Updated: 6/15/22 (See below for reviews of Parts III, IV, and V)
Fanatic Overall Score: 5/10
WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS
May 27 marked the release of the highly-anticipated Star Wars limited series, Obi-Wan Kenobi, on Disney+. After watching the first two episodes, I have to say I am incredibly disappointed with what Lucasfilm delivered.
What was built up to be a visually stunning, highly dramatic, and edgy spectacle ended up being a cliche cacophony of grossly subpar acting and one-dimensional, unbelievable characters hidden behind a proverbial cardboard chorus line of tropes designed to trigger enough pent-up elation and trick a distracted fanbase into convincing themselves the ends justify the means. The showrunners put this fusion of fan-fiction/fantasy night fodder into a story that everyone already knows the ending, and they still invested enough gratuitous amounts of time in fake, impotent suspense to rival Discovery Networks’ “reality” TV shows, which only added a level of frustration to the overall predictability.
Unlike the mass of sheepish subscribers the showrunners clearly envisioned as the Star Wars fandom, it is never enough for me just to see a cool character back on the screen.
Despite having a very intriguing moral theme at its heart, and the potential for the legitimate expansion of a very mysterious and chaotic period of its cinematic timeline, Star Wars’ Obi-Wan Kenobi seems to prove Lucasfilm’s willingness to cheapen the overall expectations of its audience, and its unwillingness to actually learn how to write roles for kids. I can only hope next week’s episode brings something better.
Still with me? Let’s dive a little deeper.
Let’s talk about the story.
We open on a very solid and powerful recap of the Skywalker Saga’s prequel trilogy, edited to specifically highlight Kenobi’s tragic story with Anakin. We then get the cue that other Jedi survived Order 66 by cutting to that night onto a Jedi giving her life so her younglings could get away from the clone troopers’ attack.
Then, we jump to Tattooine 10 years later, where we meet our inquisitors–Vader’s Force-trained Jedi hunters–and the Grand Inquisitor gives a quality monologue about the key to hunting Jedi is by taking advantage of their compassionate nature. That is when we find another Jedi who narrowly escapes, but it is at this moment that we meet the annoying zealous chief antagonist, Reva (Moses Ingram), and learn that she does not know how to fall in line with the rest of her troop.
We find Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) living a “normal life,” working shifts on a salvage job and trying to keep an eye on little Luke despite Uncle Owen (Joel Edgerton) telling him to stay away.
After a few completely unbelievable rage-filled intimidation attempts from Reva, we jump a couple of parsecs to Alderaan, where we meet a younger Leia Organa and discover that she is really an angsty 26-year-old millennial stuck in a 10-year-old’s body. After self-righteously telling off her cousin, she runs from dignitary matters into the woods–but she gets captured. Bait for a trap set by Reva (who, by the way, goes so crazy that she kills the Grand Inquisitor(Rupert Friend) this early in the show).
At the direct request of Senator Organa, Obi-Wan is forced out of hiding to save the little princess, sneaking in and out of an area riddled with bounty hunters and inquisitors. He does so, but not before he learns a terrifying truth: Vader–Anakin–is still alive.
Terrible Acting and Dialogue Writing
There is much about the actors’ performances that were extremely subpar. The worst of all goes to Moses Ingram’s portrayal of Reva. Not only is her entire personal unbelievable, but her emotionless face (and dead eyes) combined with her horrible line reading create a caricature that is, honestly, almost comical. Her cheap attempt to portray some effeminate Kylo Ren, combines with her character’s overall obsession with hunting Kenobi down, makes her more annoying than anything. As the Grand Inquisitor and Fifth Brother (Sung Kang) more gracefully put it: shut up, calm down, and let the grownups handle this.
Meanwhile, on the side of the good guys, we have little miss Leia Organa. I have a personal vendetta against “can do no wrong” characters, but on top of that, her dialogue does not match that of a believable 10-year-old. Half the time, she talks with the semi-eloquent self-righteous wisdom of the stereotypical mid-20s millennial, and the other half, she’s reading off lines meant for an adult Carrie Fisher.
This point is not necessarily the showrunner’s fault, but the realities of how this show will end are already clear. For example, there was no suspense when Reva threatened Uncle Owen because we already know when Owen died. We know that Obi-Wan and Leia continue to age and appear in A New Hope, so any real suspense is lost in life-threatening situations like their narrow escape on the top of the Cargo port.
Obi-Wan Kenobi needs to play into that predictability. In fact, it is the predictions and expectations that got fans excited about the show in the first place, primarily the lightsaber rematch between Kenobi and Darth Vader (Hayden Christensen).
The Good Points
Like the scavengers of the Dune Sea coming across the wreckage of a cargo ship or the fresh carcass of a giant sand-dwelling creature, we can also salvage some good qualities of this show. For starters, major props to McGregor, Edgerton, Friend, and Kumail Nanjiani for actually bringing high-quality performances to the show so far.
Edgerton’s resistance to Obi-Wan being anywhere near Luke is believable. McGregor’s conflicted hesitancy to help people visible on his face is believable. Friend gives us a villain who exudes true patience and composure, and you want to see more of his Moriarty-like character. Friend’s Inquisitor is also given some of the best lines in the first two episodes. And then there is Nanjiani’s character. If Lucasfilm has been good at one type of character, it is the rogue untrustable anti-hero side characters. Of course, there are swindlers out there using parlor tricks to pretend to be a Jedi. It just makes sense, and Nanjiani is able to deliver a performance with his trademark self-abasing satire that adds some laughs to an otherwise dark episode.
There is also the overall deep theme of the show: to survive is to do nothing. To help others is to risk and even sacrifice one’s own life. This is the very essence of what it means to be rebellious.
At the end of the day, I know that this show is going to be a moderate success. Despite its faults, Obi-Wan Kenobi offers a compelling story, filling in one of the last blank spots on the Skywalker Saga timeline, and there are enough fans out there who will be more than satisfied with the fan service the show puts out. I just will never be one of those fans.
But, I understand that these were only the first two episodes, and I stand ready and able to watch the rest of this series and see how things progress. The countdown to Episode 3 begins now, and despite my thoughts, I will continue to look to the next episodes with a sense of hopeful optimism that things will get better.
Disclaimer: This article contains the opinions of the writer, which may not reflect the sentiments of Disney Fanatic as a whole.
Further Obi-Wan Kenobi Reviews
Since this article’s original publication, I have stood by my word and watched every subsequent episode. It did not get much better. Click below to read my thoughts on the rest of the series.