It's been ten years since the fall of the Republic and the rise of the Empire. All remaining Jedi not ensnared by Order 66 are in hiding. Obi-Wan Kenobi (an older, scruffy looking Ewan Macgregor) is living on the desert planet of Tatooine, watching over Luke Skywalker. Meanwhile, Leia Skywalker, is being raised by the Organas as their own on Alderaan. The true identity of the Skywalker twins is known only to a handful of people. But ten years after the destruction of the Jedi Order, events conspire that threaten to tear everything apart...
OK, now that we got that dramatic opening out of the way, a couple of notes on the review. It's quite SPOILER HEAVY, so don't read on if you don't want to know what happens. Also, what's written in this article are my views, and my views alone, so don't take them as gospel. And with all that said and done..
THE ACTUAL REVIEW
The pilot episode kicks off with a succinct recap of the Prequel Trilogy, so you get the gist of what happens in those movies. I'm not saying you need to watch the prequels, but I'm going to tell you to watch them. If that doesn't sound palatable, then at least watch Revenge of the Sith. Not only is it far and above the best film of the prequel saga, but the events of Obi-Wan Kenobi take place following what transpired in that film. I would still recommend watching all three movies to get a better sense of the fall of Anakin Skywalker and the failure of the Jedi that caused them to be hunted down by the Empire. And heck, if that still doesn't sound like your cup of tea, there are fan edits that remove most - if not all - of the cheesy moments that led a section of the fandom to have a meltdown. Anyway, this first paragraph gone on longer than I wanted it to. It was great to see the recap of the prequels, if only because of the acknowledgement that they exist.
The series then gives us the first new footage, although it still takes place during the events of Revenge of the Sith. It could be a deleted scene from that film, but my gut tells me no. Anyway, a group of Younglings (one of whom I will go on record as saying is a young Reva, although this is never clarified in the episode) are training in the Jedi Temple when Anakin and the stormtroopers (yes, they're clones but I'm going to call them stormtroopers). The Jedi master leads the children in an attempt to escape the temple, but she is killed after putting up a brave fight. The children, however, manage to flee.
The episode then cuts to Tatooine and we get two significant developments: for starters, we get our first glimpse of an older, more grizzled version of Obi-Wan. Calling himself "Ben" and having cut himself off from the Force, he's unable to commune with his old master, Qui-Gon Jinn, and is instead eking out a miserable existence as a hermit in a cave in the desert. By day, he works as a meat packer, stripping red shreds from the carcass of a giant desert creature. Meanwhile, he watches over Luke, and we get all but a few seconds of the future Jedi: he's living out in the moisture farm with his Uncle Owen (Joel Edgerton) and Aunt Beru (Bonnie Piesse). From the short time we see Luke, we understand that he wilfully shirks his chores and prefers to daydream about being a pilot (nice bit of foreshadowing there). Since Obi-Wan and Luke are not destined to meet until the events of A New Hope, I am assuming at this stage that they will have little or no contact during the course of the show. Of course, I would have assumed the same would be true about Obi-Wan and Leia, but more on that later. By night, Obi-Wan is haunted by his past: his ruined friendship with Anakin, the latter's turn to the Dark Side, Order 66, the destruction of the Jedi Order. It's safe to say he's not the same man we saw even at the end of Revenge of the Sith.
The next significant development is the arrival of the Inquisitors to Tatooine. Now, I have never seen Rebels or played Fallen Order, so all I know about them is what I've glimpsed from the show: they're former Jedi who have turned to the Dark Side and now hunt Jedi for the Empire. There's a great shot of the Inquisitors' ship flying high above the town, the shadow of which covers the people on the ground, who look no more than ants. The ship lands in the middle of the street and out step three Inquisitors: the Grand Inquisitor (Rupert Friend), the Fifth Brother (Sang Kung) and Third Sister Reva (Moses Ingram). They believe there are Jedi on Tatooine, and they would be right. One thing is apparently clear: Reva does not get along with either the Grand Inquisitor or the Fifth Brother. They think her too impulsive and reckless. She reckons they should be pursuing bigger fish. It transpires that she has a bee in her bonnet about Obi-Wan, but we don't find out why. My guess at this point in the show is that she blames him for not killing Anakin and thereby letting the Jedi Order fall, which led her to her present state. I could be wrong, though. I don't have much of a problem with her character at this point. Yes, Reva is annoying, but she's meant to be arrogant, reckless and angry: she is, in fact, a villain, and we're meant to see her as such. The only thing that stood out to me was her Straight Outta Compton accent, that took me out of the moment whenever it slipped through. Now, I'm not sure if it is a Straight Outta Compton accent, it just sounded off to me. There's another potential issue in that the character might be written to know more than she should. For example (and I'm getting ahead of myself here) she knows that Darth Vader and Anakin Skywalker are one and the same. How she knows something that nobody else knows, and is probably a deep, dark secret, is a mystery at this point, but no doubt it points to what happened at the Jedi Temple ten years ago. Perhaps she saw Anakin in the temple killing Younglings and she figured it out. I guess we'll find out.
