Obi-Wan Kenobi Brings the Hurt in Its Two-Part Premiere

Oh wow, okay wow, it is Friday, I am wearing a Super Yaki crop top that reads “in 1999 duel of the fates spent 11 days on trl,” the air smells like allergens, I drank a strawberry coffee, I am ready for this. Are you ready for this? Let’s go.

 

Recap

Part I

Obi-Wan Kenobi, Part I

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

It is the Great Purge, and a classroom full of younglings try to flee the carnage as clone troopers attack the Jedi Temple. Their teacher is murdered, and one of them instructs the other children that they must escape. Ten years later, three Inquisitors arrive on Tatooine: the Grand Inquisitor (Rupert Friend), Fifth Brother (Sung Kang), and Third Sister, also known as Reva Sevander (Moses Ingram). They are searching for a Jedi named Nari (Benny Safdie), who they find in a saloon; he manages to escape. We learn that Reva is intent on finding Obi-Wan specifically, but the Grand Inquisitor tells her to put this idea out of her head.

Obi-Wan is working at a meat processing plant on Tatooine and living in a cave. He has nightmares and calls out for Qui-Gon’s guidance, but receives no reply. He checks in on Luke Skywalker (Grant Feely) from a distance and leaves him a skyhopper toy he purchased from a Jawa. On the way home, Nari stops him—he’s been looking for Obi-Wan, he wants help in the wake of the Order’s destruction. Obi-Wan’s advice to him is to take his lightsaber, bury it in the sand, and hide forever. Their time has passed. The next day, Owen Lars (Joel Edgerton) gives the toy back to Obi-Wan and advises him to stay away from Luke. Obi-Wan insists that he should train the boy if he begins showing Force abilities, but Owen won’t hear of it after what happened to Anakin.

Obi-Wan Kenobi, Part I

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

Reva and the Fifth Brother show up in the town square, asking locals for info on the Jedi they’re hunting. Reva zeroes in on Owen, asking about his family and whether or not he’s hiding a Jedi. Owen tells her he has no love for Jedi, that he thinks of them as vermin. Reva threatens to kill Owen and his family if the locals won’t give up the Jedi, but Fifth Brother puts a stop to it, telling her that she’s pushing things too far. Obi-Wan thanks Owen for his silence, but Owen points out that he didn’t do it for him.

On Alderaan, ten-year-old Princess Leia (Vivien Lyra Blair) is working very hard to duck her royal duties. She is found by her mother (Simone Kessell), and dressed up to see cousins—cousins who don’t seem to care much about all the terrible things the Empire does provided it turns a profit. Leia tears down one of those cousins when he suggests that she’s not really an Organa. Her father Bail (Jimmy Smits) tells her that she must apologize, but that she is their daughter and will be a great leader one day. Leia runs off into the woods again with her little droid companion Lola rather than apologize and winds up getting kidnapped by Vect Nokru (Flea) and his compatriots. The plan is Reva’s: Having learned that Obi-Wan and Bail had a connection during the Clone Wars, she presumes that kidnapping his child will be enough to bring Kenobi out of hiding.

Obi-Wan Kenobi, Part I

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

Bail and Breha do immediately contact Obi-Wan to locate their daughter, and he balks, telling them he’s not the same man and they should find someone else. Nari is killed and strung up for everyone to see. Bail later comes to visit Obi-Wan in person, insisting that he’s the only man Bail trusts to bring Leia home. Obi-Wan reluctantly agrees, unburies his lightsaber, and gets on a transport to find the missing princess.

 

Part II

Obi-Wan arrives on Daiyu, a planet bustling with criminal activity. A young spice-dealer gives him a free sample and warns him to give up the search for his kidnapped friend—this is a place where people disappear. Obi-Wan is led to a Jedi on Daiyu who helps people in need, and comes upon Haja Estree (Kumail Nanjiani), a con artist who tricks people into believing he’s a Jedi and helps them… for a price. Obi-Wan threatens him at blaster-point into helping, and Estree gives him an address where it’s likely Leia is being held, a spice-processing plant. Obi-Wan disguises himself and causes a commotion so he can slip into the back hall. He has a confrontation which he struggles to win, then walks into the trap set for him. Nokru tells Reva they have Kenobi, but Obi-Wan breaks the spice canister he was gifted, getting the whole crew high as he slips away.

Obi-Wan Kenobi, Part II

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

The Grand Inquisitor is again upset with Reva for going over his head in laying this elaborate trap for Kenobi. He tells her that she will stay out of this fight, but she clearly has no intention of doing so, and puts out an alert all over the planet to get the people to help her track the Jedi down. Obi-Wan locates Leia in the spice facility and tells her that her father sent him to collect her. Leia is displeased that it’s one man named “Ben” instead of an entire army, but doesn’t feel she has much choice. They do their best to stay out of sight, but Leia is completely enamored of Daiyu and how different it is from what she’s accustomed to. They run into Estree again, who tells them that he’ll help them get off-world on a cargo vessel. Obi-Wan wants to know how they can trust him, but Estree points out that they don’t have any other options. He holds off Reva by pretending to be a Jedi again, but she pulls some knowledge from his mind and continues on.

