Sorry, couldn’t resist…
Before I slice this series open and yank out it’s guts like a dead Tauntaun on Hoth (spoilers ahead, obviously), let’s take a parsec to appreciate the time we’re living in (y’know, so long as you ignore COVID-19, Vladimir Putin, Global warming and a number of other Death Star rivalling, life as we know it ending conundrums on the horizon).
No seriously though, like Luke marvelling at those Binary Stars, we as Star Wars diehards should rejoice in being able to experience the direct continuation of Anakin and Obi-Wan’s tragic relationship after the events of Star Wars Revenge of the Sith. 17 years later, whether you hate them or love them (god forbid you sit on the fence), Disney has treated us to the connective tissue between the Prequels and the Original Trilogy… something we’ve all but dreamt of.
Since Obi-Wan maimed ‘lil annie’ on that Mustafarian hellscape, he’s been cutting up slabs of ‘miscellaneous Star Wars creature’ meat (my money’s on a Krayt Dragon) on Tatooine to sustain his secluded life devoid of the force. Meanwhile, an all too recently kentucky fried Anakin/Vader continues to relentlessly cull any remaining Jedi that escaped ‘Order 66’ through the will of his (somewhat) menacing Inquisitors.
So, did this series live up to the extraordinary heights of arguably the most divisive fanbase on earth? Did it in fact ‘do’, or ‘do not’?
Well, I’m sorry to say, but our favourite little green space wizard better cover his oversized ears… because he’s wrong.
No Yoda. Do or do not, this series tried.
With Obi-Wan Kenobi being received by fans with both love as awkwardly palpable of Anakin’s feelings for Padme in Attack of the Clones, and hate as passionate as his abhorrence for sand, deciding whether this series did ‘do‘ or ‘do not‘ is futile at best, perhaps impossible at worst. However, the Star Wars fanbase has never related to Anakin more, with the division in consensus being akin to the conflict we see Hayden Christensen brilliantly exude within this show’s iteration of the character.
Now, bear with me on this. I, like many others, have noticed the senate chamber filling contrivances that mar this series, both old and new to the Star Wars universe. Why is the Empire so unbelievably inept and infiltratable (Fortress Inquisitorius, I’m looking at you)? How is it that Obi-Wan can zip across the galaxy to save Luke in record hyper-speed time, but spends the entirety of the show trying to get Leia back to her family at a Bantha’s pace? Why would Reva spend a lifetime attempting to enact vengeance on Vader, only to waste her shot and attack him after he had been focussing the entirety of his force ability on downing a freighter he thought Kenobi was on (dope scene though, gotta say).
Why exactly can’t an army of firing stormtroopers, spilling into a reasonably confined cave hit something. I mean, even the-
Okay okay, fine. I’ll go cool off in a Bacta tank someplace (Boba, hook me up).
You see, as much as these half-baked narrative A to B plot points were frustratingly unnecessary, they were never the point. The moments these paths would take us to were as true to Star Wars as ever, doing George Lucas’ thematic vision for this universe justice…
So, what are the vehicles of that vision?
Moses Ingram, joining a long list of controversially received Star Wars characters (seriously guys, chill), plays the ‘Third Sister’ aka ‘Reva’. Portraying an inquisitor (aka Jedi Hunter) with a hidden vendetta against her boss, Ingram’s character was something no fan asked for (to say the least). Nevertheless, her story develops like fine wine, and twangs a rather fundamental thread that defines this universe’s fabric. Subtly introduced in this show’s opening scene as a youngling, we eventually learn she was nearly killed by Vader himself as a child, also having watched the genocide of what was ultimately her family first-hand.
Her story having culminated in nearly becoming the thing she intended to kill, or to put it better…
…Reva really captures the essence of Star Wars, and how embracing the dark side to facilitate the means will always twist and corrupt the end. Watching her nearly kill Luke as a boy, like how Vader attempted to kill her as a girl, is the kind of rhyme I can see Lucas gladly including in his galaxy-spanning poem.
Now, this to me was an unbelievably bold choice. To put another child actor in such an iconic role?
With Jake Lloyd having faced a tirade of unfair abuse concerning his portrayal of Anakin as a boy, Vivien Lyra Blair’s performance as Leia as a girl had to be stellar. Not to mention Leia’s inclusion in Obi-Wan Kenobi needing to neatly align with this universe’s elaborate canon without breaking it.
Not only does her impressively subtle performance enrichen the perception we have of Leia in the Original Trilogy, providing deep context as to how she could become such a head-strong and self-assured leader, but her story here adds to Kenobi’s. The conversations they share have us organically learn insights into Obi-Wan’s past, whilst having him naturally come to terms with the responsibilities he must re-shoulder. We can finally understand why Leia would choose to eventually name her son ‘Ben’.
Just, y’know… be sure to ignore how she somehow outruns bounty hunters in episode one’s abysmally directed kidnap scene, and you’ll be fine.
