Note that, as a review of Part Two, this review will understandably reference events in Part One. Caveat emptor, and so on.
When going forward in reviewing Disney+ serial Obi-Wan Kenobi, it should be taken as read that – for me – the inclusion of a young Princess Leia in the series is a terrible idea. It is the sort of ‘joining of threads’ activity that often represents prequels at their worst. It makes the fictional universe that is being depicted a smaller place, often governed by ludicrous coincidences in order to make that work. If my opinion changes, I will let you know. For now, I am putting the issue aside in order to focus on other aspects.
It is clear to me that, the one caveat aside, Obi-Wan Kenobi is demonstrating the best potential yet for a post-cinema Star Wars series. Tonally it is doing a vastly superior job of capturing that indefinable ‘essence’ of the Star Wars saga than previous attempts. It is not about characters and settings: if that were true, then the ‘grown men play with action figures’ vibes of The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett would feel more authentic. Instead, by focusing on the core themes of the original films Obi-Wan feels a seamless part of the overall franchise. There are quibbles – everyone and their dog seems ready to make a quip on social media about Ewan McGregor’s appearance versus Alec Guinness’ in the same role – but this feels a worthy follow-up to 2005’s Revenge of the Sith and a valuable enough portrayal of the Obi-Wan Kenobi character to exist.
Some smart things happen here. First and foremost, events force Obi-Wan off Tatooine and onto the all-new and distinctive planet Daiyu. There is a freshness in the Jedi purge setting: not quite the world of Episode III any more, but not the non-Force-using militaristic vibe of Rogue One either. The idea of the Jedi turning from respected guardians to fabled legends in the space of a generation was always a stretch: Obi-Wan’s interactions with various individuals in this episode help sell it a little better. There is a great guest appearance by Kumail Nanjiani as a fellow fugitive Jedi with a secret – the revelation of that secret is a great little development and well-performed by both actors.
There is also a much better sense of pace this second time around, with some well-staged action sequences and some unexpected plot developments. Honestly it feels like watching Star Wars: sure, it certainly feels more like the prequels and less like the original trilogy, but given the cast involved and the setting that can only be expected.
Moses Ingram is playing a great new antagonist as Reva, the Sith Inquisitors’ so-called Third Sister. She is obsessed with gaining power and influence, and desperate to curry favour by tracking down and capturing Kenobi. She is clearly harbouring more than a few secrets too. Ingram plays the character incredibly well, and is giving the series a worthy villain. It is also worth pausing to praise Vivien Lyra Blair’s performance as the young Leia Organa: it’s tough being a juvenile actor in anything, let alone in replicating such a beloved character. I do not like that the character is there, but I cannot fault the actor’s engaging, rather sweet performance.