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‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ kicks off with an unexpected but brilliant twist
"You seem kind of old and beat up."
It will be a day long remembered. The latest live-action Star Wars streaming series has begun on Disney+, but it isn’t just any live-action series. Obi-Wan Kenobi finds both Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen returning to the roles that they played in the prequel trilogy, and that is no small thing.
The new series bridges the gap between the original trilogy and the prequels, taking place 10 years after Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. We’re in a time period before Star Wars Rebels, and well before Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. As expected, Obi-Wan (McGregor) is in exile on Tatooine, looking after little Luke Skywalker.
News and trailers for the series made two things clear. The first was that Obi-Wan would be leaving Tatooine, potentially forsaking his mission to watch over Luke for at least a little while. The second was that Hayden Christensen was set to return to the role of Darth Vader (not Anakin Skywalker), and that he would come face to face with Kenobi.
Our main questions, therefore, were as follows. What could possibly be important enough for Obi-Wan to risk leaving Tatooine? The second question: does Obi-Wan aware that the former padawan he literally left burning to death is alive, and walking around in a robotic monster suit?
Parts I and II of the new series, both directed by Deborah Chow, answered both of these questions. There were many more surprises in store, too.
WARNING: Spoilers lie ahead for Parts I and II of Obi-Wan Kenobi. If you have not watched yet, say “goodbye there” and go into exile from this article.
Most of the story of Part I involves Obi-Wan coming back to life and remembering who he is. He's old, he's defeated, and he's sensationally depressed. He has a good reason to hide; he’s looking after a precious child (Luke) and there are dark side enforcers all around. The Grand Inquisitor (Rupert Friend), Fifth Brother (Sung Kang), and Third Sister, aka Reva (Moses Ingram) make their presence known in Anchorhead early on. A wayward Jedi tries to escape them and he asks Obi-Wan for help. No help is given. The Jedi in question is hanging from an Anchorhead archway by the end of the episode.
What does Obi-Wan’s life consist of? On the whole, misery. It sucks, which is right in line with the rest of his life. He works an awful job cutting meat (or whatever), he watches over Luke, he gets hustled by a Jawa, he argues with Owen Lars (Joel Edgerton) about how Luke is being raised, and Owen throws his failure with Anakin at him for good measure.
Making things worse is that he’s working on the “training” that Yoda talked to him about at the end of Revenge of the Sith. He’s trying to commune with Qui-Gon Jinn, but Qui-Gon isn’t responding. He doesn't answer in Part I, and when Obi-Wan talks to him off-handedly in Part II, the result is the same.
Everything that he is can be summed up in the advice that he gives to Nari, the doomed Jedi who asks him for help. “Stay hidden. Live a normal life,” he says. Don’t call him Obi-Wan, either. His name is Ben. That’s that. “The fight is done,” he says at one point. “We lost.” What shakes him out of this and gets him back on the hyperspace lane to adventure? One of the Skywalker children gets kidnapped. It isn’t Luke. Luke is fine.
Leia Organa gets kidnapped. Leia Organa (brilliantly played by Vivien Lyra Blair of Bird Box fame) is a major part of this series. We did not see that coming. Therm Scissorpunch could be next.
Queen Breha Organa (Simone Kessell) gets some quality screen time, as does Jimmy Smits, returning as Bail Organa. At ten years old, Leia would rather run around in the woods than play senator. This is how she gets kidnapped by Vect Nokru (Flea), who is working for Reva. For reasons as yet unknown, Reva has a serious need to capture a bigger fish, and she’s decided that the big fish is Kenobi. She’s tired of being a gutter inquisitor, and is desperate to make a big play.
This is why she hires Flea, sorry, Vect, and Leia is taken to the planet Daiyu. Bail and Breha reach out to Obi-Wan for help, with Bail eventually going to Tatooine personally. “Please old friend,” he says. “For her. One last fight.”
Obi-Wan digs up his lightsaber from a hiding spot in the desert (along with Anakin’s) and gets on a transport. His mission was to protect the son, but as Bail points out, he has a duty to the daughter as well.
It is Leia Organa’s kidnapping that gets Obi-Wan off of Tatooine, and if he has to leave, we can’t think of a better reason. Part II features him tracking her down on Daiyu, which seems to be an entire planet of scum and villainy. It’s a neon nightmare right out of Blade Runner, complete with Kumail Nanjiani playing a flim-flam Jedi pretender named Haja Estree and a spice-making den that might as well appear in the upcoming Breaking Bad 2077.
He may be old, but Obi-Wan’s still got it. He eventually finds Leia, and the interplay between the two of them is gold. We’re so used to Obi-Wan mentoring Luke that the thought of him spending time with Leia becomes an afterthought. He only ever tells her that his name is Ben, so no continuity is broken yet. This may give more weight to why she eventually gives that name to her only son.
