OBI-WAN KENOBI: Season 1 Review
Written by: Jan
And so arriveth the third Disney+ STAR WARS show, finally bringing back one of the unquestionable fan favorites of the franchise: McGregor’s Kenobi: „Hello there!“ I’m not gonna bother with a synopsis. If you’re interested in OBI-WAN, you know the drill: This is a sequel to the prequels and a prequel to the original trilogy, as well as an inbetweenquel / sidequel to various shows from CLONE WARS to REBELS. Basically an "Allquel." If you aren’t caught up in SW‘s web of lore by now, you likely never will be (and maybe live a less troubled life for it).
If you are though, let’s dive right in. While the THE MANDALORIAN seemed to heal at least a bunch of broken fan souls (small surprise since the show practically knelt down before the disgruntled and fired off a true fan service spectacle, for better or worse), BOBA FETT was so hilariously miswritten that it made THE RISE OF SKYWALKER seem almost mediocre. Damn you, hindsight! So how does OBI-WAN KENOBI fare in this less than impressive context?
[FULL SEASON 1 SPOILER WARNING]⚠⚠
Worse than BOOK, actually. The show‘s highs reach further up than FETT’s, but its lows are even more so located at breathtaking depths down there on Marianna Trench levels. How this parade of nauseating nonsense was ever written, let alone greenlit to be put in front of cameras, will remain one of the great mysteries of mankind for a long time.
The show starts harmless enough, even though its lack of clear storytelling and purpose is apparent from the get go: Obi-Wan is a fugutive from the Empire and haunted by Order 66 survivor’s guilt. Also, Anakin guilt. He’s the ultimate underdog and there’s a good chance most audiences are naturally curious to see what impossible challenges the show will throw at this sad lone wolf. But this is already to be assumed after REVENGE OF THE SITH and we don’t learn anything new here. Over the course of the following episodes it becomes apparent that Obi-Wan lost his Force powers. This isn’t ever explored to any meaningful degree though. Did he ‚shut himself off from the Force‘ like Jake Skywalker in THE LAST JEDI? Or did he lose his Force access due to his post Order 66 depression, against his will? The show never offers an answer to this.
Still, as far as episode 1 goes, following downtrodden old Jedi Ben is a fair enough start to a new SW adventure, and it’s certainly more engrossing than watching an old buffoon trying to establish a crime empire like in BOOK (why?) without ever wanting to commit any crimes (why?). FETT’s execution of its premise was self-defeating – to the degree of the show just forgetting its protagonist for 2 out of 6 episodes and turning into a quick MANDO inbetweenquel, effectively nullifying MANDO Season 2’s arc of getting Baby Yoda to safety. In short: THE BOOK was "Like A Bantha." OBI-WAN is, at least in the beginning, an actual attempt to tell a story.
So, what does the show do with its premise? Something here, something there. There’s solid bits but nothing truly digs beneath the surface. Like this: We meet Obi-Wan hiding as a meat packer / factory worker, trying to blend in. Surely we’d love to learn what it is like for an ex-elite fighter to live and work like that, after a sheltered life within the shiny halls of the Jedi Temple on Coruscant, and later on as a war general? Do the unjust living conditions of these workers bother him? Same as with his Force block, we don’t really learn anything about his inner life here. The show is going trough the motions without caring to flesh out the details that would make all of this thematically interesting or emotionally resonant beyond the mere nostalgia factor.
After all, the Inquisitor attempting to hunt down the Jedi that survived Order 66 is quite clear on that: Jedi can’t hide because they – supposedly – got an itch to help people in need, and thus will always reveal themselves sooner or later. That’s not true in case of Obi-Wan. He doesn’t act on anything other than his mission to shadow young Luke. The one call to action the gets him out of hiding is Bail Organa’s plea for him to rescue kidnapped kid Leia. Bail guilt-trips Obi-Wan into saving Leia by telling him: „You couldn’t save Anakin. But you can save Leia.“ Damn, how about we pour some more salt over that trauma wound, right? Of course Obi-Wan is triggered and agrees to help. Meanwhile: Seeing a Jedi hung from some street lamp wasn’t enough of a call to action? Well. Also, wasn’t this the most Disney way to have a person being hanged?
The show could’ve done interesting things with some sort of trauma arc for Obi-Wan. How did he change during these 10 years since Order 66? What about the stages of grief? I’m gonna riff for a second… we could’ve had a conversation between Owen & Beru, starting like this: „Did you get into a fight with Obi-Wan again?“ – „Naw, he’s… I don’t know. He’s gone quiet in recent months. He’s not pushing back on what I’m saying anymore. There’s days where I almost worry about him now… “ – or write different dialogue. Don’t care. Just give us something, anything. Build character. But no, the show doesn’t waste any time to switch to plot mode, like the other new Disney SW shows. Actually, the show entirely forgets about Owen & Beru until the finale.
