Ten years is a long time to sit and meditate over past mistakes on Tatooine. But it’s not quite as long as the 17 years that we’ve been waiting to see Ewan McGregor, long considered to be the standout of the prequel series, reprising his fan-favorite role as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars universe. So, it’s with no small amount of anticipation that we begin the latest Star Wars miniseries, Obi-Wan Kenobi, which, if successful, will satisfyingly flesh out the years the Jedi Knight spends in hiding. And although it’s still early days, the first episode of Obi-Wan Kenobi manages a very difficult task – making it feel as though no time at all has passed since we last saw the character as played by the always charming McGregor.
Ten years have passed since Obi-Wan first accompanied the infant Luke to be raised by his aunt and uncle on Anakin’s home planet of Tatooine. He is honor-bound to watch over the young boy and eventually train him, although Uncle Owen (Joel Edgerton) clearly has second thoughts about that. Once filled with battles and interplanetary diplomatic missions, his days have settled into repetitive drudgery as he attempts to keep a low profile. Kenobi, too, feels mired in an unshakeable stupor. Still haunted by his inability to save Anakin from the Dark Side of the Force, his depression and loss of faith in himself see him frozen in place. The only thing keeping him going is his obsession with the promise he made to protect the young Luke, a task he dedicates himself to from afar, watching his childhood through binoculars and leaving small gifts at his door.
But although Obi-Wan (or Ben, as he now goes by) may feel entirely alone, his quiet, monotonous existence will soon be shaken up. A team of Imperial Inquisitors have landed on Tatooine, setting themselves to the chore of hunting Jedi. It would seem, as we see in a flashback, that more Jedi survived than was originally thought – we are shown a group of Younglings being protected and ultimately saved by their teacher (an unexpectedly difficult scene to watch, following the horrific school shooting in Texas just a few days before the release of this episode). The scrappy survivors are strewn throughout the galaxy, and it’s the responsibility of these Inquisitors to dispose of them, one by one. In particular, there’s one Inquisitor, Reva (Moses Ingram), who isn’t satisfied with hunting the weaker Jedi who have only survived by chance: She won’t rest until she has tracked down the great Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi.
As an introductory episode, this lays the groundwork nicely for the battle between the meager remnants of the Jedi and the vicious, Force-sensitive assassins who are sworn to kill them. But more importantly, we see the path that Obi-Wan must take to protect not just Luke but Leia, who has problems of her own on her home planet of Alderaan. His life for ten years has been about laying low, avoiding detection, and, in many ways, humbling himself as penance for his perceived sins. His guilt weighs him down and has him shaken to his core; It’s plain to see that when Bail Organa (Jimmy Smits) begs him for help, he questions his ability to be of any use to anyone. No doubt, throughout the rest of the series, we’ll be given the opportunity to watch Obi-Wan come to terms with his past and rebuild his sense of self.
Once again, we’re shown why Ewan McGregor is one of the greatest gifts given to the Star Wars universe. His presence here is purposefully muted, but it carries tremendous pain and doubt. We see glimmers of the old Obi-Wan in small scenes with the Jawa trader who sells him back his own stolen equipment, and it’s enough to assure us that McGregor has thrown himself fully back into his old role.
But the show’s not just about its title character. Great effort has been taken to build an exciting cast around him. It is, in particular, a delight to see so much of the young Leia, played by Vivien Lyra Blair, as a precocious troublemaker utterly uninterested in her royal responsibilities. Not only is it a clever decision to feature Alderaan as a way to expand the show’s visual palette beyond the browns and beiges of Tatooine (which, after The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett, we must admit, is growing tiresome), it’s a cue that Leia’s origin story will be given as much attention as Luke’s. With adventure on the horizon and Obi-Wan finally committed to some sort of action, we’re excited to see what the next episode of the show will bring.