As the Disney/Star Wars behemoth rumbles on, this time we’re heading back to the midpoint between Episodes 3 and 4: after Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) dispatches the Dark Side-turned Anakin Skywalker, and before a young Luke Skywalker goes looking for a certain Ben Kenobi.
We find Obi-Wan/Ben working in a factory on Tatooine, keeping an eye on Luke from a distance, and looking rather beaten down. But the Empire’s new(ish) Inquisitors are hunting the last of the Jedi, and they’ve had word that one is here. Kenobi is of special interest, it seems, and it’s not long before a certain young Senator’s daughter is kidnapped in order to flush him out.
To be honest, I was a little disappointed in the lack of imagination in the story – after all, famous Star Wars character is roped into rescuing and caring for a youngling is exactly how The Mandalorian was set up. And as great as tiny Leia (Vivien Lyra Blair) is in the role (surprising me, as I did initially think she was going to be horribly irritating), she’s never going to be as cute as Grogu aka Baby Yoda.
The big problem here is an almost totally absent sense of peril. We already know where all of these characters will be in 10 years’ time, and mostly that’s “not dead”. So no, x won’t kill y, and z won’t be hurt, and that really is a problem for the kind of action story they’re attempting to tell here. In lieu of that, what we can take from the show is ‘only’ (ymmv) a few sly nods to set ups for things that happen in later movies, and a WHOLE pile of nostalgia for all the franchise so far.
And so, yes, there’s huge fanfare about Hayden Christensen returning (although tbh 90% of his role is a stunt double voiced by someone else!), and a sight of Luke and Leia’s respective childhoods and less glimpses and more having a can rattled in your face about how they’ll turn out in a few years. There are characters from some of the animated series I haven’t really seen. And yes, okay actually pretty good, a scene or two that looks like a deleted scene from the prequel trilogy. Kudos in one for not doing distracting de-aging on the actors; makeup and imagination served us all well for decades after all.
The big win for me from this is Ewan McGregor being really outstanding. His connection to the role only seems to have deepened, and a greater maturity (25 years?! Omg *I* feel old!) helps the character immensely. His range of emotions here are done oh so well – I mean, just a look in many scenes, and you feel the torment purely from an expression. He absolutely owns and makes this, both.
Young Leia gets a starring role, too, and while I’m rarely onboard with having to endure child acting, I suppose it is quite fitting to see some of the character’s formation and younger years – things that don’t really get addressed much in the original, Luke-centred, trilogy.
The most interesting character, however – even with McGregor on such top form – was for me probably Reva. Why? Well, for a start Moses Ingram is fantastic – and such a bad-ass! – but it’s also a character I don’t know, can’t guess where the story is taking her, and therefore is intriguing in a way none of the rest of the cast really is. I won’t spoil anything, but her story could have been the whole series, imo.
And so… yup, it’s all been fine. I do praise the continuity – it’s one seamless enough story over 6 episodes, just the right length not to have too much padding or outstay its welcome. Fans probably lap it up, and those of us who just sort of like the franchise can have a certain amount of fun. But as a bridging story it’s got so many limits, and while they’ve done well within those, more or less, it’s just… okay.
First broadcast: May 2022
Episodes: 6 @ averaging 44 mins each
My rating: 7/10