And now we’re off to some Blade Runner-y planet to rescue Leia and avoid the Inquisitors, as well as a city full of scumbags who just got updated on obvious bounty target Obi-Wan being in town. This is what we’re doing throughout episode 2, and this is also where the show starts laying siege on any kind of storytelling or directing or editing logic ever agreed upon by filmmaking culture. The amount of cinematic non-sequiturs contained in epsiodes 2-5 is truly a sight to behold, and I cannot fathom how any of this happened. Who was asleep at the wheel here?
First things first: Obi-Wan keeps his exact look as on the night of Order 66. Every Stormtrooper on every ship or planet everywhere would have seen a mugshot of one of the few VIP Jedi to escape Order 66, after 10 years. Or so we would assume. It would’ve been fun to see a different Obi-Wan design as well, but that’s beside the point: He is trying to hide without trying to hide at all. All this ‚Obi-Wan has to blend in with the locals‘ business comes crashing down once you realize he doesn’t put in the slightest effort to change his look. How? Why? The Mt. Everest of stupidity is reached though when Obi-Wan and Leia are riding a tram with Stormtroopers and Obi-Wan calls Leia Leia in front of them. In front of Troopers who are explicitly on the hunt for Obi-Wan and Leia. And then Obi-Wan tells some ridiculous story about getting her name mixed up with her mother‘s, and they all back off. How could both Obi-Wan and the Troopers ever be as dumb?
And why on Earth does Obi-Wan have to figure out how to disable a laser fence he could’ve easily walked around, as demonstrated by a wide shot they didn’t need to include but chose to include nonetheless? Because in this fine D+ show, character integrity is irrelevant and everything is instead dictated by naked, ugly plot - even if plot steps like ‚Obi-Wan needs to disable a laser fence‘ don’t make any geographical sense. This is not just a fault of the writing but also of the direction. There was dozens of adults on set and still they shot a scene of Obi-Wan not being able to walk around a dumb physical obstacle. Why? Speaking of direction: It’s poor overall, especially in spatial terms. Leia running away from her kidnappers looks like an action scene directed by Tommy Wiseau, and whomever decided to greenlight Obi-Wan & Leia’s escape from Inquisitor Station in E4 (strong Austin Powers vibes here, what with Leia walking under Obi-Wan’s hood) must’ve been stoned. Also, who wrote that incredible line of dialogue that says how this Station doesn’t have shields because ‚no one would be stupid enough to attack it‘. Wow, just wow.
The nadir of bad writing and direction is reached during episode 3, which sees the first of two legendary rematches of two SW legends, with their legendary lightsabers swirling around and exchanging legendary lines like ‚you should’ve killed me when you had the chance‘. The poetry! You might expect the show to take Vader and Obi-Wan meeting for the first time after Order 66 seriously. Not at all though. It’s laugh out loud funny, especially the way Obi-Wan runs away from Vader out of a static frame several times, like this was some sort of Saturday morning cartoon. For heaven’s sake, let them talk. There’s so much interesting stuff to be said between these two characters. So much tangible drama to be had. The show opts not to.
Then we reach the proto Rebel hideout in E5, and the show just nose-dives into a Lovecraftian abyss of soul shattering nonsense. Good God, that blocking: Hundreds of laser rifle shots are fired straight at the Rebels and we barely see anyone being hit. Stormtroopers never hit anything, amirite? MEME-LOL! But that scene is also exemplary for this show’s poor dialogue: A concerned Obi-Wan remarks how "Vader will attack right away, he's not patient enough for a siege". What?! That's exactly the same in this particular case: It’s all about attacking the front door. Then we get to Leia offering to fix stuff in the vents without any instruction. This could've been suspenseful: A kid needs to remember complex instructions because she's the only one who can do this, but will she be able to execute it? Nah, she just owns her way through all of this.
First she outran Bounty Hunters, Obi-Wan, and Reva... then she turned into Sherlock Holmes several times, figuring out out of nothing how Reva only uses her to get to Obi-Wan, and now she's an engineer? Get off my lawn with this nonsense. Also hilarious: Tala, the Sand Snake / ex-genocidal Space Nazi goon opening her little expository monologue out of nowhere with 'we were following orders'. Ooph! I guess the writers never heard about the Nuremberg trials and what was said by the Nazi defense in those. Considering that Lucas was obviously inspired by Nazi Germany while creating 'the Empire', this is a mindboggling writing choice.
Onwards: Reva and Obi-Wan discussing working together in the midst of a trooper platoon. What in seven hells? Then again, the show is super-fond of doing that. In a previous episode, Sand Snake talked to Obi-Wan while sitting next to another Empire communicator. And I previously mentioned how Obi-Wan called Leia Leia in front of Troopers. How? Why?
