In Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Jedi Master Yoda tells Luke Skywalker to not decide others based mostly on appearances, which is a little wealthy coming from a man who spent his first hour with the child pretending to be a senile lavatory hobbit. After the premiere of Obi-Wan Kenobi, viewers could be feeling a comparable mixture of feelings.
The present was marketed as yet one more desert-set Disney Plus providing, a solo journey for Ewan McGregor’s defeated Jedi grasp, who would battle to observe over a younger Luke Skywalker whereas he evaded the operatives of the Dark Side, culminating in a confrontation with Hayden Christensen’s Darth Vader himself. In the primary episode of its two episode premiere, Obi-Wan Kenobi reveals that it is one thing considerably totally different.
It’s a nice reveal, properly crafted, neatly executed, and stuffed with promise! Like Luke, viewers will most likely be very excited to comprehend they’ve already discovered the Jedi they had been despatched to search for, metaphorically. But it does elevate the query of why the present’s advertising and marketing feinted within the first place.
[Ed. note: The rest of this piece contains a significant spoiler for the first two episodes of Obi-Wan Kenobi.]
In its premiere, Obi-Wan Kenobi introduces Vivien Lyra Blair as a 10-year-old Princess Leia Organa, and Old Ben Kenobi is her solely hope. One may joke that this is the way forward for Star Wars tv, handed down by The Mandalorian: jaded outcast meets cute baby, and journey ensues. Except that the cautious specificity of Obi-Wan’s exploration of Leia, and Blair’s distinctive efficiency of it, instantly communicate for themselves.
This is a cinematic exploration of younger Leia that elements of the Star Wars fandom have desired for years, an institution of her goals, her skills, and her upbringing to face beside the movies’ give attention to Luke. Obi-Wan doesn’t must say “Well, this is what you get when the daughter of a woman who was elected president of an entire planet at the age of 14 has light Force sensitivity and is raised as a princess.” It reveals that growth, because the script makes Leia not simply a precocious little “smart kid on TV,” however extra emotionally savvy than many of the adults round her. Blair’s supply alternates easily between age-appropriate naïveté and the sureness of the chief of a hard-core nationwide scholar protest motion — which is, after all, what her character will basically be in simply a few years.
It’s not the one approach that Obi-Wan, or not less than the primary two episodes of it, commits to displaying as a substitute of telling. The sequence seems to be deftly constructing a bridge from Lucas’ prequel trilogy, with deliberate selectivity of its best features: McGregor’s efficiency as Obi-Wan, Sith ominousness, and the tragedy of a golden age confirmed to be simply patina. A virtually wordless scene between Obi-Wan, a road beggar, and a pair of patrolling storm troopers says as a lot about the hubris of the Jedi, the passing of an age, and the false dream of a “just war” because the entirety of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. In these small moments, director Deborah Chow has an ally within the Force: Ewan McGregor.
McGregor carries these episodes much less like a workhorse with a pack than a king with a crown. He’s not alone in his efforts; he and Blair play off one another delightfully, waking fonder reminiscences of Obi-Wan’s dry wit coming to bear in opposition to Anakin’s moody sarcasm. Jimmy Smits — reprising his position as Bail Organa, the one plain good dad in Star Wars — reveals that he’s all the time been nice at this job, even when he’s solely gotten to do it for 70 seconds at a time each three to 11 years. Kumail Nanjiani adroitly tight-walks the road between humor and sympathy with out making the viewer really feel winked-at.
But Chow commits to holding the digicam on McGregor and letting him painting a betrayed, disheartened, disillusioned Obi-Wan Kenobi merely utilizing his face. It’s a far cry from screaming “I loved you!” in the course of a lightsaber battle on a planet made solely of lava to a full John Williams orchestra (though John Williams did come again to do the theme for this one).
The present has its weaknesses thus far — the modifying of each chase scene with little Leia strains suspension of disbelief as she appears to evade grown adults over open floor on the velocity of a jog. And inquisitor Reva Savander stays one-sided, one thing that can hopefully change within the subsequent 4 episodes. Disney Plus initiatives have a historical past of beginning sturdy and ending flabby, shedding the promise of their idea for a lack of execution. For all we all know, Obi-Wan will hand Leia off to Bail in episode 3 and head proper again to Tatooine to take care of his inquisitor downside.
But I fervently hope it doesn’t: It’s probably the most fascinating thing about the present. If, after Book of Boba Fett, we’re going to make one other Star Wars sequence about established characters, let it’s executed this properly. But it definitely does beg the query of why Leia’s central position was stored a secret. To illustrate with a transient second of private expertise, it’s a flabbergasting shift in expectations.
The Mandalorian set the instance for a large first episode reveal in Star Wars TV — one thing the Western monthly-publishing comics business has embraced as merely the best technique to begin a serial story — and likewise did so by introducing a tiny model of a character from the unique trilogy. But it’s apparent why the presence of “Yoda, but a cutie-wutie-pie baby baby crib baby” was not a a part of the sequence’ advertising and marketing.
The Mandalorian had a particular tone and introduction that bought that character’s burgeoning relationship with an remoted bounty hunter, and established, with out a doubt, that the crew was dedicated to honoring the beloved iconography with which they had been taking part in. In a trailer, the reveal would have appeared like a crass nostalgia cash-in timed simply earlier than the largest toy-buying event of the 12 months. And apart from his apparent inspiration, Grogu was one thing the Star Wars universe had by no means seen earlier than. Leia is amongst its founding heroes.
Obi-Wan’s state of affairs recollects The Force Awakens, by which Rey’s standing because the Jedi hero of the brand new trilogy was stored so underneath wraps that you simply couldn’t discover toys of her with a lightsaber till months afterwards. Even then, one would possibly blame J.J. Abrams’ obsession with obfuscation. It boggles the thoughts that Lucasfilm and Disney teased Luke’s look in Obi-Wan quite than Leia’s. Unless, after all, they thought the viewers was extra concerned about Luke for … some purpose …
But I digress. We know now: At least at its outset, Obi-Wan Kenobi is the Ben and Leia Show. And if it will possibly keep its present degree of high quality, Lucasfilm might lastly have a worthy successor to The Mandalorian on its fingers.