Ricky Church reviews the first episode of Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi…
It has been a long time coming, but Obi-Wan Kenobi has finally returned to screens with Ewan McGregor stepping back into the role as if 17 years since he last played the Jedi Master hadn’t passed at all. The first episode of Obi-Wan Kenobi is a character driven exploration of Obi-Wan during the dark times as he remains in hiding, committed to looking after young Luke Skywalker and keeping him safe while the Empire’s power only grows. Directed by The Mandalorian’s Deborah Chow, the focus on its characters and the story surprises let audiences know they are in for a treat.
Taking place 10 years after the Jedi were virtually wiped out in Order 66, Obi-Wan attempts to live a quiet and secluded life on Tatooine, but is not the same man he was when he first dropped off baby Luke as he’s barely keeping himself afloat from despair and grief. When an old ally requests his help with a personal and secret mission, Obi-Wan reluctantly agrees to come to the rescue.
McGregor easily gives a standout performance as Obi-Wan, or rather ‘Ben’ as he’s known by now. It’d be easy to think after seeing him last in Revenge of the Sith and his appearances in Rebels and Marvel’s Star Wars comics that he lived a life of quiet meditation while doing what he could to watch over Luke, but Chow and screenwriter Joby Harold wisely take a different track to explore more of Obi-Wan’s mindset and how he became the wise old Jedi Luke meets in desert. The Obi-Wan we meet at the series’ beginning is one living a monotonous life and has nearly lost all hope himself in the face of the Empire’s overwhelming power.
On top of that, he’s still struggling with the fact that he failed and killed (at least from his point of view) his “brother” Anakin Skywalker and the death of Padmé Amidala. The emotion McGregor conveys at various points, particularly his pain, reluctance and, most of all, his insecurity hits home. Obi-Wan is a far cry from the confident master who leapt down to meet General Grevious and his droid army with a simple “Hello there,” but one who has not used the Force for several years and is shaken by his supposed failure. McGregor sells all of Obi-Wan’s emotions and the journey he’ll undergo throughout the series will be fantastic to watch.
The supporting cast does well with their roles as Joel Edgerton returns as Luke’s uncle Owen Lars. Edgerton does a nice job conveying how he sees himself more as Luke’s adoptive father than uncle as he does what he can to protect Luke, including keeping Obi-Wan out of Luke’s life. His presence offers a renewed look at Owen’s actions in A New Hope with how determined he was to keep Luke away from any Jedi, Rebellion and Imperial affairs after hearing Kenobi’s name. On the Imperial side, Rupert Friend portrays the Grand Inquisitor in live-action, taking over from Rebels‘ Jason Isaacs and he does a great job using Isaacs’ inflections while putting his own mark on the character. Other familiar characters appear in some surprising ways that promise to explore new facets to their history and change the way we see certain elements from the Original Trilogy.
The latest addition to Star Wars‘ pantheon of characters though is Moses Ingram as Reva, or the Third Sister, of the Inquisitors. Ingram makes an immediate impression as Reva through the character’s ruthless demeanor, but there is also something that sets her apart from other Inquisitors we’ve seen. Whereas the Grand Inquisitor or Sung Kang’s Fifth Brother are often cool and collected, Reva shows a streak of rash impulsiveness that matches her ambition as she tires of hunting weak Jedi and wants to gain favour with more rare prey like Obi-Wan. Ingram exudes Reva’s dangerous personality quite well and is an interesting foil to both her fellow Inquisitors and Obi-Wan.
Chow’s direction is fantastic as she focuses on the quieter, character driven moments that humanize Obi-Wan, Owen and others while also gradually building tension in scenes with the Inquisitors. The cinematography from Chung Chung-hoon is gorgeous, providing a great pallet of colours on Tatooine’s towns and Obi-Wan’s cave among other places. Natalie Holt’s music evokes John Williams’ classic scores while bringing something distinct to the table. Joby Harold’s writing is well-paced and clever and he easily captures the voices and personalities of all familiar characters. The love and care from all the creative team into Obi-Wan Kenobi is quite clear as they each seemingly recognize this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to have McGregor and his Prequel co-star Hayden Christensen (who has yet to appear) back in their iconic roles as these equally iconic characters.
With just one episode, Obi-Wan Kenobi delivers something special for Star Wars fans with its focus on the eponymous Jedi and his journey towards Alec Guinness’ hopeful portrayal in A New Hope. Deborah Chow directs a well-paced first chapter that takes advantage of its slow-burn approach by opening the door to several possibilities in this character driven story. McGregor provides an insightful perspective into Obi-Wan’s solitude and his forthcoming journey has the potential to bring new meaning to the Original Trilogy and possibly beyond. It is definitely something no Star Wars viewer, whether they are a casual or diehard fan, should miss.
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