Somehow ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ Makes A Showdown With Darth Vader Boring

Obi-Wan Kenobi is not living up to my admittedly high expectations—leading me to question why I had such high expectations to begin with. I guess it’s just hard when you grew up loving Star Wars so much, you keep holding out hope.

Rebellions are built on hope.

Oh, and spoilers follow.

It’s hard to shake this feeling. I want to be cynical each time a new Star Wars show or movie or game is announced, but for every time the franchise let’s me down there’s another entry that revives my love of this galaxy far, far away. The Mandalorian, Rogue One, Rebels, Jedi: Fallen Order. For every Jar Jar Binks there is a Baby Yoda—give or take. Or, for that matter, an Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Sigh.

What can I say about the Wacky Adventures Of Old Ben Kenobi And Princess Leia?

I’m just not feeling it, guys. I had a little hope that the first two episodes were just a rocky start, but this latest one has me feeling pretty gloomy about the whole affair. We’re halfway through a six-episode limited-run series and it’s just deeply mediocre in just about every way. Nothing important has happened. Beyond just the basic problem with prequels (we already know when and how Obi-Wan, Darth Vader and Leia die!) it’s just not a very good TV show on a basic, fundamental level. It is not very entertaining!

I mean, sure, Ewan McGregor is a very good actor and he does a great job with Obi-Wan Kenobi. If only the script and the direction could keep up with him.

Alas, they cannot.

The script is genuinely bad much of the time and Deborah Chow’s direction is sloppy and uninspired. The show feels cheap and poorly edited. And it’s just dismally, dreadfully dull.

Allow me to elaborate:

The Inquisitors Are So Cringe

In my last review of this show I noted how I just didn’t really like the casting choice for Reva, the spunky junior Inquisitor and Third Sister who just wants to show everyone that she’s got what it takes to . . . hunt Jedi and make Papa Vader proud! The casting feels off to me, but maybe it’s also the way she’s written. She’s just a cliche wrapped in a cliche dipped in a cliche and I suspect she’ll be just as predictable in the end as all that makes her sound.

But it’s not just Reva! Somehow Fifth Brother gets more and more over-acted and ridiculous every scene he’s in. There’s a lot of Very Serious Grumbling that goes on between these two and the other Inquisitors. Lots of jockeying for position and so forth. It’s all just extremely generic and cringey. I want these Inquisitors to stop being Very Evil around one another and go be badass Jedi hunters . . . who don’t lose their quarry when he topples an awning on them.

The Inquisitors have shown up in other Star Wars shows—Rebels, for instance—and in the video games—Fallen Order—and they’ve always been frightening badasses. These Inquisitors are clowns.

Leia Is Just Baby Yoda Minus Us Giving A Damn

At first, I thought it was kind of a cool spin on things to headfake us with Luke and give us an Obi-Wan / Leia bonding adventure. But Leia is just way overcooked as a character. She’s wise and clever and tough and fast and dear god Disney you can write strong female characters without Mary Suing so hard. It’s not fair to female characters to write them this way. We like a few flaws here and there.

And sure, okay, Leia never listens and she gets Ben in trouble time to time and she’s a rascally one, but realistically she’s still written above her age and that makes her less interesting, not more. The thing about Grogu is that he was fifty years old and already quite powerful in the Force, but he was still a baby. He was ruled by his id not his ego, Force-choking anyone who dared lay a finger on Papa Mando.

This makes me think, maybe I wouldn’t care so much about Little Leia if there had been no Baby Yoda in the first place. The problem, more than anything, is that she’s just second fiddle. She’s Baby Yoda Lite. She’s New Coke Grogu. We’ve been here, done that, blah blah blah. This feels like a recycled plot that just isn’t as new or interesting.

Obi-Wan Kenobi Is Lame

Look, maybe I’m jumping the gun here but we are halfway through the series. I get establishing Obi-Wan as this burnt out old Jedi who has given up the ways of the Force and abandoned all hope and taken up work as a meat-cutter in a meat-cutting factory, but come on already. Enough is enough.

By episode 2, Obi-Wan Kenobi used the Force, let me see, counting . . . counting . . . uh . . . one time. One time he used it to save an overly confident Leia from falling to her death (though a part of me wonders if he should have). He’s grappled and blastered his way through most crises, and blundered his way through the rest—including screwing up and calling Leia by her real name after they’ve gone incognito.

