Since last weekend was a long holiday weekend in the US, Disney Plus in its infinite wisdom has decided to give us the first two episodes of Obi-Wan Kenobi in one go and then the next episode dropped today. Though the first episode begins with what is basically a recap of the prequel trilogy in five minutes.
But before we get started, fellow Hugo finalist Camestros Felapton is currently doing profiles of all the 2022 Best Fan Writer finalists and today it was my turn. Also check out Cam’s profiles of Chris M. Barkley, Bitter Karella and Alex Brown with Jason Sanford and Paul Weimer still to come.
But now, let’s get back to Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Warning: Spoilers after the cut!
When the episode proper opens we get another flashback to Order 66 and the slaughter at the Jedi Temple. A female Jedi teacher gives her life in order to protect five padawans, who manage to escape. I’ve heard some complaints online that because this episode streamed so soon after the devastating Uvalde school shooting, it should have come with a warning label like season 4 of Stranger Things. Initially, I was initially a bit dismissive of this, because surely everybody who sits down to watch a Star Wars TV show about Obi-Wan knows about Order 66 and the slaughter of the padawans at the Jedi Temple. However, at the time I did not know that this scene is literally the first thing you see (except for the title and the lengthy flashback), when you sit down to watch the episode, so you have no foreshadowing or warning at all. So yes, Disney should really have added a warning label.
Ten years later, one of the escaped padawans, a young man named Nari, has made his way to Tatooine, because everybody in Star Wars eventually ends up on Tatooine. And because everybody eventually goes to Tatooine, Nari has three Imperial Inquisitors – basically lightsabre wielding and Force sensitive Jedi hunters who were introduced in the Star Wars Rebels cartoon – on his tail.
Those Inquisitors, the Grand Inquisitor (a pasty-faced white guy), Fifth Brother (a pasty-faced Asian guy) and Third Sister (a black woman with awesome cornrows), come to Anchorhead to harass a barkeeper. The reasoning behind this is that – as one of the Inquisitors puts it – “the Jedi hunt themselves”. Because Jedi, being essentially noble, compassionate and good-hearted, cannot help themselves helping people in need. But whenever someone displaying Force abilities or brandishing a lightsabre at evildoers appears somewhere, there are bound to be rumours. The Inquisitors follow up those rumours and one of those rumours led them to Tatooine, specifically to this bar in Anchorhead. Because it turns out that the barkeeper had a spot of bother with some criminal lowlives and was saved by Nari, who had to use his Jedi skills to help him.
There’s something incredibly depressing about compassion being twisted into a fatal weakness here. And considering that the Star Wars universe is a terrible place, always has been and always will be, this show does a good job of portraying the generally awful Star Wars universe as just a bit more awful then usual
We get all this in a speech from the Grand Inquisitor, until Third Sister, who’s the impulsive type, hurls a knife straight at the barkeeper, forcing Nari to use the Force and reveal himself. Nari does manage to escape the Inquisitors, for now. Third Sister, whose real name is Reva, gets dressed down by the Grand Inquisitor. We also learn that Third Sister is really, really obsessed with hunting down Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Which brings us to the other Jedi on Tatooine who has been living there under the radar for ten years at this point. We first see Obi-Wan, who now goes by Ben, working at some kind of alien meat processing plant in the Tatooine desert, where that planet’s abundant mega-fauna is transformed into food for sale. Meat processing plants on Tatooine are as awful as on Earth, if not worse, and so the owners are ruthlessly exploiting and underpaying the workers. We see the foreman harassing a worker, while Obi-Wan stands by and does nothing. Unlike Nari, he will not give himself away, betrayed by his own compassion. Or maybe he is just too numb to care.
We follow Obi-Wan through his day, as he returns to his mount/pet/only friend in the universe, a camel-like eopie, played by a camel named Silas, whom Ewan McGregor almost wound up adopting. Obi-Wan even steals a slice of the alien meat he’s supposed to process for his one true friend in the universe. Then he returns to the cave where he has made his home. The only other contact Obi-Wan has is with a Jawa, who steals parts from his vaporator to sell them back to him (“You could at least clean them first,” Obi-Wan tells him) and who also procures other items for Obi-Wan such as a spaceship toy (which looks just like a beat-up vintage Kenner Star Wars toy). The Jawa also tells Obi-Wan that there is another Jedi on Tatooine, which the Jawa knows, because he stole his belt. Obi-Wan does not react to the mention of a fellow Jedi.
