Spoiler Note: There are a lot of surprises in these first two episodes—if you don’t want to know anything before you watch, turn back now! If you are curious or need some convincing about the series and are looking for more details on how things start off (or you have watched and just want to read Terry’s excellent take on it), read on!
This isn’t the Obi-Wan Kenobi you’re looking for. This one is better.
When the first trailers for Disney+’s limited series Obi-Wan Kenobi were released, it sure seemed like the aging Jedi (Ewan McGregor) was going to be stalking Luke Skywalker on Tatooine and avoiding Inquisitors, while occasionally taking random field trips off planet. Nope. It turns out Star Wars fans were Jedi mind tricked by director Deborah Chow and Lucasfilm honcho Kathleen Kennedy.
Much like the Sith, Obi-Wan Kenobi is much more complex than initially believed, but in a good way. If the first two episodes of the six-episode first season (which dropped surprisingly early late Thursday night) are any indication, Obi-Wan Kenobi will take the Star Wars franchise in a bold, new direction. And much of that is due to a character no one expected much from in this series: Princess Leia.
The adopted daughter of Bail Organa (Jimmy Smits) is the surprising center of the new Star Wars series, and is played by Bird Box alum Vivien Lyra Blair. Much like the actor playing her father, Blair’s identity had been kept under wraps. After watching the first two episodes, I went through every Disney press release I had for the show and never saw a mention of either Smits or Blair. The people at Disney clearly know how to keep a secret.
While Star Wars fans were likely expecting Obi-Wan Kenobi to revolve around the Luke/Ben dynamic, the limited series takes a hard right and focuses on the young princess from Alderaan instead. It’s a brilliant move, particularly because Blair channels the sassy, smart, and stubborn Leia to perfection. This makes her not only an immensely likable character immediately worthy of a spinoff, but also a natural and diminutive piece of kindling for a Jedi without a purpose.
When viewers catch their first glimpse of Obi-Wan, he has more in common with a Bruce Springsteen song than a badass Jedi. He’s working in the middle of the Tatooine desert helping break down the carcass of a giant beast for a paltry wage. He’s essentially Mark Wahlberg in The Perfect Storm, minus a dreadful New England accent.
This is not the Obi-Wan you remember. This is a man who has given up. His failure with Anakin still haunts him 10 years later and the brave, confident Jedi master seen in the prequels is long gone. This Obi-Wan, who goes by Ben, is a shadow of the man he used to be. His defeat has shaken him to his core. Now when he sees injustice, he ignores it. When a young Jedi on the run comes to him for help, he turns him away. He still checks in on Luke, even though Owen Lars (Joel Edgerton) tells him to stay away, but Obi-Wan truly believes the time of the Jedi is over—so much so that he’s buried his lightsaber in the desert.
Ironically, it takes someone powerful with the Dark side of the Force to get Obi-Wan to begin to revert to his true self, but it’s all a ruse. Inquisitor Reva, played magnificently by Moses Ingram, is desperate to find Kenobi for reasons that aren’t quite clear to the audience and annoying to her boss, the Grand Inquisitor (Rupert Friend). She’ll stop at nothing to find the Jedi, which leads to her hiring a group of mercenaries, lead by Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea (not playing himself), to kidnap Leia. Reva knows Kenobi and Bail Organa are close and figures the Jedi will reveal himself to save the young princess. Of course, she’s right.
This leads Kenobi to Daiyu where Leia has been taken. The planet looks like the lovechild of Bladerunner and Cyberpunk 2077 and is a welcome respite from Tatooine, which viewers have seen so much of in The Book of Boba Fett and The Mandalorian that we all have to periodically empty the sand out of our shoes. It’s on Daiyu that viewers learn a number of facts that bridge the gap between the prequels and this new series.
Clones have fallen on hard times and are looking for handouts to get by, conmen like Haja Estree (played by Kumail Nanjiani, who adds just the right amount of humor) pretend to be Jedis for profit. But a much bigger reveal soon afterwards is almost as shocking as Obi-Wan never igniting his lightsaber through the first two episodes of the series.
Even though the action is firmly centered on Kenobi, young Leia is the breakout star of Obi-Wan. Before she even comes into contact with Kenobi, it’s clear she’s a handful. On Alderaan she avoids her royal duties to spend time in the forest and delivers a verbal beatdown to a rude, much older cousin. However, she also treats people, and droids, with dignity and respect.
So when Leia and Kenobi finally are forced to rely on each other, it makes sense for her to question his credentials and push him. At one point she even tells him, “You seem kind of old and beat up.” Leia has no problem dropping truth bombs. A magical Kenobi and Leia pairing, not Kenobi and Luke, is not just surprising but also intriguing.
After two episodes, it’s a bit challenging to accurately predict where this series is headed. After all, The Book of Boba Fett looked good after its premiere then quickly wilted. However, this is Star Wars so there’s always hope, which is what Princess Leia asked for in Episode IV and what fans should have for Obi-Wan Kenobi after its promising start.
Obi-Wan Kenobi is available now on Disney+.
Terry Terrones is a Television Critics Association and Critics Choice Association member, licensed drone pilot and aspiring hand model.
When he’s not avoiding Inquisitors, you can find him hiking in the mountains of Colorado. You can follow him on Twitter @terryterrones.
For all the latest TV news, reviews, lists and features, follow @Paste_TV.