George Lucas is, as most people know, somewhat obsessed with literature professor Joseph Campbell and his attempt to codify and define the idea of myth. His films have been almost entirely defined by the idea of the mythic hero, their refusing a call to adventure, and other step-by-step concepts, as if storytelling has a manual one can refer to when engineering rather than writing fiction. I remain a lifelong fan of Star Wars, and of Lucas himself, but in this particular regard he always erred towards simplicity in a way that was not always working in his favour.
One idea I recall seeing Lucas talk about was the way that mythic stories would repeat themselves. The son would undergo the same journey as the father. The future and the past would grow to resemble one another. It is something you can see in much of his three Star Wars prequel films, and it is something you can see reflected in the fourth part of Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Essentially this preamble is all a big excuse to pretend that copying the narrative of the original Star Wars in an episode of Obi-Wan Kenobi is a feature, and not a bug.
To rescue Princess Leia from Inquisitor Reva (Moses Ingram), Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) infiltrates the Inquisitorial headquarters on an ocean planet. His scheme involves sneaking in with a fellow anti-Imperial agent – the Rebel Alliance does not seem to have formed yet – in disguise. Leia being interrogated, pseudo-rebels in disguise, Obi-Wan sneaking around grey corridors using the Force to distract Stormtroopers… it is all remarkably familiar stuff. Moment by moment it is all fairly effective, with some nice action sequences and character moments, but taken all-in-all it feels like Lucasfilm is taking us for a ride.
This feels like padding. Given that this six-part series started life as a feature screenplay, it seems likely that this is exactly what Part Four is. Princess Leia being kidnapped was a last-minute twist to the previous episode, and asides from her being back with Obi-Wan at the end here, it seems as if little has changed – it’s just characters running on the spot and the narrative treading water.
In many ways it typifies Obi-Wan Kenobi in general. It is entertaining in places. In some moments it is actually rather clever in how it delicately manipulates canon to create an adventure that never really had space to exist. It is, however, entirely disposable. What it also is, of course, is an embracement of Star Wars’ original inspiration. It is a pulp serial, no better or worse than Flash Gordon. One could argue it is supposed to be disposable.