Next, we see Obi-Wan and his faithful eopie friend making their way to some rocks in the desert, which just happen to overlook the farm of Owen and Beru Lars. Obi-Wan tends to hide among those rocks and spy on the Lars family and particularly their young nephew Luke Skywalker, who even at the age of ten tends to sneak away from his duty to pretend to be podracing. After the Lars family has gone to sleep, Obi-Wan leaves the spaceship toy behind as a gift for Luke. It seems to be the same spaceship toy that young adult Luke has in A New Hope, by the way.
If Obi-Wan’s life sounds depressing, that’s because it is. He’s less living than existing and he seems to have a massive case of PTSD complete with nightmares, which exactly surprising considering what Obi-Wan has been through. Obi-Wan also keeps calling for the Force ghost of his old master Qui-Gon, but gets no reply (was Liam Neeson otherwise engaged?). Though only middle-aged, Obi-Wan is a sad old man who lives in a cave and stalks a happy family, watching from afar the one thing he can never have.
Jedi don’t tend to live long in the Star Wars universe – most of them die in battle well before their time or they turn to the Dark Side. As for those who survive, their ultimate fate seems to be ending up as a sad old hermit living in a cave. This is what happened to Obi-Wan, to Yoda and to Luke. I honestly wonder why do many people still view the Jedi as aspirational, when the actual Star Wars movies and TV shows have shown time and again that the Jedi inevitably fail and that the whole concept just doesn’t work.
Ewan McGregor is excellent at portraying Obi-Wan has a broken man aged before his time, by the way. Of course, we always knew that Ewan McGregor was an excellent actor, but he really knocks it out of the park here, as Andy Welch points out in his review at The Guardian.
Obi-Wan’s secret gift to Luke is not appreciated, as he finds out when Owen Lars (played once again by Joel Edgerton who played him in the prequels) confronts him in the streets of Anchorhead on the very next day to return the toy and tell Obi-Wan in no uncertain terms to keep the hell away from his family. Owen goes full Papa Bear on Obi-Wan here and tells him that Obi-Wan doesn’t really care about Luke at all, he only cares if Luke is manifesting Force abilities. Obi-Wan tries to tell Owen that Luke needs to know that there is more to life than Owen’s farm, that there is a big galaxy out there and also that Luke needs to be trained. “Like you trained his father?” Owen counters and you can see on Obi-Wan’s face that this blow really hit the point.
IMO, Owen and Beru Lars (and Bail and Breha Organa, for that matter, but more about them later) have never gotten the credit they deserve for raising Luke (and Leia) to grow up into good people who don’t succumb to the Dark Side of the Force. It’s also telling that in no version of what happens after Return of the Jedi do Luke or Leia ever name any of their kids after the people who actually raised them, while Obi-Wan/Ben gets a kid named after him twice (though the less said about Ben Solo the better) and in the Expanded Universe, Han and Leia even name one of their kids Anakin. Ignoring the people who raised Luke and Leia to be good people has always struck me as an odd oversight. Furthermore, Star Wars fandom seems to be particularly harsh on Owen Lars for trying to keep Luke on the farm and stymying his ambitions to leave Tatooine and go to the Academy.
