TV review: ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ a thrilling, emotional series (if not entirely flawless)

If one of your favorite Star Wars characters is Obi-Wan Kenobi, I highly recommend picking up John Jackson Miller’s (now non-canon) novel Kenobi. Styled after classic Westerns, the novel depicts Obi-Wan coming to terms with his exile on Tatooine following Anakin’s fall to the dark side and the destruction of the Jedi Order. 

When Disney and Lucasfilm announced that an Obi-Wan Kenobi miniseries was coming to Disney+, my immediate hope was that the show would capture the same feel as the Kenobi novel. I was totally down for six hours of Ewan McGregor brooding in the desert of Tatooine, staring contemplatively into the twin sunset as the sand blows in lonely drifts around him. 

The Disney+ series Obi-Wan Kenobi actually heads in a different direction, with far less time spent on Tatooine than I was expecting. There’s quite a bit of action and adventure, and a full cast of new characters too. 

Although a part of me still mourns the broody space Western we could have gotten instead, overall I still really enjoyed Obi-Wan Kenobi (definitely more than The Book of Boba Fett, which I had more mixed feelings about). This series is one that will, I think, reward repeat viewings; now that I’ve settled in and seen the complete story the show runners wanted to tell, some of their creative decisions make a little more sense. 

What I loved

Ewan McGregor returning as Obi-Wan – need I say more? 

Alongside John Williams’ epic music, McGregor’s performance was my favorite part of the prequels. It’s a true joy to watch him revisit the character 20 years later and further this character’s arc. McGregor brings the gravitas needed as Obi-Wan works through his grief, guilt, and regrets about the past, and watching him wield a lightsaber again made me grin like a little kid. Plus, the maestro John Williams also returns to give Obi-Wan his own theme that captures the character’s layers and nuances.  

A+ Darth Vader content

Darth Vader is one of my top three favorite Star Wars characters, and I’m excited every time I get to see him onscreen. I love how extra and angsty Darth Vader’s lava castle on Mustafar is, and I’m just waiting for Disney World to make this a visitable location in the Galaxy’s Edge theme park, a sort of Star Wars counterpart to the iconic castle in Magic Kingdom. (Seriously, if they charged me $100 extra to visit Vader’s castle, I’d pay it.) The series really shows off just how powerful Vader has become, such as the way he doesn’t even need his lightsaber to battle an armed antagonist – he simply uses the Force. It’s not just awesome action sequences for Vader, though; this series also captures the character’s tortured anger and the constant pain he’s experiencing both physically and emotionally. 

The prequel renaissance

Look, I know that not everyone loves the prequels, and that’s OK. There are things I like about them, and things I don’t. But it’s nice to (finally!) see some appreciation for the prequel time period, and the return of actors like Hayden Christensen, who were once treated pretty terribly by the fanbase. I want to see more Star Wars storytelling in the prequel era, and I hope that someday the wider fanbase will also show the sequels this same type of love. I did hear some comments about how this series comes close to “breaking canon,” but that doesn’t necessarily bother me. I’ve never been a canon stickler; a good story is a good story, and if a Star Wars story earns all of its emotional moments, I’ll forgive a little timeline wonkiness. 

10-year-old Leia is amazing. 

Initially, I was skeptical about seeing young Luke and Leia in this story. I worried about how well the portrayals would work, and also whether their appearance would feel like shameless fanservice. Now, however, not only do I think having Luke and Leia in this show was an important character moment for Obi-Wan, the roles also were cast very well. Vivien Lyra Blair as Leia was perfect casting; 10-year-old Leia is feisty, passionate, intelligent, and already a leader – exactly what you’d expect this character to be like at that age. All her scenes with Ewan McGregor were awesome, and the adventure they share makes Leia’s decision to name her son “Ben” in the sequel trilogy all the more poignant. I also liked Grant Feely as young Luke, though I wish we could have seen more of him. 

Droids!

I always love seeing new droids in Star Wars, and this show introduces two great ones: Leia’s adorable little droid Lola, and the loader droid NED-B, who doesn’t speak but manages to convey nuance and emotion. 

What I would have changed

***Warning: Spoilers ahead!***

More development for the newer characters

The new Inquisitor character – Third Sister, Reva – was a very cool character concept and a good performance from Moses Ingram, but I wish the series had given her more development in those earlier episodes. The show waits too long to reveal her backstory, and I don’t know how to feel about the “big twist” – i.e. the fact she was a Jedi youngling and became an Inquisitor just so she could eventually get revenge on Darth Vader. The story sets her up as wanting revenge because Vader killed Jedi, but in order to rise up through the Imperial ranks as an Inquisitor, presumably she’s had to hunt and kill Jedi herself. I also find it hard to believe that she’d want to kill a kid – young Luke on Tatooine – even as an act of revenge.

To me, a far more interesting character motivation would have been, if Reva was a Jedi youngling, fled the Jedi Temple after Order 66, and then had to survive on her own in the underworld of Coruscant. None of the Jedi ever came looking for her or tried to help her, and that fear turned to anger and bitterness and caused her to reject Jedi teachings and follow the path to the dark side, fully embracing her role as a villain. 

I love a good redemption arc in Star Wars, but by now it’s starting to feel a little too expected. Maybe Reva should have died as a villain with regrets, more similar to Count Dooku, who realizes too late that he’s been played by the Emperor. 

More time on Tatooine with Owen and Beru

I was really glad Joel Edgerton and Bonnie Piesse returned as Owen and Beru Lars, reprising their roles from the prequels. So I was somewhat disappointed that they didn’t have a bigger role to play in this series. I wanted to see a few more moments of them interacting with Luke, and showing how they feel about the situation with the Jedi, Obi-Wan, the Empire, etc. That’s one  major piece I think this show was really missing. 

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