For 45 years, many Star Wars fans have had a rather simple understanding of Obi-Wan Kenobi. An assumption that the former Jedi Master just hung out on Tatooine watching over Luke Skywalker for a few decades. Well, you can now officially throw that idea out of the window. The first two episodes of the highly anticipated Disney+ Obi-Wan Kenobi show are here, and with it, any ideas you had about Ben Kenobi on Tatooine are gone. And they’re gone thanks to some very big, very surprising story reveals. Let’s dig into it.
Before we see Obi-Wan, though, the premiere episode begins in an almost unfortunate way. Mere days after almost two dozen children were murdered in a Texas elementary school in our world, to see the gruesomeness of Order 66 from the perspective of Jedi younglings in the Star Wars world hits a little differently. The show begins with Jedi Master Minas Velti (Ming Qiu) teaching her young students in the Jedi Temple on Coruscant when a group of Clones comes in and tries to kill them all. Velti fights valiantly but falls protecting the kids. We know what happens next though. Those kids, and basically every other Jedi, dies. It’s a powerful, shocking moment that is ultra gut-wrenching viewed through our May 2022 context. It takes us out of the show.
Story-wise, showing Order 66 is important though because that’s the moment the Jedi lost. And Obi-Wan Kenobi, from its second scene, makes it clear that’s what this world is about now. Three Inquisitors (the Grand Inquisitor played by Rupert Friend, the Fifth Brother played by Sung Kang, and Third Sister, played by Moses Ingram) arrive on Tatooine looking for a Jedi. We, obviously, think it’s Kenobi—but instead, we learn they’re after someone much less famous. In fact, he’s so not famous the show doesn’t even name him. But the Inquisitors do track down this mystery Jedi, Nari, played by Uncut Gems co-director Benny Safdie. He escapes their assault but the showdown is a great table setter for this world, and the threat the Inquisitorius leaves on a galaxy post-Order 66, while also illustrating also just how close and clueless these Inquisitors are to the big fish they’ve been tracking for a decade, Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Even before we meet Kenobi for the first time in his own show, we get a very clear sense of the relationship between the Third Sister, aka Reva, and the other Inquisitors. She’s much more hot-headed. More ambitious. More ruthless. She’s almost so evil that everything she does goes up against even their evil ways. She’s Bad with a capital “B” and really wants to capture Kenobi. She believes this planet, and this other Jedi, are below them.
Kenobi himself meanwhile, when we first see him, is living a simple life. A lonely life. He cuts meat, he goes home, he barters with a Jawa in a delightful manner and has nightmares about his past. His focus seems to be to stay anonymous—even if it means not fighting back or protecting people as he normally did, even as the impulse is still with him: the itch of the Jedi Code to help others, as the Grand Inquisitor mocks in the first episode’s opening act, is still compelling a haunted man. Oh, and he’s of course always ready to also keep an eye on Luke Skywalker, who Kenobi observes from afar.
He’s so detached from the Force and his old ways, in fact, that when the nameless Jedi comes to Obi-Wan for help, he at first lies about his identity. But Uncut Jedis (that’s what we’re going to call him) knows who Kenobi is—a legend of the Order and the Clone War—and seems very confused. How can Obi-Wan not just lie about who he is, but also refuse to help his fellow Jedi with the Inquisitors? The choice is an excellent way of showing just how removed Obi-Wan has become in order to stay safe for 10 years.
But during that 10 years, there’s more than one Skywalker. And here’s where Obi-Wan Kenobi’s best-kept secret is finally revealed: once the show cuts from the drab deserts of Tatooine to a pristine white cityscape, a lightbulb will go off over many Star Wars fans’ heads. This is Alderaan. And if this is Alderaan, Princess Leia Organa is there. Not only is she there, friends, we get to meet her, and oh my god, she is not just the best Star Wars character since Baby Yoda, she might even be better.
Ten-year-old Leia is played by Vivien Lyra Blair, previously best known for starring in the Sandra Bullock movie Bird Box. Remember that name, the girl is a star. Especially because, when we first meet this Leia, she’s already doing what she does best: she’s rebelling. We see her running in the woods, climbing trees, and playing games with her amazing little droid, named Lola. Her mom Breha Organa (Simone Kessell) wants her to dress up and play princess, but Leia doesn’t want that—she longs for a life of adventure, watching starships sail off into the sky. And we, the audience, instantly fall in love with her. She’s every bit the Leia we know she will one day be, yet still feeling like she’s in this formative place.
