Obi-Wan Kenobi is not living up to my admittedly high expectations—leading me to question why I had such high expectations to begin with. I guess it’s just hard when you grew up loving Star Wars so much, you keep holding out hope.
Rebellions are built on hope.
Oh, and spoilers follow.
It’s hard to shake this feeling. I want to be cynical each time a new Star Wars show or movie or game is announced, but for every time the franchise lets me down there’s another entry that revives my love of this galaxy far, far away. The Mandalorian, Rogue One, Rebels, Jedi: Fallen Order. For every Jar Jar Binks there is a Baby Yoda—give or take. Or, for that matter, an Obi-Wan Kenobi.
What can I say about the Wacky Adventures Of Old Ben Kenobi And Princess Leia?
I’m just not feeling it, guys. I had a little hope that the first two episodes were just a rocky start, but this latest one has me feeling pretty gloomy about the whole affair. We’re halfway through a six-episode limited-run series and it’s just deeply mediocre in just about every way. Nothing important has happened. Beyond just the basic problem with prequels (we already know when and how Obi-Wan, Darth Vader and Leia die!) it’s just not a very good TV show on a basic, fundamental level. It is not very entertaining!
MORE FROMFORBES ADVISOR
I mean, sure, Ewan McGregor is a very good actor and he does a great job with Obi-Wan Kenobi. If only the script and the direction could keep up with him.
Alas, they cannot.
The script is genuinely bad much of the time and Deborah Chow’s direction is sloppy and uninspired. The show feels cheap and poorly edited. And it’s just dismally, dreadfully dull.
Allow me to elaborate:
The Inquisitors Are So Cringe
In my last review of this show I noted how I just didn’t really like the casting choice for Reva, the spunky junior Inquisitor and Third Sister who just wants to show everyone that she’s got what it takes to . . . hunt Jedi and make Papa Vader proud! The casting feels off to me, but maybe it’s also the way she’s written. She’s just a cliche wrapped in a cliche dipped in a cliche and I suspect she’ll be just as predictable in the end as all that makes her sound.
But it’s not just Reva! Somehow Fifth Brother gets more and more over-acted and ridiculous every scene he’s in. There’s a lot of Very Serious Grumbling that goes on between these two and the other Inquisitors. Lots of jockeying for position and so forth. It’s all just extremely generic and cringey. I want these Inquisitors to stop being Very Evil around one another and go be badass Jedi hunters . . . who don’t lose their quarry when he topples an awning on them.
The Inquisitors have shown up in other Star Wars shows—Rebels, for instance—and in the video games—Fallen Order—and they’ve always been frightening badasses. These Inquisitors are clowns.
Leia Is Just Baby Yoda Minus Us Giving A Damn
At first, I thought it was kind of a cool spin on things to headfake us with Luke and give us an Obi-Wan / Leia bonding adventure. But Leia is just way overcooked as a character. She’s wise and clever and tough and fast and dear god Disney you can write strong female characters without Mary Suing so hard. It’s not fair to female characters to write them this way. We like a few flaws here and there.
And sure, okay, Leia never listens and she gets Ben in trouble time to time and she’s a rascally one, but realistically she’s still written above her age and that makes her less interesting, not more. The thing about Grogu is that he was fifty years old and already quite powerful in the Force, but he was still a baby. He was ruled by his id not his ego, Force-choking anyone who dared lay a finger on Papa Mando.
This makes me think, maybe I wouldn’t care so much about Little Leia if there had been no Baby Yoda in the first place. The problem, more than anything, is that she’s just second fiddle. She’s Baby Yoda Lite. She’s New Coke Grogu. We’ve been here, done that, blah blah blah. This feels like a recycled plot that just isn’t as new or interesting.
Obi-Wan Kenobi Is Lame
Look, maybe I’m jumping the gun here but we are halfway through the series. I get establishing Obi-Wan as this burnt out old Jedi who has given up the ways of the Force and abandoned all hope and taken up work as a meat-cutter in a meat-cutting factory, but come on already. Enough is enough.
By episode 2, Obi-Wan Kenobi used the Force, let me see, counting . . . counting . . . uh . . . one time. One time he used it to save an overly confident Leia from falling to her death (though a part of me wonders if he should have). He’s grappled and blastered his way through most crises, and blundered his way through the rest—including screwing up and calling Leia by her real name after they’ve gone incognito.
I’ll talk more about the showdown with Vader in this episode in a minute, but the fact of the matter is Obi-Wan just kind of sucks right now. In A New Hope he had no problem Jedi Mind-Tricking a Stormtrooper. Here he’s basically a stuttering fool, agape at any new obstacle. A drone shows up and instead of blasting it straight away or Mind-Tricking the Stormtroopers into not calling it to begin with, he lets it scan him and then shoots it. QUICK THINKING BEN.
Stuff Just Doesn’t Make Sense
We saw plenty of this in the first two episodes but I’ll conjure just one example for Episode 3 (though we could definitely come up with more). In this episode, Leia and Obi-Wan are “captured” by a very small group of Stormtroopers after defeating a similarly sized group only moments before (bigger, actually, I’m pretty sure).
They lay down their arms, bow to the ground—and are miraculously saved by their person on the inside of the Empire—Tala (played by Indira Varma, yet another Game Of Thrones alumni). She kills the Stormtroopers that apparently were too much for Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi the Lame.
But after all of this, after all of their running away and hiding, Darth Vader shows up and Obi-Wan goes one direction to draw his ire, while Tala and Leia go the other, down a long tunnel. Halfway down it, Leia implores Tala to go help Obi-Wan, the full-grown man, against a Sith Lord that Tala cannot possibly do anything meaningful about. Tala, the adult, agrees to what this precocious 8-year-old child says and abandons her.