However, try to see things from Owen’s point of view. As far as he knows, Anakin was a normal kid, until the Jedi came to Tatooine to take him away. The next time he meets Anakin (actually, the first time Owen meets him, since they are stepbrothers), he’s a troubled young Jedi with his girlfriend in tow who does try to rescue his mother and slaughters a whole tribe of Tusken Raiders in the process. Then the next time Owen hears about Anakin, Obi-Wan tells him that Anakin is dead and Padme is dead, too, and would Owen and Beru please raise Anakin’s orphaned kid. I’m not sure how much Owen ever knew about what exactly happened to Anakin and Padme? He certainly doesn’t know that Anakin became Darth Vader, but did he know that Anakin went bad and slaughtered a whole lot of people, including kids. Does he know that a large part of the reason why Padme died giving birth is because Anakin force-choked his pregnant wife? Or does he believe that Anakin fell in battle? At any rate, as far as Owen is concerned the trouble started when the Jedi came to take Anakin away. He’s not wrong either, because the Jedi and their complete and utter incompetence are to blame for Anakin ultimately falling to the Dark Side. And Owen is not going to let that happen to Luke, even as it increasingly becomes clear that Luke is his parents’ kid and not made for the farming life. Plus, Luke grows up at a time when not only full Jedi, but Force-sensitive kids are being hunted. So in short, Owen is trying to protect his (adopted) son like any father would. And make no mistake, Owen and Beru were good parents to Luke.
One night, Obi-Wan realises that someone is following him. It turns out to be Nari, who spotted Obi-Wan in Anchorhead and followed him, hoping for help in rebuilding the Jedi Order and liberating the galaxy or maybe just escaping the Inquisitors. Obi-Wan initially does his “I don’t know what you’re talking about. You must have me confused with someone else. My name is Ben” routine, but when Nari won’t go away and even shows him his lightsabre, Obi-Wan tells him to bury the lightsabre in the desert, walk away and live a normal life. “But what about the fight?” Nari asks. “It’s over,” Obi-Wan replies, “We lost.”
However, the Inquisitors, particularly Third Sister, are no more willing to give up than Nari is. And so they are harassing the people of Anchorhead again the following day, demanding that they give up the Jedi or face the consequences. Obi-Wan just manages to duck into an entrance before he is spotted and recognised. A woman tells the Inquisitors that the Empire doesn’t even have any jurisdiction in the Outer Rim and promptly gets her hand chopped off for her troubles. Third Sister then zeroes in on Owen and asks him if he has seen any Jedi. Owen replies that he hasn’t seen any Jedi and that he has no love for the Jedi, but thinks they are vermin to be exterminated. Third Sister, however, is not convinced and threatens to kill Owen and his family, if the people of Anchorhead don’t give up the Jedi. She even puts her lightsabre to Owen’s throat, before her fellow Inquisitors stop her. Owen barely flinches, when he has a lightsabre at his throat, which shows that in his own way, Owen is a badarse.
Once the Inquisitors have left to harass someone else, Obi-Wan comes out of hiding and thanks Owen. “I didn’t do it for you”, Owen replies. It’s the truth, too, because Owen does not care what happens to Obi-Wan. However, he clearly fears for Luke, especially since Luke very likely already is showing Force abilities at this point. After all, we know that he inherited his father’s piloting skills and quick reflexes, which are one way Force abilities manifest itself. And Owen probably recognises the signs from his experience with Shmi and Anakin.
The Inquisitors eventually get their man and the next time Obi-Wan is in town, he sees Nari or rather what’s left of him strung up for all the town to see. Obi-Wan clearly knows that he could have helped Nari, but chose not to.
Meanwhile on Alderaan, a ten-year-old Princess Leia is enjoying a considerably more privileged life than her twin brother. Though little Leia is not happy with her princessly duties. She does not want to be dressed up, she does not want to attend state functions and she does not want to wave at people from the isolation of a groundcar. She doesn’t want to be a Senator either, because that’s boring. However, little Leia hasn’t yet fully figured out what she wants to do with her life. However, for now what she wants is run off into the woods outside the palace with her little droid companion. She wants to climb trees and watch the spaceships coming in and taking off, cause little Leia really likes spaceships.
When we first see little Leia – or rather what we think is little Leia – she is being dressed by a bunch of servants in order to meet her aunt, uncle and cousins. However, when her mother Breha (New Zealand actress Simone Kessell) comes to pick her up she finds another little girl wearing her daughter’s ceremonial outfit. Clearly, Leia has inherited the tendency to switch places with handmaidens and servants from her mother Padme.