I’ll talk more about the showdown with Vader in this episode in a minute, but the fact of the matter is Obi-Wan just kind of sucks right now. In A New Hope he had no problem Jedi Mind-Tricking a Stormtrooper. Here he’s basically a stuttering fool, agape at any new obstacle. A drone shows up and instead of blasting it straight away or Mind-Tricking the Stormtroopers into not calling it to begin with, he let’s it scan him and then shoots it. QUICK THINKING BEN.

Stuff Just Doesn’t Make Sense

We saw plenty of this in the first two episodes but I’ll conjure just one example for Episode 3 (though we could definitely come up with more). In this episode, Leia and Obi-Wan are “captured” by a very small group of Stormtroopers after defeating a similarly sized group only moments before (bigger, actually, I’m pretty sure).

They lay down their arms, bow to the ground—and are miraculously saved by their person on the inside of the Empire—Tia (played by Indira Varma, yet another Game Of Thrones alumni). She kills the Stormtroopers that apparently were too much for Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi the Lame.

But after all of this, after all of their running away and hiding, Darth Vader shows up and Obi-Wan goes one direction to draw his ire, while Tia and Leia go the other, down a long tunnel. Halfway down it, Leia implores Tia to go help Obi-Wan, the full-grown man, against a Sith Lord that Tia cannot possibly do anything meaningful about. Tia, the adult, agrees to what this precocious 8-year-old child says and abandons her.

She just let’s her go on her own, by herself, so she can go help the Jedi Master, who is only in this predicament to begin with because he had to go rescue Leia. Naturally, by the end of the episode Leia has been recaptured, this time by Reva herself. Yes, all of this makes total sense.

Other things that don’t make sense:

  • How come the Empire couldn’t track down the huge, slow cargo ship that Obi-Wan and Leia escaped on last episode? It’s clearly slow and they know what ship it is. So…maybe go after it?
  • After Vader beats the crap out of Obi-Wan and burns him, he tells his Stormtrooper minions: “Bring him to me.” But then Tia makes some stuff go boom and fire erupts all over the ground and the loader droid shows up and drags Obi-Wan to safety. Because I guess Darth Vader, Sith Lord, and his minions are unable to either A) walk around (or fly above) the fire or B) use the Force to snap the droid in half. Nope, they get away again, scot free.

Which brings us to . . .

The Vader Vs Kenobi Showdown Was Super Weak

We’ve had a couple showdowns between Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi before. In the original Star Wars, they wave their laser swords at one another meekly, George Lucas and his entourage totally unaware of what a smash hit this will all become. Kenobi calls Vader “Darth” and they thwack gently at one another until Vader gets the killing blow.

In the prequels, the two finally came to blows and Anakin was cast into the magma, much of his body melting and burning away in order to become “more machine than man.”

But all I can think watching their big showdown in Obi-Wan Kenobi is . . . why don’t you go take the high ground, dude? Most of this fight is Kenobi running away. The vast majority of it is just Vader slowly walking after him, because I guess we need three episodes at a bare minimum to shake Kenobi out of his reverie and get him back in fighting shape. They managed to do that in five minutes in Cat Ballou but here we need three hours. And then some.

Maybe we’ll get—er, probably we’ll get?—a better, bigger, more satisfying rematch later on in the season, but I don’t know why we had to endure such a disappointing encounter in the first place.

I wanted more. So far this feels like a show hellbent on doling out just enough fan service to piss everyone off.

Verdict

What else is there to say, really? It’s not terrible despite my grumblings. Maybe if you turn off your brain you’ll enjoy it as a bit of light adventure space opera junk food.

But it’s not great, either. It’s fine. Totally watchable. But it feels cheap and sloppy and the script is mediocre and filled with plot holes. Even the score, by the venerable John Williams, seems phoned in compared to the fresh, space-Western vibes of The Mandalorian’s OST.

I really do think Kenobi—and McGregor—deserved better material here, and I’m still holding out hope that the second half will be better. But as someone who watched every Mandalorian episode twice (at least) I’m pretty sure that what we’ve seen so far is what we should expect for the next three weeks.

What a shame.

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