The latest Star Wars television series to grace Disney Plus (opens in new tab) bridges the gap between the prequel and original trilogy. “Obi-Wan Kenobi” boasts the return of Ewan McGregor as the titular Jedi Master and former apprentice Hayden Christensen as Darth Vader – although it’s still not confirmed whether James Earl Jones’ will reprise his iconic vocal role.
If that isn’t enough to set lightsabers-a-waggling, “The Mandalorian’s” Deborah Chow (responsible for the excellent Chapters 3 and 7) returns to the director’s chair. But how can Ben Kenobi’s babysitting days on Tatooine measure up to the best Star Wars TV shows? And how is he dealing with his pivotal role in bringing about the near total annihilation of the Jedi Order? Well, there’s good news for you and bad news for ol’ Ben…
Episode 1’s opening will surely delight prequel lovers with a never-before-seen flashback of the assault on the Jedi Temple during Order 66. It begins as a pair of 501st clone troopers burst into a classroom full of younglings. Their Jedi mentor cuts down the intruders and leads her students out into a corridor where she dispatches a few more clones before succumbing to blaster fire. The younglings flee into the temple’s Great Hall where we see the true extent of the onslaught, as squads of clones gun down the very warriors who once led them into battle.
Fans have long speculated that the series would include flashbacks to the clone-wars period and it’s fitting that a series with the Great Jedi Purge as its backdrop brings newcomers up to speed and begins where it all started. It’s also nice to see what appears to be physical actors playing physical clones instead of the CGI troopers from the prequels.
Since Obi Wan Kenobi episodes one and two were released simultaneously, we’ve decided to review them together, so strap in for a double-header. Head over to our Obi-Wan Kenobi streaming guide to find out more about the show, it’s release schedule, and much more. We’ve also put together a guide to all the Obi-Wan Kenobi Easter eggs that we spotted in the first couple of episodes too.
Oh, and it should go without saying, but spoilers ahead!!!!
Obi-Wan Kenobi: Episode 1 – Hello There
Following the title sequence it’s revealed that the show has jumped a decade into the future. An ominous black ship lands in the middle of a highstreet and we get our first glimpse of the episodes’ main antagonists: The Grand Inquisitor (Rupert Friend), Fifth Brother (Sung Kang) and Third Sister (Moses Ingram).
When they head into a small saloon hunting a Jedi, a long exchange between the Grand Inquisitor and the establishment’s proprietor proves too much for the Third Sister, who throws a knife at the saloon owner’s head. As the knife is halted via the power of the force, a Jedi (known only as Nari) is rumbled.
The inquisitors have the Jedi cornered and earmarked for interrogation, but when the captive says: “You’ll never find us all,” the Third Sister attempts to bring her lightsaber down upon him in a curious fit of rage. The Grand Inquisitor uses the force to push his subordinate aside and in doing so provides a window for the Jedi’s escape.
It’s then revealed that the Third Sister is hellbent on hunting Obi-Wan Kenobi, who the Grand Inquisitor warns her not to pursue. Fans of the animated series “Star Wars Rebels” will recognize the Grand Inquisitor, but this is the Third Sister’s first outing. Kudos to Moses Ingram for a satisfyingly unhinged performance.
Our first encounter with Obi-Wan involves the titular hero harvesting meat from a gigantic, deceased ray-like creature embedded in the sands of the Dune Sea. When the foreman hits a worker who complains that his pay has been halved, we see a familiar glimmer of fight in the Jedi master’s eyes, but this quickly fades into hopelessness. McGregor’s forlorn portrayal is worlds away from the confident, witty Kenobi of the prequels and it’s this minutiae that’s the series’ strongest asset thus far.
We find out Kenobi has been living in a secluded cave and when a Jawa delivers a salvaged model of a T-16 Skyhopper – check out this reference in our Obi-Wan Kenobi Easter egg guide – he mentions that the recluse smells. Presumably like bantha poodoo…
What seems like a throwaway comment for cheap laughs is great character building. Kenobi is choosing to live like a hermit, not just because he’s in hiding, but because he’s punishing himself for his failures as Anakin’s friend and mentor. This is bolstered via a dream sequence that contains snippets from the prequels including Qui-Gon’s dying words: “Promise me you will train the boy,” and Padmé’s insistence that: “There’s good in him [Anakin].”
