“What happened to you. You were once a great Jedi.”
“I’m not the man you remember.”
We were told in advance of the new Obi-Wan Kenobi limited event series that the Jedi Master was “rather broken, and faithless, and beaten, somewhat given up” and that seems an understatement when we see him in episode one, fittingly entitled “Part 1” (leave it to Lucasfilm to not even give anything away in the episode titles).
WARNING: Spoilers ahead, so if you have not yet watched this episode perhaps you may want to pause and go watch the episode first.
When we first see Obi-Wan on the sands of Tatooine we see how far he has fallen from his standing as a Jedi Master, council member and the renowned “Negotiator” of the Clone Wars. He is working cutting meat in a dreary, mundane daily existence and can’t even succumb to his wishes to stand up to the boss who cuts pay in half and bullies a fellow employee when they say something about it. The boss dares Kenobi to say something and while Obi-Wan gives him a hard look and clearly is perturbed, in the end he punches he time card, takes his pay and goes. He can’t bring attention to himself here, he can’t be the Jedi he used to be.
It is that compassion that aids the Inquisitors, Darth Vader’s bounty hunters, who coincidentally enough land on Tatooine in the episode’s opening moments looking for a Jedi — just not the Jedi you’re thinking of. No, they are hunting Nari, played by Benny Safdie, who is on Tatooine and has aided a saloon owner in need. That compassion, that part of the Jedi code as Rupert Friend’s Grand Inquisitor monologues, leaves a trail. He says in reality Jedi hunt themselves.
And even in his arrogance, there is truth in that, as we will see in episode 2 (appropriately titled, “Part 2”).
But for now, when Nari finds Obi-Wan he is dismayed to discover Obi-Wan is not the revered Jedi Master he remembers. After initially brushing him off as having mistaken him for someone else, Obi-Wan encourages Nari to stay hidden and that the fight was over and that the Jedi had lost. He even goes as far as to say that his help would be to encourage Nari to take the lightsaber he produced to show Obi-Wan he was a fellow Jedi and bury it in the Dune Sea (a nice bit of foreshadowing). Of course, it’s all for naught as Nari is later seen strung up in the town square, leaving Obi-Wan with even more guilt to place of his heavily-burdened shoulders.
Speaking of, we see Obi-Wan fulfilling his duty of watching over young Luke. Obi-Wan watches Luke from afar and even attempts to gift him with a toy, trading with an unscrupulous Jawa who not only insults Obi-Wan’s odor (“I could smell you all the way in Anchorhead) but even sells him back a vaporator part that he had in fact stolen from Obi-Wan. However, Uncle Owen wants no part of Obi-Wan and warns the old Jedi to stay away from his family, reminding Ben how poorly Anakin’s training wound being in the end.
Meanwhile, across the galaxy we see glimpses of the other Skywalker twin, young Leia Organa. Even though they are in wildly different social strata, Leia much like Luke yearns for adventure, running off into the woods and bristling at the required duties of a young princess waving to a crowd of admirers. Of course, we see glimpses of the personality Leia will display later on in her biting wit, sharp insightfulness and fearless nature, especially as she effortless verbally slices and dices her uncouth cousin much as her father once sliced and diced battle droids. We also get to see her strong rapport with her adopted father, once again played with grace, humility and warmth by the always excellent Jimmy Smits.
All of that lead to what appears to be the driving engine of the series — the kidnapping of Leia Organa put into motion by the Inquisitor Third Sister, also known as Reva. Throughout the episode we see Reva bristling under the thumb of the Grand Inquisitor. We see her ruthlessness in trying to get the information she seeks and her quest for power. As always, Dark Side Force users struggle to get along (it’s why the Sith follow the rule of two), so it’s no surprises the Inquisitors don’t necessarily play nice with each other. Reva, it is alluded to in the next episode, came from nothing (or as the Grand Inquisitor puts it, from the gutter). So she thirsts for power and recognition and she sees a path to it — Obi-Wan Kenobi.
It seems she has been dogged in her determination to find Kenobi to please Lord Vader. However, the Grand Inquisitor tells her to drop this quixotic quest early in this episode. Of course, if she followed that edict there would be no series, so she disobeys and hires bounty hunters to kidnap Leia in an effort to draw Kenobi out after discovering the connection between Bail Organa and Kenobi in the archives.
Once the Organas realize Leia has been taken, they reach out to Obi-Wan and he is initially hesitant. He tries to hide behind his duty to watch over Luke, but Bail reminds him that Leia is just as important. Obi-Wan tries to encourage them to seek out any other resource, believing that to be what would be best for Leia and the most likely to result in her safe return. He even goes so far as to tell him to find someone else. However, Bail Organa is not so easily deterred and he travels to Tatooine to plead his case once more and encourage Obi-Wan that there is no one else he trusts to save his daughter. He implores Obi-Wan to engage in “one last fight” and that while Obi-Wan has made mistakes in the past he needs to move on and be done with. That he couldn’t save Anakin, but he can save his daughter.
The combination of this and Nari’s fate seem to push Obi-Wan back into the fight, and travels to the Dune Sea and digs up a box, a box containing two lightsabers — his and Anakin’s. He has one last moment of hesitation at the spaceport, but ultimately gets on his transport with the camera catching his lightsaber on his hip as the episode comes to a close.
- “Rise of Skywalker” has wound up being quite divisive in the “Star Wars” community, but it was a nice bit of storytelling to have Obi-Wan bury the lightsabers in the sand in a manner similar to how Rey does with Luke and Leia’s sabers in “Rise of Skywalker.”
- The series opened with a flashback to the Jedi Temple on the night of the purge. In that flashback, we see a group of younglings seemingly escape (no, Grogu was not seen with them). It will be interesting to see what role their older selves play going forward.
- The acting in this episode was superb. McGregor and Smits effortlessly fall back into their characters. McGregor portrays Ben’s sullen defeatedness with aplomb and expertly conveys the guilt that still haunts Obi-Wan. Likewise, Smits gives off such warmth in his scenes with Leia along with understated grace and even playfulness. And the young actress who plays Leia here, Vivien Lyra Blair, does an excellent job foreshadowing all the personality we know Leia will exhibit in the future.
- Reva is a dynamic character — driven, cold, relentless. Moses Ingram commands the screen every time she is on it here and is frightening with her intensity and single-mindedness. It would be hard to come up with a worthy adversary for Obi-Wan but Reva is and I look forward to where the writers and Ingram take the character.
- Bail Organa’s arrival on Tatooine was interesting in that we first see him from behind with his hood up. It’s interesting to consider that it was likely designed to be a misdirect with Qui-Gon Jinn in mind. Obi-Wan calls out to his master unsuccessfully earlier in the episode, so it appears the training he was given by Master Yoda to speak with Qui-Gon has yet to bear fruit.
Be sure to check back after every episode for my thoughts. If you have questions or just want to talk Star Wars, hit on me up on Twitter — my username is @a_silva32. May the Force be with you!