Eventually, Breha and some guards find little Leia in a tree and drag her to meet her aunt, uncle and cousin. At the reception that follows, the uncle reveals himself as an Imperial profiteer (“Finally, we can make some money”) who gets rich of slave labour. Leia trades some barbs with her older cousin who first insults her for thanking a droid (“It’s good manners”, Leia says, and yes, that droid not only looks like C-3PO, but actually is him, played by Anthony Daniels even) and then tells her she’s not a real Organa, whereupon Leia tells the cousin that he wants nothing more than be like his father, but that he never will be and that he’ll always be a failure. In general, little Leia shows some remarkable psychological insight into people she meets, which I strongly suspect are her Force abilities manifesting themselves. After all, we know that Leia is telepathic.
Vivien Lyra Blair, the young actress who play little Leia, is amazing in the role and truly channels Carrie Fisher, as both Tor.com reviewer Emmet Asher-Perrin, io9 reviewer Germain Lussier and Ben Sherlock of ScreenRant point out. I have no problems believing that one day, this little girl will grow up to become the Leia we all know and love. When little Leia is uncertain about what she wants out of life, only that waving behind glass isn’t it, you want to hug her and tell her that she’ll find her purpose and that she’ll have an amazing life, that she’ll have lots of friends, a brother and that she’ll get to kiss (and more) the hottest space rogue in the galaxy.
We have never seen more of Alderaan than a brief glimpse at the end of Revenge of the Sith, when Bail Organa brings baby Leia home. It does look uncannily like a California woodland with some futuristic white spires added. On the one hand, I really like seeing more about Leia’s (and Luke’s, though we haven’t seen much of him yet) childhood, since the movies completely skipped over this part of the story. On the other hand, those scenes are also disturbing, because we know what will happen to Alderaan. We know that those forests and futuristic spires as well as all the people we see, including Bail and Breha Organa, will be blasted to smithereens by the Death Star. Just as we watch Owen and Beru Lars knowing that both will be murdered by Imperial Stormtroopers, while trying to protect their adoptive kid.
As soon as she can slip away, little Leia and her droid pal run off for the woods again. But this time, she runs straight into trouble in the form of a sinister and strangely familiar looking fellow who looks as if he stepped right out of a late 1980s cyberpunk influenced science fiction film. As for why the fellow looks familiar, that’s because he’s Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who also has an acting career going back to the 1980s.
For a ten-year-old, little Leia is quite formidable and leads her would-be kidnappers on a chase through the forest. However, she is also still only ten years old and so she is eventually caught and taken away by the kidnappers on their spaceship. The lead kidnapper tells little Leia that she’ll never see her family again, whereupon Leia stares him down and tells him that yes, she will see them again and that her father will send an army and then her kidnappers will be very sorry. At this moment, you can clearly see the woman who will face down Darth Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin some ten years later in this little girl.
Bail and Breha are understandably frantic, once they realise that little Leia has been kidnapped, especially since there is no ransom demand. And so they contact the one person they know they can trust to get her back, namely Obi-Wan. When his holographic communicator starts beeping, Obi-Wan has to dig through his possessions to find it. He also tells Bail and Breha that he’s not the man they remember, that he can’t help them and besides, he must stay on Tatooine to watch over Luke.
We all know that the original Star Wars movie a.k.a. A New Hope closely followed the “hero’s journey” template according to Joseph Campbell, since George Lucas was never shy talking about it and Campbell was very likely grateful to Lucas, since the Star Wars connection helped to sell a whole lot of copies of The Hero With a Thousand Faces, which had been a fairly obscure folkloristic popular science book before then.
One part of the hero’s journey is the “refusal of the call”, where the hero (or heroine) initially refuses the call to adventure. In A New Hope, this is the moment where Luke tells Obi-Wan that he can’t go with him to Mos Eisley, let alone Alderaan, because he has to be home for dinner. And in A New Hope, the refusal of the call feels organic, though in many other cases, it feels shoehorned in, as if the protagonist only refuses the call, because the hero’s journey requires this step. One example is the 2002 He-Man and the Masters of the Universe cartoon, where Prince Adam, when he is taken to Castle Grayskull on his sixteenth birthday and informed that he is the chosen hero to defend the secrets of Castle Grayskull and all of Eternia, tells the Sorceress that she’s got the wrong person, that he’s not the hero type and why doesn’t she ask Man-at-Arms who’s standing right there and clearly would make a much better hero. On the one hand, it is sweet that Adam immediately thinks Duncan is the one who should be the hero to defend Eternia, but on the other hand, the whole scene also doesn’t fit the characters or any other version of this story, because one thing that all versions of Masters of the Universe have always stressed is that Adam not only is brave and heroic, he also wants to be recognised as a hero in his own right. At any rate, Prince Adam never strikes me as someone who would refuse the call to adventure, but the hero’s journey requires that he does.