Obi-Wan then makes his way to the Lars homestead where we’re greeted with a familiar scene from the “Obi-Wan Kenobi” trailer, as he watches over a 10-year-old Luke from afar. Under the cover of nightfall, he leaves the salvaged T-16 outside and heads for home.
On his way back, Obi-Wan is confronted by Nari, the Jedi who escaped the inquisitors. But to the younger Jedi’s surprise, the old Jedi Council member refers to himself only as Ben and offers little help, beyond advising the fugitive to bury his lightsaber in the desert and “Live a normal life”.
We leave Tatooine’s harsh landscape and poverty stricken settlements for the lush green hills and clean, futuristic architecture of Alderaan. Breha Organa (Simone Kessell), Leia’s adoptive mother, is trying to find her rebellious daughter, who should be getting ready for an official engagement.
Instead, we find Leia (Vivien Lyra Blair) has headed into a nearby wood and climbed a tree with her droid companion LOLA. There they spot departing and arriving spaceships, until Breha catches up with her daughter. The little droid is confiscated, only for the youngster to apologize with a sincere hug and pickpocket it back… Vivien Lyra Blair’s portrayal of the cherished character is scene-stealing and delightfully reminiscent of the late, great Carrie Fisher’s fiery young princess from “A New Hope”.
The scene ends with an ominous over-the-shoulder shot of a man watching as the official and her daughter head through a large, arched entrance.
Following another stint at the meat-harvesting plant, Obi-Wan returns to town where he’s confronted by Owen Lars (Joel Edgerton) who tosses the model aircraft gift at the former Jedi’s feet. A heated exchange ensues where Owen lambasts the Jedi’s plan to train Luke when he’s older and reminds him of his failure to train Anakin. Joel Edgerton’s career rocketed after bit parts in “Attack of the Clones” and “Revenge of the Sith”, so it’s great to see the veteran actor return to the franchise in a meatier role.
As Luke’s uncle attempts to leave, the Fifth Brother and Third Sister (also referred to as Reva) amass a crowd of onlookers and announce that they’re still hunting their quarry. Reva’s temper bubbles up once again and she severs a protesting woman’s hand before turning her attention to Owen.
The inquisitor insists that the farmer knows something, but when he retorts: “Jedi are vermin. I kill vermin on my farm,” she responds with a rare showing of respect: “You protect your family. I like that, Owen.” Once again Ingram’s delivery is superbly uncomfortable as she moves from uneasy admiration to boiling point in an instant. With the red blade of her lightsaber inches from Owen’s throat, she attempts to pressure onlookers into revealing the Jedi’s location, but is ordered to stand down by the Fifth Brother. Reva’s fleeting moment of respect for Owen suggests that abandonment might be the driving factor behind her anger, but before any meaningful conclusions can be drawn, we’re back on Alderaan.
Leia is finally ready for her engagement as she lines up alongside her mother and father, prequel familiar Bail Organa (Jimmy Smits), on a landing platform. A ship arrives carrying Breha’s sister and her family, at which point Leia politely greets her cousin who responds only with a dismissive nod.
The relationship sours further when the youngsters chat again at a formal function. Leia makes a fool of her entitled cousin with her trademark smarts and wit, prompting a private exchange with her sympathetic, yet duty-bound, father who asks her to apologize to her cousin. Unsurprisingly, Leia opts to sneak back out into the woods, but the ominous figure from before is waiting for her and following a slightly janky chase scene, is kidnapped.
You don’t have to be force sensitive to work out who Breha and Bail turn to for help. But their holoprojector plea isn’t enough to rally the broken Jedi, who has just witnessed the strung-up body of Nari displayed in the center of Anchorhead. Obi-Wan flatly refuses to help the Organas and it takes a risky in-person visit from Bail to convince him that, not only is Leia worth temporarily leaving Luke unprotected but that, despite his own misgivings, the demoralized Jedi is still capable of staging a daring rescue. Cue a trip into the desert to dig up his and Anakin’s old lightsabers and Obi is back, kind of…
We then learn that Vect, the mercenary hired to kidnap Leia (Flea, of “Red Hot Chili Peppers” fame), is working for Reva as part of an attempt to draw Obi-Wan out from hiding. It’s worth pointing out that the Third Sister appears to have no knowledge of Leia’s family tree and that the youngster was chosen purely due to Bail Organa’s association with the Jedi master during the clone wars.
