ‘greatest nobodies’ were actually quite important, after all.
Following Luke into a familiar canyon (looking very much like the location where R2-D2 was first zapped by the Jawas in “A New Hope”), Reva keeps her hood over her head, obscuring her identity to the frightened boy hiding up in the rocks overhead. Tired of toying with the child, Reva uses telekinesis to make Luke spill onto the rocky ground below. Luke is knocked unconscious by the fall, as Reva takes out her lightsaber and prepares for the killing blow–until she stops. Reva experiences traumatic flashbacks of her own childhood at the Jedi Temple, when she pretended to be dead as Anakin Skywalker slaughtered her fellow younglings. She then sees herself lying in Luke’s place. Unable to deliver the killing blow, she takes the unconscious boy back to his family, where Kenobi is waiting with them as well. The grateful Owen and Beru take a now stirring Luke back inside their home. After they leave, Kenobi has a conversation with Reva, who’s decided to forsake the Dark Side and release herself from Vader’s servitude. “You’re free,” Kenobi tells her. Not sure what she’ll do next, Reva parts Kenobi’s company amicably–her former quarry turned ally, and possibly friend.
Note: Kudos to actor Moses Ingram for her portrayal of Reva, one of the few characters in this miniseries to have a genuine arc. In Part 1, I thought Reva’s rivalries with her fellow Inquisitors felt like a tacked-on subplot. By Part 2, Reva won me over with her cool taunting of Kenobi, as well as hints of her own painful backstory. Moses Ingram’s dynamic performance makes the character work better than it should. In fact, I wouldn’t mind seeing Reva’s return in a future Star Wars series, such as the upcoming “Ahsoka,” starring Rosario Dawson.
A fully-repaired Darth Vader is back in his castle on the lava world of Mustafar–there, he sits on his throne and communes with Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid). Vader informs Palpatine that he’s launched probes to find his nemesis Kenobi. Palpatine is concerned Vader’s judgment might be clouded by feelings for his former master (a foreshadowing of their conversation regarding Vader’s feelings towards his son in “Return of the Jedi”). Vader assures Palpatine his only allegiance is to his Emperor.
Note: Nice to see the brief return of actor Ian McDiarmid, who’s aged into the role of Palpatine over these past 39 years. When I met McDiarmid at last month’s Star Wars Celebration 2022, he told me he was only 37 when he first assumed the role of Palpatine in “Return of the Jedi.” Of course, McDiarmid still has to wear heavy prosthetic makeup, teeth and contact lenses to make his otherwise sweet old self look like the most evil being in the universe…
Meanwhile, we see Princess Leia, safely at home in her royal estate on Alderaan. The young girl is preparing for an official visit from an important dignitary, and she wears a gift given to her by the late Tala during the siege on Jabiim–a small blaster holster. Leia then joins her parents outside, at the estate’s private landing pad. Leia’s mother notices her daughter’s new holster, and approves. The landed spacecraft opens, and a smiling Obi-Wan Kenobi greets them. Kenobi tells the young princess that while he can’t tell her exactly who her real parents were (for her safety), he tell her that she inherited her mother’s wisdom, judgment and kindness, as well as her father’s bravery. Obi-Wan then departs for Tatooine.
Note: This is a nagging continuity nit that’s bothered me since Part 2; if Obi-Wan played such a large role in ten-year old Leia’s life, why didn’t she seem to remember it when she recorded her message to him in “A New Hope”? She only mentions General Kenobi’s service to her father during the Clone Wars, and not the considerable time she spent with Obi-Wan Kenobi herself when he rescued her from kidnappers and Imperial Inquisitors on Daiyu, Nur and Jabiim. Admittedly, this is not a dealbreaker as far as continuity goes, but it does make future Senator Leia Organa’s memory of Kenobi seem a lot less personal; as if they’d never met, and she only recalls Kenobi from her father’s mentions. You’d think her ten year-old self’s savior would’ve left a more lasting impression on her…
Obi-Wan returns to Tatooine. Clearing a few personal effects from his former cave (a compromised location), he returns to the Lars moisture farm to wish the family well. Met by a grateful Owen, “Ben” brings with him the small spaceship model that he tried to give Luke in Part 1 (the very one Luke toys with in “A New Hope” before cleaning the droids). Owen then asks if Ben would like to meet Luke. Kenobi walks over to the young boy, smiles, and employing his trademark catchphrase, simply says, “Hello there.”
Note: This amicable parting between Kenobi and the Lars’ family seems to be at direct odds with Owen Lars’ later resentment. In “A New Hope,” Owen now refers to Kenobi as “a wizard,” and “a crazy old man.” This, along with Senator Leia’s seeming failure to remember Kenobi’s earlier rescue, as well as the two post-Mustafar rematches between Kenobi and Vader, are the kinds of oddly unmentioned prior events that make the Original Trilogy’s recollections feel needlessly sketchier. “A New Hope” only takes place some ten years later, not fifty.
