Obi-Wan Kenobi (Review): The Best Parts Balance an Uneven Story

I’m not going to start this article with “Hello there.” D’oh! Obi-Wan Kenobi is over, and I have mixed feelings about it. Read on for my thoughts.

Ten years after Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi’s forced exile, he’s brought out of retirement at the bequest of an old friend. But dark forces mercilessly hunt him, he’s out of practice, and he suffers from PTSD after leaving his pupil for dead. His fight ought to be over, but it’s a Jedi’s nature to help those in need.

I fully believe Obi-Wan Kenobi is Star Wars’ best hero. And he’s my favourite character in the franchise. So my hype level for this show was through the roof!

If you somehow haven’t seen Obi-Wan Kenobi yet, I suggest you lower your expectations. It’s somehow among the best AND most frustrating Star Wars content I’ve ever seen! Obi-Wan Kenobi is incredible when it lands, and laughably bad when falls flat.

Episode one began relatively strong, with an enticing hook and well-set-up status quo. It served as a good reintroduction to Obi-Wan’s world and his current headspace. And the Inquisitors received intriguing entrances. There were even some unexpected twists, which made the fanboy in me geek out. The beginning got me invested, all in all. But I didn’t love the show.

My doubts only grew with episode 2. Sure there was more action, and some decent moments, but something felt… off. What though?

Obi-Wan Kenobi‘s downfall is its lack of proper focus. I especially take issue with how the writers balanced Obi-Wan, Vader, and Riva’s stories. Let’s get into it– for better and worse:

Obi-Wan is played excellently by Ewan McGregor! This may, in fact, be his best performance in the role (which is saying something). What makes his acting impressive to me is that he works within comparative boundaries. Obi-Wan is a generally reserved person; he’s not prone to passionate outbursts or monologues to explain his inner feelings. So Ewan must convey Kenobi’s broken soul in subtle ways– largely in his eyes. I always felt the weight on the character’s soul without him needing to say a word.

That said: it bothers me how Kenobi is written in his own series. I understand his intended arc was one of self re-discovery– of starting broken to become whole. And I respect that story in principle. But did he HAVE to start off so pathetic? It was unbelievable to me that he would have sunk so painfully low during his exile. I didn’t need or expect Obi-Wan to be at his peak. But there’s a line between rusty and flat-out seized up.

Obi-Wan is an ex-Jedi council member, yet he struggles to use basic force powers at the start of the series. And combat prowess? Forget about it! He also makes a few boneheaded mistakes which even Jar Jar Binks probably would have avoided… You’d never believe this guy was an army General and galactic hero, let alone beat Darth Vader one-on-one in the Sith Lord’s prime!

There are some valid rationales behind these choices: Kenobi had no sparring partners, was afraid to draw attention to himself by using the force, and he didn’t have the heart to keep up his training. Fine. Except that his entire point on Tatooine was to protect a young Luke Skywalker! The guy we meet at the start of this show was in no shape to do that.

In short, the first half of Kenobi’s arc was contrived to pad out the runtime of this bloated mini-series. But the show found an appropriate balance for its lead by episode 4, and closed out strong. Better late than never.

To be clear: I liked the upward trajectory of Obi-Wan re-honing his skills. The end-result felt earned within the show’s context. It just bothers me that Kenobi was portrayed as incompetent to artificially create a pay-off for his journey.

This is, at least, the superior version of Rian Johnson’s “depressed Luke Skywalker” arc in The Last Jedi. We actually saw the cause of Obi-Wan’s low point in its proper context– so his poor mental state seemed natural– and the character still felt like himself, albeit with PTSD now. Most importantly: his arc’s ending left me satisfied, rather than bitter and furious. Further explanations would encroach on spoiler territory.

Speaking of Obi-Wan’s PTSD: it is explored, but less than it ought to have been. Kenobi is anxious, untrusting, quick to frustration, guilty, and suffers from nightmares. These were all fascinating new dimensions to the character. Yet they were arguably sidelined to focus on the series’ main plot.

Obi-Wan Kenobi is, ultimately, a plot-first show rather than a character-first show. And the former don’t often sit well with me– especially when the plot is only so-so. Its spotlight rested on the story’s action rather than its inherent emotional core. And that’s where it falls apart. There’s also other characters vying for screentime, which pushed Obi-Wan’s traumas even further from focus.

That’s a good segue to discuss the series’ main villain, Reva (Moses Ingram)– AKA the woman third wheeling through Obi-Wan and Vader’s rivalry… Disney+ should have just given Reva her own show. Because her taking such prominence in Obi-Wan Kenobi did a disservice to Reva, Kenobi, and Vader. Her story is interesting, but ultimately goes nowhere.

