This question has puzzled Star Wars fans for decades: How could the bad guys not find Luke Skywalker when he was literally hiding in his father’s old house? Newminiseries , streaming now, will reveal the answer. But the real question is, can a small continuity error actually be stretched out to create an entire TV series worthy of your time?
And can you really tell a compelling story if you already know how it ends?
Luckily because of the first two episodes – both available to stream— the answer seems to be yes. Obi-Wan Kenobi (the show) is a safe, fast-paced, and exciting new series with a terrific cast of creators who know how to use familiar elements — and most importantly, how to hold some back — in a story that is, on most important, character-driven.
(Be warned that the first episode begins with a scene of children being attacked, which can be disturbing to viewers after the attack.)
This series could have gone either way, let’s face it. Featuring Proper Movie Star Ewan McGregor, who wields both a beard and a lightsaber, it focuses on one of the most compelling characters in the entire Star Wars saga. But more than any current Star Wars shows, it’s built between Star Wars at its best (the original film) and Star Wars at its worst (the over-the-top, computer-effects-tainted prequel trilogy). And it follows the cumbersomeanother tale of a well-known Star Wars mainstay that has ruined some of the goodwill surrounding the streaming hit .
But the series is safe in the hands of writers Hossein Amini (who wrote Drive, McMafia and more), regular Pixar writer Andrew Stanton, Pirates of the Caribbean writer Stuart Beattie, Hannah Friedman (who is also working on Willow for Disney ) and showrunner Joby Harold, with director Deborah Chow. Together, the creators of this series find the compelling human drama at the heart of this story.
Yes, it’s a fantasy theme park with lightsabers and rocket ships. But Obi-Wan – now simply “Ben” – is a broken war veteran who not only lost a surrogate son, but also saw his entire civilization fall into darkness. He’s a defeated man and all he’s left with is a child he can’t even talk to. This makes him an extremely compelling character. The story deftly deconstructs this beloved character back into a shell, and in the hands of an actor as fine as Ewan McGregor, it’s a moving journey to behold. As I watch Obi-Wan agonize over not only a call to adventure in Episode 1, but also a terrifying personal revelation in Episode 2, I suspect McGregor has taken the comparison to Alec Guinness (who originally starred Obi-Wan in “A new hope” played) will finally be left behind ). The Oscar-winning star of The Bridge on the River Kwai, Kind Hearts and Coronets, Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago, Guinness will always be a titan of cinema. But his assignment in 1977 was to play a feisty and slightly demented space wizard. In contrast, McGregor gets to play the anguish and conflict etched into the soul of this devastated man.
The creators’ other clever move is making the villains much more than just villains cut out of cardboard. The black-clad Inquisitors are an order of fascist fanatics, but they’re not above a bit of office politics. The divisions between Rupert Friend’s moon-faced Grand Inquisitor and his impatient subordinate Reva reflect the Padawan relationship between Jedi Master and apprentice. And though she’s a ruthless operative of an evil regime, terrifyingly played by Moses Ingram, the troubled and ambitious Reva ends up being just about understandable enough that she’s committed.
For a space shoot ’em up, the series also touches on some contemporary issues. Star Wars continues to deliver a metaphor for the insidiousness of evil, with an oily ambassador giggling that “the Empire is finally lining up some pockets” while laughing at slavery and munching canapés. Children mindlessly repeat their parents’ bigotry while Obi-Wan himself wrestles with his responsibilities to the next generation.
The interplay between McGregor and the feisty Vivien Lyra Blair is a lot of fun, as the opening episodes build the show much like The Mandalorian, in which our tough hero took Baby Yoda under his wing. Where that was borrowed from the samurai classic Lone Wolf and Cub, the Obi-Wan series is reminiscent of Luc Besson’s 1994 hitman classic Leon: The Professional. Which is certainly intentional, considering Leon played the lead role of Natalie Portman , just a few years before she became the key character in the Star Wars prequels. Like Mother like daughter.
Prequel, Sequel or Sequel to a Prequel?
So what exactly is this series anyway? Set between the end of Revenge of the Sith and the beginning of A New Hope, it is both a prequel and a sequel to a prequel. Let’s call it an interquel. That highlights one of the quirks of Star Wars in 2022: with no movies on the horizon to move the saga forward, the franchise is constantly chasing its own tail in ever-smaller gaps between previous adventures. From Rogue One and Solo to The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett to upcoming titles, and , Disney’s Star Wars stewards seem determined to wrap each new series in the same decades of galactic history we’ve seen many times before. This repetitiveness and familiarity carries over to Obi-Wan’s story in particular, as Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope already mesh neatly.
So the question this new series wrestles with is this. How much longer can Star Wars cover the same ground? This galaxy may be far, far away, but it never seems to get any bigger.
Luckily, the creators of Obi-Wan know this, too, and while we’ll start off with “Ben” working as a meat packer on Tatooine, they don’t waste time breaking new ground. The desert planet was the setting for The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett, and honestly, the latter show really suffered from being stuck in the same place. Instead, the Obi-Wan show pulls a neat switcheroo, sending our hero on a mission not to protect Luke, as you might expect, but to do something else that opens up the scope for a satisfying galaxy-spanning adventure.
Granted, while the series benefits from departing from the all-too-familiar Tatooine, the new setting it jumps to also looks vaguely familiar. Episode 2 in particular looks like one of those Marvel TV shows like Daredevil where everyone on the rooftops at night is kicking the shit out of each other and you can’t see anything. Still, the series brings out more suspense than you would expect from a situation where you already know who can and who can’t die.
With blaster battles and bounty hunter droids and sneering Imperials, it’s all satisfying Star Wars, with some slick worlds like battered drug dealers and a poignant cameo stopping Obi-Wan in his tracks. There are also fun new characters – watch out for Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ Flea and Kumail Nanjiani, who is clearly having the time of his life – combined with compelling conflict for the characters we know.
It turns out that even if you think Obi-Wan Kenobi is a beaten man, he still has a few tricks up his sleeve. And while we’ve yet to see how the entire series unfolds, this latest series shows that there’s still life in Star Wars.
The rest of the series comes out every Wednesday, starting with Episode 3 on June 1st – check out the full one. In the meantime, familiarize yourself with our detailed information .
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