Spoilers, to the extent something of this quality may be spoiled, follow.
I’ve now binge watched the first five Disney+ Obi-Wan Kenobi episodes, and I have a report. The good news is that Ewen McGregor, Jimmy Smits, and whoever the guy is who plays Owen Lars are all in fine form. They successfully reprise their roles from the movies. McGregor remains an interesting onscreen presence. Thank god for that.
This is where the good news ends. The writing is awful. It starts with a movie recap of Episodes 1 through 3 that includes some of the more violent bits, like Anakin burning on the lava planet. Contrasted with the tone of Leia frolicking in the forest later, the tone swings wildly between adult-themed and kid-friendly. Who is the target audience for this? The answer just may be “neither.”
The replacement Sith, “brother” this and “sister” that, do the blah blah blah exposition. They’re looking for Jedi to capture or kill, and one of them is hot and bothered to grab Kenobi. Meanwhile old Ben is hiding on Tatooine, having abandoned all things Jedi. He’s working as a butcher and it doesn’t pay well. He doesn’t care. Other than watching from a distance over Luke, Obi-Wan has no real mission in life. He’s a defeated loser, which is quite a change of form from pompous religious nut.
This idea that Kenobi has become a coward grates. It’s not like we’ve not already seen the reluctant superhero schtick in the Star Wars universe before. The former Jedi youngling who finds Kenobi on Tatooine and begs for his help is summarily dismissed. Ben got no time for that, though he appears to feel a little badly when the guy gets strung up in the town square. Oh well, back to chopping meat. As Obi-Wan is supposed to be one of the greatest of the Jedi masters, this is all disappointing. What’s more, who wants to see a Jedi wield a meat cleaver? We want to see our heroes doing heroic things, and carving deli meats isn’t among them.
Meanwhile on Alderaan, 10 year-old Leia casually disobeys her adoptive parents and runs away from her guards. We’re meant to find this cheeky, endearing, and otherwise cute. We don’t. The poor young actress they’ve got portraying Leia bears a passing resemblance to Carrie Fisher. That’s the best one can say. She is not particularly athletic—they rather desperately should have used a stunt double—so the forest chase scene in the first episode is a dreadful slapstick affair. I’m not certain that a better actress could have pulled this off; it’s all trite, clunky, and as stupid as anything we’ve ever seen in the Star Wars universe (which is saying something).
Acting is hard, and that’s especially true for kids. Casting agents and directors have to hit home runs (or at least solid doubles) when it comes to kid actors because they can ruin scenes easily. There’s a lot of that going on in Kenobi.
There has apparently been some online racist comments directed toward the actress who plays the “Third Sister” hunting Kenobi. This is unfortunate. One might despair of her performance, but that’s nothing to do with race. And even then I would argue that it’s unfair to judge her talent on the basis of this role. It’s a poorly written character, if not in design but execution. The idea that a youngling escaped the Jedi Temple massacre and is out for revenge is a keen one. But Kenobi is a show where the bad guys walk around angry all the time with each other and the universe. That one-note quickly gets old and idiotic. That the Third Sister is among these isn’t really the fault of the actress, and who in their right mind turns down an opportunity to be in the Star Wars universe no matter the quality of the script?
Other banal items litter the show. Bail Organa’s message to Kenobi is one of them. In it, he says roughly, “I know I shouldn’t sending this, but I’ve not heard from you. Pretty soon I’m going to go to Tatooine, find Owen (Lars), and protect Luke.” It would be a shame of such a message were to fall into the wrong hands given that it conveys all the information necessary for a bad guy to act. It’s moronic writing and transparently exists only to further the plot. Organa could not possibly be so stupid as to send such a communiqué, except the Star Wars universe is one where reasonable people do unreasonably foolish things. I hate that.
After the Mandalorian, episodes of which ranged from good to great, viewers reasonably expected a lot better than Obi-Wan Kenobi. I’ll finish out Kenobi if only to see how bad it can be. Based on the first five episodes, I’m betting pretty bad.