It’s finally here. Disney’s long-awaited “Obi-Wan Kenobi” series recently premiered, airing its first two episodes, and it’s pretty great.
Ewan McGregor returns as the titular Obi-Wan Kenobi, who is a hermit on Tatooine ten years after the events of “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith.” He is haunted by his failure to save his former apprentice, Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen), who turned to the dark side, adopting the name Darth Vader, while he watches over Anakin’s son, Luke (Grant Feely), who is being raised by his uncle, Owen (Joel Edgerton), and aunt, Beru (Bonnie Piesse). Things have soured between Kenobi, who now goes by Ben to hide his identity, and Owen, as he is wary of Kenobi’s wishes to help, fearing that he will get Luke killed just like his father (he doesn’t know he lived on as Vader).
In Part I, Inquisitors — fallen Jedi who have been recruited by Vader to hunt the remaining Jedi — come to Tatooine hoping to catch a Jedi named Nari (Benny Safdie) who was helping a local bar owner who was being harassed by the locals. The three main Inquisitors we see is their leader, the Grand Inquisitor (Rupert Friend), the Fifth Brother (Sung Kang) and Reva Sevander/The Third Sister (Moses Ingram). Reva has the most ambition of the Inquisitors, and is obsessed with finding Kenobi, and is willing to hurt anyone and cross whatever line she can to get what she wants, which irks her fellow Inquisitors, as she is constantly told to back down and know her place.
The character has come under fire online — criticism I am going to dismiss as it’s another case of the fanbase jumping to conclusions and judging too quickly — but within the context of this episode, her character works as her ruthless nature embodies the dark side well, and I can also understand why she constantly clashes with her superior Inquisitors. In Part I, it’s revealed that the Inquisitors are relegated to chasing after “scraps” as all high-level Jedi have all either been eliminated or have gone into deep hiding, and I took that as implying that the Inquisitors as a division of the Empire are under thin ice. After all, why would the Emperor keep them around when there are almost no Jedi left to hunt? Having them around would only serve as a threat to his power. Furthermore, the Grand Inquisitor goes to great length to minimize Reva’s terror on the general public, which implies that perhaps the Inquisitors do not have public opinion on their side, or he’s wary of giving people reason to defect to the fledgling rebellion against the Empire.
Kenobi’s call to action comes when he gets a message from Senator Bail Organa (Jimmy Smits) of Alderaan that Luke’s sister, Leia (Vivien Lyra Blair) has been kidnapped. Reva hired bounty hunters to take the girl, hoping that she could exploit Bail’s friendship with Kenobi to draw the Jedi out, and he has no choice but to take the bait. Most of Part II involves Kenobi attempting to rescue Leia, who causes mischief as she doesn’t remember him (the last time he saw her, she was a baby) or trust him, while Reva and her bounty hunters try to catch Kenobi off guard.
So far, this show is off to a great start. Its cast is great, with McGregor really shining as Kenobi, and I also think it has the best direction of any “Star Wars” Disney Plus show so far, with Deborah Chow providing a gritty and dark tone we rarely see done well in “Star Wars.” It’s also a gorgeous-looking show, with its Alderaan scenes really sticking out, which fully embrace the 1980s sci-fi aesthetic of the planet that was previously found in the Star Wars Expanded Universe. Having Kenobi be a fugitive also inherently gives the show a sort of tension we rarely see in this franchise, with the over-the-top fight scenes of the prequels replace by tightly-paced stealth scenes in which Kenobi’s greatest weapon — his lightsaber — also serves as a double-edged sword, as it alerts his enemies where he is and it’ll blow his cover.
So far, this show has its priorities straight, as it strictly focuses on character and worldbuilding, though I admit Leia’s distrust of Kenobi does go a little too far in Part II. I hope that young Leia takes a back seat in future episodes, but I have a feeling that Disney is trying to replicate the same formula that worked between Grogu and Din Djarin in “The Mandalorian.”
I do think that any Inquisitor we don’t see in “Star Wars: Rebels” is going to perish some way in this show, and likewise any character that appears in that show is going to survive this one. Disney has been pretty clear that “The Clone Wars” and “Rebels” are canon, and I don’t think that they’re going to contradict those shows.
“Obi-Wan Kenobi” Season 1: Parts I & II gets a 9/10