Obi-Wan Kenobi is Shaping Up to Be the Best Star Wars Show This Side of The Mandalorian

The first two episodes of Disney’s six-part(?) series, Obi-Wan Kenobi, released last Friday and, oh boy, is there a lot to unpack. Be wary of major spoilers ahead if you haven’t already seen them.

To offer context for those who might need it, this latest Star Wars TV series, upon which Canadian filmmaker Deborah Chow serves as both the showrunner and sole director, centres on the titular hero ten years after the events of Episode III, where he lives a life of self-imposed solitude on Tatooine in order to remain hidden from the Sith while also watching over a young Luke Skywalker from a distance. The relatively sparse promotional material prior to its release even leaned in on Luke’s presence and potential role in the show by revealing him in the trailer. However, this turned out to be a well-executed MacGuffin that showed uncharacteristic restraint from Disney, at least from a marketing standpoint.

I say this because the latest release in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, gave away so many details and cameos in its trailers that even its producer and Marvel President, Kevin Feige, came out and admitted as much. Taking cues from DC’s The Batman trailer, which misleadingly suggested that the Riddler knew Batman’s true identity, the Obi-Wan Kenobi series is not concerned with Luke, but instead Leia, with the actress playing her, nine-year-old Vivien Lyra Blair, absolutely stealing the show.

Blair’s superb performance aside (which is even more impressive when compared to Benny Safdie’s wooden cameo), the focus on Leia is a wonderful creative stroke that offers more context to a character that, frankly, needed it, badass as she already is in the Skywalker saga. There is also a wonderful dynamic between Obi-Wan and Leia upon their initial meeting in the second episode, and it does a wonderful job of re-establishing the aging Jedi’s core values while also showing that Leia is a born leader, possessing wits beyond even many of the adults around her.

On a grander scale, the series very much owns its history with a substantial recap of the events of the prequel series, making no secret of the fact that this is very much a continuation of that story through the eyes of one of the franchise’s most popular characters. The Jedi Order’s collapse in the opening moments of the first episode is executed with breath-taking cinematography that utilises long takes, while also showcasing impressive fight choreography that the franchise honestly needs more of. In fact, whenever a character brandishes their lightsabre there is a palpable intensity in their use, which is Deborah Chow showcasing the versatility that landed her the job in the first place. Speaking of which, no character, not even Obi-Wan or Leia, are as kinetic as Moses Ingram, who shines as the villainous Reva Sevander, AKA the Third Sister. Her character wields a lightsaber more than any other thus far, and mixing that with her compellingly unbridled recklessness creates a tension that resonates against Obi-Wan’s tempered civility, however jaded he may be.

Of course, this is all without the inevitable appearance of Hayden Christensen’s Darth Vader, which was hinted at in the final shot of the second episode, but it speaks to how strong a start Obi-Wan Kenobi is off to when it can do all of the above without yet introducing one of the most iconic villains in the history of cinema.

Obi-Wan Kenobi has done a lot right with few narrative missteps thus far, but its most glaring issue is an oddly recurring one: Leia’s chase scenes. Leia is actually chased in both of the episodes, which is not odd in and of itself, but considering how much difficulty the production team clearly had shooting and editing them in a credible manner, one does wonder why they decided to do it twice over.

In the first episode, Leia is chased by a group of nefarious kidnappers in the woods (one of whom is played by none other than legendary Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea), and after an admittedly smooth maneuverer that saw her sliding out of reach of one kidnapper, another chases Leia until she crawls under some low-hanging branches, which her pursuer somehow didn’t see until it was right up in their face, awkwardly admitting defeat at the hands of this…branch. Anyway, Leia is eventually kidnapped and taken to the planet Daiyu, leading Obi-Wan to temporarily abandon his watch of Luke in order to save his twin sister. Obi-Wan does just that, but a savvy young Leia is wary of the Jedi (or if he even is one to begin with), causing her at one point to flee through the crowds in what has to be one of the least convincing chase scenes I have encountered in some time, if ever. It is no fault of the young Blair, however. Instead, it is Deborah Chow’s, whose work on the show has been excellent so far, but surely more could have been done to convincingly sell us on something as seemingly simple as Leia weaving through crowds to get way from Obi-Wan, because these two instances are by far the most distracting moments of the series thus far.

It is early in the series yet, and with there being four episodes yet to air, it is too early yet to place Obi-Wan Kenobi in the same tier as The Mandalorian, Star Wars’ crown jewel of live action TV thus far. Some Disney TV productions can lose steam as a season wanes on, almost as if they’re killing time before the final two episodes come around, but I have high hopes for Obi-Wan Kenobi, and if it can keep this momentum up, it would be a tough act to follow for upcoming productions Andor and Ashoka.

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