Obi-Wan Kenobi premiere brings back old favorites – but not this one

Move, Luke Skywalker: Why ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ Hits the Right Nostalgic Tone With a Key Character.

[Editor’s Note: The following review contains spoilers for “Obi-Wan Kenobi” Episode 1 and Episode 2, “Part 1” and “Part II.”]

About 23 minutes into the premiere of Obi-Wan Kenobi, an old Star Wars friend shows up. First there is a cut of an unknown city and planet and then a montage of different people helping a small child to dress in an immaculate white tunic with purple accents. This elaborate hairstyle cannot be overlooked even on such a small head: This is the young Leia Organa.

Well, not exactly. It’s a friend Leia who agrees to prank her mother, but with a triumphant swell of John Williams and Natalie Holt’s score, we quickly switch to the real Leia (Vivien Lyra Blair) sprinting through the woods while her pigtails drag behind her.

For too long – and probably still – Star Wars hasn’t been able to abandon Luke Skywalker. The hero of the original George Lucas films, portrayed by Mark Hamill, was a hellish Jedi who had to be lived up to. The prequels dodged it entirely, while the sequels managed to get so bogged down in Skywalker, Palpatine, and Solo that they wasted the potential for new characters and stories. An aging Hamill (action by Max Lloyd-Jones) was a pleasant surprise in Season 2 of The Mandalorian, but overwhelmed when he became the rumored purpose of The Book of Boba Fett.

So when kid Luke (Grant Feely) appeared in the Obi-Wan Kenobi trailer, it put the series in imminent jeopardy of that ever-tempting but dangerous obsession.

Child Luke disappears after a scene where Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) is spying on him from afar. Leia, on the other hand, is kidnapped in the very woods she was frolicking in, and her parents beg the retired Obi-Wan to save her.

Child Leia inspires a unique nostalgia, if you can call it that. We’ve never seen her before, but Blair captures the wit and warmth that made Carrie Fisher’s young princess so appealing in 1977. Obi-Wan speaks for everyone when he says she doesn’t sound like 10, and that’s because she’s actually a vessel, allowing the older character’s traits to shine through. There’s an unwavering, but not overwhelming, awareness that this character is emotionally manipulating viewers, but she’s sassy and charming and a good fit for McGregor’s Obi-Wan at this particular moment in his life – and look at that little braided bun , come on.

In IndieWire’s review of the premiere episodes, Ben Travers notes that the Jedi’s urge to do good will always come back to them, one way or another. In Episode 1, we see Obi-Wan almost not giving in to this compulsion, telling the Organas that instead of going after Leia’s kidnappers, he must stay on Tatooine. To their credit, Bail and Breha (Jimmy Smits and Rebecca Jackie Mendoza) don’t exactly call Master Kenobi a sexist, but it takes a little too much convincing to risk his life for Anakin Skywalker’s life Miscellaneous Child who also happens to be Force sensitive. He argues with the Organas that he hasn’t fought in 10 years, that he’s not the knight they once knew, and that his powers are weak – so how qualified is he to watch over Luke anyway? Of course, we now know that guarding is in itself a flimsy excuse for Obi-Wan to wait until he can train the boy in the ways of the Force – something he would do it for definitely need his old skills.

For the most part, Obi-Wan saves Leia without resorting to his dormant Jedi training (except for this fall). And he’ll have to start saving people without the Force or find a way to reconnect with her if he hopes to train this boy who plays pilot on a humidity farm. At the end of Episode 2, Obi-Wan is driven by a new goal: to face Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) again, either to appeal to the good in him or fight him now as Darth Vader.

New episodes of Obi-Wan Kenobi premiere Friday on Disney+.

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Lindsay Lowe

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