Obi-Wan, on the other hand, does not only repeatedly refuse the call to adventure – when the foreman bullies a co-worker, when Nari asks him for help, when Third Sister threatens Owen and the rest of the people of Anchorhead, when Bail and Breha ask him to find Leia – he literally buries his head in the sands of Tatooine so he won’t have to hear the call to adventure. It’s a great subversion of both the hero’s journey and expectations in general, since so far we have only known Obi-Wan as the Jedi who will immediately launch himself into action. This repeated refusal of the call shows how much he has changed and how broken he truly is.
Coincidentally, it also shows how twisted and Empire and its Inquisitors truly are, because they literally use the Jedi’s natural compassion and desire to help those in need against them. Obi-Wan was only able to stay hidden for so long, because he hardened his heart against the plea of anybody in need. And – as it turns out – Third Sister is using both Obi-Wan compassion and his old friendship with Bail Organa against him and orchestrated the kidnapping of little Leia in order to draw Obi-Wan out. Though she clearly has no idea of the much greater prize she has caught, namely the daughter of Darth Vader himself.
The next evening, Obi-Wan find Bail Organa himself (still played by Jimmy Smits who has by now gone from “Hey, that guy from L.A. Law and NYPD Blue plays Leia’s Dad” to “Did you know Bail Organa used to be in L.A. Law and NYPD Blue?”) in his cave, waiting for him. Obi-Wan is not happy to see him and tries his full sticking his head in the sand and refusing the call routine again, but Bail won’t have any of that. And so Obi-Wan digs up his lightsabre as well as Anakin’s from the spot where he buried them in the desert. And yes, even with Jedi powers it’s amazing that he found the box again, considering I managed to lose a treasure chest I buried in my parents’ own garden, which is considerably smaller than the desert of Tatooine. Then he gets on a transport – as a down and out ex-Jedi, he no longer has his own ship – and heads for a planet named Daiyu to rescue Leia.
Daiyu looks amazing, a Blade Runner-esque hive of scum and villainy straight out of a 1980s cyberpunk novel. Even though Blade Runner actually came out a year before Return of the Jedi and cyberpunk started up almost directly after the Star Wars boom, Star Wars itself has never really embraced cyberpunk tropes and aesthetics until fairly recently and a lot of fans were not happy when it did. However, I really like how the various recent Star Wars TV shows not only go back to inspirations of the original Star Wars such as Italian westerns and samurai films, but also to works, styles and trends that came out around the same time and could well have inspired Star Wars, only that we have no record of it. So cyberpunky neon hellscape of Daiyu absolutely fits into Star Wars.
Obi-Wan wanders around the wretched hive of scum and villainy that is Daiyu, asks questions and claims he is looking for his lost daughter. A drug-dealing punk girl (played by Ewan McGregor’s real life daughter Rose McGregor) tells him to give up, that he’ll never find her and then gives him a free sample of her wares, so he can forget his mission. Obi-Wan also has a brief encounter with a decommissioned and homeless clone trooper (played by Temuera Morrison in a cameo that’s both squeeworthy and disturbing for showing that the Empire treats even its most loyal troops like shit) who’s reduced to begging on the streets. And yes, that’s also very obviously a comment on the problem of homeless military veterans in the US, because Star Wars has always been political. Obi-Wan is clearly terrified – Does he know this particularly trooper by any chance? And does the trooper recognise him?
