Arguably one of the most anticipated Star Wars narratives has finally arrived! Obi-Wan Kenobi catches us back up with the titular Jedi, ten years after going into hiding as a result of the execution of Order 66. Tasked with saving a kidnapped youngling, he must also evade the pursuit of his friend and former Padawan, Darth Vader.
There’s no questioning the fact that this series had a mountain of expectations to live up to. Bridging the large gap in Obi-Wan’s life was going to be no easy feat when you consider how many tiny narrative connections the writers have to preserve and strengthen between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. For me, this series delivered on all of the elements I went into it wanting to see. It hit the beats I expected and also touched on a couple of moments I didn’t expect – meaning I can safely say that I got out of it what I was looking for.
Now, just because it had everything I wanted, doesn’t mean I wanted everything it had.
With six relatively short episodes, this series gave us a total of roughly 3 hours and 45 minutes of content (give or take) when you omit the time dedicated to the credits and ‘previously on’ segments. I love the idea of using the episodic format of TV to tell compelling narratives in the Star Wars universe – just look at how The Mandalorian has excelled by being a series rather than a movie. Speaking on Obi-Wan Kenobi, that runtime I just mentioned is way to short to warrant this being a series. I believe this would have been a much tighter and potentially even more impactful event had it been trimmed down and cut to fit a 2.5 hour movie… or better yet, a three-hour series with supersized 60-minute episodes. I don’t hate the current state of the series, but the potential to be even better is as plain as day!
Going back to how this series hit the mark for me – it sets itself up with the promise of showcasing the rematch of the century between Obi-Wan and Vader, and it delivers. Without spoiling anything, the showdown itself is legendary – it’s up there in the top three lightsaber duels in all of Star Wars. The journey to get there ebbs and flows between a few different character arcs, but for the most part it stayed relatively focused on this conflict. Every moment spent foreshadowing this showdown, delving deep into Obi-Wan’s psyche and Vader’s quest for revenge, was absolutely phenomenal. It’s as if Deborah Chow had a list of everything she NEEDED to hit within this series regarding those two opposing forces, and ticked off every single one.
The exploration of Obi-Wan’s motivations in this series is the strongest and most consistent story element. This is a man who believes he has ultimately failed in life and is punishing himself every day for his past mistakes. The way this story dives deep into what makes him tick, and follows him as he recaptures his will to help people, is endlessly captivating. Plus, it’s made extra engaging as a result of Ewan McGregor’s brilliant performance. He’s a phenomenal actor in general, and still has such a tight grasp on this character despite not portraying him on screen in over 15 years. His performance drives the emotional weight of the series, hitting every line of dialogue with utter perfection and enhancing every scene tenfold. On the other end of the spectrum, you have the Vader content. Every single moment in which Vader is on screen is absolutely terrifying. This is Vader at his strongest and angriest, and his presence alone brings a brutally tense horror atmosphere to the series. I’ll leave it at that with the Vader content so as not to spoil the awesome surprises within, but will praise what Hayden Christensen manages to bring to the role in his grand return.
Back to Obi-Wan for a minute. Speaking purely as a Star Wars fan, the absolute joy of returning to this character is just about one of the most exciting things to happen to the franchise following the announcement of the sequel trilogy. Getting to see Ewan McGregor jump back into the role that made the prequels so damn entertaining is like a gift entirely on its own. I understand the criticisms that the show has been receiving, some of which I noticed myself, but most of which didn’t bother me at all. At the end of the day, anything about this series that I may not have enjoyed pales in comparison to the content that had me glued to the screen. The fact that we got one final adventure with Ewan’s Obi-Wan, in which there are amazing connections to both the prequels and the original trilogy, is a dream come true – and no minor gripe is going to ruin that. Sure, that’s me speaking through a fan’s eyes for a moment, but that’s just the way it is.
As I’ve probably made clear, every moment in here that hinges on the relationship between Obi-Wan and Vader is incredible. But there’s another quite sizeable character-focused narrative that carries through this entire series – a story that I mostly liked, but could have been heavily trimmed down. One member of the Jedi-hunting Inquisitors – Reva (Moses Ingram) – acts as the central threat for the majority of the series. There’s a heavy focus on her character throughout and she’s given her own arc to carry her from episode to episode. Despite taking time away from focusing on Obi-Wan, I liked the content of her journey and following how she ties into the larger narrative. She’s not my favourite character and her presence certainly won’t be the most memorable element, but I found her arc interesting enough to follow. Where my gripe with the character begins and ends is with her presence in the final episode. Her arc should have ended in the penultimate episode as it adds nothing of value to the finale, if anything it takes away from the impact. I understand why she still plays a role, but I’d have much preferred if they wrapped up her character earlier.
Aside from a few isolated scenes that border on being quite silly, such as that comically bad chase sequence through the forest, nothing about this series bothered me besides the lost potential to be even better. The biggest disappointment is the lack of recognisable Star Wars music, opting to fill the series with an entirely original score. It’s not like the new music hurts the series, it’s just that the use of a more familiar score could have heightened the excitement in key moments.
In the end, Obi-Wan Kenobi is a thoroughly fulfilling miniseries that brings us even more spectacular moments involving some of the galaxy’s most iconic characters. Due to the highs being astronomically high and the lows still being quite good, this is a fantastic piece of TV to me. Although, I will admit that there is a truly phenomenal story hidden away in here that we unfortunately will never see. Nonetheless, this is a thrilling, action-packed narrative with tonnes of heart and emotion that both casual and avid Star Wars fans can tap into. Ewan McGregor is the star of the show, effortlessly elevating every single scene, while Vader is a force of nature who once again shows why he’s one of the strongest individuals in the galaxy. There’s so much I unfortunately can’t mention due to spoilers, but just know this is absolutely worth the watch.