into the galaxy Star Wars is huge, and with its streaming series, Disney looks set to explore every corner of it. So far, it has had varying degrees of success. The Mandalorian is the best new Star Wars character in years, but it turns out I don’t need to know much more about what Boba Fett is up to. Now we have Obi-Wan Kenobi, starring Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), who aims to fill the gap between the original two trilogies. And for the first two episodes at least it works – Obi-Wan plays the hits and reminds me why I really care Star Wars to start with.
This review contains spoilers for the first two episodes of Obi-Wan.
Obi-Wan takes place ten years after the events of Revenge of the Sith and begins with a very helpful summary that cuts the key parts of the prequel trilogy down to just a few minutes. You don’t have to worry about midi-chlorians or Watto. All that matters is the tumultuous and tragic relationship between Obi-Wan and Anakin. After the recap, the show shifts to the tragedy at the Jedi Temple so you remember why Obi-Wan is hiding. (This scene may be difficult for some viewers to watch after recent events in Texas.)
Ten years later, Ben, as he likes to be called, is the hermit we first met A new hope† Each day, he clocks in for a shift at the desert meat factory before heading home to sleep in a cave. When he has some spare time, he spies on Luke Skywalker and his family, looking for any sign of latent Force abilities so he can start Luke’s training. No one seems to like poor Ben. A Jawa tells him how much to wash, while Luke’s Uncle Owen (Joel Edgerton) is downright hostile. So Ben mostly keeps it to himself – and for good reason. Early on in episode one, a trio of Jedi-hunting Inquisitors land on Tatooine looking for Jedi to, well, hunt. One of them, a brash young inquisitor known as the Third Sister (Moses Ingram), seems almost determined to find Obi-Wan in particular.
But the show isn’t just set on Tatooine. †satisfying.) The other side of the story follows Luke’s twin sister Leia (Vivien Lyra Blair), who is now being raised as a princess on Alderaan. However, she has no interest in royal life and spends most of her time shrugging off responsibilities to play with a cute droid named Lola in the woods. Eventually, her tendency to run away gets in trouble when a gang of outlaws (whose leader is played by Flea, the bassist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers) kidnap her. This all turns out to be part of the Third Sister’s plot to lure Obi-Wan out of hiding by appealing to his inherent need to help people. And so it goes that Leia’s parents convince him to get out of Jedi retirement. He is their only hope.
The show succeeds early on by really understanding what makes Star Wars cool. And it all starts with McGregor, arguably the best part of the prequel movies, who is very convincing as a man fighting his basic urge so he can survive. The dude looks rough (though better than I would after a decade of hard living in the desert), and one of the highlights of the show so far has been seeing him struggle with the embedded instinct to become a hero. to be. Obi-Wan also has some great villains so far; the Inquisitors are suitably menacing, with the Third Sister in particular gripped by a clear and unyielding desire for power that makes her seem capable of anything.
My favorite part though was what life in the universe feels like, just like classic Star Wars† The worlds have not been painted over with a glossy CG gloss. For the most part, they feel plausible and realistic, despite being populated by space wizards and muppets. A lot of this comes down to the small details. Things like the nasty-looking cave stew that Obi-Wan makes for himself as pure sustenance or the pan-handling Stormtrooper on the neon-lit planet Daiyu, where most of the second episode is set. There’s a particularly great scene in episode two where characters race through a street market, and it’s the perfect chance to just stop and look at the strange food and strange creatures that inhabit this galaxy.
Little of this, of course, is new. At its best, this emphasis on beloved characters and a carefully perfected universe is what makes Star Wars work. But they’re also elements that were missing from some of the more recent adventures, such as Boba Fett’s book, which felt less purposeful and focused. There are still some elements that don’t make much sense here, like a young Jedi who somehow survived a decade in hiding despite being really bad at hiding and the mystery of why Leia never brought up her childhood adventures with Obi-Wan in the original trilogy. But from what I’ve seen so far, Obi-Wan is a refreshing old school Star Wars story.
However, it will be a challenge to maintain that in six episodes. If there’s one thing that’s become commonplace in the age of streaming, it’s stories that have been stretched thin in an effort to satisfy a seemingly never-ending appetite for content. There are already enough series on Disney Plus, from both Marvel and Star Wars, that would probably have been better off as a shortened movie. After 90 minutes Obi-Wan KenobiI’m invested – but there’s plenty of time to change that with four more episodes to go.
The first two episodes of Obi-Wan Kenobi streaming now on Disney Plus. New episodes will be released on Friday.