Anyway, as we said, there are Jedi on Tatooine, one is hiding in the canteen the Inquisitors happen to visit shortly after landing. He gives himself away by using his Force powers. He's chased by the Inquisitors but manages to escape. Later on, the mysterious young Jedi (Nari by name, played by actor Benny Safdie) meets Obi-Wan on his return trip from the Lars moisture farm, and he begs the former Jedi general to help him. Ob-Wan refuses, telling him the best thing he can do is to bury his lightsabre in the ground. This Nari cannot do, and he pays the ultimate price for it.
The plot really kicks into gear with the abduction of Princess Leia (Vivien Lyra Blair) from her home world of Alderaan. The episode actually cuts back and forth between Tatooine and Alderaan, and we get to meet the future Rebel leader as a precocious ten year old, more interested in spaceship spotting with her insect-like droid, Lola, than fulfilling her royal duties. Shirking off duties seems to be trait the Skywalkers share. It was great to see Jimmy Smits back as Bail Organa, who actual fulfils a positive male role model for Leia. There is a scene in which she is bullied by her cousin, who leaves her feeling down and not like a real Organa (which of course, she isn't in reality). But Bail gives her a heart-warming pep talk, and that was great to see. I have to admit that I wasn't expecting the main plot of the show to revolve around the abduction and rescue of Leia, and it struck me as an odd choice. It still strikes me as an odd choice: I guess the writers felt it would tug at our heart strings more if the person being kidnapped was an existing character that we knew and loved. Hence, Leia. And to be honest, I didn't really find her character that annoying or insufferable (although some of the things she says and does do grate just a tiny bit - but more on that on my Episode 2 review).
Anyway, shortly after the pep talk Leia gets captured by what we presume to be a bunch of space pirates for some unknown purpose. Bail gets in touch with Obi-Wan via a holographic message, and asks him to rescue her adopted daughter. However, Obi-Wan refuses, claiming he has to stay on Tatooine to continue watching over Luke. Later on, Bail pays Obi-Wan an actual visit, and this time, the old Jedi master agrees. I do have to address something that happens in these two exchanges that may have been misconstrued by some fans. In the first communication, Bail says the twins are both equally important to the future of the galaxy (I'm paraphrasing, of course). In the second, Bail comments: "It's not about the boy, and you know it." Some commenters have taken this to mean that Bail is speaking disparagingly of Luke (i.e. he's just a mouthpiece for Disney/Lucasfilm, who do seem to genuinely dislike Luke Skywalker). But I think there's more to it than that. I think Bail is referencing Obi-Wan's apparent PTSD as the real reason for not going off-world to rescue Leia. In any case, Obi-Wan decides to dig up his old lightsabre, and after some trepidation, boards a transport ship. And that's where the episode ends.
Now, I want to mention a couple of things I didn't get to talk about above. There's a scene with a Jawa in Obi-Wan's home that I found quite funny. Essentially, the Jawa stole a part of Kenobi's vaporiser and then tried to sell it back to him. I quite liked the exchange between the two, you get the feeling that they're almost pals and it's not their first rodeo. I also like the idea of Obi-Wan buying the beat up imperial shuttle toy that he then tries to pass on to Luke, though of course, his uncle Owen is having none of it. Speaking of Owen, I thought the scene in which Reva confronts him in town was quite tense, even though we know canonically that nothing can happen to Luke or Owen just yet. However, seeing Reva threaten his family was quite telling, and perhaps the thread will be followed up on in later episodes, otherwise why have it in there.
All in all, I enjoyed the episode. It was great seeing Ewan Macgregor back as Obi-Wan, and I enjoyed seeing not only the references and call-backs to the prequels, but also the foreshadowing of what's to come in the original trilogy. The special effects were effective and never took me out of the moment. There are only a few minor quibbles that I had regarding the episode. Firstly, we know that most of these characters will be around at the start of A New Hope, so there's no real tension about who will make it out alive and who is going to bite the dust. That said, the journey, at least in the first episode, was enjoyable enough that I was able to get over it. Reva is an interesting character, she's impulsive, reckless, impatient, arrogant, she has an antagonistic relationship with her fellow Inquisitors. She's a bad guy, and is written as such, so disliking the character is OK. My only gripe is that she appears to know more than she perhaps should. We'll have to see how her character develops over the course of the show, and how she came by that knowledge. Another minor complaint I have is the music. Some of it seems to be in keeping with the rest of Star Wars, hinting at familiar themes and notes, although on the whole, the score is quite bland. Normally, I don't really pay attention the music unless it really stands out, and this one doesn't for me. It's just there in the background. My last complaint is the potential canon breaking. I think Obi-Wan meeting Leia is pushing at the boundaries: in A New Hope, Leia's message to Obi-Wan makes it clear that they never actually met. If you're going to make Obi-Wan go off-world, then at least have him go after another target other than Leia. However, name recognition and all that. Although who knows, maybe they'll wipe Leia's mind of the whole ordeal once it's over. Seems to be a convenient crutch in Star Wars.
So that was my review of Obi-Wan Kenobi Episode 1. Stay tuned for my review of Episode 2 coming soon!