By Josh Reilly B. and George Bate
This is where the fun begins.
Obi-Wan Kenobi is finally here. The highly anticipated series has been in development for years, with star Ewan McGregor stating that he was first contacted about the possibility of reprising his role from the Star Wars prequels all the way back in 2015. At that time, the project was planned as a feature film, set to be the next installment in the “A Star Wars Story” line of spin-offs. A writer and director was attached, but plans changed after the release of Solo, which saw a reshuffle that included moving many side stories to Lucasfilm’s parent company’s new streaming service Disney+.
More hiccups remained, particularly as the scripts, after being developed into TV episodes, were changed to avoid similarities to The Mandalorian. It is speculated that the original story saw Obi-Wan on Tatooine protecting a young Luke, just as Din Djarin protects and cares for Grogu. Nonetheless, the series has finally arrived, and the time it’s taken to release seems to have benefited the show greatly.
The first two episodes, shown early to fans at Star Wars Celebration, were classic entries to the iconic franchise. The immediately noticeable aspect of these episodes is how significant the plot is; most believed that an Obi-Wan led project set in between Episodes III and IV would be more about seeing Ewan McGregor again than any storytelling substance. However, the writers seem to have found a plot that is important and extremely relevant to canon, making this series all the more exciting. Obi-Wan has been on Tatooine for a decade, completely isolated from the rest of the galaxy, unaware of the universe’s state in the post Order 66 era. Significant developments come from this, particularly at the end of the second episode.
At the heart of this series is not a young Luke, as many thought, but Leia, who is kidnapped by the Inquisitors (Reva in particular) in order to draw out Obi-Wan. It presents itself as a plot out of left field in a sense, as many didn’t think it was possible for Kenobi to leave Tatooine at this time without it undermining canon, nor did most even consider that he met Leia prior to her iconic message in the very first Star Wars film. Overall, the plot seems to take inspiration from Dave Filoni, who has frequently shared the advise that George Lucas gave to him, stating that pushing canon to the edge is the best way to tell a story, and to be focused on telling a good individual tale rather than planning how it would fit into prior lore. This method has been critiqued at times, particularly with the animated shows of the franchise, but it works incredibly well here, and is at the crux of two incredible first episodes.
The writing doesn’t just excel in this regard, however. The portrayal of these legacy characters, beloved by many for so long, is a sight to behold. Obi-Wan feels like a perfect blend of Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope’s versions of the character, which is exactly how he should be. Leia also feels like the perfect young princess, channeling Carrie Fisher excellently.
Of course, the heart of the great character work done here, along with the writing, are the performances. Ewan McGregor seamlessly slips back into the Jedi robes that he left behind long ago with an excellent performance, most certainly his best yet as the character. Alec Guinness laid the foundation for Obi-Wan in 1977, as well as the general guidelines for what a Jedi should be, but McGregor’s work here adds more fuel to the argument that it is the Scottish actor who perhaps defines the character more at this point (that he has played the Jedi in three films and a TV show certainly gives him an advantage). Fans once thought of McGregor as the only good aspect of the prequels, and while that’s far from the common opinion today, audiences might be able to see why. McGregor holds his own as the lead character while also giving ample room for others to shine as well.
And shine they did. This notion applies especially to Vivian Lyra Blair, who plays a young Leia. Blair is excellent in the role, embodeying Carrie Fisher’s Rebel hero in such a way that it almost feels as if it’s simply a younger Fisher playing her. Fans can immediately spot a through line from 10 year old Leia to Carrie Fisher in A New Hope, which is exactly what one would want from a prequel series such as this. The writing is excellent, from Leia’s boldness to challenge authority around her to the inclusion of her handy droid sidekick LOLA, but Blair is the one to pull it all together in a believable way. However, despite the fact that it’s no fault of Blair’s, or the writing for that matter, Leia looks and sounds a few years younger than ten as she’s supposed to be in this series. It’s jarring at first, but the brilliance of Leia and her role in these first two episodes more than makes up for it.
Deborah Chow directs all six episodes of the series, after previously working on The Mandalorian, and the Canadian filmmaker does an excellent job here. This is certainly the most cinematic a Star Wars TV show has felt by a long stretch, which is in no way a slight to The Mandalorian or The Book of Boba Fett. Rather, it goes to show the incredible work that Chow and co. did to bring this series to life. Many have speculated as to who could potentially direct Star Wars feature films in the future, and Chow makes a very strong case that she should be chosen for that task in the years to come.
The volume once again works wonders to bring to life planets like Tatooine, and the aesthetics of these first two episodes were largely memorable and well done. Alderaan is consistent with its previous canon portrayals and feels like a lived on world, and the seedy underworld transportation planet in Part II is excellently designed as well. However, Tatooine continues to lag behind visually, just as it has done in previous Star Wars television shows. The look of the planet is simply too bland and fails to match up with the warmer, often evolving color scheme of Tatooine. The original trilogy, the prequels, and even The Rise of Skywalker all nailed Tatooine’s visuals, but the planet once again feels quite dull and disengaging aesthetically. Still, it doesn’t take much away from these episodes, especially as Obi-Wan quickly moves on to rescue Leia. However, it might be time for a redesign as the planet will surely continue to play a large role in future Star Wars shows.
Obi-Wan Kenobi’s first two episodes are instantly iconic entries in the Star Wars universe, captivating audiences at the world premiere in Anaheim and will surely do the same for viewers at home. Ewan McGregor and Vivian Lyra Blair lead the series and are the two standouts, and look see to continue with this going forward. The impending threat of Darth Vader only adds to the excitement for the next episode.