What even is Star Wars anymore? In the modern age, that question is an increasingly tricky exercise. To a generation of those who were teens or adults in 1977, Star Wars is a thrill ride spectacle for the ages that is equally synonymous with the silver screen and popcorn as anything can get. To many, it’s an endlessly enriched world of expanded lore, books, comics, games, and merch of an extreme breadth of quality. For millennials, they’re a CGI extravaganza building to the tragic rise of Darth Vader, culminating in a heated battle against his friend and mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Then, for an entirely new generation, Star Wars is meant for television and animated television at that. The generation that grew up with Game of Thrones and the MCU in their periphery adored the camaraderie of Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan that their elders may have never imagined through Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Perhaps they share a vision of what Star Wars truly is—the serials that George Lucas saw them as more than any other generation.
While the landmark series The Mandalorian restored much goodwill after the sequel trilogy managed to polarize fans, there’s an entirely other side of Star Wars in which the maligned “Prequels” have received their inevitable cultural reevaluation. Among the most hated movies at the turn of the century and the dawn of internet discourse, the people who grew up with an attachment to the era of the Galactic Republic and the subsequent Clone Wars have far less endearment to the stories of the original trilogy.
Obi-Wan Kenobi, a six-episode limited series, attempts to bridge that gap and find the perfect constellation between all corners of the Star Wars fandoms. Certainly, Disney and Lucasfilm have engineered this series for potential success with rising star TV director Deborah Chow (The Mandolorian, Mr. Robot) returning to the director’s chair and contributing to significant rewrites pre-pandemic.
The series aims to connect the remains of the Republic and the rise of the Galactic Empire while tying in expanded universe characters like the Sith Inquisitors. Most essentially, the “Prequels” reevaluation and Gen Z’s love of the Clone Wars series permit a sort of do-over and revisit for actors Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen, the latter receiving a taste of his iconic villain’s development.
The Star Wars universe is an increasingly complex beast of a thing in popular culture. Yet, people who have only seen the films can tune into Obi-Wan Kenobi with clarity. This is a Prequel Trilogy epilogue, and a gentle nudge into that familiar world of the 1977 classic. This feels especially so with the return of the prequel cast, including even smaller roles such as Jimmy Smits as Bail Organa and Joel Edgerton as Luke’s uncle, Owen Lars.
The series Obi-Wan Kenobi finds its titular character hiding out on Tatooine. Under the disguised name Ben, Obi-Wan keeps a low profile and an eye on the young boy, Luke Skywalker, from afar. Whilst the Sith Inquisitors hunt the Jedi, Third Sister Reva, in a malicious performance by Moses Ingram, has a particular itch to appease the Empire by finding Kenobi, one of the most legendary Jedi Knights.
Kenobi is beckoned off-world to assist senator Bail Organa, who has one of Skywalker’s children as his adopted daughter, Leia. The girl has been kidnapped, and Kenobi is the only person Organa can rely on to find and rescue her. This call to action, and the subsequent rescue show the range of McGregor, as he uses this series to bridge a dejected and downhearted Kenobi after the tragedy of losing Anakin, and his transformation into the wise Ben Kenobi that audiences met in Alec Guinness’s portrayal.
The true surprise of this two-episode premiere for many will be a reprisal, or revival, of Leia Organa, portrayed for the first time as a young child by Vivian Lyra Bryer (Bird Box, Waco). Upon first impression, the lifeblood of this series is the young actress being perfectly cast, and directed, to embody the iconic presence of Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia. So far, the actress breathes an inspiring life into live-action Star Wars that has been missing since the wonder of a young Mark Hamill, or even in some ways Jake Lloyd in 1999.
The key scenes in the second episode between Bryer and McGregor sell unique chemistry and a transformation for both characters. This brings a certain level of excitement to find Leia admiring Kenobi to such a point that we understand how she may think to call upon him in a most desperate time of need years down the road.
There are so many features yet to be seen in the series, as we’ve yet to see Christiansen portray Vader for the first time beyond the famous shouting of the word “no”. However, if the modern live-action serials on Disney+ continue on the trajectory they’re meant to, we’ll see a true capstone to Lucas’ prequel trilogy 17 years later.
The first two episodes of Obi-Wan Kenobi are out now on Disney+. Watch the trailer below.