Arguably the most sought-after Star Wars content alongside the sequel trilogy, Ewan McGregor will finally make his triumphant return as franchise icon Obi-Wan Kenobi on Disney+ in just under two months. Although the prequel trilogy wasn’t particularly well received, Episode III – Revenge of the Sith particularly had a remarkably strong response, with McGregor’s younger take on the character being one of the best things to come out of the trio of films as a whole.
That makes it easy to see why there’s so much nostalgic fanfare behind this long-awaited return, but it’ll also take a lot to convince fans of the stakes Obi Wan Kenobi as most know where the story follows in canon. The much-anticipated trailer from earlier this month looked incredibly promising as it heavily promoted this limited series as more than just another TV show in Disney’s rotation. Coupled with John Williams’ impeccable score, fans saw tantalizing glimpses of who would be hot on Kenobi’s heels, and the context of the series’ place in the timeline will present perhaps the greatest challenge the revered Jedi Master has ever faced.
The aforementioned Star Wars: Episode III: Vengeance of the Sith was a great tragedy for the Republic, Obi-Wan, Anakin and more, and left the galaxy under the oppressive thumb of the Empire for the next 30+ years – known as the Dark Ages. Obi-Wan and Anakin’s spectacular and heartbreaking duel on the volcanic planet of Mustafar was a terrific conclusion to the trilogy and set the context for Episodes IV-VI all the more heartbreaking.
Those three decades that Obi-Wan would spend on Tatooine guarding Luke Skywalker would be times of painful introspection and loneliness anyway, but the state of the galaxy would make things much more difficult once the Emperor’s lapdogs came on the hunt. Obi-Wan no longer has an organized and politically recognized council to have his back as the Jedi are now an endangered species. Adding to the complications, it won’t just be poorly trained stormtroopers looking for Obi-Wan with failed blaster shots, as the Emperor will also throw his Inquisitorius at him.
These dark side and force villains are some of Emperor Palpatine’s most skilled soldiers, complete with lightsaber training. Under normal circumstances, however, even the best of the bunch (the Grand Inquisitor) would be cannon fodder for someone as skilled and disciplined in the Force as Obi-Wan. The Jedi Master was arguably the best on the Council technically and morally, but without the Jedi Council as a support network to back him up, the Great Jedi Purge will be a major threat as Obi-Wan seeks to follow in its wake survive.
He must avoid being seen in public in compromising situations, which means Obi-Wan must operate incognito most of the time. Drawing too much attention would mean certain death, which also means he must keep the Force and (especially) his lightsaber to a minimum. From a writer’s perspective, having Obi-Wan fox hunt with these handicaps – as a fox – is an excellent way to believably up the ante for a story most of us know the ending to.
Since the Disney Investor Day 2020 presentation Obi Wan Kenobi was billed as the “rematch of the century” between him and his old Jedi apprentice. It’s certainly not enough to be a superficial spectacle. So if the series lives up to its promise of various compellingly moving parts in the story, Obi-Wan Kenobi vs. Darth Vader could be equal parts stunning and emotionally resonant.
McGregor and Hayden Christensen’s performances in their final duel on Mustafar conveyed so much pain, as Obi-Wan was forced into a death throes against the man who became his best friend and brother — and whom he practically raised — while feeling for letting him down. Anakin Skywalker died and Darth Vader was born in his place, with pop culture’s iconic villain spending the next 30 years becoming one of the most feared and mysterious figures in the galaxy. His name was spoken in subdued tones among ordinary civilians and Imperial officers alike, with Vader’s rare and menacing appearances being treated like a horseman of the apocalypse.
Clad in black armor, the Sith Lord had garnered a variety of epithets at the highest level of the Imperial hierarchy, one of which was the “wrath of the Emperor.” A fitting name given the rampage he’s had since the beginning of the Jedi Purge and the various restrictions Obi-Wan has placed on him, will make a rematch a tremendously tall order. The emotional toll this will take on even a veteran like him will surely be just as unnerving, if not worse, than the physical one. In a way, Obi-Wan’s spirits return to haunt him – even if the compassionate Jedi Master doesn’t deserve the suffering.
But before that, Obi-Wan will likely have to endure some mind games from the Inquisitors. As narrated by Rupert Friend as the Grand Inquisitor in the trailer, that compassion is what they aim to turn into the Jedi Master’s greatest weakness in order to flush him out of hiding. Given the scenes we’ve seen so far, Kenobi will likely have to do whatever it takes to bite his tongue while the Empire commits war crimes right before his eyes. His moral dilemma could become the most nagging he has ever faced: come out loud and take down the Imperials before more innocents suffer while potentially outing young Luke, or hold the child – the key to the galaxy’s future – safe from the Emperor at any brutal price?
Some of the Inquisitorius were former Jedi themselves, which also raises the question of whether PTSD will be explored as a concept and whether a moral headbutt between them and Obi-Wan will challenge them. Overall, the Master’s psychological strength will face a greater test in exile than any physical damage the Empire can inflict on him, and that’s what makes it so special Obi Wan Kenobi As tempting as it is – but the lightsaber fights will certainly help.
Obi Wan Kenobi Premieres May 25 on Disney+.
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