As they’re hiding, Leia notices the alert on Obi-Wan, that he’s the one being hunted. Since she knows that he hasn’t been telling her the full truth, she worries that he’s just another kidnapper, and runs from him. Obi-Wan gives chase and follows her onto the rooftops, where Reva is also waiting and searching them out. There’s a firefight between Obi-Wan and a bounty hunter as Leia struggles to get away. She falls between buildings and Obi-Wan uses the Force for the first time in years to ensure her safe landing. Leia realizes that Obi-Wan really is a Jedi, and they make for the cargo ship platform. Once they arrive, he tries to caution her that this may be a trap, but Leia insists that this is better than anything else they’ve been through. Obi-Wan marvels at how much she reminds him of her mother, though he doesn’t mention her by name.

Obi-Wan Kenobi, Part II

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

Reva arrives, so Obi-Wan sends Leia to the cargo ship and tells her to leave without him if he doesn’t arrive soon. He keeps his head down as Reva taunts him, telling him that she means to bring him to Lord Vader. Obi-Wan freezes to the spot, and Reva realizes that he hadn’t known Anakin was still alive. The Grand Inquisitor shows up again to tell Reva off, giving Obi-Wan the chance to slip away and board the ship with Leia. Reva runs the Grand Inquisitor through for ruining her opportunity as the cargo ship takes off. Obi-Wan sits by Leia and thinks of Anakin (Hayden Christensen)… who opens his eyes in a bacta chamber somewhere across the galaxy.

 

Commentary

Sorry, head empty, no thoughts but BABY LEIA.

Obi-Wan Kenobi, Part I

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

Genuinely, everything is Baby Leia and nothing hurts. She is perfect. That little actress is perfect, I could honestly die, I am so pleased that we’re not focusing on Luke because as much as I love him, Leia deserves this. Give me nothing but Leia trying to figure out what being a princess even means given her place and upbringing, give me Leia running away with her droid buddy to mark ship take-offs, make me watch Luke avoiding his uncle while pretending to pod race and Leia playing pranks on her mom so that I’m crying thinking about how much they deserved to be raised together.

Leia giving Obi-Wan side eye, Leia wanting a sparkly space outfit and getting stuck with a boring green robe but demanding cutoff gloves, Leia telling space criminals that she’s not afraid of them and you believe her. Leia being every bit the woman she’ll become at the tender age of ten, and Obi-Wan balking at it because Anakin was not like this as a child. I kept grumping about the focus on Luke in the trailers, kept hoping we’d see Leia somewhere, and they skip the amuse bouche and hand me a feast.

Obi-Wan Kenobi, Part II

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

Also, when they did the dressing sequence (though it didn’t turn out to be her), I kept shrieking over her li’l slippers and tiny tabard and I am extremely aggravated at how well they have manipulated my emotions for this one. Fine. You win this round, Star War.

The thing about this show (so far, mind you) is that it’s got so much good loaded alongside a truckload of oddly-familiar bad. There’s great stuff going on here with the acting, the costuming, the sound and set dressing, but for some reason, we’re encountering the very prequel-esque mistake of forgetting to offload the dialogue clichés before you roll camera. It pops up all over the place at deeply cringe-worthy times, starting straight off with the Grand Inquisitor’s whole monologue about compassion being the Jedi’s undoing.

Like yes, we know, the Emperor will eventually tell Vader that Luke’s compassion for him will be his undoing. That wasn’t supposed to be a point of dogma for the Sith, just a thing that he said as the galaxy’s resident Worst Man Alive. Having the Grand Inquisitor spout that off weakens a later moment that had originally been quite effective. Which is the problem with fill-in stories overall: They’re supposed to make the impending narrative better, if you do them right, but that’s always a rough needle to thread. We’ve been promised that most of what this show will do (particularly around Anakin and Obi-Wan’s relationship) will heighten what we’ve already seen and know is coming. But that doesn’t mean that nothing else will get trampled in the meantime.

Obi-Wan Kenobi, Part II

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

The other place where the dialogue clichés keep going hard is with almost every piece of dialogue Reva has, and I’m annoyed on her behalf. Moses Ingram is giving her all, she’s a great actor, but she can’t cover up the fact that they keep saddling her with lines like “Maybe you don’t go far enough” and having her hardcore parkour over rooftops in a sequence that looks stunningly cool but ultimately gets her nowhere? Seriously, how did that segment get framed so poorly, she looked like she was going to reach Obi-Wan well before Leia hit the ground, but was apparently nowhere near them, making the entire action sequence the equivalent to a layup that somehow never resolves.

Of course, we’re meant to be questioning her personal vendetta against Obi-Wan, but the answer to that has a wide range of possibilities, only a few of which are genuinely sharp and exciting from a storytelling perspective. It’s likely that she was one of the younglings we saw in the opening scene, meaning that she was training to be a Jedi before the Purge occurred. Her anger toward Obi-Wan might literally just stem from the fact that he screwed up badly enough to not see Anakin’s turn coming. On the other hand, she mentions bringing Obi-Wan to Vader… which could indicate that she has a more personal relationship to Anakin. If Reva turned out to be a sort of “Dark Ahsoka,” we could get something much more interesting out of this dynamic.