Moses Ingram as Reva in Obi-Wan Kenobi
(Photo Credit: Lucasfilm)

The series can’t decide whether Reva is an antagonist, or someone for whom we should root. Obi-Wan Kenobi’s writers and editors did a disservice to her arc (and Moses Ingram) early on when, from the earliest episodes, I couldn’t tell whether the character had reasons for her behaviour or if Ingram made bad acting choices; whether she was mediocre at everything by design, or unintentionally. Because the presentation made it seem like all possibilities could be true, but offered no clear direction.

We don’t begin to understand Reva’s motivations till episode 5, which is FAR too late. Even then I didn’t entirely understand what her goals were. I merely pitied the character, in any case.

The worst thing about Reva (as I alluded to above) is that she took screen-time away from Darth freaking Vader for a dead-end subplot! I understand that Lucasfilm wishes to use The Dark Lord sparingly. But if ever there was a time to make Vader the big bad again, it ought to have been now, against his greatest nemesis!

Part of my problem with Obi-Wan Kenobi is that its marketing proved misleading. The initial pitch and interviews heavily implied Vader (and Hayden Christensen) would be in this series a great deal. But Christensen in particular is treated like a glorified cameo!

To be clear, Christensen was used well for the parts in which he appeared. Some of his scenes now, in fact, count among my all-time favourite Star Wars moments! And Vader in general is a highlight of Obi-Wan Kenobi (when he bothers to show up).

Here we see Vader’s potential for badassery unleashed upon our screens. This is arguably the most unhinged version of the character yet, even topping his now iconic scene in Rogue One. You wanna see the Chosen One’s raw power? You will not be disappointed.

I also appreciated that Vader was allowed a character arc which builds a further bridge between Anakin Skywalker and the Vader persona. It’s all the more meaningful Hayden Christensen returned to play Vader at this time in the character’s life. His interactions with Ewan McGregor hit in all the right ways for both nostalgia purposes and in-universe continuity. I’m glad we got this show just so Ewan and Hayden could share the screen one last time.

I also need to shout out James Earl Jones, who turns in one of his best Vader performances of all time! It’s arguably his most emotionally forward stint as the character. I’ve never heard Jones portray such raw rage before. And I love it. Add Jones to the list of reasons Obi-Wan Kenobi manages to feel meaningful and special (sometimes).

The man, the myth, the legend.
(Photo Credit: Lucasfilm)

There’s so much I want talk about with this series, but I can’t go on forever. So I’ll just rapid fire the rest for you:

Owen and Beru are badasses, and they’re excellent for what little screen time they have; multiple other cast members are great, with one in particular all but stealing the show; the Inquisitors are set up as important and barely used, which is a massive disappointment; the score is unmemorable (which is a crime in Star Wars) and is one long series of missed opportunities for more powerful moments; the effects look more cheap and rushed than they ought to with Disney-level budgets; there’s WAY too much shakey cam; the editing is choppy and doesn’t flow great.

Simple changes could have fixed a lot about Obi-Wan Kenobi. If only certain scenes were cut down or re-arranged… One example is the VERY first scene. It ends abruply to set up a mystery which everybody figured out immediately. But if they’d played the scene through to its natural conclusion, then we would have focused on the right questions instead of time-wasting mis-direction.

The Star Wars fan in me is biased enough to forgive many of the show’s flaws… But my goodwill only goes so far. I have to call it like I see it: and what I see is frustrating. Once again– I adamantly believe this story focused on its least interesting elements. Yet Obi-Wan Kenobi blows me away when it builds momentum! There’s so much good here, and I know I’ll be compelled to revisit those parts over and over again. It’s just that said parts are spread across a less-than-stellar carrying case.

I wish I could rate Obi-Wan Kenobi higher, but it’s still Worth a Watch.

Would you want to see Hayden Christensen and James Earl Jones return for a potential Vader series, or an Obi-Wan Kenobi season 2? What did you think of Obi-Wan Kenobi? Please share your thoughts in the comments (no spoilers please). If you have any ideas for future articles, or any questions, let me know. Also be sure to Like this article on Facebook and share if you enjoyed!

Till next time,

Joe Morin


By Joseph Morin

Joe's passion for film and entertainment began at 7 years old when his younger brother demanded to watch Duel of the Fates every day for weeks (on DVD). Joe admired the sequence so much, he decided to dedicate his life to film-making and storytelling. He has a degree in Cinema and Media Studies from York University. Joe loves DC superheroes (especially Superman), the first six Star Wars movies, and arguing about media with anyone who will listen.


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