Obi-Wan Kenobi Premiere Recap: Surprise Kidnapping Brings Unlikely Pairing, Shocking Reveal

Dropping three hours earlier than originally expected, the highly anticipated Disney+ “Star Wars” series “Obi-Wan Kenobi” got just enough of a head start on Netflix’s “Stranger Things” that eager fans could devour both as they dropped.

Kicking off with the first two of six total episodes, Ewan McGregor was fantastic as the weather-worn Obi-Wan Kenobi, emotionally beaten down and still struggling with having failed Anakin Skywalker in “Revenge of the Sith” ten years later.

It’s appropriate in a way that the story takes place ten years after the events of the 2005 film but was filmed 17 years later. Those extra seven years of aging on McGregor make it more believable that the challenges of living on Tattooine can have him looking as old as Alec Guinness in another ten years or so.

It was also appreciated that Joel Edgerton and Bonnie Piesse reprised their roles as Owen and Beru Lars, respectively. Kathleen Kennedy said she’d learned her lesson about recasting beloved actors, so it was nice to see that continuity here.

Jimmy Smits returns as well, with a surprisingly meaty role as Bail Organa. While we didn’t get a lot of hints as to what this story would be about, it turned out to be far less about Obi-Wan’s charge to watch over Luke on Tatooine as it was about his past with Bail.

In fact, much like Grogu’s partnership with the Mandalorian became the heart of that series, it looks like a similar pairing of grizzled warrior and innocent child will take center stage on this one. And this one did require a recasting.

We were a little surprised as the premiere episode went along that we suddenly found ourselves spending a lot of time not on Tatooine, but over on Alderaan. While we got just one glimpse of Luke playing podracer pilot like his father did on his aunt and uncle’s moisture farm, we were spending an inordinate amount of time with his sister.

The balance was nice, actually, in that we spent a lot of time understanding Luke’s life in “A New Hope,” while we only got fleeting mentions of Leia growing up on Alderaan; a very different experience. Finally, we got to spend some real time with her there alongside her parents and all the trappings of royalty.

It’s no surprise that she was already a reluctant princess at just ten years old, with that spirit of adventure and bravery that would carry her through the end of her life in the film series. Little Vivien Lyra Blair does a solid job of carrying the weight of such a significant character, showing her rebellious side at every turn.

So how does Leia’s story on Alderaan tie into Obi-Wan’s self-imposed exile on Tatooine to watch over her brother, Luke? Enter the Inquisitors. While all of the attention was given to Rupert Friend’s Grand Inquisitor — aside from griping about his design deviating from its animated predecessor — the connection came from further down in the ranks.

We first meet them on Tatooine as they’d gotten word of a Jedi on the planet, but not Obi-Wan. After he was outed, that Jedi tried to reach out to Obi-Wan for help, only to find how far the broken former General and Jedi Master had fallen. Obi-Wan had no help to offer him save to tell him to walk away from everything it is to be a Jedi and try to live a normal life.

It cost the younger Jedi his life, but he stayed true to his ideals until the end. We half expected him to betray Obi-Wan’s presence on Tatooine, but he didn’t. Another person who didn’t betray Obi-Wan was Owen himself.

After “Ben” left a present at his farm for Luke, an enraged Owen returned to throw it back at him and tell him to stay away from Luke. “We talked about this,” Obi-Wan told Owen. “When the time comes, he must be trained.”

“Like you trained his father?”

It’s at this point, that we get a sense of the disharmony among the Inquisitors as Reva, the Third Sister and her associate, the Fifth Brother, both come into the town common area to talk about finding Jedi.

The Fifth Brother offers reward, but Reva immediately starts threatening lives. When one woman speaks out, she loses a hand. She then suspects Lars of knowing something; he was mere meters away from his confrontation with Obi-Wan.

When he denies it, she tells everyone there that if someone doesn’t come clean, she’ll kills Lars and his family. And still, Lars stays quiet. Finally, the Fifth Brother shuts her down. Despite her ambition, it quickly becomes clear that Reva is the low man on the totem pole in the order, and treated even worse.

But it does save Lars’ life. When Obi-Wan thanks Lars for saving his, Lars tells him he didn’t do it for him. So then, who? For Luke? Does he suspect “Old Ben” might still have something of value to offer Luke? He certainly didn’t want him having anything to do with him still in “A New Hope.”

It’s Reva who provides the connection between Obi-Wan’s story and Leia’s. Even after being told to stand down in her obsessive drive to find Obi-Wan by the Grand Inquisitor, a shocking twist reveals that Reva was the one who orchestrated a stealth operation to kidnap Leia from Alderaan.

Yes, this is yet another Leia kidnapping and rescue mission for a “Star Wars” project. No wonder she wasn’t all that impressed when Luke Skywalker showed up to rescue her a decade or so after these events. Kidnapping was old hat to her.

Bail himself came to Tatooine to convince a reluctant Obi-Wan to pick up the lightsaber again and save Leia. It was all exactly how Reva had planned it to go after she’d discovered that Bail and Obi-Wan had fought together in the war.

But what was her deal with Obi-Wan? Why was she so obsessed with him when she barely looks old enough to have anything to do with that war? Well, that proved to be the big “I am your father!” moment of this two-part premiere.

