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Since Disney’s acquisition of the franchise, Star Wars has been largely focused on the legacy of the original trilogy. In the sequel trilogy we see recreation (The Force Awakens), examination (The Last Jedi) and celebration (The Rise of Skywalker) of that original tale. It’s perfectly understandable. Those are the films held up as all-time classics. The prequel era has been pretty well detailed in animation form. No wonder then, that aside from continuity nods and Easter eggs, the prequels have been largely overlooked in Disney’s live action content. Until now.
Obi-Wan Kenobi may be set during the height of the Empire’s reign, but it is rooted in the character dynamics set out be the prequels. Ewan McGregor returns as the titular character, his portrayal slowly shifting from grief-stricken warrior to the enigmatic hermit first portrayed by Alec Guinness. This six-part series sees him brought out of hiding to rescue the young Princess Leia (in a spot of casting that ranks among Disney’s best, as it is never in any doubt that Vivien Lyra Blair could become Carrie Fisher in just a decade), in a mission that brings him to the attention of the Imperial Inquisition, and their master Darth Vader.
Hayden Christensen is back as Vader, in the rare instances in which his mask is not present, while Disney’s technological wizardly recreates the irreplaceable voice of James Earl Jones. But Vader is largely a remote presence, brooding in his Mustafarian castle, or glowering on Star Destroyers. Used sparingly, his scenes instil dread much as the famous hallway scene in Rogue One does. This is no longer Anakin Skywalker. This is a weapon of the dark side in the shape of a man. And it is glorious. But for most of the show, we have a new villain in the from of Moses Ingram’s Reva. While the tragic backstory of this Inquisitor is a little on the predictable side, Ingram imbues the role with palpable malice. Obi-Wan Kenobi is planned as a one-off series, but when Disney inevitably gives someone a spin-off, I have my fingers crossed that it’s Reva.
In a franchise that has become obsessed with tying everything together and spinning off into a million stories at the same time, Obi-Wan Kenobi stands out for how self-contained it is. While it builds on a relationship established in three films (handily recapped at the top of the series), this is a show with a beginning, a middle, and an end. The loose ends are kept to a minimum, the self-referential content that has spread through everything else Star Wars is almost noticeable by its absence. This is more of a book than The Book of Boba Fett. It’s a single story, well told and then sent on its way. That, more than anything else, is worthy of note. Disney have finally learned that you can make a one-off. Huzzah.
It would be easy to pick holes in Obi-Wan Kenobi. The dialogue is far from subtle, the plot runs on convenience, and the timeline of the final episode is a mess, but none of that matters. Not really. Not when you consider that the show is a success on every other front. Great acting, great fight choreography, worlds we haven’t seen before, a ground-level look at life under Imperial rule. It manages to be serious when it needs to be, and fun when it can get away with it. I don’t care which galaxy you’re from, it’s just good content.
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