She just lets her go on her own, by herself, so she can go help the Jedi Master, who is only in this predicament to begin with because he had to go rescue Leia. Naturally, by the end of the episode Leia has been recaptured, this time by Reva herself. Yes, all of this makes total sense.
Other things that don’t make sense:
- How come the Empire couldn’t track down the huge, slow cargo ship that Obi-Wan and Leia escaped on last episode? It’s clearly slow and they know what ship it is. So...maybe go after it?
- After Vader beats the crap out of Obi-Wan and burns him, he tells his Stormtrooper minions: “Bring him to me.” But then Tala makes some stuff go boom and fire erupts all over the ground and the loader droid shows up and drags Obi-Wan to safety. Because I guess Darth Vader, Sith Lord, and his minions are unable to either A) walk around (or fly above) the fire or B) use the Force to snap the droid in half. Nope, they get away again, scot free.
Which brings us to . . .
The Vader Vs Kenobi Showdown Was Super Weak
We’ve had a couple showdowns between Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi before. In the original Star Wars, they wave their laser swords at one another meekly, George Lucas and his entourage totally unaware of what a smash hit this will all become. Kenobi calls Vader “Darth” and they thwack gently at one another until Vader gets the killing blow.
In the prequels, the two finally came to blows and Anakin was cast into the magma, much of his body melting and burning away in order to become “more machine than man.”
But all I can think watching their big showdown in Obi-Wan Kenobi is . . . why don’t you go take the high ground, dude? Most of this fight is Kenobi running away. The vast majority of it is just Vader slowly walking after him, because I guess we need three episodes at a bare minimum to shake Kenobi out of his reverie and get him back in fighting shape. They managed to do that in five minutes in Cat Ballou but here we need three hours. And then some.
Maybe we’ll get—er, probably we’ll get?—a better, bigger, more satisfying rematch later on in the season, but I don’t know why we had to endure such a disappointing encounter in the first place.
I wanted more. So far this feels like a show hellbent on doling out just enough fan service to piss everyone off.
What else is there to say, really? It’s not terrible despite my grumblings. Maybe if you turn off your brain you’ll enjoy it as a bit of light adventure space opera junk food.
But it’s not great, either. It’s fine. Totally watchable. But it feels cheap and sloppy and the script is mediocre and filled with plot holes. Even the score seems phoned in compared to the fresh, space-Western vibes of The Mandalorian’s OST.
I really do think Kenobi—and McGregor—deserved better material here, and I’m still holding out hope that the second half will be better. But as someone who watched every Mandalorian episode twice (at least) I’m pretty sure that what we’ve seen so far is what we should expect for the next three weeks.
What a shame.
I wanted to go into a little more detail on other plot-holes and issues I didn’t mention above.
First, we have a couple glaring moments that many people have pointed out that which I glossed over earlier.
- After Obi-Wan beats the Stormtroopers at the laser gate, he can’t seem to figure out how to turn it off and so he uses his blaster to shoot it instead. Of course, the laser gate is only blocking the road. All you need to do is just walk a few feet to get around it on foot. This makes Obi-Wan look dumb both because he can’t figure out how to work the gate and because he doesn’t realize he can just walk around it. I understand that maybe during filming this wasn’t as obvious, but surely once they were doing special effects and editing somebody would have seen how glaringly bad this comes across.
- The tunnel scene is very confusing. Tala and Leia are running down the tunnel to get to the port and meet a pilot who can help them escape the planet. Reva finds the secret entrance to the tunnel and then somehow gets to the other side of it, past Leia and past the returning Tala, and captures Leia on the other side. Some have argued that she must have not gone down the tunnel, but raced to the port and found the other entrance to it. This is the only logical explanation but the show doesn’t make it at all clear. I’m also not sure how she got there so fast and managed to find the other entrance so easily.
Beyond this, the show’s premise is just very strange. How does Reva know that Obi-Wan will go after Leia? What is the connection she’s discovered between Obi-Wan and Bail Organa that makes her so certain he’ll come out of hiding to save the girl? Why wouldn’t the wealthy, powerful, well-connected Senator simply send his own men or hire mercenaries or private investigators? It’s very thin, the whole thing, and comes apart the moment you nudge it with any kind of logic.
It’s also part of what we need to start referring to as the Skywalker Curse. Once any of these stories gets too close to anything Skywalker, it weakens. As cool as it was to see Luke in The Mandalorian, I think it would have been better if Ahsoka had taken Baby Yoda and trained him instead. Ahsoka has more formal training than Luke to begin with and we just didn’t really need Luke to make that show awesome. Same goes with Leia.
Instead, I think Obi-Wan should have come across another Jedi from a recent Star Wars property: Cal Kestis, who obtains Eno Cordova’s holocron filled with the locations of Force sensitive youth. (This could still happen in the next three episodes, which would be great). Somehow you get these two working together to save some Force sensitive kids away from the Inquisitors.
Speaking of the Inquisitors, one final thought on Reva. It seems almost certain at this point that she will turn away from the Dark Side and save the day. How much do you want to bet that she was one of the padawans that Order 66 almost destroyed but was brought over to become an Inquisitor instead, and that she’ll somehow recall this at a pivotal moment and save Leia or Obi-Wan or something?
We shall see. Three more weeks for this show to redeem itself. Hopefully Obi-Wan can emerge the badass General and Jedi Master we all know him as, and not play second fiddle in his own story the whole time.
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Correction: I mistakenly wrote that John Williams composed the score. He did not. It was composed by Natalie Holt.