Hello there! A series that has been long anticipated and overly requested since the conclusion of RoTS has finally come and gone. Personally, the character of Obi-Wan Kenobi has always been my favorite. From slicing Darth Maul in half to failing Anakin as a mentor to learning from his mistakes and help guide Luke to defeat the Empire, Kenobi is an integral part of Star Wars lore and the story could not be told without him.
So, when Disney bought LucasFilm and subsequently the rights to Star Wars, one of the first projects that they started to develop was centered around Obi-Wan Kenobi. At first, it started as a film, but after the negative reception of The Last Jedi, the box office flop of Solo, and the massive success of the Mandalorian on Disney+, the pivot to making it a limited series* was a no brainer.
Disney tapped Deborah Chow to direct the series. She has had experience in and around the fantasy genre as she’s directed a couple episodes of The Mandalorian, Better Call Saul, The Man in the High Castle, Jessica Jones, and Fear the Walking Dead. Joby Harold was hired as the head writer with little experience in that department. He has notably written King Arthur: Legend of the Sword and Army of the Dead. Ewan McGregor proudly reprises his role as Obi-Wan Kenobi and he is joined by Hayden Christensen who returns as Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader.
The Reva Problem
I’m just going to get this out of the way. A Jedi youngling that survived Order 66, who vowed to get revenge for her fallen friends, who joined the Inquisitors just so she could get close to Darth Vader in hopes to enact that revenge would make for a very interesting story… if it was it’s own series. To forcefully inject Reva’s character into a show that is supposed to be centered around Obi-Wan felt like a disservice to both.
Assuming that she has been plotting this ever since Anakin put his lightsaber through her gut during Order 66, she acted overly rash and without much thought as her plan seemingly was finally coming together. You would think that her actions would be much more methodical and calculated given that she had 10 years to figure this out.
Reva makes a lot of mistakes in this show. In Part 2, she has Kenobi cornered after all of her efforts to find him just to allow him to escape after she feels the need to stab the Grand Inquisitor when he was technically just trying to help. In Part 4, she lets Kenobi, Tala, and Leia escape Fortress Inquisitorius…why? Yes, she put a tracker on Leia’s droid, Lola, but still why would you just let them escape? She had Kenobi; all she needed to do was contact Vader, he arrives and starts presumably torturing Kenobi, and that’s when she could’ve made her move on him. Instead, in Part 5, she once again has Kenobi in custody but lets him go and then waits for the absolute worst time to try and sneak up on Vader who proceeds to toy with her and, once again, stab her in the gut. She survives again (how? I don’t know) and conveniently finds Kenobi’s transmitter where Bail Organa stupidly reveals Luke’s location on Tatooine. In Part 6, she sets out to kill Luke but realizes that that would make her no better than Vader, and decides to spare him.
All in all, Reva’s character had little to no impact on the overall story of Star Wars considering her interactions with it’s most important and influential figures. To be frank, she shouldn’t have been in this show at all if that was going to be her arc. Now to be clear, this is no fault of the actor who plays Reva, Moses Ingram. Her acting was NOT the issue here.
“The Rematch of the Century”
Let’s be honest, the first thing that popped into our heads when the Kenobi project was announced was if whether or not Kenobi and Vader would meet up for Round 2. Their duel in RoTS, albeit long and silly at times, was iconic and still gets an emotional reaction from me every time I see it. They indeed did have a rematch, two in fact!
The first one was about what you’d expect knowing how broken and disconnected from the Force Kenobi has been. Vader easily overpowers Kenobi and is shocked at how effortless it is. It is quickly realized that Vader’s motives are not to kill Kenobi but to torture him and make him suffer as he himself has suffered. Conveniently, there is a large container that is filled with flammable material that he uses to singe him a little bit. Kenobi is saved by Tala who ignites the rest of the conveniently placed flammable material, creating a wall of fire between Obi-Wan and Vader. For reasons unknown, Vader watches has Tala and her droid carry Kenobi away to safety.