Reva gets every lowlife in town on the hunt for Kenobi, and he blows his cover a little when he has to use the force to save Leia from a fall. She trusts him completely after that, even though she keeps talking about how old and beat up he is. Haja comes through and does the right thing, leading Obi-Wan to another way out of the city after the Grand Inquisitor arrives and locks it down. Reva uses force interrogation on Haja, so she’s not far behind. When she catches up to him, she's full of taunts. She’s not going to kill him, she’s going to bring him to someone else.
“Lord Vader will be pleased,” she says, and Obi-Wan freezes. Our second question is about to be answered.
“You didn’t know?” she continues. “Anakin Skywalker is alive. And he’s been looking for you for a long time.”
Obi-Wan and Leia are able to escape thanks to some interference from the Grand Inquisitor (we can’t believe that we just wrote that sentence), but as they leave, Leia asks Obi-Wan what’s wrong.
“Anakin,” is all he says, as we cut directly to the unsuited and mangled form of Hayden Christensen in a bacta tank. Lord Vader is waiting for him, and Obi-Wan had no idea that he was still alive. This series is what will show Obi-Wan that Vader has become “more machine now than man, twisted and evil.”
Points of Interest
- Obi-Wan barters a toy off of the Jawa who is scamming him, and it is a small T-16 Skyhopper. Though Owen throws it to Obi-Wan’s feet (that’s one way to return a present), we see Luke playing around with a model just like it in the first Star Wars movie. Maybe Obi-Wan fixes it and re-gifts it to him later.
- Both Leia and Bail make references to “Aquillan Rangers” in Part I. This is a deep cut reference to characters from George Lucas’ second draft of what eventually became Star Wars. The group used laser swords, wore breath masks, and were distinctly different from Jedi. “Deak Starkiller” and “Bail Antilles” were in their ranks. They eventually got written out, but at least one image of them survives thanks to the artwork of Ralph McQuarrie.
- The "Merson Pirates" are mentioned around the same time as the Rangers, and they were first introduced in the original Marvel Comics' Star Wars #24 back in 1979.
- Breha says that raising Leia is like raising a “Glor-ag.” This is another random reference to a creature referenced in the Star Wars Adventure Journal #10 from West End Games in 1996. The Quarren character Borun Call rode the creature. Aren't you glad you know that?
- Alderaan gets more live-action screen time here than ever before (it appeared in animated form on The Clone Wars once) and it is truly gorgeous. Getting to spend time there, with Queen Breha no less, was such an unexpected gift.
- C-3PO makes a cameo in one of the Alderaan scenes, and he is naturally played by Anthony Daniels.
- Obi-Wan encounters a panhandling clone trooper on the streets of Daiyu. He’s old and bearded, and he doesn’t recognize Obi-Wan at all. He's played by Temuera Morrison. Stormtroopers sweep in right after Obi-Wan flips a few credits in the guy’s helmet, and this really drives home the shifting power dynamic of the time. An old wounded clone and an old traumatized Jedi both get shoved aside by the Emperor's shiny new toys.
- Speaking of Jedi and clones, Part I opened with yet another view of the Jedi Temple massacre during Order 66. It’s the second version of this we’re seen this year, counting the flashback from The Book of Boba Fett. Aside from Revenge of the Sith, we’ve now seen perspectives of it on The Clone Wars, The Bad Batch, and the game Jedi: Fallen Order. That's a lot of Order 66.
- Obi-Wan’s attempt to keep Leia focused as they shop for disguises was hilarious and adorable at the same time, yet it never undercut the stakes.
- Instead of letting the Grand Inquisitor take the glory, Reva runs him through and he falls over. Either he’s not actually dead, or he’s not really the Grand Inquisitor. His real death happens during Star Wars Rebels, so we imagine that there’s more going on here? Is Jason Isaacs (who played him on Rebels) on the show after all, or did Reva just miss every vital organ?
- The scene between Obi-Wan and Owen Lars is fantastic, and it sets up so much of what we see in the first part of A New Hope. Owen loves Luke and wants him safe, it’s as simple as that. His pleas for Obi-Wan to leave them alone ring true, as do his misguided lines about how all Obi-Wan cares about is whether or not Luke’s abilities are “showing.”
- Leia continuously rails at Obi-Wan with wisdom that would usually be far beyond a ten year old. He eventually tells her that she reminds him of someone. “She was fearless too. And stubborn,” he says. He can only be talking about Leia’s biological mother, Padmé Amidala.
- Qui-Gon Jinn’s voice will be heard by the end of the series. We’d bet all of your credits on it.
- Our favorite line from the two episodes came in Part I, right before Breha’s relatives arrive. She gives Leia the following instruction: “Try not to make anyone cry.”
Obi-Wan Kenobi is now streaming on Disney+. “Who’s in the gutter now?”