My esteemed colleague Jeff Charles wrote a solid piece on Monday that fully disagreed with my take that the new Disney/Star Wars show Obi-Wan Kenobi on Disney+ was a pile of bantha poodoo. In fact, according to him, the show is something of a triumph despite its issues. He loved the characters and the storyline.
I suggest you read both articles before continuing on with this one.
To be clear, Charles is no scruffy-looking nerf herder. In fact, I consider Charles among my favorite writers, not just at RedState, but throughout the news organizations that I frequent. You’ll often see me reading off of his articles during RedState LIVE! But that said, the right honorable gentleman is flat wrong, and while I gladly give him a seat on my council, I do not grant him the rank of master.
Take a seat, young Skywalker, and I will tell you why.
For starters, the show is plagued with plot inconsistencies that don’t jive with the canon. For instance, one of the big moments in episode two is Obi-Wan’s discovery that Anakin Skywalker is still alive and is, in fact, Darth Vader. The issue here is that both the original trilogy and prequel trilogy made it clear that Kenobi already knew that.
Two moments, in particular, make that clear. When force ghost Kenobi is explaining to Luke in Return of the Jedi that his sister was hidden from Vader because upon learning about them, the Emporer would come after them. Moreover, at the end of Revenge of the Sith, Padme tells Kenobi that there’s still good in Anakin before she dies, implying that they both know he’s still alive.
Moreover, as a force user, how does Kenobi not sense Anakin’s very familiar presence still alive and well in the universe after he left him on Mustafar? The Emperor certainly did, enough so to come to Anakin’s rescue personally. Kenobi was far more acquainted with Anakin’s essence than Palpatine.
Also, Leia didn’t know Kenobi before the events of the original trilogy, just that he’d served her father during the events of the Clone Wars…so how is it that they ran into each other sooner than “A New Hope?” How is it that after Kenobi’s death, you see Leia comforting Luke in a detached sort of way and not sharing in his grief?
Also, how is it that Reva offs the Grand Inquisitor so easily? Anyone who watched “Star Wars: Rebels” will know this is no easy task, as he’s as deadly as he is cunning, but he’s dropped by an upstart underling like a sack of potatoes while acting uncharacteristically witless? I don’t buy it.
Lastly, this really bothered me from a logical storyline perspective. Bail Organa of Alderaan is a Senator in the Galactic Empire. Reva found out he had connections to Kenobi and kidnapped his daughter in order to draw Kenobi out of hiding…so why didn’t Reva just take evidence of the connection to Vader and have Vader or the Emperor so they could force Organa to tell him where Kenobi was? They have mind-reading force powers, so why go about kidnapping Leia? If the excuse is that Reva wanted all the glory, then when Vader found out that Reva had that info and was keeping it from him for selfish reasons, then there’s no way Anakin “youngling slayer” Skywalker wouldn’t have broken her neck.
It’s just bad writing.
Oh, and the Leia chase scene is just laughably dumb and took me right out of the first episode. I don’t know why the director and producers thought this was an up-to-par scene. They might as well have put in Loony Toons slapstick sound effects.
There are myriad more problems that I have with the show, but in the interest of not writing a novel I’ll proceed onto the main issue I have with it, and it’s the portrayal of Obi-Wan Kenobi himself. For those who haven’t seen it and are curious (I imagine you are if you’re still reading) Kathleen Kennedy and her Sad Batch decided to give our favorite Jedi Master the TLJ treatment and make him a washed-up, sad, and demotivated loser. Apparently, not having learned from doing that to Luke, they Ryan Johnson’d Kenobi.
Charles defends this decision with this:
In this series, we see a broken Obi-Wan, one who is still in anguish over the fall of his former apprentice Anakin Skywalker. After training him for years and forming a brother-like relationship with his former padawan, he was forced to seemingly kill him after he gave in to the Dark Side and become Darth Vader.