Shortly thereafter, a street kid approaches Obi-Wan and tells him that there is a Jedi on Daiyu who helps people… for a price. Intrigued, Obi-Wan follows the kid – Jedi help would be welcome – and meets Haja Estree, played by Kumail Nanjiani of Eternals fame, who’s also a huge geek in real life. Haja Estree is not a Jedi, but a skilled con artist pretending to be a Jedi via magnets, fake mind control and other tricks. He really does help people and in his introductory he helps a woman and her Force sensitive kid escape Daiyu, though he also fleeces his victims.
Now a con artist pretending to be a Jedi was not even remotely on my list of things I expected to see in a Star Wars series, though it also makes complete sense, because with the Jedi already passing into legend at this point, the existence of a con artist using the legend of the Jedi for his own ends is not unlikely at all. Obi-Wan, however, is appalled and threatens Estree with his blaster – no lightsabre or Jedi powers required for this fraudster – and gets him to tell him where Leia’s kidnappers are.
It turns out that Leia is being held in a drug-processing facility. Obi-Wan sneaks in, pretending to be one of the workers processing and packing the drugs. He breaks open a door and finds what he thinks is Leia, but it’s really just a droid in a cloak tied to a chair. Turns out it’s a trap – cue Admiral Ackbar voice – and Obi-Wan soon finds himself surrounded by Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers (apparently, his character is called Vect Nokru) and his thugs who proceed to kick the crap out of him. This is the point where we realise that Obi-Wan truly is not the man nor the warrior he used to be, since his fighting – and as we will see later in the episode, Force skills – have gone rusty. His brain is still sharp, however, and though he throws the vial of Spice the drug-dealing punk girl gave him onto the floor. Obi-Wan holds his breath and replaces his respirator mask, while Vect Nokru and his thugs get a noseful of Spice and are drugged out of their minds for the next hour or so. It is interesting that the Spice we saw in an episode of The Book of Boba Fett was sand-coloured, but this stuff is red. Do drug dealers mix colour into spice or are there differently coloured types of the stuff? And can we maybe find a better name for it, especially considering that “Spice” was cribbed wholesale from Dune?
Obi-Wan finally finds the real Leia and is promptly hit be her with a chair, because Leia has already freed herself with the help of her little droid Lola (who unfortunately was badly damaged in the attempt). Even at the age of ten, Leia is not particularly impressed by people trying to rescue her and let’s Obi-Wan know in no uncertain terms, that she expected an army rather than an old man named Ben. And no, Leia will definitely not pretend to be his daughter, because as far as she is concerned, he looks old enough to be her grandfather.
Little Leia continues to be a handful, because when Obi-Wan ditched the drug-processing worker device and decides to buy some clothes for little Leia, Leia is not at all happy with the dull Yoda-green poncho Obi-Wan selects and would rather have something sparkling and pretty. “We’re trying not to draw attention to ourselves,” an exasperated Obi-Wan explains and buys the boring poncho, though he does relent on sparkly cut off gloves.
Meanwhile, Third Sister has arrived and finds Vect Nokru and his hench people drugged up to their gills. She is not happy that Obi-Wan has escaped again, but at least she knows that he is on Daiyu now. And so she places a huge bounty on his head and sends a message to every bounty hunter and other criminal on Daiyu. And since Daiyu is a cyberpunky criminal hellhole, there are a lot of them.
Worse, Leia chances to see the holo on the wrist communicator of a random lowlife, notes that this is the guy who rescued her, but that his name is not Ben, as he claimed, but Obi-Wan. So Leia – who after all has just been kidnapped and was rescued by a guy she’s never seen before and isn’t sure she can trust – decides that Obi-Wan is no more trustworthy than her kidnappers and may in fact be one of them. Also, he lied about being a Jedi and even at the age of ten, Leia realises that all of the people with the blasters are after Obi-Wan because he is a Jedi and that she’s about to get caught in the crossfire. So she runs off and Obi-Wan now has to chase after Leia, while trying to dodge bounty hunters left, right and centre.
This turns into a thrilling chase across the rooftops of Daiyu, which takes up the bulk of episode 2. Guardian reviewer Stuart Heritage isn’t entirely sure if a series focussing on Obi-Wan between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope needed to be made at all, but he really enjoyed the action scenes and he is right, too, because the action and fight scenes are very good, especially since they show Obi-Wan very much not in top form and also trying to hide his Jedi skills, lest he be recognised.