The second episode was about Obi-Wan making his way to the planet Daiyu where Flea — yes that Flea — played the unnamed mercenary who had kidnapped Leia in the pilot and brought her to Daiyu at Reva’s orders.

Her intention was to lure Obi-Wan out of hiding, and it worked. But it also brought the Grand Inquisitor, the FIfth Brother and other Inquisitors. And it was here that we learned just how awful some of these fallen Jedi (now hunting their own) had become.

Class didn’t matter among the Jedi Order, but it appeared to be everything to the Inquisitors, and Reva was trash so far as the Grand Inquisitor was concerned. As such, he told her to stand down and he’d be the one to bring in Obi-Wan.

Honestly, for an order that appears to have a hierarchy of power, the Grand inquisitor seems to have no control or oversight of his underlings — or Reva is just a woman who goes against orders over and over again and seems to get away with it.

As soon as the Grand Inquisitor takes over, she places a bounty on Obi-Wan’s head. With the space ports getting shut down, her plan is to lure him out. It’s a great plan that certainly works, leading to one of the most pointless sequences in the film.

The rooftop chase sequence after Obi-Wan rescues Leia and then she decides she doesn’t trust him after figuring out she was only kidnapped to lure him out had some cool moments. Bounty hunters firing at Obi-Wan, Leia jumping from rooftop to rooftop and a lot of very fancy Jedi-style jumping and flipping from Reva as she tried to get to where Obi-Wan was.

But after Leia falls trying to make one jump and Obi-Wan saves her with the Force — easily the most telegraphed moment of the series so far — it all just fizzles. He grabs Leia and they’re off. We never even see if Reva gets to where he was in frustration or loses him. We just stop following her.

The same awkward edit could be said about virtually everything to do with Kumail Nanjiani’s Haja. A two-bit shyster pretending to be a Jedi, why did he abruptly agree to help Obi-Wan? We were getting Han Solo vibes from his persona at the top, but he lacks that depth of character that Harrison Ford gave the scoundrel pilot.

The most stilted scene came after he learned that there was a bounty on Obi-Wan and abruptly gets up. The next time we see him, he’s offering Obi-Wan another way off the planet, in a cargo ship. But why is he doing this?

Obi-Wan wasn’t sure he could trust him, and neither were we. Suddenly, when Reva showed up, Haja showed incredible bravery in standing up to her, buying Obi-Wan some time. It didn’t do much, as she simply took the information from his mind, but where did it come from?

With a 38 minute runtime, the second episode was packed tight, but a few lines of dialogue with Haja would have helped explain this. On “The Mandalorian,” Bill Burr was able to explain the motivations behind his character and it added so much depth to his scenes and bravery. Haja deserved that as well so we’d understand him more.

Maybe we’ve not see the last of him, though it’s hard to imagine why Reva would have kept him alive based on her track record of ruthlessness. If that was all we get with him, it was a role that had a lot of potential that was totally squandered. Here’s hoping.

The second hour revealed the true villain of this series, at least for the moment, and it wasn’t Friend’s Grand Inquisitor at all. After he again tried to take over the capture of Obi-Wan once Reva had him trapped in the cargo warehouse, Reva turned on her boss, skewering him through the middle with her lightsaber.

Now, we’ve seen plenty of characters survive worse lightsaber injuries, like Darth Maul, but it’s certainly possible the Grand Inquisitor died here. Regardless, it definitely establishes that Reva has gone fully rogue. That said, it may not hurt her.

It was in this scene that we got the biggest moment of the episode. We’d opened with a long recap of the prequel movies and seen that Obi-Wan still has nightmares about failing and losing Anakin.

Much like Darth Vader toyed with Luke’s emotions to try and draw him out (which worked), Reva tries the same tactic on Obi-Wan, revealing to him that Anakin didn’t die after all; that he is in fact, Darth Vader.

There wasn’t much time to process this information as Obi-Wan had to make a quick escape as Reva killed her boss to get on the cargo ship in time to take off and escape Daiyu and Reva. Honestly, we were a little surprised she didn’t just jump onto the ship, rather than let it fly away.

But we’re still laughing a little at how long a ten-year-old girl had Flea and his fellow mercenaries chasing her through the woods when their legs were twice as long as hers. No fancy editing could hide that this was completely implausible and ridiculous. Thankfully, they at least finally caught her, because we’d have never bought it otherwise.

“Obi-Wan Kenobi” has a few other silly moments, and things that aren’t quite working — like everything to do with Haja’s motivation — but there’s enough meat on these bones to do a lot to redeem the narrative that OG “Star Wars” fans still struggle with about the prequels.

By putting the focus of those three films more on Obi-Wan’s arc in them rather than Anakin’s, we get a story of ambition, confidence, friendship, betrayal and failure. The prequel trilogy is a story of tragedy, and “Obi-Wan Kenobi” is the aftermath, as well as a chance at redemption.

We already know that Ben Kenobi in “A New Hope” is still a curmudgeonly old man in the desert, but he doesn’t seem as hopeless as this version of Obi-Wan. Perhaps it’s because he is able to do some good still out there in this story, even though he must still grapple with failing Anakin.

Again, though, perhaps the very fact that Anakin is still alive will give him hope that his failure isn’t yet complete. Perhaps, there’s hope yet for Anakin to find his way back to the light — an arc we see play out in the original trilogy.

“Obi-Wan” shifts to Wednesday releases on Disney+, with one new installment each week.

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