Now, I’m as serious as a death-stick here. The biggest triumph of this show is how right they get our favourite Dark Lord of the Sith. In fact, I’ll come right out and say it. This is the best live action depiction of Vader we’ve ever gotten…
In this show, Vader is terrifying. As much as his inquisitors are something of a limp set of bickering sycophants, Vader stands tall as a force not only to be reckoned with… but submitted to. Being given scenes more brutal than anything we’ve seen him do prior (yes, more younglings are slain), this iteration of the character is the most emotional we’ve seen him. With James Earl Jones reprising his role, his AI assisted performance dials up the authenticity meter to new heights… this is Vader, no doubt about it. Additionally, the inclusion of Hayden Christensen proved vital, from the frankensteinian shots of his daily routine to the fan-gasmic flashbacks of him training as a Padawan with Kenobi went down smoother than a glass of blue milk.
The relentless pursuit of his former master has us recognise just how conflicted he is about abandoning his past, and fully adopting his future; Ian McDiarmid’s brief but glorious inclusion in the show’s final episode rings that message true, followed up perfectly with Vader’s ‘Imperial March‘ theme to solidify his commitment to the path he’s on. Glorious stuff.
Which brings us to the show’s namesake…
Fittingly, Ewan McGregor returning to this role after nearly 2 decades has aged him enough to look like a perfect blend of Obi-Wan’s ‘Clone Wars’ days and Alec McGuinness’s silver-haired visage. With an arc that mirrors the ‘fallen hero‘ beaten path seen in Luke Skywalker’s journey in The Last Jedi, it’s better warranted here with Obi-Wan living a life all but robbed of purpose. To those who dislike seeing Kenobi depicted in such dire psychological straits, kindly re-examine your capacity for common sense. Having slain what was essentially his little brother after having thrust him into a life dictated by the Jedi, Obi Wan is obviously a PTSD-riddled wreck… and it works.
Watching him find his feet again is a delight, with Ewan’s performance evoking enough emotion to make a Wookie cry. From the moment he finds out Anakin is alive, to tearing over seeing his former Apprentice’s face behind Vader’s insectoid mask… emotionally, Kenobi’s depiction in this series is fundamentally satisfying. Although not everyone is familiar with the animated Star Wars: Clone Wars series, you can believe Ewan inhaled it all to deliver us the full weight of Obi and Annie’s relationship missing from the prequel trilogy.
Cue ‘Duel of the fates‘, because to top it off, this show nails an element many cannot…
Although this series has its blunders, the duel between Vader and Kenobi is more than worth the price of your time. With Vader looking more mobile than ever, whilst fighting in a symbolically frigid wasteland, the choreography here is electric. With a terrific mix of never before seen live-action force flash and prequel era swordplay with a dash of OT grit, this rematch will take its place among one of the best duels in Star Wars history.
It’s the little things that make this scene so special. Whether it be Vader’s iconic wheezing sampled right out of Star Wars Return of the Jedi. Whether it’s Vader’s battle scorched mask opening turning from blue to red to mirror the intention in his words. Whether it be the blending of both Hayden Christensen and James Earl Jones’ voice to finally have us truly believe that these two characters are one… this series is filled with care. No question.
Again, I get it. Obi-Wan Kenobi is a show marred with problems… but a love and respect for this universe isn’t one of them. Sure, characters seem to have a problem ‘finishing the job’, with Reva, Vader and Obi Wan being chief among those given bizarre opportunities to live. Sure, why the Mustafarian hell would Vader have his entire star destroyer follow Kenobi, and let a transport of rebels escape without sending so much as a Tie Fighter to follow them. Hell, why wouldn’t Obi Wan consider stashing Leia on his ship when he broke away from the rebels, to light-speed her out of danger (I mean damn, take a few other kids while you’re at it). And would Owen honestly not contact Kenobi after learning an Inquisitor is coming for Luke? Look, I’m a Star Wars fan too, and I’m as nit-picky as the rest of you.
However, when we notice that Kenobi slashed off the left half of Vader’s mask…
…paralleling how Ahsoka slashed off Vader’s right…
…reminding us that these were the two people in Anakin’s life that were closest to him? The only two, who could peak behind the mask of their fallen friend?
Damn straight, Lucas. Damn straight.
Luke’s ability to eventually unmask his father without violence is all the more enhanced, as is various elements of Star Wars because of this show. Coupled with tasteful cameos like Liam Neeson’s ‘Qui-Gon Jinn’ and the formerly mentioned Iain McDiarmid as ‘Emperor Palpatine’ (not to mention another exquisitely time ‘Hello there’ for good measure), Star Wars fans have never had more of an excuse to kick back and bust out the blue milk.
This show didn’t categorically ‘do‘, or ‘do not‘…
…but yes, it did try.
Mr. Hunter approves.
P.S. I want to formerly apologise to Rupert Friend. Not only did I claim he hadn’t watched Star Wars rebels to sufficiently acquaint himself with the character he’d be playing (which I have since learnt is false), but his depiction of the ‘Grand Inquisitor’ has gone down in the history books as a phenomenally memeable character.
Agree, disagree, or discuss the hyper-speed logistics of how Kenobi could zip to Tatooine in record time, I want to know in the comments below!