In another frustratingly wasted opportunity by Disney, a new show based on Obi-Wan Kenobi –one of the most beloved heroes in the Star Wars franchise– has been cranked out. Aside from a few glimmers of nostalgia, the show is mostly a disappointment, not unlike The Book of Boba Fett before it. Kenobi was most likely rushed through production and released on Disney Plus in order to scoop up as many former Netflix subscribers as possible. This show unfortunately reeks of lazy corporate decisions. It looks cheap and bland (the color tint looks fresh out of a David Lynch movie –it is dull and grey), and the show is poorly acted with a mostly uninteresting story –at points its script decisions are downright ridiculous. For fans of classic Star Wars, it really is painful to watch how Disney has degraded this once-brilliant franchise.
Kenobi takes place ten years after the events of Revenge of the Sith. “Part I” re-introduces us to Obi-Wan in his remote hideout on Tatooine where he keeps careful watch over a young Luke Skywalker from a distance, however an Imperial group of inquisitors are hunting the last remaining Jedi Knights. The not-so-fearsome hunters include a Grand Inquisitor (Rupert Friend) followed by a Fifth Brother (Sung Kang), and a Third Sister who is also known as Reva Sevander (Moses Ingram). Sadly, these villains are just terrible plot devices. They are unfortunately poorly cast and frivolously written characters. Surprising no one, Reva secretly has a heart of gold with a dark past, and in the end she is made to be a heroic figure. I had next-to-zero interest in these villains throughout the show. Apparently, there was some racist drivel lobbed toward actress Moses Ingram regarding this show –an act which I find abhorrent and distasteful– however Disney has once again weaponized a few people scribbling mean tweets on the internet as a shield against any legitimate criticism of this obviously flawed show.
At any rate, onto the meat of the show. Obi-Wan is now a tired, jaded, weak old man who has lost much of his force powers. This is not the confident sage as portrayed by Alec Guiness in the original trilogy. Instead he looks more like a bitterly defeated Luke Skywalker as featured in The Last Jedi –a movie which was another deeply disappointing narrative choice.
As the six episodes pass, it becomes apparent that Obi-Wan is not even the hero of his own show. He constantly bungles his own plans and makes silly mistakes –including revealing himself to storm troopers, and running/cowering in fear when he first faces Darth Vader (hardly the “rematch of the century” as described by Kathleen Kennedy). Obi-Wan even plays second fiddle to a young Princess Leia, a pre-teen girl he is supposed to be rescuing. In fact, this bizarre retcon becomes the arch of the whole show while the petulant and annoying Princess Leia outruns groups of incompetent henchmen (one of whom is Flea from The Red Hot Chili Peppers). These early scenes rival the goofy slapstick comedy of Home Alone, and after being rescued she bosses around a tired Obi-Wan who now goes by “Ben” in a pathetic attempt to avoid the full retcon of “help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope” from Episode IV (but this is later fully retconned by the sixth episode in the show anyway). And instead of Obi-Wan being a noble hero, the true sacrificial hero of the show is revealed to be Reva –she is a former youngling Jedi-in-training who gradually developed a chip on her shoulder when her friends could not be saved during the Order 66 downfall of the Old Republic in Revenge of the Sith. However, a few words from Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Reva suddenly decides to turn on Darth Vader, a man who is one of the most powerful Sith Lords in the Empire. Nevertheless, she is easily defeated. She is stabbed through the chest by Vader –and then a miracle! She survives anyway and quickly flies to Tatooine after she learns of a boy in hiding: Luke Skywalker. She tries to kill Luke but then decides at the last moment not to kill the boy (all of this occurs after being stabbed through the chest by Darth Vader’s lightsaber). Anyway, the final duel between Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi is one of the few highlights of the show –thankfully they did not recreate another elaborate, choreographed sequence as found in the prequels. During the fight, there is a notable nod to the Star Wars Rebels show during which Vader’s helmet is sliced open (in the cartoon it is Ahsoka who battles her old master Vader/Anakin). However, none of these compelling moments manage to salvage this show. In the end, Obi-Wan returns Princess Leia to her home on Alderaan and he heads to Tatooine where he meets Luke with a trademark “hello there” before reuniting with the force ghost of Qui-Gon Jinn. Thus concludes the show. The few stand-outs in this show include the performance of Ewan McGregor, and the brief cameos by Ian McDiarmid and Liam Neeson.
In summary if you must watch any of this series, I recommend exclusively watching the last episode or two. Otherwise don’t waste your time. The differences between Kenobi and The Mandalorian are as stark as they are severe. Hopefully Disney will learn their lesson and only greenlight future programs which carry the seal of approval by Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni.