About five-and-a-half minutes before Obi-Wan Kenobi’s finale draws to an end, is a single two-word dialogue that made millions of fans swoon, jump in glee, record reaction videos, write 600-word think pieces on Reddit, and definitely roll their eyes a little bit. 

I’ve given you your spoiler warnings, so you probably already know what I’m talking about. (I’m not here to really talk about that moment, though — at least not for a while.)

While fans have been clamouring for a live-action tale set between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope for decades at this point, the Star Wars universe is, frankly, so ridiculously dense that the task might have seemed futile. Which explains why we got what we asked for nearly twenty years after the dramatic, galaxy-altering events that saw Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker part ways.

A Long Time Coming

Obi-Wan Kenobi

Kenobi seemed like an obvious choice when it came to resurrecting a character from the ashes of George Lucas’ creative visions to most fans; no surprises there. What’s interesting, though, is how well-documented this idea is in the minds of most Star Wars fans. Just check out this Hollywood Reporter poll all the way back from 2016, which gives Obi-Wan Kenobi a whopping 30%+ share of interest in terms of spinoff potential.

Ten years after ROTS, Obi-Wan Kenobi premiered on 27th May, giving us a glimpse of an older, weathered Kenobi hiding within the caves of Tatooine. It’s a peaceful enough life for the PTSD and guilt-ridden Jedi Master, who spends his days chopping up meat, failing to reach out to his own Master, Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson), and keeping an eye on Luke Skywalker.

Fortunately, the plot seems disinterested in relegating Kenobi to six episodes of boring drudgery, so he’s soon pulled in by old ally Bail Organa of Alderaan, to rescue Princess Leia (Vivien Lyra Blair) from the clutches of the Empire.

Like every good outlaw in hiding, Kenobi finds himself leaving behind the desert, and going on a quest to recover the princess. This dynamic is arguably one of the show’s greatest strengths — while we see Kenobi waste away during his ten years of exile amidst the sands of Tatooine, it is Blair’s depiction of Leia that steals the show at multiple points throughout the series.

Obi-Wan Kenobi

Expressive and wise beyond her years, much like Carrie Fisher’s original take on the role, we see young Leia not only serve as a painful reminder of Kenobi’s past as the biological daughter of Anakin, but gradually draw on Kenobi’s natural sense of compassion and justice as the pair run and hide from the Empire’s ‘inquisitors’, forming a deep friendship.

A Weak Opening Act

Obi-Wan Kenobi Reva

Despite an admittedly compelling storyline, the series falters heavily during its first two-thirds, giving us a weak narrative outside of Kenobi and Leia’s scenes.

The first weak link here is the body of inquisitors who answer to Darth Vader. Bumbling, incompetent, and portrayed with plenty of ham-fistedness, the inquisitors largely get in the way of Vader’s plans to eliminate his former master by wasting time and infighting, leaving behind a wake of plot holes for the story to dance through.

Third Sister Reva, one of the few named antagonists of the series, suffers the most from this weak villain writing all through episodes 1-4. Actor Moses Ingram earned an Emmy nomination for her work in 2020s The Queen’s Gambit, so it’s not a question of acting chops.

Rather, Ingram seems to be miscast in a role that was already written quite thinly. The premise of a jedi youngling working her way through the dark side, falling to rage and impulsivity, all to watch Vader discard her at the end is certainly quite compelling, but required much more nuance and attention than the writers were able to conjure up. 

While Ingram has proven to be skilled at working through scenes of friendly character interactions and casual conversations, Disney cast her in a role where she either shouts, threatens civilians, or answers to Vader, playing far from the character’s strengths. Her arc is somewhat redeemed when we learn that she’s been playing her cards against Vader all along, but by then, thousands of fans had already passed judgement, and perhaps rightly so. 

By the time we see Reva collapse in pain and regret at becoming like the man who ruined her life, we’re already a little exhausted from seeing her onscreen.

It’s not just Reva that the story lets down, however. 

The plot holes at work here are both logical and emotional. For the former, take episode 4’s inquisitor base rescue — we know that the Empire is incompetent, but Kenobi literally sneaks through a base of hundreds of enemies… dressed in a trenchcoat

Episode 5, while offering a pretty cool finale, has some truly abysmal dialogue choices, with refugee leader Roken (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) going through an absolutely off-putting sequence, where he denies Kenobi help, thinks about his dead wife, and flips it all around to become Kenobi’s buddy… in less than 30 seconds. Who does that?!

Nostalgia Handled Well

 Obi-Wan kenobi Anakin skywalker

So, the vast majority of the show handles character dialogue, motivations, and plot holes with all the nuance of Rise of Skywalker. How then, does the show exactly redeem itself?

Most of the merit of Obi-Wan Kenobi lies in the season finale, which finally pits the two big characters against each other on somewhat equal terms. 

The fight itself is phenomenal, and despite some questionable camera shakiness, delivers on choreography, compelling visuals, and intelligently showcased sprinklings of nostalgia that had a surprisingly powerful emotional core to them, even for Star Wars nerds who have seen these characters duke it out thousands of times, including a delightful sparring flashback cut into episode 5 (pictured above), which was an absolute joy to behold.

For starters, the final lightsaber fight sits neatly between the original, sequel, and prequel trilogies in terms of how it treats duel choreography. Fans would have noticed Kenobi adopting his famous ‘Soresu’ defensive stance, last seen in Revenge of the Sith versus General Grievous. Vader initiates the fight with broad, powerful strokes, and the fight continues with a generous variety of force powers that subtly reflect the nature of the duelists themselves. 

Kenobi relies on swift defensive parries and blocks, while at one point knocking Vader off his feet with a sneaky force pull, while Vader straight up punches Kenobi in the face, eventually gaining ‘the high ground’ by force-pushing a massive sinkhole into the earth, inside which he attempts to bury Kenobi. It’s all executed with a lot of variety and finesse, and knows where to draw the line between realism and fantasy – a style I’d argue is better than any live action portrayal we’ve seen before.

Obi-Wan Kenobi Darth Vader

The stakes are pretty nonexistent, since we know both characters ultimately survive the fight. The single most-powerful thing this fight achieves, though, is complete Kenobi’s metamorphosis between his past and future selves.

Close to death under tons of rubble, we see Kenobi use his remaining force powers to prevent himself from being buried alive. Vader, smugly enjoying his newfound high ground, gets in one last quote before walking away to his ship. It’s here that we finally see Kenobi’s psyche shift from one of guilt and remorse, to one of hope and preservation — instead of living to regret his inability to prevent Anakin’s fall, he instead sees newfound value in Leia and Luke, the literal New Hopes of the galaxy.

What follows is an old-school Kenobi ass-whooping; going on the offensive, the jedi manages to overpower Vader by smashing his life support systems, before slicing Vader’s iconic helmet open.

Obi-Wan Kenobi Darth Vader

Finally looking eye-to-eye, both Kenobi and Vader give into a moment of humanity, with plenty of subtext for not just newcomers, but long time superfans as well.

For starters, both actors do a phenomenal job of handling the complex emotions at work here. Ewan McGregor has been doing a pretty good job all season long, but watching him shed tears at the state of his former brother was truly tragic, and may or may not have got me a bit emotional, too. Everything from the cracked, raw dialogue to the background score is perfect here, as Kenobi finally apologises to Anakin, capturing ten years of regret and sorrow in just a few lines.

Curiously, we also see Anakin address these emotions in a believable, powerful way. In a great shot that interplays between the contrasting light of both lightsabers, he wheezes in both the voices of James Earl Jones and Hayden Christensen, “You didn’t kill Anakin Skywalker,” says Vader, yellow eye gleaming as a twisted smile creeps up his lips. “I did.”

This interaction does bring up plenty of nostalgia, and wraps it up extremely well. Here’s why:

First of all, it very intelligently addresses the point of the whole show, which is bridging the gap between the original trilogy and the prequels. By apologising to Anakin and facing his feelings, Kenobi finally lets go of his trauma and becomes the wise old coot we see Sir Alec Guinness play in A New Hope

We also see Vader not only accept the burden of responsibility regarding his ruined fate, but see the very last glimmer of sanity vanish from his eyes, only to reappear at the end of Return of the Jedi.

Finally — and this one is a bit of a nerdgasm moment, but bear with me — it also gives us imagery that draws links from a similar scene of Star Wars: Rebels, and ROTJ. Both Kenobi and Anakin’s former padawan Ahsoka manage to crack open Vader’s helmet from the right and left side respectively. While the pair manage to draw an ounce of humanity from the Sith Lord, they ultimately fail to redeem him, and he falls back into the dark side of the force.

It’s only Luke, who adopted a stance of non-violence and peace against Vader, who was able to get through. Not only does he literally reveal Vader’s eyes at the end of his life, he does so by gently removing his helmet, instead of striking it open. Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but this is Star Wars for crying out loud.

This, to me, is the strongest moment of the show and perhaps of Disney’s Star Wars efforts so far.

What’s Next?

Obi_Wan Kenobi

After leaving Vader gasping for air, Kenobi retreats to say his farewells to Leia (fixing a couple of plot holes in the process), and drops in to say hello to Luke, after Reva tries to kidnap him, changing her mind halfway through.

We see two great cameos next, both Liam Neeson and Ian McDiarmid address their apprentices as Qui-Gon Jinn and Emperor Palpatine, setting the stage for an interesting future season.

While Obi-Wan Kenobi’s ending seems ripe for Disney+ to milk another season, I think we’d benefit from some caution in the future. Everything about this show that was compelling and valuable would have comfortably fit under two hours, so perhaps mass-producing shows isn’t the best way to approach Star Wars. With Blair giving us a stellar performance as Leia, hopefully we could see a Leia spinoff in the near future — an intergalactic space political drama sounds positively fucking awesome.

Until then, I’ll be watching that final fight on repeat, and hoping someone releases a two-hour fancut of the series.

Featured Image Credits: Disney+