TV Review – “Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi” Cranks Up the Emotion in a Powerful, Action-Packed Finale Episode

Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi is a tough thing to write about because it feels the least essential of the three live-action Disney+ Star Wars television series so far. The Mandalorian has largely been about new characters and The Book of Boba Fett picked up from where that character left off at the end of his timeline so it was at the very least fresh material– but story-wise, Obi-Wan Kenobi ultimately puts things right back pretty much where they started at its beginning, filling in a gap in Old Ben’s story that had previously been filled by Legends-continuity novels and fans’ own imaginations.

So the question becomes, “Was this journey worth it for the experience, even though we already knew the ending?” That’s a question Star Wars has faced numerous times before, most notably in the prequel trilogy (we won’t get into that discussion here), but with Obi-Wan Kenobi I don’t think the answer is as cut-and-dry. There were things I really enjoyed about the show overall– especially Ewan McGregor’s performance and some of the new characters– and definitely things I felt could have been handled better, but I will say that I thought this week’s finale episode was strong enough to sway me more firmly toward the positive side.

“Part VI” of Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi begins with Inquisitor Reva (Moses Ingram) having somehow already made it to Tatooine on the hunt for Owen Lars (Joel Edgerton) and his ward Luke Skywalker (Grant Feely), even though Ben, Leia, and the escapees on the “Path” are still being pursued by Darth Vader’s Imperial star destroyer after their breakout from Jabiim. Obi-Wan decides the best course of action is to lure Vader (Hayden Christensen / James Earl Jones) away from the other Force-sensitive survivors, to a desolate rocky planet where he and the Sith Lord can have a finale– for another decade, anyway– no-holds-barred showdown without putting anyone else in danger. Naturally the bulk of the interaction between these two Star Wars heavy-hitters is a knock-down, drag-out lightsaber duel, which is even more entertaining now that Ben has regained his confidence– not to mention his connection to the Force. But I think I would have enjoyed it even more if Obi-Wan and the Imperial enforcer formerly known as Anakin Skywalker would have shown some restraint and sat down to have a chat about their choices in life before going at it.

Still, it’s a well-choreographed and exciting extended fight sequence that culminates in an extremely well-earned beat of Obi-Wan accepting that his old friend Anakin is gone and that Darth Vader is all that remains (he’s wrong, of course, but we won’t find that out until Return of the Jedi, if we’re watching this stuff in sequence). This battle is intercut with Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru (Bonnie Piesse) preparing for Reva’s arrival at the Lars homestead, Home Alone-style, though the Inquisitor proves too powerful for these humble moisture farmers and Reva ends up chasing poor Luke out into Beggar’s Canyon, where she has a crisis of faith in her desire to go down the same path that Lord Vader once did. I think it’s a strong decision to have Owen and Beru display their parenting prowess and to have Reva come to a sort of redemption all in one fell swoop, and the performances here from all three of these actors really carry this sequence of events without needing Obi-Wan around to save the day, either in action or via McGregor’s presence. It’s a rather satisfying payoff to several arcs of this series all at once.

And speaking of character arcs, I would argue that Obi-Wan Kenobi does indeed feel worth it for giving us a more gradual, deliberate evolution of Ben’s relationship with Vader in the period between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. Writer Joby Harold has built in some nice moments that will almost certainly reverberate the next time I sit down to watch the original Star Wars, or even Rogue One. A big part of what I love about the Disney Lucasfilm era is how interconnected everything feels, and I’m betting that Harold has also planted some seeds for what we’ll see in the next live-action series Andor, due out at the end of the summer. But the best thing that he and director Deborah Chow accomplish here in the Obi-Wan Kenobi finale is the emotion that’s packed into the final few scenes, with Ben traveling to Alderaan to bid farewell to Leia (Vivien Lyra Blair) and then Owen inviting the Jedi Master he’ll later call “a crazy old man” to meet ten-year-old Luke and finally give him that Skyhopper toy.

That last moment was what really sold Obi-Wan Kenobi as a series for me, even more than the predictable beat that follows it with Ben encountering the Force spirit of his old master Qui-Gon Jinn (an uncredited Liam Neeson). I love the context of Ben’s acceptance of the Lars family as proper guardians for Luke, and even more moving is his acknowledgement that the Force will decide when it’s time for the boy to be trained. This finale is filled with so many effective moments that I’m willing to forgive many of my previous nitpicks with this series and say that yes, this was a journey worth taking. Since we know Vader, Ben, Leia, and the Lars clan can’t die, I appreciate the efforts to try to get inside their heads a little and provide some motivation for what we know comes afterward.

All six episodes of Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi are now streaming, exclusively on Disney+.

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