When we left Obi-Wan Kenobi in 'Revenge of the Sith', there was something off about the whole thing in a tonal sense.
He handed the baby Luke off to a waiting Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen, stroking his beard reflexively and then walking off into the desert to wait for Ewan McGregor to grow into Alec Guinness in a few short years'. The last few moments had an air of inevitability about them, but it left so much out. Kenobi had effectively failed in his task to train Anakin Skywalker, had basically left him for dead, and was now going to have to hide for the rest of his life.
'Obi-Wan Kenobi' picks up a decade after this and, surprise surprise, the galaxy without the Jedi is going from bad to much, much worse. The Empire's reach is extending out to the Outer Rim and when a group of Inquisitors land on Tatooine on foot of rumours of a Jedi on the planet, we see just how brutal and unflinching they can be. Someone gets their hand sliced off for merely speaking out of line, but more than that, the Inquisitors have been so ruthlessly effective that they're basically hunting scraps - in this case, Younglings and Padawans who have grown into adults. Benny Safdie plays one such hapless Jedi who reveals himself foolishly and goes on the run, eventually confronting Obi-Wan Kenobi in the dead of night. Kenobi, however, is far too shaken and anguished to do anything about it, telling him to stay hidden and that "the fight is done, we lost". Indeed, this feeling is compounded in an earlier scene where Kenobi wakes from a fitful sleep and calls out to Liam Neeson's Master Qui-Gon Jinn for guidance, only to hear total silence.
Ewan McGregor is able to communicate a real sense of tragedy and loss in his performance, yet still retains a certain charisma and swagger in it. Obi-Wan Kenobi may be broken emotionally, yes, but he still has that command of himself. When he tries to leave a toy with Luke, for example, he argues with Joel Edgerton's Owen Lars that he has to be trained at some point when he begins to show his powers in the Force. Even though he failed miserably with his father, he still thinks he has the right to train Luke. Rupert Friend, who plays the Grand Inquisitor, plays him like a take-off of Hans Landa from 'Inglorious Basterds' with all of the rolling R's that villains in 'Star Wars' should have. Moses Ingram, however, feels much more complex as the Third Sister. Evidently, she's got some history with Obi-Wan Kenobi (our guess is she was a youngling he couldn't save during the Purge) and the manner in which she carries herself is almost like a power-tripping cop who's got something to prove.
The real stand-out of the show so far, however, is Vivien Lyra Blair who plays the adorably and annoyingly precocious Princess Leia. It's a real testament to the show's casting that they've managed to capture that smart-ass, showbiz kid energy that the real Carrie Fisher most likely had when she was in the wings with her mother as a child. The dynamic she has with Obi-Wan Kenobi in the second episode is just terrific, but you get the sense that were it stretched out over an entire series like 'The Mandalorian', it might get a little tiresome. Not only that, to run the whole "lone wolf and cub" thing again is just too predictable.
Obviously, what 'Obi-Wan Kenobi' has over 'The Mandalorian' and indeed 'The Book of Boba Fett' is a recognisable character with a rich, fleshy story to fill in. More than that, Ewan McGregor has a real chance to act here and not simply play a masked badass who shoots anything that moves. The appearance in the final moments of the second episode certainly point to where the show is going, but it almost feels like it's playing that hand (pardon the pun) a little too early. Still, for an opening salvo, 'Obi-Wan Kenobi' is on the right path.
- Is it a rule now that bass players have cameos in 'Star Wars' TV shows? It was Thundercat in 'The Book of Boba Fett', this time around it's Flea
- Feels like Sung Kang is getting short shrift so far, do we need another #justiceforhan campaign to get him something?
- Fun little coincidence! Rupert Friend and Jason Isaacs both played the same character in this, but also starred together in 'The Death of Stalin'
- Ewan McGregor's hair is honestly unmatched, well done