Obi-Wan Kenobi – Review

I wanted to let the dust settle for a couple of days before tackling this one. There have been a lot of unsavory discussions, much of which is a bunch of racist gobbledygook surrounding Moses Ingram. Those people can go to whatever hell they believe in and stay there, and that’s all I’ll have to say surrounding the “woke Disney” discussions.

After the success of The Mandalorian there were obviously plans to expand. Disney’s initial distaste for anything involving the prequels was beginning to fade away, leading us to a place where we could return to that era and view it through rose-colored lenses. The prequel trilogy has always been a mess, but my distaste for it never skewed into the vicious. Part of that was the performance of Ewan McGregor in the role of Obi-Wan. His work elevated every scene he partook in, helping to leave more than just a sour taste in my mouth by the end. When it was announced that we were finally getting an Obi-Wan Kenobi miniseries I worried that it would be nostalgia bait for the Millenials (they gave up on the Baby Boomers), and my fears weren’t unfounded. Nevertheless, I think there are a lot of interesting things to mine in this brief miniseries.

For starters, I really adore the expansion of the Inquisitors into live-action. Their presence on Star Wars: Rebels was fun in places, stupid in others (using the lightsabers as helicopter blades doesn’t work, I’m sorry), but their appearance in Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order made them more of a legitimate threat. I genuinely enjoyed their presence in this new show, particularly the performance of Moses Ingram. She put a lot of work into the character and felt highly believable as a desperate, angry, and ambitious warrior that’s hunting the most notorious Jedi fugitive in the galaxy. Her scene with Vader (I won’t spoil it, but those of you that finished the show know exactly which one I’m talking about) was one of the more thrilling sequences the franchise has had since the Disney purchase.

Ingram is joined by newcomer Vivian Lyra Blair as a young Leia Organa. Obi-Wan’s task is simple – find the girl and return her to Bail Organa on Alderaan. This could have only taken a couple of episodes (and maybe should have, as at only six episodes the show still feels too long), but Chibi Leia has a lot of charming moments that mesh well with McGregor’s performance. The kid is a newcomer to the galaxy, but I’d like to see her return. Blair and Ingram are two of the more welcome performances in Star Wars.

This brings me to the man himself. Obi-Wan is hiding out on Tattooine, bizarrely going by “Ben Kenobi” and apparently not worried that he can be tracked down by his last name. He’s a broken, depressed, sad man; hiding from the Force and cutting up an animal carcass for a contractor is all he’s got left. He refuses to help Nari (a wasted Benny Safdie), leading to the former padawan’s death. He desperately leaves toys at the Lars family farm for a young Luke Skywalker (Grant Feely), much to the annoyance of Owen (Joel Edgerton returning to be as gruff as he needs to be). Old Ben is just trying to connect with anyone after losing everything. He’s still not over what he believed to be the death of his brother/padawan/bestie, Anakin. Discovering that his former apprentice is not only alive, but the second most evil person in the galaxy is…a shock to him.

All of this is a great setup, but the issues start popping up quickly. Safdie’s character is interesting, but lazily written and poorly performed. This leads the show, which is full of interesting performances and situations and feels cobbled together. I enjoyed it, but I’d be hard-pressed to say I loved much of it. The older I get the less of a gatekeeper I’ve become, instead just happy to embrace things and be honest about what I do and don’t like about them. Obi-Wan has lots to love (Leia and her droid, Lola, are such an adorable pairing), but there’s also lots to frustrate me (does ANYONE die when stabbed by a lightsaber anymore). It’s far from the worst thing about the franchise, which remains Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, but this is a rough watch for anyone wanting logic in their shows.

And maybe we shouldn’t need too much logic in Star Wars? It’s a series built around melodrama, one in which some installments played so hard that it breaks the reality. Lucas himself devolved into canon-breaking scenes and dialogue, rendering the whole thing a mess that we loved anyway. Decades of novels and comic books cleaned up a lot of that, but a direct and strict canon isn’t what Star Wars is about. Obi-Wan Kenobi embraces what the franchise has been, deciding to be about a man who finds purpose after losing everything and embracing destiny (Luke in TLJ, Yoda in ESB). This running theme has always been a key component of Star Wars, and I’m happy to see it return while leaving perfect, logical, robotic beings in Elon Musk’s masturbatory fantasies where they belong.

Perhaps the only sin I can’t forgive is the musical choices. Star Wars is built on the ground that John Williams tilled, and he returned to write a theme for Obi-Wan Kenobi and the show. These things began to appear in the final episodes, but the music largely felt like background noise. Star Wars has always been one to use its orchestration as a character, weaving themes and individuals so tightly that it renders emotion at the bare minimum of notes (I still cry when the Han and Leia theme drops during the trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens). The show is an enjoyable mess, but this is perhaps the one thing I can’t be okay with.

End of the day this is going to be yet another online holy war for the fandom. How you come down on it depends on who you are as a person. Keep your racism out of my eye line if that’s you, but if you have legitimate quibbles while still recognizing the flaws in Disney’s foray into this universe then this is a show that will be interesting to you. I missed McGregor, and anyone my age probably did as well.

Obi-Wan Kenobi is streaming on Disney+.

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