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Don’t call him Obi-Wan.
He’s Ben now. And while the Jedi is technically on Tatooine to keep track of Luke Skywalker—now a precocious 10-year-old being raised by his Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru—he’s hiding, too. Hiding from the Empire’s Inquisitors, to be sure. But hiding from his own past, his own decisions, his own self.
“I’m not the man you remember,” he tells someone, and it’s true. He’s older and warier, if not wiser. The Empire’s Inquisitors—those tasked with hunting down any Jedi knights that might’ve escaped their nets—believe that the Jedi do the real hunting: They save people. They do good. Their own unfailing compassion expose the Jedi, making a “hunt” almost unneccesary.
“The Jedi code is like an itch,” the Grand Inquisitor says. “He cannot help it.”
But Obi-Wan—excuse me, Ben—can.
Or so he tells himself.
Luke is, as Star Wars fans are well aware, a special kid. He’s the son of Anakin Skywalker, an uber-talented Jedi student who studied under Obi-Wan before turning to the Dark Side of the Force. Anakin is now Darth Vader—much changed physically, thanks to a battle with Obi-Wan. And he’s not forgotten his old master.
But Vader doesn’t know about the twins he fathered with Padmé Amidala, or that they, too, are strong with the Force. As the Empire formed and Vader became one of its key components, a handful of rebels—including Obi-Wan—decided to hide the children away. Luke would go to the desert planet of Tatooine, to be watched by Obi-Wan in secret. Luke’s sister, Leia, would be adopted by Queen Breha and Sen. Bail Organa, rulers of the planet Alderaan.
Imperial Inquisitor Reva, however, uncovered a link between Kenobi and the Organas and had Leia kidnapped. She doesn’t actually know Leia’s lineage, but what better way to flush Kenobi out into the open, right? And if Reva is able to bring Kenobi in, Darth Vader will be … most pleased.
Kenobi knows the risks. But he can’t let his old friend, Bail, down. And he knows, as well as anyone, how important Leia may be to the future of the galaxy. So the Jedi picks up his light saber, leaves his watchful post on Tatooine and heads off to rescue the other Skywalker child.
Seems the itch of the Jedi Code is still with him, after all.
Disney+’s Obi-Wan Kenobi takes place in the difficult, early days of the Empire—between Episode III (Revenge of the Sith) and Episode IV (A New Hope, aka the original Star Wars pic). And for fans of the Star Wars franchise, the miniseries is (thus far) a solid, if not spectacular, addition.
Ewan McGregor returns as Obi-Wan, and he gives the aging Jedi a gravitas that helps ground this sci-fi fantasy. And the plot feels reasonably sensical, too: Of course Obi-Wan would suffer a crisis of confidence, considering he helped train someone who turned out to be a dark Sith lord. Like any parent of a wayward child, he must wonder every night what he did wrong. But that doesn’t slow him from doing his utmost to save Leia. Whatever mistakes he might’ve made in the past, he’s still a Jedi. Saving people is what Jedis do.
While Ben’s departure to rescue the other Skywalker kid might’ve come as a surprise to viewers, the content we find here is not—not, at least, for those familiar with the Star Wars universe.
We don’t hear a whit of swearing in the early goings of Obi-Wan Kenobi. Sex and sensuality aren’t an issue, either. Violence is: People fight, get zapped and stabbed, and sometimes they die in the laser blaster and lightsaber battles. We also see a bit of drug content in the form of “spice,” an intoxicant that has become a bigger feature in Star Wars properties as of late.
For some families, the biggest issue might be the Force itself—the all-powerful thing that Jedi use so effectively and that comes with some quasi-spiritual elements. While the Force took a back seat with Disney+’s other Star Wars shows, The Mandalorian and Boba Fett, this series brings the Force back in, um, force.
But if you can navigate the show’s violence and spiritual magic—and judging by the franchise’s success, many can—Obi-Wan Kenobi offers another engaging chapter in the Star Wars saga.
Obi-Wan faces off against Darth Vader directly so that Leia and other refugees from the Empire can escape. Meanwhile, Reva attacks the Lars’ farm on Tatooine, searching for Luke.
Various characters duel with lightsabers (and Vader’s mask is split open by Obi-Wan, revealing his scarred face). Obi-Wan and Vader use the Force to throw rocks at each other. Vader buries Obi-Wan by opening up a crater with the Force and covering him in rocks (but Obi-Wan escapes). Ships fire at each other. Reva uses the Force to knock a child off a cliff (though he survives). Owen and Beru fire blasters at Reva. She knocks them around, injuring Owen’s leg.
A man cuts into a food line, shoving another man out of his way. Owen lies to Luke. Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan’s deceased Jedi master, appears to him as a ghost-like apparition through the power of the Force.
Reva attempts to kill Luke with her lightsaber but stops when she remembers how Vader tried to kill her in a similar manner when she was a child. Obi-Wan later tells her that she honored the memories of her friends who were slain by Vader by choosing mercy instead of death.
Reva and Darth Vader catch up with Obi-Wan and Leia at a refugee camp.
Flashbacks show Anakin Skywalker (after he became Darth Vader but before the mask) slaughtering Jedi younglings. [Spoiler warning] We learn that Reva was one of these children and that she survived by playing dead and hiding amongst her friends’ bodies.
People fight with blasters, lightsabers and the Force (and several perish). After receiving a critical injury, a woman blows herself and several Stormtroopers up with a grenade so her friends can escape. A woman explains how the Empire lied to her about rounding up people who weren’t paying taxes: It turns out the families were all Force-sensitive and the Empire killed them all, including six children.
