Obi Wan Kenobi is the name of a character that has belonged to the collective consciousness for more than half a century now. He was the first Jedi Knight he had ever met, and from him, every other Jedi was modeled from. The character’s behavior, abilities, and personality defined an entire class of characters inside one of the biggest media franchises ever created. You could say the name Obi Wan Kenobi was legendary.
It is because of this legend that when Disney announced that the character would have its own miniseries starring Ewan McGregor, everybody got really excited about it. Finally, Obi Wan would be served justice, he would not play second fiddle to any other character, this time he would be the protagonist. This is precisely what the Obi Wan Kenobi offers in terms of content. However, it is clear that the miniseries stumbles on its first two episodes and doesn’t deliver on the promise made with its announcement.
Obi Wan Kenobi is a show developed by LucasFilm and Disney for its streaming service Disney+. The show stars Ewan McGregor, in the title role, Moses Ingram, Joel Edgerton, Jimmy Smith, and Hayden Christensen. The show takes place in the time period between Episode III Revenge of the Sith, and Episode IV A New Hope. And sees Obi Wan taking on a new mission as the imperial inquisitors look for the extermination of his and all Jedi life across the galaxy.
Obi Wan Kenobi has everything in its favor to become a fan favorite show in the same way as the Mandalorian, within the Star Wars canon. The show is being directed by Deborah Chow, who directed the best episodes of The Mandalorian season 1. It stars Ewan McGregor reprising his role as Obi Wan after his tenure in the prequels, and even Hayden Christensen is back in the role of Darth Vader, the biggest villain in the galaxy. However, as you watch the first episodes, it becomes evident that something is off.
Obi Wan Kenobi chooses to replicate the tone and feel of the prequels, instead of going into the new direction that The Mandalorian has paved for the franchise in the last couple of years. The show feels cold and the delivery of the acting feels stiff. It is really strange when two full episodes pass and there is barely any action and the character is still at a point of reluctance in the face of a new call to adventure.
McGregor fits back into the role effortlessly. The actor brings his charm and all of his acting ability to carry the show through these two very boring episodes. McGregor is really pulling a lot of work to close the gap between his version of the character and the one played by Alec Guinness in the original trilogy. McGregor modifies his speech patterns and demeanor in a fantastic way. These changes are subtle but help sell the fact that these two people play the same character and one must become the other sooner or later.
Outside of McGregor, these two first episodes offer an appearance by Kumail Nanjiani that is very welcome and raises the energy of episode two, and not much else really. The rest of the episodes are filled with strange creative choices and cut corners that make the show feel cheap. And more in line with the dreadful first episodes of Boba Fett, than with the quality that The Mandalorian has been delivering.
Deborah Chow was chosen as a director because of her very good work in The Mandalorian, but here she feels out of her depth. At no point, does it manage to upstage The Mandalorian in terms of visuals. And in fact, it feels like a regression for the director who doesn’t really find her footing, at least in the couple of episodes we saw. The visual design of the series feels off and boring, it does feel like a TV show when it should feel more cinematic than anything else. This is a miniseries, a special event, not just another season of a show.
In terms of narrative, the show really finds a poor and boring excuse to make Obi Wan leave Tatooine and jump into this unwelcome adventure. The writers could have decided on one reason among thousands, but predictably they chose the one that feels the safest, but also the most repetitive. Star Wars has been having trouble getting out from under the shadow of the original trilogy, but here no effort is made to correct that.
The fact that 50 years later, the creatives still feel the need to just go around and around repeating the same storylines, and plot points with the same characters feels very underwhelming. This might be the reason The Mandalorian feels so fresh. While The Mandalorian intercepts with characters from the original trilogy, Mando and Grogu are on their own adventure, experiencing new things and creating their own new legend instead of living and repeating one that was played out decades ago.
These first two episodes belong to a full six episodes story, so there are at least a couple more hours of narrative that can fix some of the things that felt dumb and boring in these episodes. The potential is there, we only need to tap it. If there is something exciting about the show is that it is setting up a meeting many fans have been waiting for many years. If they manage to execute that reunion right, it will win a lot of good grace.
However, no amount of cameos and references will turn a bad show into a good one. The show is really missing the Favreau and Filoni influence. Why weren’t they involved? Only they know, but it is evident at this point that the pair is the key for Star Wars to break new territory and feel fresh once again. It is nice to see Obi Wan Kenobi back, but it is better to leave that prequel sensitivity way behind.