Just beforelaunched in in may, I .
I believed that, for one reason or another, Obi-Wan Kenobi seemed like a last hope for Star Wars under. After one a few hit-or-miss spin-offs and a handful of mediocre TV shows, I was left unenthusiastic for Star Wars.
Obi-Wan Kenobi felt like a last stand for my own Star Wars fandom.
Despite disliking almost all of Disney’s Star Wars production, I had a feeling that Obi-Wan Kenobi had a decent chance of being “good”. The stakes of a series focusing on such an important character – combined with the potential the series had to bridge the gap between the prequels and the originals – set the stage for a new kind of Star Wars nostalgia. The kids who grew up in the prequels are adults now. Don’t they deserve the kind of fan service Disney has been providing for the past decade?
I thought so. But I also believed that the show had the potential to occupy a new middle ground. One that appealed not only to the newest Star Wars fans, but all fans. And you know what? Most of the time, that’s exactly how it happened.
Was Obi-Wan Kenobi… awesome?
Of course, the actress who plays Leia looked way too young to play a 10-year-old girl. Of course, she was part of one of the most unintentionally hilarious chase scenes in TV history.
AND clear (this is my last certainty, I promise), the stakes were lowered with the knowledge that Leia, Luke, and Obi-Wan would survive the series’ encounters.
But despite all these certainties, against all odds, Obi-Wan Kenobi still managed to be the best TV show Disney has produced since acquiring Star Wars.
Perhaps most impressively, it accomplished the impossible: it made (almost) every Star Wars fan happy.
Most fandoms tend to have toxic elements, but Star Wars fans are among the hardest to please.
I suspect it’s because Star Wars is so broad, so ubiquitously intertwined with people’s personal stories, that it’s impossible to reconcile. Everyone has their brand of Star Wars, their own idea of what it should represent. I loved The Last Jedi because it showed me that Star Wars could reinvent itself, that Star Wars could make interesting choices, operate in shades of grey. Others hated The Last Jedi because it felt like a betrayal of the characters they grew up with.
Perhaps the best compliment I could give Obi-Wan Kenobi is that most Star Wars fans – apart from the racists who came after Moses Ingram – liked it. Almost across the board.
Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan plays an important role in this. His performance, widely regarded as a high point in the prequels, is flawless on the show. McGregor has a charisma and vulnerability that elevates Star Wars, even at its worst. You believe Obi-Wan when he has a crisis of confidence. You feel connected to his struggles and uplifted as he overcomes his own doubts and rises to the occasion.
But I think Obi-Wan is successful primarily because it connects two distinct Star Wars fanbases seamlessly. It takes the best of the prequels – its aesthetic, McGregor – and combines it with the most timeless part of the original trilogy – Vader as an irredeemable, overpowering villain to be feared at all costs.
With those two elements in place, Obi-Wan Kenobi, despite its flaws, just it works. The inventively choreographed lightsaber duels between the two were flawless.
But Darth Vader’s portrayal is perhaps the show’s greatest strength. In the middle parts of the show, he rocks like an ultra-violent slasher villain, and it’s incredibly emotional. I don’t think Vader has ever felt so terrifying. Still, his insecurities feel raw, and in the end – his mask damaged, his body broken – you get a real sense of what he’s been fighting for and how far he’s come.
Disney’s need to endlessly fill in the gaps in Star Wars’ increasingly rigid metanarrative has always felt strange. A universe that once seemed awe-inspiring and gigantic has become as small as a snow globe. But Obi-Wan Kenobi felt like a story worth telling, a story that created a connective tissue that every Star Wars fan could relate to. A story that everyone – with their own unique ideas of what Star Wars should to be – could be left behind.
That, in itself, seems like a great achievement.