The second fight was much more reminiscent of their original bout as Kenobi has regained most, if not all, of his Force abilities. They take turns going on the offensive, throwing rocks at each other and showing off their sweet moves. The duel reaches a climax as Vader uses the Force to create a pit in the ground that swallows Kenobi. Vader proceeds to throw rocks at him, says a cool one-liner and starts to walk away. In this moment, there’s no way Vader thought Kenobi was dead. He would’ve sensed him still alive in the rubble as Kenobi was literally using the force to keep himself from being crushed but I guess the writers didn’t think of that *sigh*. Kenobi then breaks free and is able to sneak up behind Vader where they continue where they left off. However, this time, Kenobi has fully reconnected back into the Force and shaken off the rust. He is able to raise up a bunch of rocks (and uncharacteristically look like a maniac doing it) and give Vader a taste of his own medicine. At this point, Vader is overwhelmed and Kenobi is able to damage his cybernetics and hack off half of Vader’s mask. Vader is weakened and vulnerable; his life support is failing. Upon seeing the face of his former brother and apprentice, Kenobi is overcome with emotion. He apologizes to Anakin for everything that has happened, however, Anakin is not the one that responds. Instead, Vader assures Kenobi that he did not kill Anakin on Mustafar 10 years ago, but he (Vader) did. Kenobi leaves the planet, leaving Vader alone. For some reason , they just can’t kill each other. That scene was by far hands down the best scene of the series. I wish it went a little longer as I would’ve liked to see Kenobi try and talk Vader down and reach Anakin so that it pays off an important line later on in RoTJ but, oh well.
The execution from a directing stand point on these two fights was my biggest gripe. Chow’s obsessive use of the shaky cam technique is mind boggling considering that none of the OG, Prequel, or Sequel trilogies used shaky cam for their lightsaber duels. You know who uses shaky cam? Movies and shows with low budgets so that you can’t see the flaws in the fight choreography. Also, during the second (and most important) fight, it kept cutting back to Reva trying to get to Luke, as if what she’s trying to do actually matters. Luke, along with Owen and Beru, have impenetrable plot armor so you knew nothing bad was going to happen. So why bother?
The potential for this series to affect canon and give new or enhanced meaning to future plot points and interactions was massive. Almost immediately after the show was announced, it was confirmed that Obi-Wan and Vader would have their rematch, Obi-Wan would have to leave the planet of Tatooine, and that it would be more of character piece that resembled Joaquin Pheonix’s Joker and Hugh Jackman’s Logan. All signs pointed to this series changing the way we view Obi-Wan Kenobi as a whole along with his relationship with Anakin Skywalker.
However, I failed to feel the same level emotional distraught as I did with the Joker and Logan films. I believe the first episode portrayed it best where Kenobi was basically a broken shell of himself and for good reason! Although Jedi are taught to forgo any physical or emotional attachment, you have to realize that this is a man that just lost everything that he held dear. Everything that he was fighting for since his first encounter with Darth Maul back when he was a Padawan was for nothing. He was forced to put down the man that he considered his brother. He should be broken. I really wanted this series to focus on that and the PTSD he probably received from it all and it did at first, like I mentioned, but then it tail spun into him leaving Tatooine and basically blowing his cover to the Empire. I guess you can argue that Obi-Wan re-found his hope while saving Leia and seeing that Anakin is alive (and what he’s become) but you would have to do a little bit of mental gymnastics to get to that conclusion. Personally, I felt as if there was a lot more meat on the bone when it comes to constructing the bridge between Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi in RoTS and Old Hermit Ben Kenobi in ANH.
Perhaps there will be a second season that leans into that a little more since Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid was fantastic as always) told Vader to abandon his pursuit of his old master and Obi-Wan was finally able to communicate with his old master, Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson sounded fantastic but looked…rough).
I gave this series a 3 out of 5 stars. There were bits and parts that were genuinely enjoyable, emotional, and complimented the established universe really well. Then there were baffling, overly silly, and borderline canon breaking parts that took me out of it as a viewer. This series probably looked really good on paper and the art board, but the execution left something to be desired.