Obi-Wan Kenobi: Episode 2 – This is where the fun begins
The second episode of “Obi-Wan Kenobi” begins on a planet that has made its debut via the mini series, Daiyu. According to series writer Joby Harold, this gritty dystopian city was inspired by downtown Hong Kong. As iconic as Tatooine is, between the planet’s recurring inclusion in what seems like every other piece of Star Wars content and the sequel trilogy’s virtually indistinguishable Jakku, the trip offworld is a welcome one.
Before long Obi-Wan happens upon a begging clone, slumped on the side of the street and still clad in his plastoid armor. This prompts a haunted expression from the Jedi, who is immediately required to step aside as a pair of stormtroopers force their way past. This is a fantastic visual metaphor for the fall of the Republic and the rise of the Galactic Empire.
Following an encounter with a spice dealer, who feels so sorry for the bedraggled protagonist she slips a vial of spice in his pocket, Obi-Wan is pointed in the direction of a mysterious Jedi who may be able to provide information regarding Leia’s whereabouts. Kenobi pays the Jedi a visit and while waiting in the shadows he watches a mother and son succumb to the tricks and charisma of the supposed force wielder.
When Kenobi reveals himself, the swindler introduces himself as Jedi Knight Haja Estree. Kumail Nanjiani’s performance is genuinely funny and it makes total sense that some individuals would seek to make a credit or two by posing as one of the order’s storied knights. Kenobi points out that remotes and magnets are behind Haja’s fake force powers, prompting the conman to point him in the right direction, free of charge.
To get to Leia’s holding cell, Kenobi must first navigate what appears to be a spice lab. He dons a breathing mask and distracts a guard blocking an access door by superheating the liquid in a Florence flask, which subsequently explodes. This is arguably the first time Kenobi uses the force.
A fistfight ensues on the other side of the door and it’s nice to see the rusty Jedi take a few hits, once again affirming he’s a far cry from the man who dispatched Maul, Grievous and Anakin.
When he finally accesses the holding cell, Leia is nowhere to be found and he’s ambushed by Vect and his thugs. In a moment that harks back to the Kenobi of old, the Jedi delivers a one-liner before smashing the vial of spice he obtained earlier and, unaffected due to his breathing mask, leaves Vect and his goons incapacitated on the floor.
The next holding cell does contain Leia and although the child is wary of taking Obi-Wan’s hand, she eventually relents due to having no other option.
Soon after, Reva arrives at the holding cell where Vect and his crew are still drugged, expecting to find a captive Kenobi. As the Jedi and senator’s daughter slip unnoticed into the seedy streets, Reva is intercepted by her inquisitor peers. The Grand Inquisitor refers to the Third Sister as: “The least of us,” and continues: “You came to us from the gutter.” This explains the respect she showed Owen for protecting his family in the previous episode.
The Grand Inquisitor seeks to capture Obi-Wan himself and tells Reva to stand down. Her response is to notify Daiyu’s underworld of Kenobi’s presence, including Haja Estree.
What follows is a charming back and forth between Leia and Kenobi, that gave us serious Child and Mando, and Hunter/Wrecker and Omega vibes. The Jedi-in-hiding soon notices a goon carrying a datapad with his face on it. The pair head for the safety of a dark alley, where Obi-Wan is forced to pacify a bounty hunter.
Things turn sour when the unconscious bounty hunter’s holopad begins beeping and displaying an image of Kenobi’s wanted mug. With her mysterious savior still unwilling to give any answers, this is enough to send the still unconvinced Leia running.
A chase across rooftops ensues, all the while bounty hunters are closing in on Kenobi’s position and firing at the errant Jedi. Reva – who is surveying the surrounding area from a vantage point – notices the commotion and gives chase. The inquisitor jumps, flips and wall-walks her way across buildings in an occasionally awkward, yet powerful display of Jedi athleticism.
