“When I left you I was but the learner, now I am the master”. Those words will likely mean a little more to Star Wars fans now that Obi-Wan Kenobi has concluded its six-episode run on Disney+. It’s been something of an uneven adventure for the character, with some really great highs, and some bizarre lows. Thankfully, Part VI of the series largely sticks the landing by providing some nice action, meaningful character moments and fun surprises, but also highlights one crucial problem with the series overall. Let’s dive in.
Let’s talk about the big part of the show right out of the gate, the so-called “rematch of the century” between Obi-Wan and Darth Vader. Desperate to save Leia and the rest of the survivors on the ship, Kenobi jettison into an escape pod and lures Vader to a rocky planet, where the two rematch. I have mixed opinions on this duel. While the aesthetic was cool, especially with the giant rocky spires and the crescent moon in the night sky, it was a bit of a shame that the fight took place at night…again. I understand the appeal of showing off the prop lighting on the set and actors, but it was a little dark. Not Game of Thrones season eight, episode three dark, but twilight could have served its purpose.
I also found the camera work to be very inconsistent. For the first half of the duel, which Vader wins, the camera work is very “fan film”, opting to use a lot of handheld cinematography and quick cuts that can be difficult to follow. That said, the second half of the duel is much tighter, with a steadier camera rig. I’m not sure if this was to showcase Kenobi’s mastery of the Force or not as the duel progressed, but I did find it unusual. But the choreography was pretty great, opting to mix up brute force and rapid movements. The duel was marked with anger and sadness, very different than the duel in Sith.
When Kenobi strikes Vader’s helmet, causing it to expose Anakin’s partial face underneath though was A+ material. Sure, those who have seen season two of Star Wars Rebels have seen this before, but it’s still great to see it in live-action with Hayden Christensen’s Anakin voice struggling through James Earl Jones’ Vader voice. Kenobi then apologizes to his former student and friend before leaving him to wallow in his misery, hate and defeat. But let’s be real, Kenobi dropped the ball again and failed to kill his former padawan. Bigger picture Kenobi. Those guys in the hallway in Rogue One are on you! The biggest surprise though is the absence of Kenobi telling Anakin that he can still sense good in him, something that I think a lot of fans were expecting, as there’s a line in Return of the Jedi where Vader tells Luke “Obi-Wan once thought as you did” when Luke tells his father he can sense conflict within him. Considering Obi-Wan Kenobi is a limited series, I’m not sure when we’ll see that scene play out. Either way, best moment of the entire show and Hayden was completely haunting as the corrupted Anakin within.
While all this is going on though, Reva is on Tatooine in search of Luke in order to kill him to exact revenge on Anakin. I won’t recap this part of the story too much, but this segment largely felt irrelevant. Not only because we know Luke, Owen and Buru survive, but that Luke has no trauma or memory of that time a Sith Inquisitor hunted him down. For all he knows, it was a Tusken hunting him, as he was knocked out and never actually saw Reva. It’s also a bit of a stretch that Reva was able to deduce Bail’s message to mean the Lars homestead and that there was a connection between the boy and Anakin. So the scenes largely feel unnecessary and devoid of tension, which is what I can’t help but feel about the Reva character in the end. There was certainly a lot of potential with Reva, but the character is sadly one of the weaker parts of the show overall, and let me be clear, that’s not a knock against Moses Ingram. I’m also getting a little tired of Dark Side users having to be redeemed by the end of their character arc, villains can be villains. Instead of focusing so heavily on Reva, it’s a shame the show didn’t dedicate that screen time to more flashbacks with Anakin and Kenobi. Reva could have easily had her own show about her conflict with Vader, but that story got wedged in between Kenobi’s story and it hurt the show overall.
Leia is an interesting element of the show. I quite liked the bold and fearless youth and how she was the reason for getting Kenobi out of his rut. There were some bumps getting him there, such as the hilariously poorly shot kidnapping sequence in Part I, but Vivien Lyra Blair crushed it. That said, I think the show relied too much on her in the first half of the series. She was never an annoying character, but having two kidnappings and rescues inside four episodes felt redundant. But she got better in the final two episodes, not only due to the reduced focus but in that her smaller screen time felt more impactful. Part III still had the most rewarding scenes with her, but in V, she was able to help, rather than to be a burden. But the scene in this episode where Kenobi tells Leia about which qualities and values come from each parent was incredibly touching.
Part V was framed against a lightsaber training sequence between the master and apprentice and while it was far too short, it did frame the episode nicely. If each episode used this technique, I’m sure we could’ve had far more rewarding insight and character depth between Anakin and Kenobi, which would be great for those who haven’t seen The Clone Wars. The one flashback in Obi-Wan Kenobi is far better in execution than any of the flashbacks in The Book of Boba Fett.
Part VI also finally incorporated the classic Star Wars motifs such as the Imperial March, Binary Sunset and Leia’s Theme into the score and it struck me how mundane and unimpactful the score has been for the duration of the show. I can’t think back on the show and say, wow the music in that particular scene was a standout, can’t wait to listen to it again. We also end the series with Kenobi wearing his comic book garbs and riding off into the sunset with Qui-Gon Jinn, who finally appears and will teach him the ways of becoming a Force ghost. Vader gets his own visitation from Palpatine, who instructs him to let the past die, basically. So will Vader abandon this search for Kenobi for good or will he disobey his master’s orders and attempt to seek him out through other means?
In the end, Obi-Wan Kenobi was a series that reached for the stars but failed to achieve those heights. Those who remember my writings during the days of Moviepilot might remember my article citing my worries about a Kenobi film (as it was originally supposed to be a film). Now that the six-part series is done, I can’t help but wonder if a film was the better way to go. Like Moon Knight, this six-episode run feels like it could have been condensed a bit more and given a larger budget to suit its epic characters. As it stands, Reva, an interesting character on paper, ends up getting in the way of the emotional arc for Kenobi and Anakin. The show dedicates a lot of screentime towards her when the answer was to keep it simple and focus on these legacy characters. The Inquisitors could be there as foils for Vader and obstacles for Kenobi, but not at the compromise of their story, which should have been the heart of the story. Obi-Wan Kenobi concludes as a mixed-bag show. It has some truly great moments and Lucasfilm nailed Darth Vader yet again. But the show often fumbles, whether it be from poor use of runtime, lack of focus on the leads and some shoddy camera work when it came to the action sequences. It’s definitely better than Boba Fett I’d say, but doesn’t reach the highs of The Mandalorian, which is a real shame in the end.