*Warning: The following article contains spoilers for episode six of Obi-Wan Kenobi*
It pains me even to write these words, but I was severely disappointed with most of Obi-Wan Kenobi. The third episode was the best because it established legitimate emotional stakes between our titular character (Ewan McGregor) and Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen). But the overall series felt limited with the six-episode format and barely developed the rivalry to a point where they started to focus on reliving nostalgia instead of deepening the conflict between Anakin and Obi-Wan.
The show was a golden opportunity to explore how Obi-Wan “disowned” Anakin and started calling him “Darth” (if you remember, that’s what he called him in A New Hope). We get insight into that moment through the finale’s most thrilling moment, but not much else afterward. After what’s poised to be the dullest lightsaber fight in Star Wars history (more on that later), Obi-Wan manages to get the upper hand on Darth and destroys part of his helmet. We see the literal and figurative conflict imbued in Anakin’s tormented mind, with Christensen’s voice overlapping James Earl Jones’. It’s an extraordinary moment, one where we genuinely understand Skywalker’s angst and fully realize how the Dark Side corrupted him, but this is the only time the series is interested in exploring Anakin’s twisted mind and his agonizing quest to find (and kill) Kenobi.
Because the rest of the episode is a bore and is the final nail in the coffin for a show that isn’t interested in telling a compelling story at its core. Aesthetically, it contains the ugliest-looking Star Wars duel in history. I understand its concept (a dark planet for the lightsabers to resonate clearly on the vast landscape). However, choppy editing, drab cinematography, and half-baked fight choreography that recalls a fan-fiction fight instead of a major Hollywood production squander the “rematch of the century” into an emotionless bout of fan-service.
We know that everyone (virtually everyone) will survive the series, so some will say there’s no point in seeing Obi-Wan fight Vader again. I’ve already had my qualms on the matter, but the third episode beautifully established a newfound conflict between the two that my hopes were high for the rest of the series. But once you realize that every single event happening in episodes four to five is specifically engineered for a rematch on a deserted part of Mustafar, without much emotional connection or thought other than to give a heavily stylized and exaggerated fight that we didn’t get in A New Hope, everything starts to falter. Yes, McGregor and Christensen are solid in their respective roles, but that doesn’t mean that the material they’re given feels unfulfilling and devoid of thematic creativity and emotional power.
I’ll even say that the magic of James Earl Jones’ chilling voice wears off once you realize the direction the series is heading: nowhere. So instead, it’s all about reliving the past in the most unimaginative way possible. Heck, the entire latter half of the episode is filled with two pointless cameos and McGregor saying “Hello there” again just for the kick of it. But, of course, you can tell exactly when he’s going to say “Hello there,” and it not only tries to relive the past (in Revenge of the Sith) but call back to the moment when Old Ben is going to say, “Hello there” to Luke again. But there’s absolutely no reason for Obi-Wan to say “Hello there” to Young Luke (Grant McFeely) at that very moment other than for the fans to point at the screen and go, “I understood that reference!”
But that’s not even the most egregious moment of the entire episode. That comes at the [very] tail end where Force Ghost Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) appears. Of course, Neeson hasn’t been having the greatest of careers these days, being relegated to the most boring form of Cannon Group Charles Bronson-esque action movies possible, so it’s a welcome change of pace for him. Still, it makes no sense for him to magically show up other than for him to be another glup shitto addition inside the show’s nostalgia-fest. Darth Sidious (Ian McDiarmid) makes sense, and it’s always great to see him on screen, but Qui-Gon feels entirely out of place.
Yes, he was consistently teased, but we went through six episodes of Obi-Wan going on the journey to find Leia (Vivien Lyra Blair) and fight Vader again without guidance! He does not need Force Ghost Qui-Gon at any moment, nor when Vader throws a bunch of rocks at him and plummets him to the ground. And so having Qui-Gon arrive at the end of his journey makes no thematic and storywise sense, other than the apparent glup shitto reason.
Not even Reva (Moses Ingram) could save the finale from being a total bore. Moses Ingram has been consistently talented and gave her throughout the series. Her chase with Young Luke is laughably staged, especially during one specific moment intercut with Obi-Wan sensing his presence, making the moment feel like a SyFy original rather than an “oh no!” part with real stakes and drama. But Ingram shares one poignant moment when she is about to kill Luke and realizes that she has become like Anakin, who murdered younglings during Order 66. When she has that realization, she shares a tender moment with Obi-Wan, who reminds her of the pain she endured, and the good she still has in her heart. I hope we will see Reva again, even if her arc ended in the most unimpressive way possible through one of the worst staged chase sequences I’ve seen on a Disney+ TV show. But Moses Ingram’s talent is singular that I’m pretty confident that her career will go very far, and one day, she will win an Emmy and an Oscar. You’ve heard it here first. It’s going to happen sooner than later.
Some will criticize that I’ve defended the MCU, which has been thriving on nostalgia for the past few films with their Multiversal conceit. Still, there’s a fundamental difference between Marvel and Star Wars. The MCU puts the story and main characters first, with cameos being a fun addition. But they never sacrifice story and character development. They always add something to it. The multiple Peter Parkers in No Way Home are there for nostalgia, sure, but they also guide the MCU’s Peter Parker that he otherwise wouldn’t have had on power and responsibility. Star Wars isn’t interested in cameos that benefit the story but are only there for the audience to point at the screen at things they recognize. They add very little to the development of characters and only exist for nostalgia’s sake. There’s no emotional reward in seeing Qui-Gon Jinn again or even Palpatine. They’re there for pure fan service—nothing more and nothing less.
I had high hopes for Obi-Wan Kenobi. Deborah Chow was brought in as director, who assembled one heck of a cast. It was going to be one of the most exciting Star Wars projects. But the episode’s screenplays kowtowed to a base of fans that will never be satisfied no matter what Lucasfilm throws at them and would’ve instead played it safe with an uneventful risk-free story that rides the tails of nostalgia from beginning to end, without any significant emotional weight, or justification for us to see Obi-Wan rematch again with Darth Vader. It’s one of the most disappointing projects I’ve seen from Star Wars and leaves me worried that the future of this franchise will be as bleak as ever. Still, I hope Andor and The Acolyte will be good, but the rest will have to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. I’m happy for the ones who thought the show was good, but very little of it worked for me.
All episodes of Obi-Wan Kenobi are now available to stream on Disney+.