Spoilers ahead for the Obi-Wan Kenobi series finale.
There’s a lot to love about Obi-Wan Kenobi, Disney’s unimaginative series about the post-prequel adventures of the titular Jedi. Vivien Lyra Blair is brilliantly cast as Leia, perfectly capturing the wit and spark of Carrie Fisher’s headstrong princess. Ewan McGregor brilliantly sells the weariness and spiritual defeat of his character. The Inquisitors are some of the most menacing villains I’ve seen in a Star Wars story. I liked when that stormtrooper got sliced in half by a laser fence. It’s an entertaining show, but one that I struggled to get involved with because I knew most of the main players would live to see another day.
This is a show where our characters are constantly in danger. Leia is kidnapped by bounty hunters and, later, by the Empire. Reva threatens to kill Owen Lars. In the final episode, she descends on her farm with a mission to kill Luke Skywalker. Darth Vader and Obi-Wan engage in multiple lightsaber duels. All of this would be fine if I didn’t already know the fate of these characters. When Reva came for Luke, I didn’t feel a thing. I know she runs away. When Obi-Wan and Vader fought, he rang hollow. Obi-Wan’s fate is decided in A New Hope; Vader in Return of the Jedi. The stakes on this show aren’t just low, they’re practically non-existent.
For the characters, the stakes are huge. Protecting Luke and Leia is a matter of galactic importance to Obi-Wan. Leia is desperate to get back to Alderaan. Reva wants to secretly assassinate Darth Vader. From his perspective, everything that happens on the show is very important. But to me as a viewer, who is already familiar with the timeline of the series, it all seems pointless. There is still value in moment-to-moment drama. Obi-Wan learning about Anakin’s new identity, seeing Leia’s childhood on Alderaan, talking to an unconscious young Luke. I enjoyed these parts of the show. But the overall plot left me cold.
Obi-Wan Kenobi struggles to justify his existence. He adds nothing of real importance to the larger Star Wars canon, treading on old and familiar ground again. It’s another story set in part on Tatooine. Even more supporting material for the movie trilogies. More stories about the Skywalker clan. The same could be said for The Book of Boba Fett, perhaps. But at least that show tells new stories and advances the stories of beloved characters. Obi-Wan Kenobi feels like a ’70s rock band reunited for another expensive stadium tour, wheezing out the same old hits. The songs are good, but come on: it’s time to move on.
Many new characters are introduced in Obi-Wan Kenobi, of course, including the aforementioned Reva, Kumail Nanjiani’s fake Jedi Haja Estree, and Indira Varma’s Imperial renegade Tala Durith. These should have been the characters whose lives he was invested in, but I didn’t get much time to hang out with them. When Tala sacrificed herself, she didn’t land as hard as she should because he barely knew her. I guess that’s the problem with squeezing a big multi-character sci-fi epic like this into 6 TV episodes. Some more could have given these new additions to the cast more time to get under my skin.
I desperately wanted Obi-Wan Kenobi to thrill, surprise and excite me, something The Mandalorian does in almost every episode. That show has set a very high bar for Star Wars spin-offs, and I can’t help but compare each new one to it. But when the credits rolled for episode 6, I was still waiting for it to happen. I do not hatred the show. It is perfectly visible. I just wish the creators had done more with it, if they had to. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ve seen the last of this kind of thing. Cassian Andor and Lando Calrissian will have their own shows, with more to follow. Nostalgia is big business.
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