Dominique Jones | June 5, 2022
Content Warning: spoilers for the Obi-Wan Kenobi series ahead.
With an Attack of the Clones Anakin poster on my bedroom wall and prequel figurines in the corner next to my cheap retractable red lightsaber, you could say I was more than excited for the new Obi-Wan Kenobi series.
Directed by Deborah Chow, the six-episode series covers Obi-Wan Kenobi’s (Ewan McGregor) harrowing years of solitude after the demise of former Padawan Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen). With so much at stake in doing the franchise’s main storyline justice, is Obi-Wan Kenobi a love letter to prequel fans?
Kenobi has great potential and this was fully realised in its third episode after a somewhat underwhelming two-episode premiere.
Episode one began with Order 66 being executed at the menacing instruction of Darth Sidious, echoed throughout the scene. Viewers relived the heartbreak endured in both Revenge of the Sith (ROTS) and the final episode of the animated series The Clone Wars as young padawans tried to escape.
Cue Kenobi! Seeing Ewan McGregor as an older rugged Obi-Wan felt like a big hug. Chow perfectly conveyed the liminal space Obi-Wan is stuck within as an ex-Jedi in a post-Order 66 world. Watching Obi-Wan venture to and from his mundane job surrounded by people yet remaining alone and isolated pulled at the heartstrings. Chow struck gold again with Obi-Wan’s encounter with Owen Lars. Lamenting Obi-Wan for involving himself with Luke, Owen refuses Obi-Wan’s pleas that ‘“when the time comes the boy needs to be trained.” Owen’s cheap reminder of Obi-Wan’s failure in training Anakin was another quick jab that struck fans. At this point, Kenobi was shaping up to be an epic series next to the likes of The Mandalorian.
Chow’s directorial prowess was also on show through her inclusions of cult classic characters and their original actors. Jimmy Smits’ Bail Organa and Temuera Morrison as a Veteran Clone Trooper were intelligent inclusions that grounded a Star Wars-like atmosphere akin to the prequels.
But this is where my praise ends for Kenobi’s two-episode premiere.
As viewers found themselves in Alderaan in episode one, we were unexpectedly presented with a young Leia Organa. I understand the sentiment, but the Disney-like orchestral music that accompanied her frolicking in the woods felt tacky. Her characterisation here didn’t feel in line with the badass we saw in A New Hope. Specifically, more could have been done to ensure her later evasion of armed adult men didn’t come across so awkward. How did a tree branch seriously stop one hunter in his tracks?
Leia’s character development did improve in episode two, yet there were some dialogue and action scenes that remained corny. Though, you could argue that this is on-brand with the awkwardness of the prequels. Nothing can top Anakin’s spiel about sand that I’ve embarrassingly come to enjoy over the years. Maybe Kenobi’s premiere episodes will similarly age like fine wine—unfortunately, only time will be able to tell if it does so.
To make matters worse, many disgustingly launched unnecessary personal attacks on Vivien Lyra Blair, who plays a young Leia—would this have happened if a young Luke was the focus? Probably not. Such problematic behaviour voiced through poorly-constructed online critiques interwoven with misogyny and racism caught the attention of the franchise. And in response to racist criticism of Moses Ingram’s portrayal of the Third Sister, Star Wars warned fans that “if anyone intends to make her feel in any way unwelcome, we have only one thing to say: we resist.” This staunch statement reminded fans that such toxic behaviour bears no resemblance to that of a genuine fan of the franchise.
But whatever feelings of disappointment I felt in the premiere were compensated ten times over in episode three, which lends a stricter focus on Obi-Wan’s post-ROTS relationship with Anakin. The beginning of episode three was phenomenal. The anticipation and drama of watching Darth Vader suiting up was as incredible as the ominous soundbite of his infamous breath, which sent shivers down my spine. As a Hayden die-hard, I was taken aback by his unmasked cameo, presented as part of Obi-Wan’s hallucination. Chow did exceptionally well in embedding Anakin in the series so seamlessly, giving us insight into the circumstances behind Obi-Wan’s anxiety since learning of Anakin’s survival.
And then it happened. Canon was broken and the two finally met. We see a breathless Obi-Wan in the distance become subject to Vader’s illuminated red lightsaber. Now, this is where the fun begins. The small duel between Vader and Obi-Wan was authentic and well-balanced. I felt a nostalgic lump in my throat seeing Ewan McGregor’s face washed in the blue reflection of his lightsaber.
The continuity of Vader’s simple yet effective dialogue is something Kenobi masters well. So too is Chow’s attention to ensuring Hayden’s portrayal of Vader mirrors David Prose’s original performance by maintaining a refrained fighting style and commanding stature.
Episode three ends on a thrilling note as Vader drags Obi-Wan through fire, symbolically repeating a reverse of their Mustafar battle. Whilst Obi-Wan manages to escape with the help of Tia (Indira Varma), Vader’s chilling warning that Obi-Wan’s “pain has just begun” eerily sets up future encounters.
So yes, Obi-Wan Kenobi is a love letter to prequel fans, but it didn’t seem like it from the outset.