A man says he prays for Obi-Wan and Leia’s safety. Vader uses the Force to pull a ship out of the sky and rip it apart—though nobody (except perhaps the pilot) is injured.
After Leia is rekidnapped by the Inquisitors, Obi-Wan attempts to break her out of an Imperial prison.
People are killed by lightsabers and blasters. Several Imperial soldiers drown when Obi-Wan uses the Force to break the windows of an underwater facility. A man is killed when his speeder crashes (after the Inquisitor Reva disabled it). A man says the Inquisitors killed his wife because she could use the Force. Obi-Wan discovers the prison doubles as a tomb with the bodies of dozens of Jedi encased in a kind of plasma (and one of these is that of a young child). Someone lies to Leia that Obi-Wan was burned alive. Reva prepares to torture Leia but is stopped just in time. Obi-Wan chokes out a trooper before tossing him into ocean water. Vader uses the Force to choke someone but releases them.
Obi-Wan is placed shirtless in a medical tank to heal from some burn wounds (and we see Darth Vader in a similar tank elsewhere). People lie.
Kenobi and young Princess Leia have escaped to the mining system of Mapuzo—a waypoint, Obi-Wan hopes, on the trip back to Leia’s home planet of Alderaan. But the Inquisitors are tracking them. And Reva, an ambitious young Inquisitor, has pulled in Kenobi’s old pupil and new arch enemy: Darth Vader.
Mapuzo is crawling with Imperial stormtroopers. Kenobi and Leia avoid some of them withb lies and subterfuge. But a checkpoint proves to be a more difficult obstacle. Several stormtroopers (and a transport driver) are killed in a firefight, and one is sliced in half, before Kenobi and Leia temporarily escape.
When Vader shows up, he arrives with sadistic energy. He holds one man high in the air with his signature choke hold; when the man’s young son rushes out to help, Vader uses the Force to throw him against a wall and grotesquely snap the boy’s neck. Vader drags another woman through the streets and does quite a bit of property damage. He uses his Force powers elsewhere, too—choking, throwing and ultimately dragging someone through a flaming sandscape. The victim lives, but the experience is clearly quite painful. We see a brief lightsaber battle as well.
We not only see the Force in action, but hear people talk about it. When Leia asks what the Force feels like, Kenobi says, “Have you ever been afraid of the dark?” When Leia says she has, Ben asks, “How does it feel when you turn on the light?”
“It feels safe,” Leia tells him.
“Yes, it feels like that.”
We see Vader hooked up to various bits of machinery that keep him alive. We also get a view of his bare (and rather disgusting) back. People tell lies and mislead. We’re told that the Empire isn’t just hunting Jedi, but people who are “Force-sensitive.” What the Empire wants with these people, some of whom are children, we’re not told.
Ben Kenobi goes to a planet called Daiyu, where he believes Leia is being kept. But that’s just what Leia’s captors want.
Kenobi fights with several people—punching and getting punched in turn.
“You’re not a Jedi anymore, Kenobi,” one of his assailants tells him. “You’re just a man. And you’re bleeding all over my floor.”
People also blast away at each other with laser blasters. And while their aim is characteristically terrible, someone does get hit in the chest. Someone is stabbed in the torso with a lightsaber and apparently dies. (We see the saber stick out the victim’s back.) Someone falls from a building, but is saved thanks to the timely use of the Force.
A fake Jedi uses magnets to convince people of his powers, and he uses the subterfuge to bilk people out of their money. But he seems to have a change of heart at the end of the episode, helping Kenobi in a time of great need. Daiyu appears to be a collection point for wretched scum and villainy, and there’s indications that human trafficking might be common there. (One female selling the drug spice, who looks like she might be in her teens or early 20s, confesses to Kenobi that “I was once someone’s daughter, too.”
The woman gives Kenobi a couple of packets of spice on the house. “A couple more of those and you’ll forget that [Leia] ever existed,” she says. Kenobi infiltrates what apparently is a spice-manufacturing center (it’s purposefully designed to recall a meth or heroin lab), and we see some overcome by the spice’s effects.
An untrusting Leia runs away from Kenobi. People use Jedi powers, and Kenobi seems to call on help from his dead mentor, Qui-Gon Jinn.
Taking place 10 years after the Empire was formed and the Skywalker twins separated, this first episode introduces us to where our main characters are now. Luke’s exasperating his uncle, of course. Leia’s causing trouble on Alderaan and Ben Kenobi is working at what appears to be a meat-packing plant—where each day looks much like the day before. But danger is never far: Imperial Inquisitors land on Tatooine, searching for rogue Jedi. And Inquisitor Reva has a plan to corral one of the most important ones of all.
The Inquisitor snuffs out a Jedi by throwing a knife at a bar owner: The knife freezes in mid-air, giving the Jedi away. He makes a run for it, but his freedom is temporary. We later see the Jedi, apparently dead, tied to an overpass. Inquisitors also slice the hand off a bystander (we see the bloody appendage on the ground) and threaten the lives of a farmer and his family. A lightsaber burns the upper arm of someone. A child is kidnapped; a bag is thrown over her head.
A Jawa tells Kenobi that he smells bad. Leia disobeys and plays tricks on her parents. “If you behaved as well as you climb, you’d be a senator already,” her mother says, as Leia dangles from a tree. We also see Luke run and disobey guardian Uncle Owen. We hear references to slave labor. A cousin bullies Leia and is mean to droids.
Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.
Emily studied film and writing when she was in college. And when she isn’t being way too competitive while playing board games, she enjoys food, sleep, and geeking out with her husband indulging in their “nerdoms,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything they love, such as Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate and Lord of the Rings.
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