When the prequel films were first released they were not well received by some Star Wars fans. These fans disliked the tone, the script, some of the casting, and even engaged in hate campaigns that saw actors and behind the scenes crew retreat from the public eye. Over the years since, opinion on these films has changed, due also in part to The Clone Wars expanding upon this era. Now, the prequel films are beloved by fans, and seen as an integral part of the franchise. Even I went from disliking the films to it becoming the era of Star Wars I love the most.
A big part of the prequel films, and The Clone Wars, was the relationship between Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen). Master and apprentice, friends, brothers, these two were a duo who could do anything, and were galactic heroes; yet their relationship was doomed to end in pain, betrayal, and misery. Their fight on Mustafar has become one of the most emotional moments in the entire Star Wars universe. Obi-Wan Kenobi might have changed that though, as we pick up on Obi-Wan and his story ten years later, and get one of the best stories in Star Wars.
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Obi-Wan Kenobi takes viewers to the desert world of Tattooine, where former Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi (living now simply as Ben) lives in a cave, works a dull job, and watches over the son of his best friend from afar. The Obi-Wan we meet has lost his connection to the Force, having shut it away. He’s miserable, walking through life without any real meaning. However, his solitude is broken when Bail Organa (Jimmy Smits) reaches out to him for help; his daughter, Princess Leia (Vivien Lyra Blair) has been kidnapped, and only Obi-Wan can help to get her back.
Obi-Wan has sworn an oath to watch over Luke Skywalker (Grant Freely), but his sister is just as important, just as worthy of Obi-Wan’s care. So, Obi-Wan digs up his lightsaber and heads out into the galaxy once again to save the daughter of Anakin Skywalker. But little does Obi-Wan know, the kidnapping has been orchestrate by an Imperial Inquisitor, Reva (Moses Ingram), who wants to lure the former Jedi out for her own evil machinations.
One of the best things that Obi-Wan Kenobi did before its release was to keep information tight. We were told that Ewan and Hayden were back, that we’d get to see Owen (Joel Edgerton) and Beru (Bonnie Piesse) again, and that there would be Inquisitors, but we were given very little information on the plot, other than when director Deborah Chow said that it would feature the ‘rematch of the century’ between Obi-Wan and Vader. There was speculation as to why Obi-Wan would leave Tattooine, but bringing in a young Leia was the perfect way to do this, and was such a pleasant surprise.
There’s a lot to praise about Obi-Wan Kenobi, but Vivien Lyra Blair is easily top of that list. This young actress does a phenomenal job at capturing the essence of Leia. She has the passion, strength, and sass, that fans came to love from Carrie Fisher. You can’t watch this series and not fall in love with this version of Leia. Blair is perfect in every scene she’s in, and the relationship she forms with Obi-Wan over the course of these six episodes became one of my favourites in the Star Wars saga. It now makes complete sense why she names her son Ben, and why her Lightsaber looks like Obi-Wan’s.
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She’s not the only great new addition to the series, however. Moses Ingram’s Reva is a wonderful, and fascinating character. When she’s introduced she seems very one dimensional. She’s an Inquisitor with a short fuse, and a single-minded obsession with Obi-Wan. But, as the series unfolds, and we learn more of her history and her motivations, she becomes the most fleshed out, well written, and engaging Inqusitor that there’s ever been. Ingram is an amazing actress, and some of her scenes in the latter half of the season are some of the best in the show. I hope that she becomes a character that we see more of, whether in other shows, comics, games, or novels, as she’s a character I think there could be some interesting stories with.
Indira Varma also steals a lot of the show with her portrayal of Tala Durith, an Imperial who has turned her back on the Empire after seeing the cruelty they’re capable of. It’s a character arc we’ve seen before in many characters in the Star Wars franchise, and it’s one that I do really like. She’s a wonderful addition to the story, proving to be an important ally for Obi-Wan, and Varma is fantastic in the role.
The best acting in the series, however, goes to Ewan McGregor. This version of Obi-Wan goes through so much over the course of the six episodes. He begins as a broken man, having lost everything and everyone he cares about, lost his connection to the Force. He’s more beaten down than we’ve ever seen the character, and McGregor plays it with the cold, empty, almost zombie-like detachment that really hammers home how lost he is. But over the course of the season he learns to become the man he was once again. His connection with Leia is one of the big parts of this, and the way he warms to this little girl as the episodes go on is simply delightful. She teaches him to hope again, to find something to live for, and you can see that in the quiet, subtle moments in Ewan’s performance. As a fan of the prequels, who loves the character, it’s a wonderful journey to watch.
The series is filled with moments like this, times where the action slows down and we get to focus on the characters. Whether it’s Obi-Wan feeling hope again, Tala standing defiant in the face of a fascist regime, or the cold terror when Obi-Wan learns that Anakin is still alive, these moments stand out as some of the best performances in the franchise. There’s a few in the final episode that I can’t go into for spoiler reasons, but they have become two of my favourite moments in Star Wars, and literally reduce me to tears watching them.
I guess one of the big questions about Obi-Wan Kenobi will be, ‘Do they deliver on the rematch of the century claim?’. Yes. Yes, they absolutely do. If you like Darth Vader this series will be for you. Vader has never been more menacing, more threatening than he is here. There were moments where I felt myself curling up in my chair because his presence on screen was that intense. I’ve never seen Vader as actually frightening until this series. And, the series gives us what is in my opinion the two best fights Vader has ever had before. I hate putting them above his confrontation with Ahsoka in Star Wars Rebels, but for sheer spectacle this show has his best moments by far.
Obi-Wan Kenobi received some harsh criticism by some fans as it aired, with some folks being unhappy with it whatever it did. But, much like the prequels I think that many of those critics will change their mind as time goes on. This has been one of the best series the franchise has produced, with the best acting, some of the best action, and some amazing lore-building. As someone who loves the prequel era and those characters this felt like a love-letter to those films.