Review: Obi-Wan Kenobi

So, right off the bat, I enjoyed the series. It definitely had several misses, but still way more hits. Easily the best Star Wars live action production since Rogue One along with Mandalorian. If you are a Star Wars fan, you will enjoy Obi-Wan Kenobi. That being said, this show is also indicative of everything wrong with current Star Wars and shows the major limitations of continuing in the same vein.

Obi-Wan Kenobi‘s strong point, much like too much of current Star Wars, is nostalgia, pure and simple. Obviously, Ewan McGregor is an incredible actor who is fully at ease in the role of Obi-Wan. It is great to see Hayden Christensen back in the role of Anakin and take on the mantle of Darth Vader. And the young actress, Vivien Lyra Blair, that takes on the role of young Leia is pretty damn good and entertaining. Admittedly, however, those roles and characters are relying heavily on the vast amount of work and story and lore done in various series and films before them. Thus, it is more carrying on a legacy than actually creating something new or even expanding on what has already been established.

And the attempts at adding or developing something more and new did not work out well for this series. Most of the secondary characters were underdeveloped and utterly unnecessary with the exceptions of Indira Virma’s Tala and Kumail Nanjiani’s Haja. Even then, the latter was mainly comic relief who leaned heavily on Nanjiani’s earned goodwill and affability from previous performances and works. This is not to say that the new actors were bad; in fact, far from it, but more so that their characters were just filling in to give breathing room to the primary cast and to pad out what would have been a solid 2 hour movie into a 6 hour long mini-series. Honestly, this was the biggest point against the series: how much of it was unnecessary filler that went nowhere and did not justify its existence.

The majority of the audience was solely invested in the story and struggle between Obi-Wan and Anakin, and, for the most part, those elements of the show were top notch and worth the price of admission. Including Leia as the catalyst for their eventual reunion and decisive battle also worked quite well and added another layer of depth to her character, the relationship between Kenobi and the Skywalker twins, and the events of A New Hope. This was all good; it was everything around these three that left a lot to be desired.

Let’s start with the non-Vader threat or obstacle in this series: the Inquisitors. We have seen several of the Inquisitors in various other media from animation to comics to video games, and they have been done well and far better in those in comparison to this show. The Inquisitors are not a true threat in Kenobi. They are, at best, an annoying nuisance that goes nowhere. Again, obviously talented actors, but utterly wasted potential of these characters simply because the focus was on Obi-Wan, Leia, Anakin, and their interconnected conflict. Probably, the most “controversial” and disappointing character to originate from this series is Inquisitor Reva played by Moses Ingram.

Now, there is a not insignificant section of the Star Wars fandom, as is the case with most fandoms, that is unabashedly racist, misogynist, etc. These assholes, both men and women, are in the business of hate farming views and attention for their inadequate, unoriginal, and wholly sad attempts at media criticism and content creation. It is apparent that they are simply using the actor’s race, and specifically attacks on her race, as a means to drive engagement for their poor, poor, empty videos and social media accounts. They do not deserve attention or consideration. So, let’s get that point out of the way before continuing.

The character of Reva is another bad version of the poorly executed redemption story that plagues the majority of Star Wars films. She has the exact same character arc and development, or lack thereof, as Anakin in episodes 2 and 3 and Kylo Ren in the new trilogy. Only difference is that the writers gave a shitty redemption story to a Black woman instead of another white dude, so progress of a sorts? To be fair, I am unfamiliar with Ingram’s work outside of this series, so cannot fully speak to her talents. However, she was good in this show’ her character was just not.

Reva plays out similarly to the previously mentioned Skywalkers. She is a burgeoning Padawan/Jedi who experiences a life altering tragedy (in her case Order 66) which sets her on a dark path of revenge masquerading as justice that she ultimately fails at while somehow earning a redemption at the end of her journey through no real effort on her part that excuses the laundry list of crimes and sins she has committed in her failed pursuits. Sound familiar? So, yeah, she is another example of a shit, unearned redemption story that, once again, is highlighted in its absurdity by comparing it to the actual redemptive arc of a character who legitimately put in the work and earned her redemption (Tala) in the same story.

Is there a possibility of more Reva? Possibly. But I am really not interested in seeing the further adventures of the person who willingly joined the space Nazis, especially after witnessing firsthand their deeds, and tortured and killed several innocent people for a goal she didn’t even complete. Beyond, personal preferences or gripes, the major issue of this series is the continuing dependence on the Skywalker saga and legacy characters without the same care and consideration given to new characters and stories to develop and grow the brand, universe, and narrative potential to be found in Star Wars. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on your viewpoint, this is primarily an issue for the live action productions as animation, literature, and video game properties under the umbrella have managed to veer off the primary timeline and characters with rousing success.

Hopefully, new and upcoming live action productions will take a page from their non-live action counterparts and expand Star Wars beyond the Skywalker and legacy characters and use the universe to tell original and engaging stories. Fingers crossed.

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