More on Leia in a second because, frankly, I kind of just want to write this entire recap about how good Leia is on this show but, there’s more to talk about. Like, for example, back on Tatooine, we realize that Luke and Obi-Wan must not be very close. Obi-Wan got a toy for Luke from the Jawa but just left it outside for him during the evening. Uncle Owen (the returning Joel Edgerton) is not happy with this and begs Obi-Wan to leave the boy out of everything. He’s scared for Luke and wants to keep his life simple, and to keep his life away from Obi-Wan. It’s a point of view we know he holds even decades later.
That knowledge makes what happens next even scarier. The Fifth Brother and Reva are still around and they’re screaming all over town about Uncut Jedis. Owen is among the people, and Reva senses that he knows something. Which, wow. Really good instincts, because he knows a lot! And she says she’ll kill him, and his family, if he doesn’t tell her. (The fact she cut the hand off another woman in the crowd for backmouthing the inquisitors shows she’s telling the truth.) However, the Fifth Brother thinks this is going too far, and asks her to back off. With that threat, and knowing he disagrees with Obi-Wan, Owen could have very easily turned his head right and looked at the Jedi Master in hiding who was watching this unfold from 20 feet away, but he didn’t. He saved Obi-Wan. When Obi-Wan thanks him, Owen says he didn’t do it for the man he now has to put up with living on the same planet as him.
Back on Alderaan, we’re treated to Leia in full princess mode sassing her little punk cousin (with a nice C-3PO cameo to boot, played by Anthony Daniels even!). Seeing this beloved character at this point in her life is just everything Star Wars fans love. It’s nostalgia, sure, new information that fills in gaps that didn’t need filling, but we eat it up anyway. Every time she’s on-screen it’s hugely emotional, which is why shortly after—when Breha chides her for sassing her cousin, and her father Bail (Jimmy Smits!) comforts Leia for her rebellious attitude—when she runs into the woods to play in spite of her mother’s warnings and gets kidnapped, it’s so shocking.
This show needed an excuse to get Obi-Wan off of Tatooine, to change everything we always thought we knew about him, and having that other Skywalker child in peril certainly fits the bill. However, when Bail Organa asks Obi-Wan for help, he declines. It’s shocking. He’s going to hang Leia out to dry? It’s this moment where we see just how detached Obi-Wan has forced himself to become in order to keep himself, and Luke safe.
There wouldn’t be much show if Obi-Wan didn’t go on the adventure to rescue Leia though. So the Jedi goes into the desert, digs up not one, but two lightsabers (his and Anakin’s) and sets out to find the princess. Which, we learn, is exactly what Reva wanted: it was her plan to lure the Jedi out. And it’s about to work.
If that was all the Obi-Wan Kenobi we got today, that would have been more than enough. But Lucasfilm gifted us with the next episode too. And it starts right where the last one left off, with Obi-Wan hot on the trail of the bounty hunters who kidnapped Leia. The first thing that really stood out to me watching the episodes back to back was the huge visual contrast. Episode one was so bright and light, on both Tatooine and Alderaan, but here on Daiyu, it’s dark and wet. It’s like going from Dune to Blade Runner. It’s really a cool way to make the show seem bigger with back-to-back episodes that look, and feel, so different.
As Obi-Wan talks to some of the locals on Daiyu, you can’t help but think of him looking for Zam Wesell in Attack of the Clones. Lots of shady characters, drugs, he knows this kind of world. This is why it takes him all of seven seconds to find a person with answers. That person is Haja (Kumail Nanjiani), a “Jedi” helping people in need. We very quickly realize though that Haja is a scam artist, faking his Jedi powers to trick his customers. Obi-Wan, off in the shadows, sees this, recognizes it, and uses it against him to find out where Leia might be. Miraculously and almost disappointingly, the place Haja tells Obi-Wan to go is correct. (Which it sort of had to be in a six-episode series). And, again, almost too easily, it’s there that Reva’s trap works. Obi-Wan is caught by the kidnappers, who he makes quick work of, and finds Leia in the room down the hall.
This all happens so insanely coincidentally that I started to get pulled out of the show, but then Leia Organa saves the day. She’s instantly skeptical of Obi-Wan and dissects him like a professional therapist, as they evade the rising threat of bounty hunters looking for the pair, sent after them by an increasingly rogue Reva, drawing the ire of the Grand Inquisitor and Fifth Brother alike. The whole sequence of the two bantering across the city is a delight—Leia can’t trust this man seemingly saving her from horrifying trauma, and Obi-Wan can’t bring himself to invest enough to get her to trust his connection to her father—and it culminates in Leia running away and almost falling to her doom. As she falls, for the first time in the show, Kenobi does the one thing he didn’t want to do: use the Force. The Force slows Leia’s fall, saving her, and while she’s finally convinced her he’s a helpful, friendly Jedi, now even more people are after them.