This multiple way chase eventually leads to Obi-Wan getting cornered by two bounty hunters on a rooftop, while trying to persuade Leia not to make the jump across the gap to another rooftop, because the gap is too wide for her little legs, while on another rooftop, Third Sister stands in best Batman manner, observes the laser fire and knows she has found her quarry.
Leia, being the stubborn type, tries to make the jump and of course doesn’t make it, but winds up clinging to a wire, so Obi-Wan now has to rescue her from falling to her death by using the Force in what appears to be the first time in ten years or so. And while using the Force to lift up a ten-year-old kid wouldn’t have been a challenge for Obi-Wan in the old days, it clearly is now, since he is visibly straining to hold Leia and gently set her down. Tor.com reviewer Emmet Asher-Perrin calls it Force athritis and that’s exactly what it looks like.
AV-Club reviewer Sam Barsanti points out that Leia meeting Obi-Wan ten years before the events of A New Hope does mess up continuity, since there is no indication that Leia knew who Obi-Wan was, when she sent out the holographic SOS hidden inside R2-D2. However, there is also no indication that she didn’t know who he was either. Also, it never made sense to me that Leia would name her only child after a man she only briefly saw once, as he was being cut down by Darth Vader with a lightsabre. Never mind that only Luke called Obi-Wan Ben, while Leia calls him Obi-Wan and General in her message. However, if Leia actually met Obi-Wan as Ben, it makes a lot more sense that she would name her son after him.
At one point, Obi-Wan tells little Leia that she reminds him of someone. Of course, we all think that he is going to say Anakin, but instead he talks about Padmé, though he does not say her name. When Leia asks about this, Obi-Wan tells her that she was a friend and a leader and that she died a long time ago. Are those the seeds that persuade little Leia that she, too, can be a leader and that being a princess need not mean waving at people from groundcars? Time will tell.
Meanwhile, the street kid which led Obi-Wan to the false Jedi Haja Estree has also seen the Wanted holo and bounty offered and immediately runs to Estree to tell him that they had a really big fish on the hook and let him go. Estree pales, once he realises that he just met an actual bona-fide Jedi, and heads out into the mean streets of Daiyu. He catches up with Obi-Wan just after he has saved little Leia from certain death, tells him that the passenger spaceport has been shut down and is being monitored, but that there is an automated cargo port they can use to escape. Estree also gives Obi-Wan an access key. When Obi-Wan asks Estree why he’s suddenly helping them, Estree replies that he’s trying to make amends, before sending Obi-Wan on his way.
Is Estree honest and is a really just someone trying to make his way in a hostile galaxy anyway he can? It’s possible and Star Wars has its share of criminals and outlaws with a heart of gold, see Han Solo and most of the cast of The Mandalorian. Or is he running a longer con? Neither we nor Obi-Wan can be sure, but Obi-Wan also has no other choice and sets off for the cargo port, Leia in tow. Shortly thereafter, Third Sister tracks down Estree. “Those are magnets, right?” Estree asks, as Third Sister force-chokes him.
Though Third Sister has problems of her own, because the Grand Inquisitor, Fifth Brother and a Sister whose ordinal number I did not catch also show up on Daiyu. Third Sister gets dressed down for ignoring orders and going after Obi-Wan once again. Wheen she tries telling the Grand Inquisitor that her plan worked and that Obi-Wan is here now, Grand Inquisitor informs her that he will be the one to bring in Kenobi, not Third Sister. Third Sister, however, is having none of this and cuts down the Grand Inquisitor, which apparently messes up the continuity of Star Wars Rebels, but since I never watched the various animated shows, I don’t particularly care.
