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Obi-Wan Kenobi

Part I / Part II (Obi-Wan Kenobi - S01E01, E02) - Live Action Series

Series: Obi-Wan Kenobi

Title: Part I + II

Season: One

Episode: 1 and 2

Original Air Date: May 27th, 2022

Runtime: 52 minutes / 38 minutes

Credits: Review & Text: Thomas; Page layout & Design: Chuck Paskovics

Discuss the latest Chapter! (Discussion)

"Walk into the middle of the desert and bury it into the ground!" SPOILERS.

Three inquisitors walk into a bar and...

So this is it... after years and years of rumors, waiting and denials by Ewan McGregor we finally have the Obi-Wan Kenobi series! A rumored movie never happened after the cinematic mishaps of Solo so we'll never know what Kenobi would have been like as a feature film, instead we get a 6 part (limited) series. Was it worth the wait?

Laurence of Tatooine, once more

I won't beat around the bush. Obi-Wan Kenobi is off to a slow start and overall the series is.... ok. Not bad. Not great either. Certain things do work quite well, others... not so much. But I will explain all of that in detail very soon. Let's cover the plot first. And the plot is pretty easy to summarize since not all that much really happens in the first two parts. Obi-Wan Kenobi is a recluse on Tatooine, suffering from PTSD, having nightmares, working as a butcher to earn some credits and in his free time he watches over Luke. Meanwhile the Empire is still hunting Order 66 survivors and three Inquisitors arrive on Tatooine to catch a Jedi. But not Kenobi, they are on the trail of yet another survivor. Said survivor tracks down Obi-Wan and he asks him for help, but Obi-Wan refuses to get involved and this eventually results in the death of the Jedi survivor. We also learn that one of the inquisitors, namely Reva aka the Third Sister, is obsessed with tracking down Obi-Wan Kenobi for some unknown reason, whereas the Grand Inquisitor seems to be a bit fed up with Reva's antics and is no fan of her raging obsession. Reva thus hatches a plan to lure out Kenobi. She hires some thugs (one of them is Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers) to kidnap Leia Organa. That plan works and Bail Organa of course turns to Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan refuses to help once again, but Bail doesn't let him get away with it and travels to Tatooine in person and he finally convinces Obi-Wan to help him.

The Lars Homestead is under watch by Obi-Wan

Thus Obi-Wan leaves Tatooine and travels to the last known location of the kidnappers, a somewhat seedy planet called Daiyu. Here he learns about some alleged Order 66 survivor who helps people. Obi-Wan tracks him down and finds out the man is a con artist who kind of does help people but also gets paid handomely for his services. Obi-Wan learns the location of Leia from the fake Jedi and after some fist fighting manages to rescue Leia. However, the kidnappers contacted Reva and now she's on Obi-Wan's trail alongside her fellow inquisitors. We then get a rooftop chase, some firefights and eventually Reva corners Obi-Wan and Leia at the space port, Reva taunts Obi-Wan and tells him that Anakin Skywalker is alive which shocks the old Jedi. But he and Leia eventually manage to escape on a cargo ship whereas Reva kills off (or at least severely wounds) the Grand Inquisitor. We then cut to a shot of Darth Vader in a bacta tank and we see a close-up of his face.

I wouldn't invest in real estate on Alderaan...

As mentioned before Obi-Wan Kenobi is off to a rather slow start, which was expected. We needed to see Obi-Wan's life on Tatooine and in many ways his character is in the same place as Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi. However, where Luke's arc felt stupid and incredibly disappointing, Obi-Wan's arc makes sense. Obi-Wan lost everything, the Jedi Order, his best friend, his life, he's an exile on a desolate desert planet, hiding undercover from Imperial bloodhounds.

One happy family

In other words: people expect this kind of story and character arc from Obi-Wan, but very few people wanted to see a depressed, desolate and grumpy Luke who lost everything and that is the one big difference between Obi-Wan and Luke and why Obi-Wan's arc works and Luke's arc didn't. But the series has a few structural problems regarding Obi-Wan's arc. In my opinion it would have been pivotal to focus on Obi-Wan in the first few minutes of the show, to show his humdrum and depressing everyday life, his PTSD, his nightmares. Instead Deborah Chow and the editor decided to begin the series with an Order 66 flashback which is not a bad idea per se, but completely unneeded at that point. Then we cut to the present day and see a long scene with the inquisitors arriving on Tatooine. Again, this is a scene we need, but not so early, we need Obi-Wan first. Let him encounter the inuisitors later, let him witness the scene between them and the locals after we are introduced to his life on Tatooine. As things are it takes about 12 minutes for the series to first show us Obi-Wan.