Meanwhile, a cornered Leia decides to jump across a lengthy gap between buildings, rather than get caught once again by her disingenuous pursuer. This is a bad idea and the girl misses, grabbing hold of a wire, momentarily, before plummeting to the ground screaming: “Ben!”
Obi-Wan reaches out to the force. His pained expression conveys the tremendous amount of effort it now takes him to do something that was as natural as breathing 10 years ago. Inches from the ground, Leia’s falling body stops and she is slowly lowered to the floor.
While Obi-Wan and Leia watch from a side alley as the imperials lock down the city and thwart their escape, bounty hunting droid, 1-JAC, sneaks up on them. But before it can do anything, charming con artist Haja, blasts the machine. A surprised Obi-Wan fears the worst, but the rogue points the pair of fugitives towards a nearby cargo port where they can stow away on an automated ship: “It’ll take you to Mapuzo. They’ll be waiting.”
When Obi-Wan questions who will be waiting, Estree simply replies: “There are people out there, people who can help you.” With no other options, the Jedi master chooses to take Haja’s word but Reva isn’t far behind.
Not long after Kenobi and Leia leave, Haja confronts Reva to buy them time, but the inquisitor simply slams him against a wall and uses the force to read to his mind. This provides some insight into the Third Sister’s strong abilities – bolstered earlier in the episode when the Grand Inquisitor tells her: “Your ability gave you station, but all the power in the world can’t mask the stench beneath.”
Upon entering the cargo port Obi-Wan and Leia have what is easily their most emotional exchange. The young girl assertively attempts to quell Kenobi’s misgivings about Haja’s escape plan, when she questions his puzzled expression. He replies: “Nothing, you just remind me of someone. She was fearless, too. And stubborn.” Leia’s inclusion in “Obi-Wan Kenobi” seems somewhat ironic following president of Lucasfilm Kathleen Kennedy’s recent comments to Vanity Fair, casting doubt on the company’s desire to recast fan favourites.
On the contrary, Vivien Lyra Blair’s Leia is a shining example of recasting done right, much like Donald Glover’s portrayal of charming rogue, Lando Calrissian.
As Obi-Wan and Leia head for their cargo ship, Reva catches up with them. Hidden behind boxes of freight, Kenobi tells Leia to slip onto the ship while he readies himself for a fight. He grasps his lightsaber hilt with much uncertainty, as Reva paces amongst the various containers while taunting him by saying: “Lord Vader will be pleased.” This cuts to a close-up of Kenobi’s shocked expression as the Third Sister offers mock sympathy: “You didn’t know? He’s alive, Obi-Wan.”
Once again, the Grand Inquisitor arrives to spoil his insubordinate comrade’s plans. But this time, his insistence that she stand down proves too much and she plunges her blade into her superior’s belly.
This may prove somewhat troublesome for Star Wars buffs, who will know that the Grand Inquisitor is a main antagonist in “Star Wars Rebels”, set after the events of “Obi-Wan Kenobi”. However, this is “Star Wars”, a universe with clones, bacta tanks, cyborgs and characters who can shrug off mortal wounds like paper cuts, so we’re not counting him out just yet…
The infighting provides Obi-Wan with the chance he needs to slip away and join Leia onboard the cargo ship.
The episode ends with the teaser we’ve all been waiting for. A now horror-struck Obi-Wan whispers: “Anakin,” as the screen cuts to Darth Vader (Hayden Christensen) suspended in his bacta tank, just as the Dark Lord opens his eyes in acknowledgement of his old master’s presence, against a chilling backdrop of hissing breaths.
If you’re expecting another super-cool spaghetti western in space like “The Mandalorian” or a fan-service-filled action-packed romp like ‘The Book of Boba Fett‘, “Obi-Wan Kenobi” could prove a jarring change of pace. But if you’re happy to absorb arguably the most nuanced Star Wars offering yet and embrace the first two episodes’ tendency to leave you on tender hooks, you’ll get the most out of it. And yet, regardless of what camp you currently find yourself in, “Obi-Wan Kenobi’s” biggest strength is where it’s headed. The tension is building and the pay-off promises to be more explosive than Starkiller Base.