This is as good a moment as any to note that Third Sister makes an awesome addition to the Star Wars villain roster. At io9, Justin Carter notes that she is unpredictable, more than slightly unhinged and that her obsessions with Obi-Wan is not explained, at least not so far, though she really has it in for him. Though it’s not just her unpredictability that brings her into conflict with her superiors, but also the fact that to them, she is gutter scum and “the least of them”. However, Third Sister is ambitious and wants to impress Darth Vader himself. Moses Ingram is fabulous in the role of this disturbed and fanatical young woman. However, Moses Ingram also happens to be black and so the usual suspect are out in force, hurling racist abuse at her. This behavious is not only disgusting, it also makes no sense, because Star Wars has never been all-white. There are people of colour in the original trilogy and in the prequels, including in major parts. And though it’s been twenty years, I don’t remember this sort of racist uproar, when the casting of Samuel L. Jackson, Temuera Morrison or Jimmy Smits was announced back in the day. But then, today’s toxic and racist fans would probably even complain about casting James Earl Jones as Darth Vader’s voice and Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian.
Third Sister finally corners Obi-Wan at the automated cargo port and tells him that she has order from Darth Vader himself to bring him in alive. Obi-Wan stiffens at the name and Third Sister twists the knife or rather lightsabre. “Yes, Anakin Skywalker is still alive,” she tells him. Now it is strange that Obi-Wan was not aware of this. Yes, he left Anakin for dead on Mustafar, but has he been really so isolated on Tatooine that he never even saw news footage of the Emperor’s right-hand man in his sinister black armour? Or is Darth Vader not well known to the universe at large? But whether it makes sense that Obi-Wan did not know that Anakin was still alive or not, Ewan McGregor plays his reaction beautifully. Because once he learns that Anakin lives, Obi-Wan actually smiles.
Obi-Wan Kenobi Showrunner and director Deborah Chow said in an interview I can’t find right now that the relationship between Obi-Wan and Anakin was one of love, which predictably infuriated the usual arseholes. Once again, this is completely ridiculous, because for starters, Obi-Wan raised Anakin from the age of approximately ten on. He says on screen that he viewed Anakin as a brother, so of course he loves him. And yes, Jedi are not supposed to have attachments and emotions, but we all know how well this worked out time and again.
But is it really just brotherly love Deborah Chow was referring to? Because ever since The Phantom Menace, Ewan McGregor has played Obi-Wan as gay man who’s so deeply closeted that he may not be aware of it himself. I’m always stunned how many people miss that because it has always been obvious to me that Obi-Wan was gay. Witness his obvious jealousy at Qui-Gon’s interest in Shmi Skywalker and Anakin. Witness Obi-Wan’s scream when Qui-Gon is killed. Watch his relationship with Anakin or even Luke. I don’t know if Obi-Wan ever had a physical or romantic relationship with anybody – maybe Qui-Gon, but not Anakin let alone Luke – but the feelings are there and Ewan McGregor conveys them beautifully. And no, I don’t think that this show is going to go further than looks and expressions, Disney being cautious about LGBTQ characters because of homophobes both abroad and in the US. Witness the bizarre war between Disney and Florida’s governor Ron DeSantis going on right now.
Third Sister struck a low blow, but Obi-Wan still manages to get away on the automated cargo ship with Leia, leaving a ranting Third Sister standing on a rooftop. However, the revelation has clearly distracted Obi-Wan to the point that he doesn’t react when Leia calls his name. He reaches out with the Force, likely for the first time in years, and soemwhere in a bacta tank far away, Darth Vader opens his eyes.
I have to admit that I was not all that excited about an Obi-Wan Kenobi series, when it was first announced. Obi-Wan flat out lying to Luke in the original trilogy was a true shocker for me and one of the reasons I instinctively distrust wise old mentor characters. Ironically, I actually liked Obi-Wan in the prequels and IMO Ewan McGregor’s portrayal did much to make him a more likeable and relatable character and also explains why he does not tell Luke the truth. So the fact that we would be seeing Ewan McGregor back in the role he has made his own, admirably filling the big footsteps of Alex Guinness, was definitely a plus. It is also nice to see more of Luke and Leia’s childhood and of the people who actually raised them to be the heroes and leaders they became, Owen and Beru Lars and Bail and Breha Organa. Finally, little Leia is a pure delight.
But while it’s early yet, so far Obi-Wan Kenobi is more Mandalorian than Book of Boba Fett. So yes, I’ll definitely keep watching.