The stream of nonsense continues by way of tactical choices made by the characters: Reva opens the front gate of the Rebel hideout with her lightsaber (why didn't she do this right away?) which Obi-Wan should've expected since he was there when lightsabers ran through doors during the prequels. And the moronic character choices keep piling up. After Sand Snake sacrificed herself (throw the grenade away from you, you moron), the Rebels retreat behind another door. Which then stops the assault cold again... because Reva kinda forgot about her door-opening lightsaber! Why didn't Vader lead the assault himself if he can Force pull everything open anyway? Why could he Force pull one ship but not the other? Why doesn't he order all TIE fighters on his star destroyer to chase the escapees in orbit? Why is everyone incompetent?
Alas, we start the final episode with Vader in pursuit of that escapee vehicle. And it is here during episode 6 that the show finds a tiny bit of grace and heart. Unexpected – but certainly welcome. The final episode actually sports two tearjerker moments. First is Obi-Wan telling Vader during their second rematch that he’s truly sorry about what happened to Anakin. On the day of shooting this scene, McGregor certainly came to act. The sight of Vader’s half broken face/mask is also properly horrifying – alas, the scene only lasts for about half a minute. This was it: This was the chance to write some awesome, spine-chilling dialogue between the two. But we’re left with one single good moment. Better than nothing, I guess?
The second fine moment of E6 came when Reva knelt down before Obi-Wan, professing to her shame and guilt. It’s a well played moment – which would’ve worked much better if Reva’s story had been told in full, rather than just in random bits and pieces. After all, she’s an Inquisitor with gallons of blood on her hands. The show doesn’t care though and switches her from fascist menace to girlboss within one scene. That’s morally disgusting in a way that doesn’t need further explanation. It’s like turning Ralph Fiennes‘ character from SCHINDLER’S LIST from villain to hero in a heartbeat. Just: NO! Everyone with a moral compass would say no to that abrupt character progression. Then again: Not allowed to criticize Reva for discourse reasons…
Then again… while there was barely any setup to Reva’s story, at least there was a payoff. Which is more than we can say about Finn, whose backstory was forgotten halfway through THE FORCE AWAKENS and never brought up again in any meaningful way. OBI-WAN could’ve chosen to tell Reva’s story from the get go, making us more engaged with her. She didn’t need to be an Inquisitor (since The Empire is famously Nazi-like and quite keen on only featuring white males in the OT, just like the actual Nazis would… yes, we need more black SW characters – no, we don’t need them to be Imperial executioners). She could’ve been a citizen collaborating with the Empire, secretly trying to get close to Vader to kill him for what he did during Order 66. Reva, as it is, got close to Vader tons of times but never did anything. What was she waiting for? Why did she attack him in E5 and never before? Was she like: ‚I’m not close to him quite enough, I need to kill 10 more Jedi until he allows me into his chambers?‘ What the hell is her deal? The show didn’t bother to explore Reva. Her story is there on paper. In execution, it’s window dressing.
That’s not at all on Moses Ingram. She should’ve gotten a better script. She could’ve been an awesome addition to SW canon if written with care. Oh well…
And Obi-Wan himself? Got to be depressed and dumb in his own show, without much meaningful character progression. He also got some good moments during E6, but then again: Him saying his goodbyes to kid Leia only resonates because we know they’ll see each other once again, much later and during pretty bad circumstances. And then she’ll say how Obi-Wan will help because he was a friend of her father’s helping out during the olden wars. Ehhh, no. She would obviously say: Hey, this is the dude who saved my kid a** back then, and he’s awesome so you gotta trust him. Honestly though, I care less about NuLucasfilm‘s canon breaking activities rather than their mind-numbingly bad screenwriting. By all means, tell stories about Kid Leia and Reva. Just do your effing homework and write a story worth a damn, rather than just offering texture.
To cap this off, here’s a small selection of particularly dumb lines from the finale:
- "You're 10 years old... but you won't always be!"
Obi-Wan to Leia. NO SHIT, BRO!
- "The Empire grows stronger and bolder."
Bail Organa, 10 years after the violent purge of Order 66. No comment.
- "The only protection he needs now is you & Beru."
Obi-Wan seeing Luke to safety after Reva abandoned her goal of killing Luke. Obi-Wan just saw how Owen & Beru weren’t enough to protect Luke. Is he trying to be a dadaist painting now, proclaiming how Owen & Beru are enough protection after all?
- "Come on, you got a ways to go!"
Qui-Gonn to Obi-Wan. They got the chance to have Sir Liam Neeson say a bunch of lines in front of a greenscreen and they made him say… this? There’s nothing there. Why wouldn’t you write a bunch of meaningful lines for this? Oh well. It’s D+.
Where does SW go from here? No one knows. Apparently, Taika Waititi will tackle the next SW movie, and there’ll be plenty of D+ stuff to watch. Like ANDOR. Ew… will we get to feel the texture of Jabba’s skin? I want Diego Lunar to get his wish. Don’t know if I want to see an ANDOR show though. If you want more SW content, all of that’s good news. You’ll get drowned in new SW content in the next few years. Those who want SW to be at least solid might just sign off at this point. It’s not gonna get better than in FETT & KENOBI anytime soon.
Qui gon: "Kennedy, Beatle, and Chow,You had but one job..!"
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