Riding his camel-like eopie through a canyon on his way to his future home near the Jundland Wastes, Kenobi sees the mirage-like Force ghost of his former Jedi master, Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson), who turns to face his former apprentice. Kenobi, who’s been desperately trying to summon Qui-Gon via the Force throughout the miniseries, is surprised to learn that Jinn has always been with him, but the troubled Kenobi simply lacked the clarity to see him. Now that Kenobi’s mind is opened to the Force once again, the two of them will begin new training together as well…
Note: Of all the cameos in Part 6, the return of Liam Neeson’s Qui-Gon Jinn is easily my favorite. The rebellious Jinn was also my favorite character of the prequels. Qui-Gon Jinn’s admittedly predictable reappearance in this final episode ends the miniseries on a strong note. Jinn’s promise of new training foreshadows the calmer, more at-peace version of Kenobi we finally meet in “New Hope”; a Kenobi who is now certain that his death will only transition him to a greater plane of existence within the Force. One of the achievements of this miniseries is its success in bridging the gulf between the prequel and original trilogies.
Summing It Up.
At the end of the day, “Obi-Wan Kenobi” is an idea that probably sounded better on paper than in practical reality. You can almost feel writers Jobi Harold, Hossein Amini, Stuart Beattie, Hannah Friedman and Andrew Stanton twisting the story into logistical pretzels to make it all fit. In the end, they manage to create some genuine and intriguing Star Wars moments, but nothing that truly justifies this miniseries’ existence (beyond creating more Disney+ content for subscribers). The beats feel a bit mechanical at times, almost as if it’s a Star Wars series created by a fan-friendly AI rather than a group of human collaborators working on a passion project.
Personally, I think it all could’ve fit into a “faster, more intense” standalone movie instead of a six part miniseries (don’t get me started on rumors of a second season). Parts 3 through 5 could have been dropped entirely, with the story jumping straight from Leia’s kidnapping and rescue in part 2 all the way up to her getting home in Part 6. The only character who had a really strong arc was “Third Sister” Inquisitor Reva, who starts out as a wannabe villain, and is revealed to be a traumatized young woman in danger of becoming the very thing that destroyed her own innocence in childhood. I’d rather have seen her character at the center of a Star Wars series, free of the low continuity ceilings she inherited with Kenobi and Leia’s backstories. Almost everything else in this miniseries involves legacy characters and repeating beats of action.
So, is “Kenobi” worth the investment? If you’re looking for a bold new adventure within the Star Wars universe, this is not it. “Obi-Wan Kenobi” is not as misguided as “The Book of Boba Fett,” but it’s clearly not another “Rebels” or “The Mandalorian,” either. However, if one’s tastes and expectations are adjusted accordingly, there are at least a couple of moments in each part of this miniseries to entertain the average Star Wars viewer. If familiar Star Wars faces, settings and references are enough? This might just do the trick. At least half of this miniseries offers solid entertainment, with a very promising beginning and a nice-enough ending; the other half falls into that zone somewhere between ill-conceived and missed opportunity.
Like the titular character, this miniseries takes a while to get its mojo, but even after it does, the Force remains a bit weak with this one.
12 Comments Add yours
I enjoyed the Obi Wan Kenobi series, but it did feel a bit cobbled together in parts. There were a lot of good ideas that seemed to get padded out to much, especially Reva’s backstory ect, but overall it delivered the emotional beats where it mattered most. The showdown between Obi Wan and Vader in the final episode was epic though, and well worth waiting for.
Personally I prefer the Kenobi fan film on YouTube, which could make a good-enough story in just 19 minutes, and without the traditionally vast or epic scope of a Star Wars film I might add. Of course I appreciate how Star Wars actors like Ewan and Hayden would want to breathe more life into their iconic characters, and indeed for the natural excitement of a big Jedi showdown.
And while the 2nd showdown between Vader & Kenobi carried the appropriate ‘punch,’ there’s a part of me still wishing it didn’t happen.
All the same, it ended well.
I thought the Kenobi series started off strong, sagged in the middle, then concluded with a solid, entertaining finale. Like you, I was annoyed by the questionable continuity errors that tried to retcon the original “A New Hope,” notably including Princess Leia in all the episodes. I want to see the Star Wars streaming series move away from the Skywalker movies and explore that big, far, far away galaxy. The compelling Reva arc, with a fantastic performance by Moses Ingram, shows what you can do with characters not tied to the Skywalker saga.
Good review, and I pretty much agree with everything you said. Entertaining enough, but I’m in no hurry to see it again. I would like to know what happened to the Inquisitors, because neither Kenobi nor Rebels answered that question, and they’re gone by ANH.
Before this, I didn’t know that they used AI for Vader’s voice. I wonder if they did the same thing for Piett? Kenneth Colley doesn’t get any credits, but I could’ve sworn I heard Piett’s voice on the bridge of the Star Destroyer in the last episode.
That man standing behind Reva (in the pic I used for the column) sure looked like him, too; I know Colley passed away some time ago, but the resemblance (and the voice) was uncanny. Might’ve been some kind of vocal recreation, or perhaps a very good impersonator.
Yet again I find myself agreeing with your take on things. I wanted so much more from this series. The cinematography seemed spot on, the casting solid but the writing was definitely flawed.
Disney’s live-action Star Wars series all look terrific, and yes, I liked the casting as well, but the storytelling is where it falters.
Such a shame; there were moments throughout that were very promising.