It’s been months since The Book of Boba Fett ended on Disney+, leaving a big Star Wars-shaped hole in our lives. Thankfully, it’s almost time to start digging into Lucasfilm’s next foray into the galaxy far, far away: Obi-Wan Kenobi. The upcoming series will finally see the prequel trilogy actor Ewan McGregor return to the role after seventeen years.
The last time we saw McGregor’s Kenobi, he had recently defeated Anakin Skywalker on Mustafar and left him for dead on the shores of a volcanic beach. Kenobi then fled to Tattooine, Anakin’s home planet, to watch over his and Padme’s son, Luke. Meanwhile, he left their daughter, Leia, with Bail Organa on Alderaan. Of course, some of these plot points were a bit goofy–why wouldn’t Obi-Wan just raise both children himself, in hiding? The answer is that these characters need to be in place for A New Hope, which opens with Luke living on a farm with his Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru, and with Leia living on Alderaan under the assumed family name Organa.
The upcoming Disney+ show acts as an interquel, taking place between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. The show will explore Obi-Wan’s lengthy exile on Tattooine and explain what the old Jedi was doing in the years following the collapse of the Republic. This era has proven to be a rich vein for Star Wars in recent years, with properties like Star Wars: Rebels and Jedi: Fallen Order digging into the grim early Age of the Empire.
Warning: Spoilers for Rebels, Fallen Empire, the Bad Batch, and Clone Wars follow. If you haven’t checked them out yet, read on at your own risk!
Hiding from the Empire
The trailers we’ve seen for Obi-Wan Kenobi so far indicate that the wayward Jedi will spend the show’s runtime fleeing the Empire’s most dangerous agents. Early on, we see an Inquisitor named Reva, a new character to this series who will join the Grand Inquisitor and the Fifth Brother, returning character from Star Wars: Rebels. This show takes place three or four years before the events of Rebels, so it makes sense that the Inquisitors will play a major role as villains.
From what little we know of Obi-Wan’s time on Tattooine from other media, the 19 years he spent in the desert aged him greatly. It’ll be intriguing to see if the show addresses this timeline incongruity. Did Kenobi find something Force-related in the wastes of Tattooine that drained his vitality, or was it simply the harsh desert sunlight that turned him gray before his time?
In Rebels, we also get a brief glimpse of Obi-Wan’s life in the Tattooine wilderness when Padawan Ezra Bridger encounters the aging mystic. The show’s plotline had followed Darth Maul for several arcs as he attempted to bend Bridger to the Dark Side of the Force. Finally, when Maul found Kenobi in the wilderness of Tattooine and challenged him to a final duel. It’ll be interesting to see if the new Kenobi series foreshadows these events, which are still at least four years out for Obi-Wan.
Solving a Narrative Issue
Fans first met the Inquisitors in the first season of Rebels, when the crew of the Ghost ran into the Grand Inquisitor. At the time, the crew believed the Inquisitor was the only member of his order, the right-hand man to Darth Vader. Behind the scenes, the Inquisitor solved some interesting narrative problems Lucasfilm had in creating Rebels. The show needed a compelling, dangerous villain to harass the Ghost crew, but it couldn’t exactly rely on Darth Vader.
The issue with a series set before established films is that major players like Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi can never be in any real danger. Sure, they might go through interesting character development, but audiences can rest assured knowing that the heroes will never defeat Vader in a meaningful way, as he needs to be alive by the time of A New Hope.
The Inquisitor worked so well as an alternate, lightsaber-wielding evildoer that Lucasfilm introduced more Inquisitors as members of his order to harry the Ghost crew throughout their adventures. Thus, the Inquisitorius was born, and Star Wars got its best new villains for the Age of the Empire era.
In the second season of Rebels, fans met the Fifth Brother and the Seventh Sister, two acolytes of Vader who were hot on the Ghost’s trail. The two gave audiences a window into the Empire’s Jedi hunting program, a massive operation that spilled out long after Order 66. Later, the crew met the Eighth Brother, an assassin sent to hunt Darth Maul.
Reva, who will appear in Obi-Wan Kenobi, is the Third Sister, a rank we haven’t seen yet in any Star Wars properties. She’ll be played by Moses Ingram, best known for her role as Jolene on The Queen’s Gambit. Many fans have noted that she could have a similar character arc to Trilla, also known as the Second Sister, the primary antagonist of Fallen Order.
Trilla was the Padawan student of Cere Junda, a major character in Fallen Order who eventually takes protagonist Cal Kestis under her wing. All of the Inquisitors before Trilla remained mostly faceless servants of the Empire, unrepentant villains to the end. Trilla, meanwhile, functioned as a more humanized villain and illustrated why any former Jedi would join an order dedicated to hunting down their former allies.
Some fans have expressed frustration with the new show’s focus on Tattooine, yet again. Most of the movies in the series and every TV series so far have spent at least some time on the so-called backwater planet, retreading the same imagery we’ve been seeing on the big (and small) screen since the late 1970s. Thankfully, it looks like the show won’t be spending its entire runtime on the sandy planet.
The trailers indicate that Obi-Wan will lead Reva and the Inquisition away from Tattooine to get them off the scent of Luke Skywalker. After all, we know that the Empire needs to leave Obi-Wan and luke alone for long enough for the young man to grow into an aspiring adventurer and seek Kenobi.
So far, we’ve seen trailer footage of at least one other planet for Obi-Wan’s adventure–a new location called Daiyu. Daiyu seems like a Blade Runer-inspired setting, a rain-slicked city planet lit by glowing neon lights. It’s roughly as much of a far cry from the dusty, rural Tattooine landscapes as you can get!
Hayden Makes His Return
We also know from pre-release promotional materials and the trailers that Hayden Christenson will reprise his role as Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader from the prequels. Christenson received significant fan blowback when Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith first came out–his performance in those films was undeniably awful. However, younger Star Wars fans who grew up with the prequels have a much warmer opinion of Christenson’s take on the character, thanks in part to shows like The Clone Wars that helped rehabilitate the prequel’s nonsensical plotlines.
Many fans are now excited to see Christensen return for the role. For prequel haters, it’ll be interesting to see the actor get another crack at a character he botched so thoroughly 17 years ago. As for fans of those movies, they’re just excited to see their favorite version of Anakin back in the Darth Vader suit.
However, everyone should temper their expectations a bit if they’re expecting a lot of Christensen on-screen. Vader will likely take a backseat as a villain and let his Inquisitors do his dirty work. After all, he’s a busy guy! He probably won’t have a large number of appearances in the short six-episode season, as the show’s writers will likely keep him back for later in the series.
Moving the Pieces (and Putting Them Back)
One issue facing the show is its place in the Star Wars timeline. We know where Obi-Wan, the Grand Inquisitor, Owen Lars, the Fifth Brother, and Darth Vader need to be by the end of the series. As such, the only characters that can be in true peril are the ones that are new to the series.
So, while Obi-Wan can move some characters around and give fans some interesting Easter eggs and cameos, there’s not much it can do to progress the narrative of the Age of the Empire. This is dissimilar to the pacing of The Bad Batch, a series that takes place in the same era but features characters that aren’t in the movies.
In The Bad Batch, all of the main characters make no appearances in the film series, so it’s difficult to say whether any of them are “safe” from mortal peril. This adds more tension to the drama of the series and keeps things interesting as Clone Force 99 navigates the brutal regime left in the aftermath of Order 66. While Kenobi can’t make audiences sweat like The Bad Batch, it’s impossible to overstate just how exciting it is to see Ewan McGregor returning to a major role in a Star Wars production.