Even worse, his failure to turn Anakin from the dark side or eliminate him, led to the brutal success of Order 66, which saw the almost-complete annihilation of the Jedi Order. Ten years later, when the series takes place, how can we expect Kenobi to be anything but a shell of his former self? Not only did he let down his closest friend, he let down his fellow Jedi and, by extension, the entire universe, which has become a galactic fascist dictatorship led by a cunning Sith Lord. It makes sense that he, like other Jedi, would lose his former self.
A solid argument, but it’s riddled with holes.
Right off the bat, Kenobi’s fallout from the force doesn’t make sense given his motivations. He was directed to guard a young Luke Skywalker and train under Qui-Gon’s force ghost. While Qui-Gon is admittedly not making an appearance (which is an interesting point within the series) it makes no sense for Obi-Wan to lose his abilities as a well-practiced Jedi Master seeing as he needs them to protect arguably the most important child in the galaxy.
Moreover, his intention is to train Luke in the ways of the force. He says it in episode one of the series. How is he going to do that if he can’t use it himself?
But this admittedly doesn’t address the crux of the issue. Kenobi’s force powers are dampened to near non-existence because he has a mental block after the devastating losses he suffered at the end of the “Revenge of the Sith.” It’s a fair thought to have and a good argument to make, but it flies in the face of all that Kenobi has been trained to do and the beliefs he lives by.
Yes, he’s gone through a crushing experience, but he has a reason to keep fighting in Luke. A good writer would have factored in Kenobi’s character and starting motivations. What we might have gotten, instead, is a true Kenobi who is dead-set to keep Luke safe at all costs, not only because he’s the future of the Jedi order but because he’s the only thing left of his brother and the possible key to bringing him back.
Instead, he just leaves Luke to go find Leia as inquisitors are searching the planet. Just brilliant writing.
A huge failure of the show is that it also that it makes it clear that Kenobi isn’t just wracked with guilt and sadness, he’s also blindingly afraid. When the showdown of the century is gearing up and Vader has finally come face to face with Kenobi, Kenobi runs away like a coward. Vader has to force him to fight him.
As an aside, the fight makes no sense as Vader wants Kenobi captured and has him well within reach, but his force powers are stopped by some fire, I guess? That’s more bad writing, but I digress.
That is a ton of negative emotion being exhibited by a Jedi Master who knows better, and one of the most popular lines in the entire franchise tells us why so much negative emotion is a bad idea.
Take it away, Master Yoda.
Kenobi is a wise, powerful, and very clever man. This is the same guy who beat Darth Maul in their final duel by fooling his opponent into believing he was using his master’s saber form. This is the same guy who “Hello There’d” the four-armed lightsaber-wielding cyborg leader of the separatist forces with an honest-to-God smile on his face. This is the man that helped mastermind the events that would lead to and set off the original trilogy. He is a practiced tactician and warrior. You’re going to tell me a man this seasoned from the harsh realities of war and with these motivations is this guy Disney is trying to sell us?
A better idea would have been not to disarm Kenobi but to make it a struggle of maintaining Luke’s secrecy from an ever-searching empire while battling his own personal demons that were birthed by all that happened to him. Instead of these demons causing him to become weak and feeble, he would have had to deal with the rage that would no doubt be plaguing him. His battle wouldn’t have been with the sads, but with the dark side itself. Kenobi’s desperation to protect Luke, mixed with his anger toward the empire would leave a Jedi Master who isn’t losing power but is resisting the temptation to become the demons he fought.
His interactions with Reva (who he also runs from) should have been a struggle to not kill this cocky girl who thought so highly of herself that she went in wholly underestimating him due to her killing other half-trained Jedi. Her shock at Kenobi manhandling her so easily would have been a great way to start her redemption arc. The only threat they could pose to Kenobi is the threat they pose to Luke, and only Vader would be able to overcome him in combat, a thing that further drives Kenobi ever closer to the dark side in order to gain more power.
It’s a struggle he has to overcome, and it’s a victory that makes him the wise teacher we see by the OT roles around.
So many lost opportunities, but I’ll leave it here and say that my colleague Charles tried his best but failed to make a solid case for the show. Obi-Wan Kenobi is Disney/Star Wars garbage.