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Obi-Wan Kenobi Episode 1 Review: Quiet Desolation and Past Reminders

Obi-Wan Kenobi Episode 1 Spoilers Ahead

Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) in Lucasfilm's OBI-WAN KENOBI, exclusively on Disney+. © 2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & ™. All Rights Reserved.
© 2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & ™

Ten years have passed since the events in Revenge of the Sith, and every bit of Ben’s profound heartbreak is palpable in Obi-Wan Kenobi Episode 1. Deborah Chow’s work as a director and Ewan McGregor‘s portrayal of the exiled Jedi are already pretty close to sensational.

Obi-Wan has always been an enigma of sorts—his righteousness and belief in the Jedi alliance a lasting lodestone throughout the story, but much of his time spent in isolation and the battles he fights silently are mysteries yet to be uncovered. Why was “Ben” so important for Leia and Han to name their son after him? How is it that the name immediately brings comfort to many Star Wars fans? If the first two episodes faultlessly thread together an overarching theme, it’s the excavation of hope after darkness, quite literally in one instance, and through the idea of trust in the next.

Years from now, when kids watch everything in chronological order, the words “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope” will hit with a different kind of intensity—they’ll strike hard and fast, bringing hope centerfold in a way that’s believable through unbeatable movie magic. The limited series is not only filling in some of the most important pages within the story, but it’s allowing all the narrative beats that have driven beloved characters to continue piecing together their distinct puzzles. Obi-Wan Kenobi Episode 1 highlights darkness and despair and quietly examines what equates to weakness. In two hours, the show gets more right about characters than others have, and it does so by permitting the characters to be anything but okay, even if that means we get to watch Ewan McGregor embody sadness in a way that he’s so achingly good at, it makes it both difficult and rewarding to watch.

Isolation and Lost Hope

Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) in Lucasfilm's OBI-WAN KENOBI, exclusively on Disney+. © 2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & ™. All Rights Reserved.
© 2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & ™

Hope is an unceasing presence in the Star Wars universe where certain characters are concerned, but that’s not the case for the Ben Kenobi viewers are now reacquainted with. In a cold open that once again reminds us of Order 66’s doing, we’re also made aware that despite how few of them are left, Jedi are being hunted and killed by the Grand Inquisitor (Rupert Friend) and Third Sister/Reva (Moses Ingram), whose sights are set only on Kenobi.

In isolation, memories of losing Anakin to the dark side, his own failures as master, Padme’s final words, and the events of his past life continue to plague Ben, and attempts at communication with his former master, Qui-Gon Jinn, are unsuccessful. McGregor taps into this role so meticulously that his every move is a mark of loss, uncertainties, and worst of all, a type of loneliness he’ll further hide from. When Owen Lars (Joel Edgerton) makes it clear that he needs to stay away from young Luke Skywalker (Grant Feely), McGregor shows us with utmost subtlety how the overwhelming emotions are becoming harder to deny despite his persistence.

His mundane routines are doable, sure, and his means of hiding from the bounties on his head are successful, but a decade of patterns to feed himself and his Eopie are haunting to watch, no less. This leads to perhaps the most action in Obi-Wan Kenobi Episode 1 when Reva comes close to killing Owen after believing that he knows something concerning the Jedi. We don’t have the opportunity to know whether Ben would step up at that moment to reveal himself, for a large part of his character flaw is surprisingly his stubborn loyalty, but knowing how horrifically losing Anakin plagues him, we know which path he’d take.

And so, the routine carries on—one more day of hiding a success.

Princess Leia Organa

Bail and Breha Organa with Leia Organa
Screenshot via Disney+ ©Lucasfilm

Teasers and trailers made no attempts to hide the presence of young Luke, but it’s a great thing that they hid Leia (Vivien Lyra Blair) because while I had an inkling we might see her, I didn’t actually believe we would. And I most certainly didn’t think that she’d have such a monumental role where characters within the show would acknowledge her importance alongside Luke’s.

But that’s always been the case in any of the films—Princess Leia Organa is equally as paramount as her twin brother Luke Skywalker to restoring hope and honor to the galaxy. And young Leia is already a force to be reckoned with as she shows her fondness for the outdoors, her droid Lola, her stamina, and even her spunky goodness by virtue of the parents who are raising her Bail (Jimmy Smits) and Breha (Simone Kessell) Organa.

Stubbornness, as well as hope, is an ever-present force within the Star Wars universe, and Obi-Wan Kenobi Episode 1 shows us that more than one character is heading towards a fight after Reva continues to defy orders, using Leia as bate to lure Kenobi out of hiding. And when the message is received, Ben fights against it, arguing that his role is to protect Luke, forgetting that Leia is just as important in this equation. It takes a while to pull him out, but the inner turmoil (and a physical visit from Bail Organa) leads him towards the edges of Tatooine, moving forward once again to remind viewers that weakness is refusing to help when someone requires it.

While the series premiere is mostly quiet, deliberately slow in its pacing even when there’s action, it’s a stark reminder of the losses that have been endured by the titular character and how he’s headed towards the man we meet in A New Hope. Flawless in every way, McGregor is already bringing some of his best performances to our screens.

Further Thoughts

  • Who else cried and screamed the entire way through at the sheer realization that the show isn’t just good, but it’s already one of the best things in Star Wars? I did.
  • 90% of my notes for both premiere episodes are in caps lock.
  • “I’d rather be digested by a jakobeast!” Ladies and gentlemen, this is why she’s always been a favorite.
  • “Only you know how important she is, Obi-Wan,” gave me full-body chills.

Now streaming on Disney Plus: What are your thoughts on Obi-Wan Kenobi Episode 1? Let us know in the comments below.

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