Worldbuilding 101

The scenes we get with Obi-Wan work pretty well, Ewan has always been the best thing about the prequels and he's also the best thing about the series. But let's talk about the inquisitors. Sadly, I found them somewhat lacking. Two of the three inquisitors we meet early on lack screen presence and gravitas for me. And it's very unfortunate that both the Grand Inquisitor and Reva don't really work for me. I use Moff Gideon from The Mandalorian as the yardstick here. Giancarlo Esposito has incredible screen presence. You believe he's the villain from the very first second you see him. Giancarlo doesn't need to overact or to be overtly cruel, his Moff Gideon just oozes villainy at its best. I only really feel that with the Fifth Brother. The Grand Inquisitor however looks like a discount Pennywise and I just don't find him particularly menacing or threatening and his speech he gives to the bar owner sounds and feels off. Then there's Moses Ingram's Reva: she doesn't work at all. She lacks screen presence, she has no gravitas at all,  she doesn't come across as a credible villain. She tries her best, her lines are meant to be threatening and villainous, but it just doesn't work for me and her habit of cutting off hands at the slightest provocation is silly and unnecessary, it's the equivalent of moustache twirling.

She just needs a hug

To me she comes across like some petulant lost girl who really just needs a good hug and someone who tells her they love her, and she would probably dissolve in tears and abandon her silly emo routine. Of course it's always possible that this is exactly what the writers and director were going for with Reva. But as an inuisitor I find Reva pretty unbelievable, based on the performance of the actress. Then there's the unresolved issue of Reva's massive hate for Obi-Wan. Maybe this will be explained later, but for now her obsession leaves me confused. Did Obi-Wan eat the least pudding that one time at the Jedi Temple that made Reva hate him or what is it with her that makes her hate him so much that she really, really, REALLY wants to track him down? Even her superiors are annoyed by this and tell her to ease up. But she is unrelenting. Right now that makes zero sense. So let's hope Reva's backstory will be filled out.

It wouldn't be Star Wars without memberberries

We also need to talk about Leia, she has a surprisingly prominent role in the first two episodes. She has the most screentime after Obi-Wan, more screentime than Reva even, whereas Luke just gets a short cameo. Now this is a delicate subject matter, child actors are not adults and to compare them to adults is inherently unfair. So let's put it this way: if you need your child actor to carry several scenes and if you want your child actor to be the focal point and to deliver lines after lines of dialogue you better make sure you find Haley Joel Osment levels of talent in your child actor. Leia, as far as the writing goes, is hilarious and fun, she's spunky, you can see the adult Leia already in child Leia. So the writing is not the issue at all. The issue is that Vivien Lyra Blair, while being totally adorable and cute, is nowhere near Haley Joel Osment levels of talent. Her line readings are off. Always. And it pains me to say this. I don't blame Vivien here at all, it is the responsibility of the director to get the best possible performance from a child actor. It's also the casting director who has to scout talent and find a child who can carry substantial parts of a series with lots of dialogue. It's not BAD, but sadly it's not good either and this pains me a lot. I hope Vivien will not be the target of stupid fan hate. Or maybe I am the only one who finds her performance lacking and everyone else loves her. But for me it is a huge mistake to make Leia one of the central characters in the first two episodes. It would have been a lot better to reduce Leia to a McGuffin that gets kidnapped, with minimal lines and relegated to background character who needs to get rescued. We all know who Leia is, what her character is, just as we know who Luke is. There is no need to go deeper into child Leia's character. So why they decided to give Leia such a huge role is puzzling. Very young pre-teen child actors are primarily children, very, very few can actually compete in the acting department with experienced actors two, three or four times their age and as a resut scenes with them can be very challenging to pull off. And the series fails here unfortunately. 

Fake Jedi are a thing now

Another thing that doesn't work at all for me is the tonal inconsistency and attempt at humor in episode 2. The short Jawa scene in episode 1 is fine, it's fun, but the fake Jedi scene in episode 2 felt off, it also doesn't make any sense. Is Obi-Wan Kenobi a drama? You would believe so, the series is about a defeated character who suffers from PTSD and has given up on life, only existing to watch over his ward. So why then do we need this Marvel style of silly humor? It makes no sense, it's tonally inconsistent. Not everything requires the MCU formula where every dramatic scene is offset by quips or silly jokes. On top of that the entire plot makes no sense either. Consider this: the Empire rules over the galaxy. There is an ongoing hunt for Jedi survivors, the Jedi are labeled as traitors and terrorists. So who in their right mind would pretend to be a Jedi on a planet occupied by the Empire? Why don't the inquisitors or even some plain stormtroopers find out about that fake Jedi in an instant? How can he operate without being found out? Also, does he have a death wish maybe? This entire scene was just silly and simply not needed. I wonder what the writers were going for here. There were a million other ways for Obi-Wan to learn the location of Leia, why not let the drug dealer hand out the info to Obi-Wan? They also missed a perfect opportunity here to have Obi-Wan make her rethink her life decisions, now that would have been funnier than the cringey fake Jedi scene.   

