I had posted the trailer on Star Wars Day about a month ago but since I had been traveling and busy with my film fundraising event, I finally just had a chance to view the three episodes last weekend. Set 10 years after Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith where Obi-Wan saw the downfall, literally, of his best friend and Jedi apprentice Anakin Skywalker… he now lives in hiding in Tatooine.
SPOILER ALERT – I’ll be talking about some plot points here so if you haven’t seen the series, consider yourself warned.
I have to say it was thrilling to return to the main Star Wars universe where it all began in Episode IV as Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) is seen watching young Luke Skywalker on his uncle Owen Lars’s (Joel Edgerton) farm.
The first episode starts out with a bang, tying it directly to one of the most devastating attacks in the entire universe, that is Order 66 where most of the Jedi Order were massacred, including the young Jedi apprentice. I must say that after the shooting in Uvalde, Texas Elementary School, that scene is especially eerie to watch.
The rest of the episode is kind of a slo-burn, full of exposition about where Obi-Wan’s mental and physical state… he’s definitely what one would describe as down-on-his-luck, I mean you would be too if your kind has been massacred and hunted down. He’s working at a meat factory and refuses to use his powers, even to save a fellow Jedi in hiding. Going by his real name Ben, somehow I completely forgot that Leia and Han had named his son after him, though unfortunately he too ends up falling to the dark side.
Despite having been in hiding for a decade, Obi-Wan isn’t exactly forgotten. As the Grand Inquisitor (Rupert Friend) and his honchos, Fifth Brother (Sung Kang) and Third Sister aka Reva Sevander (Moses Ingram) are hunting down Jedis, it’s revealed that Reva has been obsessed with capturing Obi-Wan. It’s cool to see Ingram in a prominent role after seeing her in The Queen’s Gambit. She’s ruthless and cutthroat in her quest, with a huge chip on her shoulder and grand ambition to prove herself to the master himself, Darth Vader.
I gotta say though the not-so-friendly rivalry between her and Fifth Brother feels kind of cheesy. Poor Sung Kang is relegated to simply seething and growling as he protests against Reva’s fierce tactics. So far I’m enjoying Ingram’s performance and am curious to learn more about her character’s motivations. I read about the racist messages targeted at Ingram and it’s just mind-boggling how cruel and stupid SW fans can be… but then again, it shouldn’t be surprising given what happened to The Last Jedi‘s Kelly Marie Tran, ugh.
The SW series’ MVP seems to come in small packages… we’ve got Baby Yoda aka Grogu in The Mandalorian and this time it’s Vivien Lyra Blair as the young Leia Organa. She captures the spunky, rebellious spirit of Carrie Fisher’s Leia so perfectly, now that’s shrewd casting right there!
Episode 2 takes us away from Tatooine and it’s cool to see a change of scenery from the desert to a neon-lit city. The visuals are absolutely stunning to look at, thanks to DP Chung-hoon Chung. I’m getting vibes of Lawrence of Arabia, Dune, and Blade Runner, especially when Obi-Wan and Leia are on planet Daiyu.
Fresh from her great work in directing a couple of episodes of The Mandalorian, Deborah Chow has been hired to direct all six episodes of Obi-Wan. I think she did a fine job far with three episodes in, collaborating with writer/showrunner Joby Harold whose film writing credit includes Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, hmmm…
In terms of casting, I can’t say I’m thrilled with everything. I’m not impressed with Kumail Nanjiani‘s performance here (he’s dressed like a Jedi, that’s all I’m going to say). He’s a comic actor and somehow his acting feels a bit jarring in an otherwise serious show, even after it’s revealed who he is, I’m still not convinced he’s the best actor for the role. I think he fares a bit better in the MCU (Eternals) though that’s not saying much either given how disappointing that movie is.
There’s a lot of chase scenes in this episode, and I must say the neon-tinged rooftop chase involving Reva and Leia looks pretty cool. It shows Reva’s Jedi powers as she jumps from roof to roof and Obi-Wan has to fight off bounty hunters and the Inquisitors.
I find it interesting that Leia is unconvinced that Obi-Wan is a good guy and has her best interest at heart. Considering how adult Leia begged him to help her in Episode IV: A New Hope. When I re-read that text again, it made it sound like Leia only knew about Obi-Wan from her dad Vader, but in this story she actually has a personal connection with him.
The main highlight of episode 2 is of course seeing Vader awakens in a water tank, recuperating from his massive burns… ouch!!
In Episode 3, Obi-Wan and Leia have escaped to planet Mapuzo. We got another key character and I’m thrilled to see Indira Varma in the role. I’ve been a huge fan of hers since Rome and Bride and Prejudice. She plays Tala, an imperial officer who ends up helping Obi-Wan escape the Empire.
She risks everything in betraying the empire and shooting down the Stormtroopers. It kind of reminds me of how some German soldiers were disillusioned in joining the Nazi party, as Tala thought joining the Empire was a good thing!
This third ep is mostly about Vader + Obi-Wan meet-up! The moment fans have been waiting for!! Even just seeing Vader getting into that iconic black uniform gives me goosebumps!
The inevitable lightsaber fight scene between Obi-Wan and his former apprentice happens much sooner than I thought! I figure the showrunner might delay this pivotal duel until maybe the 5th or final episode. It’s a pretty long one too, starting with Vader terorrizing the village people and mercilessly butchering them just to draw Obi-Wan out.
There’s a moment where Obi-Wan’s breathing as he secretly watches Vader is synced up and it’s a pretty cool effect. Obi-Wan has already known Vader is alive but boy, seeing him back-with-a-vengeance in that ominious uniform has got to be terrifying!
John Williams‘ iconic score plays out during the scene and it’s still as iconic and phenomenal as ever! It ends in a fiery scene that harkens back to the last time Obi-Wan saw his former best friend… oh all the feels!!!
So far I’m enjoying the series despite the flaws. I read a few reviews that says the series lacks ‘the force’ or that ‘magic’ of the original. I think compared to The Mandalorian, this one is a step below, perhaps because there’s such novelty about that series and Jon Favreau‘s direction is utterly solid. I never bothered with the Boba Fett series but I heard it’s not worth my time anyway. The Kenobi series is more reliant on nostalgia, and the issue with featuring a beloved character is that we already know his fate and those around him, so at times the back-stories feel superfluous. I suppose a certain amount of fan-service is to be expected in a series like this
That said, even for casual SW fans like me, I enjoy it for what it is. McGregor settles nicely into one of his most famous roles here and it’s nice to see Hayden Christensen back reprising Anakin as Vader, though we barely see him in this. I look forward to the last three episodes!
What do you think of the Obi-Wan Kenobi series so far?