Ewan McGregor returns to the robe in a brisk premiere of the long awaited Star Wars spin-off.
A quick content warning before we dive into the first episode of Obi-Wan Kenobi: this episode starts with a flashback of Order 66 in the Jedi Temple, focused on a class of younglings. While they make it, their instructor does not, and fantasy lasers or no, this might be a lot for viewers given this week’s events.
10 years after Order 66 (so 9 BBY), we’re on everyone’s favorite recurring location: Tatooine. Buckle in for desert vistas yet again, friends. Interrupting a regular day in the market square of Mos Eisley is the arrival of three Inquisitors: the Grand Inquisitor (Rupert Friend), the Fifth Brother (Sung Kang), and the Third Sister (AKA Reva) (Moses Ingram). They’ve heard rumors that a rogue Jedi helped out the local saloon-keeper, (those Jedi just cannot help themselves from helping others, muses the Grand Inquisitor), and Reva swiftly flushes out the Jedi Nari (Benny Safdie) by throwing a knife at the saloon-keeper’s head, which Nari halts with the Force. Nari manages to escape the Inquisitors for the time being.
Speaking of Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), here’s the man himself, now going by Ben and working as a butcher at a…krayt dragon corpse? The job market on Tatooine is slim. We see his daily routine three times in this episode: he finishes up for the day, slices off a little piece of meat to take home to his eopie, rides the bus to Mos Eisley, and rides his eopie home to his cave. When the foreman roughs up a coworker for complaining about the pay, there’s a spark of the old Obi-Wan, a fighter for justice, but instead, he swallows the impulse and goes home.
Once home, he buys a ramshackle toy starship off of a local Jawa, makes some stew, and goes to bed, where he’s plagued by nightmares of Anakin, Padmé, and Qui-Gon Jinn. Now, it doesn’t make any visual sense to edit in cartoon footage alongside that from the Prequels, but there’s so much additional Obi-Wan pain that they could use from The Clone Wars! It’ll be interesting to see how they fold in those parts of his backstory as the show progresses, since it’s very clear that the live-action shows aren’t shying away from bringing in elements of the animated series. Obi-Wan wakes from his nightmares and tries to speak to the Force ghost of Qui-Gon, but there’s no answer (yet?).
On his way to work the next morning, Obi-Wan stops by to spy on the Lars farm, where he watches a little Luke Skywalker pretend to be a pilot, and he stops by again that night to leave the toy starship on the doorstep. While crossing the desert home Nari appears and recognizes him as a fellow Jedi, something Obi-Wan denies at first before telling Nari that he should bury his lightsaber in the desert and leave. “The fight is done. We lost,” he tells the younger Jedi. This is clearly not the Obi-Wan Kenobi that Nari was expecting.
Meanwhile, on another planet, some handmaidens dress a little girl for the day, complete with a head of braided hair. Breha Organa (Simone Kessell) comes in to fetch her daughter, but surprise! Leia (Vivien Lyra Blair) has swapped places with another little girl because she has taken to the woods to watch starships take off with her personal droid, Lola. Breha finds them soon enough and hustles Leia off to greet Breha’s visiting sister and Leia’s cousins. They’re joined by Bail Organa (Jimmy Smits) and the family attends a state function, where Leia’s older cousin mocks her for being polite to droids. After he also meanly tells her that she’s “not a real Organa,” Leia, seemingly aided by the Force, proceeds to tear her cousin a new one, telling him he’s a scared little boy who is desperate for his father’s approval.
Bail and Leia later have a heart-to-heart, where he assures her that she’s their daughter, no matter what, and that someday she’ll be a great senator. For now, however, she needs to apologize. Instead, she hits the woods again, where a trio of bounty hunters led by Vect (Flea–yes, the Flea you’re thinking of) chase and abduct her.
It’ll be interesting to see how they fold in those parts of his backstory as the show progresses, since it’s very clear that the live-action shows aren’t shying away from bringing in elements of the animated series.
On Tatooine, Obi-Wan prepares to ride home for the day when he’s confronted by Owen Lars (Joel Edgerton) who returns the toy and tells Obi-Wan to leave their family alone. The appearance of the Fifth Brother and Reva interrupts their argument. The Fifth Brother is taking the “rewards for information” approach when Reva busts in to threaten to start chopping off hands until they locate the Jedi. When a woman protests that the Inquisitors have no authority in the Outer Rim, Reva makes good on her threat and cuts the woman’s hand off.
Reva then focuses on Owen, realizing that he has some knowledge of a Jedi. She threatens Owen’s family unless someone comes forward, telling them that the Jedi are cowards who wouldn’t protect them. Despite the plot armor protecting both Owen and Obi-Wan in this scene, it manages to ramp up the tension until the Fifth Brother shuts it down. He calls Reva out for being too impulsive and too obsessed with Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Leia, onboard the bounty hunters’ ship, tries to use Lola to free herself before being caught by Vect. Vect’s partners are none-too-sure about this whole plan, but it’s revealed that Leia’s abduction has been orchestrated by Reva, who is using her for bait to draw out Obi-Wan (though she is basing this off of Bail and Obi-Wan’s previous friendship and not any knowledge of who Leia actually is).
Obi-Wan receives a call on his hidden comm from the Organas, who tell him that Leia has been kidnapped and ask him to go after her. He insists that he has to stay on Tatooine and watch over Luke, and they (rightly) point out that Leia is just as important as Luke is. They can’t risk making the abduction too public and bringing too much attention to Leia, but Obi-Wan still refuses, saying that Leia would be better off if they got someone else. However, the Inquisitors find Nari, and seeing his body strung up in town (along with an in-person visit from Bail) manages to convince Obi-Wan to dig up his lightsaber (and Anakin’s) from the desert and head off-world to go after Leia.
Directed by Deborah Chow, “Part I” serves as an admirable jumping-off point for a series that could very easily drown under the weight of its own nostalgia. That’s the trouble with prequel material, we already know what will become of many of these characters, so the story has to reasonably fill in the blanks while making sure not to make a mess of what we already know is to come. The Inquisitors, while known to viewers of Star Wars: Rebels are likely new and intimidating to Obi-Wan Kenobi’s audience and each has ably glowered their way into villainy this far.
Using flashbacks to its advantage, “Part I” reintroduces Obi-Wan as a broken man, one barely making it from day to day even as he tries to make sure that some part of the future stays safe. Something that the Prequels and other material (The Clone Wars, various books) has really developed was the relationship between Obi-Wan and Anakin Skywalker, and seeing what his apparent failure as a Master and a big brother has wrought has wreaked havoc upon Obi-Wan. Here’s to seeing what he does on his path of redemption.
- The Jawa from whom Obi-Wan buys the toy and his own pilfered vaporator parts is named Teeka and Teeka’s just trying to make a living, man. I don’t know if we’ll ever see him again, but he is a treasure.
- C-3PO is on Alderaan?
- Obi-Wan was less than ten feet away from Reva and the Fifth Brother, they need to work on their Jedi-sensing skills.
The first two episodes of Obi-Wan Kenobi are available now on Disney+ and subsequent episodes will drop every Wednesday.