Not 4-LOM is pursuing Kenobi

Let's talk about the action. There is almost none. Which makes sense in a way, since Kenobi is undercover, in hiding, he doesn't want to be found out. The action we do get is... bad though. We are treated to a silly chase when the kidnappers go after Leia on Alderaan. This 10-year-old girl actually manages to outrun her pursuers. This is basically Book of Boba Fett Mod gang slowmo chase levels of stupid. I don't get it. It looks comical. It looks like something from a slapstick movie, with three adults bumbling after this tiny child. They should have caught up with Leia after two steps. The rooftop chase in episode 2 is better, but still lacks a certain dynamic. You also hope that Obi-Wan will FINALLY ignite his lightsaber and kick some real bottom end, but we get none of that and Obi-Wan has yet to activate his saber. He's using uncivilized blasters throughout the episodes. We do know that Vader and Kenobi will meet, so there's probably plenty of action upcoming, but the first two episodes do not deliver here.

Obi-Wan learns that Anakin Skywalker is alive

There is also one scene in episode two that confuses me a lot. Leia is this precocious child who speaks more or less like an adult. And this in turn confuses Obi-Wan who at one point asks Leia "How old are you????". Now why would Obi-Wan ask that? Ever? He was present when Padme gave birth. Unless the Tatooine sand has addled Obi-Wan's mind he should not only know perfectly well how old Leia and Luke are, he should also know their exact birthday! This scene tells me the writers were not really thinking things through here. Why wasn't it caught in editing though? 
Another scene that makes little sense is how the Jedi survivor can easily track down Obi-Wan. How is that possible? Obi-Wan certainly didn't leave some beacon or location info behind? So how come a Jedi survivor can track down Obi-Wan in the middle of the desert at night, whereas an army of inquisitors has no clue about his whereabouts? This seems to be a massive plot contrivance I am no fan of at all.

Another thing that makes little sense is Leia's reaction to Obi-Wan's holo after Reva issues an APB on him which causes all of Daiyu's scum to go after Kenobi. She suddenly thinks he's one of the villains and runs away. Why? I wonder what Leia's reasoning is in this scene. They probably needed her to run away (and of course adult Obi-Wan is unable to catch up to a 10-year-old girl, this is really a theme in the first two episodes) so we can get to the action sequence.

The Grand Inquisitor should at least suffer from some indigestion after this........

Of course there are also good things. The worldbuilding in the series is phenomenal. We get glimpses of prequel splendour on Alderaan, the Organa family life is sweet and wholesome and even though Leia doesn't really work for me because of the performance, the writing for her is good. Tatooine is Tatooine, been there, done that, but it's captured beautifully. A real highlight is also Daiyu, I see kernels of Star Wars Underworld here, the show that was canceled about a decade ago. We get tons of aliens and colorful scenery. It looks and feels like Star Wars.

Anakin has seen better days...

And as noted before, Ewan McGregor's performance is on point, he's always a joy to see and you can feel his pain and inner turmoil, Joel Edgerton's Owen is also great, he's a very believable family man who only wants to live in peace, unfortunately he has very limited screentime. Jimmy Smits' Bail Organa is always great as well, Jimmy owns this character, he's portrayed him so many times now. It's always good to see him. The Fifth Brother is also well chosen and he looks and feels threatening. But the series also has severe issues with structure, with tonal inconsistency, inappropriate comedy where no comedy is needed, some performances lack gravitas, notable Reva and the Grand Inquisitor, and sadly the child actor portraying Leia feels completely out of her depth when she has to read lines after lines after lines and is supposed to carry several scenes. Deborah Chow, the director, should have seen this, they should have changed the script and make Leia less prominent. So Obi-Wan Kenobi is off to a rough start, it's ok, it's nothing that will exactly bore you to tears but it's not overly exciting either. I feel they should have severely cut back on the Alderaan scenes and instead focused much much more on Obi-Wan's inner demons, also Ewan is a fantastic actor who can actually deliver and carry all the scenes he's supposed to carry. But the series has potential. It's, despite some inappropriate attempts at humour, more consistent than Book of Boba Fett, but the series, as of now, is also far removed from Mandalorian season 1. Also, with only six episodes and 1/3 of the series already released I feel things will need to get rushed in the remaining four episodes. The short runtime of the second episode doesn't help here at all. There are kernels of greatness in Kenobi offset by some mediocre or bad performances, bad action and stupid attempts at humour. Let's hope the series will focus more on the drama in the next four episodes and won't follow the typical Marvel style of moviemaking.

So all in all I rate both episodes 2.5 stars or 5 out of 10. Average. Not bad! But not really good or brilliant either. It has potential to become great. But the first 100 or so minutes of the series don't quite deliver yet.

Added: May 28, 2022
Category: Obi-Wan Kenobi
Reviewer: Thomas
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