Streaming on: Disney+
Episodes viewed: 6 of 6
One of the disappointments of the Star Wars prequel trilogy was how little stylistic connective tissue it shared with the original films, given all those shiny surfaces and CG creatures. This show links the two sagas in style as well as substance, giving us an effective halfway point between Revenge Of The Sith and Luke Skywalker’s rise to prominence, and a look into the missing decades of Obi-Wan Kenobi’s life.
Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) is now cunningly disguised as ‘Ben’ Kenobi, a desert fishmonger who keeps his head down and a distant eye on Luke Skywalker (Grant Feely), without the approval of the latter’s uncle Owen (Joel Edgerton). Then Imperial Inquisitors turn up on Tatooine, looking for escaped Jedi.
There’s an effectively nasty premise in the cat-and-mouse game between Inquisitors and Jedi here: Jedi can’t help but help, so all the Inquisitors need do is threaten literally anyone, and nearby Jedi will feel compelled to intervene. It’s a grubby, real-world totalitarian tactic designed to divide and intimidate, because if a Jedi like Obi-Wan looks away from such evil to keep himself safe, is he still a Jedi? Or has his very nature been corrupted? Such effective nastiness is amplified by gleeful sneering, in Rupert Friend’s Grand Inquisitor, and single-minded obsession, in Moses Ingram’s driven Reva. These are fresh bad guys to be reckoned with, and their story arcs manage some welcome surprises.
These adventures help to redeem not only McGregor’s character but his entire under-loved era.
Against this backdrop, Obi-Wan receives a call for help from an old friend, and risks his hiding place to answer it. The job will bring him into contact with brave souls still fighting the Empire, and expose him to the unstoppable force that is Princess Leia (Vivien Lyra Blair), intimidating even as a tween. But it also puts him in the path of Darth Vader (Hayden Christensen) once more.
Showrunner Joby Harold and director Deborah Chow for the most part make a strong inter-quel chapter here, with a despairing, wary McGregor as the missing link between the two trilogies. They also create a world with both the dusty, used feel of the original trilogy and traces of the flat glitz of the prequels, and only a few niggling discontinuities with the canon. These adventures help to redeem not only McGregor’s character but his entire under-loved era, cherry-picking the best bits and leaving aside the embarrassing Gungans and terrible screenwriting.
While the show can’t make Anakin/Darth Vader’s emotional life sing, there are some killer moments for Christensen to play here, and battles on alien worlds lit only by lightsabers. More crucially, it’s a great pleasure to see an older, wiser McGregor back to face him. McGregor became more at ease with his character with each film of the prequels, and now these old robes seem entirely comfortable — even though, or perhaps because, Obi-Wan himself has never been more at sea. Still, over the series he recovers himself a little, and earns a new path for his life as a Jedi. He discovers, you might say, a new hope.