Starting with the major building blocks of the nine movies at the heart of the “Star Wars” franchise, the mythology has been expanded with film and TV projects that take place between the original films. “Solo: A Star Wars Story” offered a peak at the early days of Han Solo while “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” filled in the blanks of how the Death Star plans were stolen.
The films have offered some bits and pieces but it has been the series of television productions that have not only addressed big questions in the “Star Wars” universe but also have been strong enough to be enjoyed on their own merits. “The Mandalorian” gave a generation their own major “Star Wars” characters to embrace while “The Book of Boba Fett” turned a minor character into a major player.
As good as those two series have been, the latest offering on Disney+, “Obi-Wan Kenobi,” has the potential to be the best franchise filler to date. This is based on the first two episodes that are now available on the streaming service. New episodes will be available each week through June 22.
The series is set 10 years after the dramatic events of “Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith” where Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) faced the heart-breaking reality that his best friend and Jedi apprentice, Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen), had turned to the dark side. Anakin would eventually emerge as the ultimate evil Sith Lord Darth Vader.
Don’t worry if you have forgotten a lot of the “Star Wars” story that unfolded in Episodes 1-3. The first moments of “Obi-Wan Kenobi” presents a refresher of all that you really need to know to be ready for the new offering.
Obi-Wan has been in hiding and fulfilling his promise to keep an eye on Luke Skywalker, the male of the twins who are the offsprings of Anakin Skywalker. It has been a lonely life on the desolate planet of Tatooine but Obi-Wan is doing his duty out of concern for the now 10-year-old child and as a self-punishment for failing his apprentice.
This all changes when Obi-Wan is pressed into a rescue mission that is designed by the Inquisitors to lure the Jedi out of hiding. Led by the Grand Inquisitor (Rupert Friend), the Inquisitors are enforcers recruited by the Empire and directed by Darth Vader to hunt down and kill all remaining Jedi.
The character of the Grand Inquisitor – known for his red, double bladed spinning lightsaber – originated in the animated series “Star Wars Rebels.” He is joined by the obsessed Reva who is the Third Sister (Moses Ingram) Inquisitor with a history of hating the Jedi and tracking down Obi-Wan.
This is where it becomes necessary to stop talking about the plot of the new series. “Obi-Wan Kenobi” is loaded with story elements, characters and actors who originated their roles in other “Star Wars” projects. Any mention of these would ruin the endless stream of surprises. There is one character where the casting is so perfect that there is the potential for the kind of wild fan reaction Grogu got when we first saw the character that was first known as Baby Yoda.
It is safe to say that while the series bridges the gap between the prequel trilogy and the original trilogy, the heart of the series is deeply rooted in the events of “Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith.” McGregor is playing Obi-Wan as a broken man who must find his way back to what made him a Jedi Master to be able to save the day. The fact McGregor is reprising the role gives the series a serious bond to the franchise world.
McGregor’s performance is critical because it will be the force that has to carry the dramatic tension. “Obi-Wan Kenobi” exists in a time and place that will eventually lead to “Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope.” That means that no matter how threatening the situations get with many of the characters, there is no question they survive.
Help for McGregor – who is also an executive producer – in making the present day elements interesting comes from the cast that also includes Joel Edgerton, Bonnie Piesse, Kumail Nanjiani, Indira Varma, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Sung Kang, Simone Kessell and Benny Safdie.
The Force of nostalgia is strong with “Obi-Wan Kenobi” but it also can be enjoyed as a standalone adventure for those who have only a passing knowledge of this world. It is a treat of intergalactic proportions for rabid fans or newcomers.
3 1/2 stars