This episode was basically just nonstop action, as Obi-Wan chased Leia, and fought off bounty hunters, all with the threat of Reva looming over it. That latter threat isn’t just looming however, as Reva uses the chaos of the city to her advantage and finally tracks Obi-Wan down after Haja saves the Jedi by giving him an escape plan. As Reva stalks Kenobi, she’s interrupted by the Grand Inquisitor who now wants to take credit for capturing Kenobi on his own. Reva has none of this, though, and stabs him through the gut. Which, is weird, cause the Grand Inquisitor died in Rebels too… but, yeah, we’ll see. It’s Star Wars, these things happening.
It’s about here when Reva explains to the hiding Kenobi that she wants to bring him to Lord Vader. She senses something in him and realizes that, oh crap, Kenobi didn’t know Anakin Skywalker was still alive. And the shock on Obi-Wan’s face says it all, with an incredible, almost wordless performance from McGregor, selling the pain and anguish with a flicker of his eyes. As he and Leia make their way off the planet, a stunned Kenobi stares in fear before he simply says “Anakin.”
And in the cut of all cuts, Obi-Wan’s eyes match the eyes of... Darth Vader. In his batca tank. He knows, just as we do, that Obi-Wan is out there.
The first two episodes of Obi-Wan Kenobi had everything a Star Wars fan can want. Big reveals and surprises, exciting action, lots of humor, questions answered, and even more asked. But really, the star of both episodes isn’t Ewan McGregor, as fantastic as he is here. It’s young Vivien Lyra Blair as 10-year-old Princess Leia. Her wit and charm feel like a direct line to Carrie Fisher, and that Lucasfilm was able to keep her reveal almost Baby Yoda-like in its secrecy made it that much better.
Odds are she won’t play too much of a role moving ahead, but that we got to meet Leia at this age was just lovely. An almost obvious, but still perfect, way to screw up Obi-Wan’s life in a way that justifies this series. We can’t wait to see what’s next.
- In the first episode, after Obi-Wan has his prequel nightmares, he asks for master Qui-Gon. Qui-Gon doesn’t show himself but I have to imagine that’s the seed of a reveal later in this series. I bet we do get to see Liam Neeson back as the Jedi Master.
- I’m kinda bummed the show only gave us a tiny bit of Uncut Jedis, played by Benny Safdie. The character seemed very intriguing even though it seems rather coincidental that two Jedi ended up in the same village on this massive planet, in an even bigger galaxy. Does Anchorhead do two for one Jedi exile discounts?
- I didn’t mention it in the write-up but I’ve gotta throw some love to Flea as the leader of the kidnapping bounty hunters hired by Reva. He’s so creepy and weird and fits into Star Wars so well.
- Besides the young Leia reveal, seeing Temuera Morrison as “Veteran Clone Trooper” was probably the second biggest surprise. Even if every single person watching probably thought it was Captain Rex or another famous trooper. But no. Just one of many. Still a great cameo though.
- Did anyone else get Breaking Bad vibes when Obi-Wan broke into the place Leia was? I kept thinking to myself, “I’d buy a toy of Walter White-Wan.”
- So, do we think the Grand Inquisitor is dead? He can’t be, right? Unless this is just one Grand Inquisitor which explains why he’s a little chunkier than the one in the Rebels animated series. Maybe that’s a new Grand Inquisitor. I guess we’ll find out next week.
Let’s end this recap with a little more Leia talk. On the one hand, bringing in Princess Freaking Leia seems almost as constrictive as Luke Skywalker on The Mandalorian. Of course, it’s just all about the Skywalkers again. And yet, Kenobi’s story is actually about these kids. He and the Organas have vowed to protect them and nothing else. So it makes perfect sense for the show, in this time period, to feature her, even if it’s a little obvious. Obvious, but very satisfying.
And yet, this seems a pretty formative adventure. Did she really not... remember any of this? When she asks Obi-Wan for help in A New Hope, she mentions his connection to her father, not any relationship they had. However, she also tells Luke in Return of the Jedi that she doesn’t remember her mother when clearly she has a great relationship with her here (even if we’ve perhaps retroactively been able to conflate the meaning of that line to be Padmé rather than Breha). So maybe it all tracks, but it was on my mind!
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