I’m assuming that Reva is being setup toward a redemption arc for a number of reasons, one of them being the possible Jedi background, another being that she’s clearly considered beneath her fellow Inquisitors. It’s part and parcel of how Star Wars keeps trying to sideways glance at racism, and always does a terrible job of it: Being the relative outcast in a group of magic space fascists does not a parallel to racism make, but the script sure tries to make it sound that way. All that said, I really do hope they do right by her character because Ingram is owed that star turn. The brief moment where she got to play the horror movie villain, stalking Obi-Wan with taunts and that haunting red glow, was where the whole thing came to life for a brief and shining moment.

Obi-Wan Kenobi, Part I

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

A gleeful aside for Joel Edgerton, who saw his shot to bridge the gap between clueless young Owen Lars and the curmudgeon we see in A New Hope, and took that shot with everything he was worth. The way he shouts for Luke is so pitch-perfect, some part of my brain wondered if it had been sampled over from the film.

Obviously none of these folks are the people the show is named after, and I’ve been waiting to get to him because my whole-ass heart is shattered and I’m not ready. More specifically, I’m not ready to get into Obi-Wan’s brokenness surfacing almost entirely under the subsets of fear and pain. I was ready for sarcasm, I was ready for bitterness, or even anger. I was not prepared for the way he averts his gaze and makes himself smaller, the panic in his eyes when Bail asks for his help, the way he barely puts up a fight when others are hurting, the way he appears to have developed Force arthritis?

Obi-Wan Kenobi, Part II

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

His hands ache. My hands ache. This is going to be a whole thing for me.

Ewan McGregor said the draw to come back to the character was figuring out how you go from everything that occurred in Episode III to the relatively jovial man we encounter in Episode IV. And the only way you get there is by acknowledging that he probably wasn’t doing okay for a very long time. He’s got his eopie pal (and I do love how they stick with Obi-Wan’s affinity for animals while he always has a powerful distaste for droids), but he’s spent the past decade just existing. Watching life from a distance. Letting people cheat and ignore and intimidate him.

But the choice to say that he hadn’t known Anakin was alive this whole time? That’s one hell of a right hook to throw at your audience. Like I get why they went for it, but it’s a freaking low blow, okay? And then they immediately follow that up with the suggestion that after years of cutting himself off from the Force, Obi-Wan can’t stop himself from reaching out for Anakin—and Anakin knows, instantly.

Obi-Wan Kenobi, Part I

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

It’s fine. I’m… you know what, you can all go, I’ll just. Be here. For a bit.

 

Sand and Jawa Junk:

  • The title card being Obi-Wan’s name written out in sand was surely a Choice because all I could think while looking at it was “ah yes, the thing that Anakin hates because it’s course and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere.”
  • I have far too many feelings about Temuera Morrison’s cameo as an impoverished clone trooper that Obi-Wan is clearly terrified of (for fear that he’ll be recognized). Obviously we knew that was going to be a reality for more than one of them, but it was rough to see.
Obi-Wan Kenobi, Part II

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

  • So, Obi-Wan lives in a cave for at least ten years before eventually getting his little house? No wonder the man ages forty years in nineteen.
  • I know that the Force can do many things, but one thing it cannot do is make up for shifting desert sands over the course of a decade. Like I’m sure they expect us to believe that Obi-Wan can sense the kyber cyrstals or whatever, but the fact that he could find the lightsabers that easily is bonkers, y’all.
  • The costume designer on this show deserves every award, please give me space clothes, I will gladly pretend to be a spice dealer on a decrepit world.
  • If they wanna give Kumail Nanjiani his own show, I’m good with that. Star Wars sitcoms, y’all, I’m telling you. (Flea was also hilariously well-cast.)
Obi-Wan Kenobi, Part II

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

  • Nokru’s whole spiel about Obi-Wan being so special yet having the gall to bleed on his floor was particularly bemusing if you remember how often Obi-Wan has always gotten the crap kicked out of him. He is one of the fandom’s main hurt/comfort hubs for that reason alone.
  • The Grand Inquisitor is not dead, by the way. He’s gonna show up in Star Wars: Rebels about five years from now, so…
  • Shoutout to pink mullet girl and her well-timed spice present. I think this might be the first time we’ve heard the term “glitterstim” on screen? Which is an excellent pull from the Legends canon—I’ve been waiting for someone to use it because it was always my favorite spice name. Which, I just realized that I have a favorite spice name and should now perhaps walk into the sea.

We’ll open the comments section on Tuesday morning after the long holiday weekend, and Obi-Wan is moving to Wednesdays for the reminder of its run, so see you in less than a week for the next episode!

Emmet Asher-Perrin is still just gonna be here for a bit. You can bug them on Twitter and Tumblr, and read more of their work here and elsewhere.

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