By Juan Calvillo
Diving into the psyche of its titular character, “Obi-Wan Kenobi” explores how Kenobi spent his time in between the “Star Wars” prequels and the original trilogy. The return of Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen as Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker–or in this case, Darth Vader–gives the show emotional moments as both come to terms with their respective fates. The show uses characters from the animated “Star Wars” universe and characters from the original trilogy to give the series historical context within the larger “Star Wars” timeline.
In “Star Wars: A New Hope” a recording from Princess Leia said her family was indebted to Kenobi for a service he once performed for them. This comes full circle in “Obi-Wan Kenobi.” It is a call for Kenobi’s help that puts into motion the events of the entire six episodes of the show’s run. Despite how it may affect him personally, Kenobi is compelled to once again honor the Jedi code and do what he feels is right. The show becomes a road-trip-movie moving from planet to planet all while Kenobi tries to stay one step ahead of the Empire’s Inquisitors, Vader and stormtroopers. The Inquisitors are a group of force-sensitive Sith, first seen in the “Star Wars” animated universe.
The series is a mix of nostalgia and excitement for a deeper dive into characters many fans have come to love. Having McGregor and Christiansen return to play their prequel trilogy characters gives fans and storytellers the chance to be fully immersed in the story. Kenobi was first played by Alec Guinness in “Star Wars: A New Hope,” but the role has been fleshed out and defined by series-lead McGregor.
In “Obi-Wan Kenobi,” McGregor once again defines who and what the character of Kenobi is about. On the planet of Tatooine the former Jedi master is adrift in body and soul. The show’s six episodes allow McGregor to show the mental and emotional struggles and victories Kenobi goes through to become the well-adjusted Ben Kenobi we see in the opening half of “Star Wars: A New Hope.”
McGregor’s acting chops have been honed by his work in both studio and indie dramas. That ability shines through when the audience gets to see interactions between McGregor and Christensen. In these moments, fear, self doubt and sadness are all mixed together at the same time on McGregor’s face.
Christensen once again shows that he knows how to play out intensity. Despite only having a few scenes where he is not donning the Vader helmet, Christensen manages to show the intensity and smugness of his character. When Vader does have his helmet on, it’s the dulcet tones of James Earl Jones who voices Vader. From the moment the breathing apparatus makes its first inhale, audiences will be thrilled to hear the legends voice come from the villainous Vader. Both McGregor and Christensen give enthralling performances.
There are new characters introduced into the “Star Wars” universe, as well as the live-action debut of characters that have been a part of “Star Wars” canon for quite some time. The character of the Grand Inquisitor was seen in the animated projects that are part of “Star Wars” canon, and his live-action counterpart is interesting to say the least. Despite not having much screen time, the Grand Inquisitor, played by Rupert Friend, exudes menace and hate. Of all the supporting characters there are two that are really fun to watch.
“Obi-Wan Kenobi” is not only a great character study of an older Kenobi reflecting on his past, it is also a really fun sci-fi show. The animation of lightsaber fights and star ships battling in space is a joy to watch. While the show doesn’t have the budget of a big screen “Star Wars” property, it does quite well with what it has to work with.
There is an engaging and striking lightsaber battle towards the end of the series that really harkens back to the battles in the movies. Of course, the props in the movie are beautiful. From a new droid to obsess over, L0-LA59, to the costumes Vader and the Inquisitors wear, each prop and costume looks like it belongs in the “Star Wars” universe.
“Obi-Wan Kenobi” is a smart and enjoyable visit with old friends from the prequel trilogy of the “Star Wars” franchise. McGregor and Christensen are in top form, with the former being enchanting to watch. Viewers can sate their thirst for “Star Wars” content by streaming the TV-14 rated, six-episode season on Disney+ now.