'Obi-Wan Kenobi' Episode 1 and 2 Recap: Star Wars Easter Eggs and a Clone Wars Cameo
Star Wars series Obi-Wan Kenobi is packed with Star Wars references and even a cool cameo.
Richard TrenholmFormer Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
Ewan McGregor stars as the Jedi general, no longer the callow youth of the prequel movies but not quite the gray-whiskered old man played by Alec Guinness in the original film back in 1977. With links to both the prequels and the original trilogy, the show is rich in both Star Wars continuity and intriguing new elements.
The first two of the show's six episodes are available now, with more to follow each Wednesday from June 1 until June 22. If you haven't yet seen the show, be warned that the first episode begins with scenes of children under attack, which may be upsetting to watch in the wake of the May 24 school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.
When did we last see Obi-Wan Kenobi?
The series starts with a recap of the prequels, which saves you six hours of your life (I'm kidding, they're not that bad). Obi-Wan Kenobi, Jedi master and enemy of the evil Galactic Empire, started out in the prequels as apprentice to Liam Neeson's ill-fated Jedi Qui-Gon Jinn, who discovered a very young Anakin Skywalker on the desert world of Tatooine. After Qui-Gon's death, Kenobi tried to train Anakin, but couldn't stop his troubled young protegé falling under the influence of the evil Emperor Palpatine. Ultimately Anakin succumbed to the Dark Side, especially after the death of his love, Padmé Amidala.
The last time they met was on the high ground, where Obi-Wan chopped Anakin's legs off and left him melting in a volcano. Anakin's final words to Obi-Wan were "I hate you!" to which Obi-Wan replied sadly, "You were my brother, Anakin. I loved you."
These moments, these deaths, haunt Obi-Wan still in his nightmares. But episode 2 climaxes with a gut-punch of a personal relationship. We know Anakan was rebuilt as the black-helmeted and asthmatic Darth Vader, more machine than man. But Obi-Wan had no idea! Which massively raises the stakes of his mission to protect Anakin's twin children: young Leia, adopted by galactic senator Bail Organa on Alderaan, and young Luke, sent to live with Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru on Tatooine.
Ten years later, the miniseries begins…
What's Obi-Wan been up to?
Hanging out in the desert watching over Luke, primarily. We pick up 10 years after Revenge of the Sith and nine years before A New Hope, in an era after the Jedi Order has been all but wiped out. Obi-Wan is in hiding, calling himself Ben and eking out a humbled existence as a meat-packer in the carcass of a giant desert creature. He even rejects the desperate pleas of another hunted Jedi, young Nari (played by actor, writer and director Benny Safdie).
Although still a youngling, Luke already shows signs of the restlessness that drove him to embark on a new adventure in the very first film. When he plays at being a pilot, it sends chills down a watching Obi-Wan's spine with echoes of young Anakin's pod racing in The Phantom Menace. And we know it foreshadows Luke's later coming of age as the pilot who destroyed the Death Star.
Speaking of foreshadowing, Luke is being raised by Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru, played as in the prequels by Joel Edgerton and Bonnie Piesse. In A New Hope, it's fair to say things get pretty hot for the unfortunate couple, which adds a poignancy to Owen's plea to Obi-Wan to leave the boy alone. Edgerton is an award-winning Australian actor, writer and director known for Animal Kingdom, The Gift, Loving and The Great Gatsby.
Help me, Obi-Wan
But the show pulls something of a switcheroo when it turns out it isn't Luke who's under threat. Echoing the beginning of A New Hope, Obi-Wan receives a holographic message begging for him to come to the aid of Princess Leia. This time it's his old chum Bail Organa, played by Jimmy Smith also reprising his role from the prequels, and his wife, Breha.
Charmingly played by Vivien Lyra Blair, young Leia is a feisty moppet more interested in running off to the woods to spaceship-spot with her droid Lola than royal duties. Her relationship with Obi-Wan reminds us of the tough guy/cute kid dynamic of The Mandalorian, but more importantly we're getting strong Leon: The Professional vibes. Which can't be a coincidence, as Natalie Portman starred in Luc Besson's 1994 hit just a few years before she played Padmé Amidala (Luke and Leia's mother, and Anakin's great love) in the Star Wars prequels.
Who are the Inquisitors?
A major step in Palpatine's scheme to establish his evil Empire was to wipe out the idealistic Jedi knights, who might oppose him. The series opens with Order 66, the moment many Jedi were treacherously murdered by Palpatine's clone troopers in Revenge of the Sith. But enough survived for the Emperor to set up a death squad of Jedi hunters: the Inquisitors.
The Dark Side-wielding Inquisitors were previously seen in the CGI animated series Rebels and the video game Jedi: Fallen Order. Their fortress from the game will appear in the show, too, as seen in the trailer. Among the characters we've seen before, Rupert Friend brings to life the moon-faced Grand Inquisitor, while Sung Kang plays the Fifth Brother.
Moses Ingram stars as Reva, an Inquisitor created for the Obi-Wan series. Her relationship with the Grand Inquisitor mirrors the Jedi's teaching style of assigning a Padawan apprentice to a Jedi Master. Like Anakin and many youngsters, Reva is ambitious and impatient. She's also something of an underdog, whose Force powers are useful to Imperial officers who will nonetheless never let her forget her humble origins. Ingram brings the character engagingly to life, and yes, in case you couldn't tell, I find myself slightly rooting for her. She's a sadistic fascist, but also a multilayered character. That's smart writing.
Yes, that's Red Hot Chilli Peppers bass player Flea as cosmic kidnapper Vect. But the most fun new character is Kumail Nanjiani's scam artist pretending to be a Jedi. At least he proves to have a decent heart, for all the good it does him.
Obi-Wan quickly spots that Haja Estree uses magnets and remotes to pull off his Jedi sleight of hand, but for a moment I wondered if Haja was in fact a real former Jedi. After all, when the younglings scattered they wouldn't all turn into wandering heroes of the oppressed like the ill-fated Nari. It stands to reason some would come up with novel and potentially shady ways to survive.
When Obi-Wan arrives on the gloomy locale of Daiyu, he's shocked to encounter a destitute war veteran begging for scraps. The random vet is played by Temuera Morrison, who plays Boba Fett in the Book of Boba Fett television series and played Boba's dad Jango Fett in the prequels.
Jango's DNA provided the template for Palpatine's army of clone troopers, and Obi-Wan fought alongside many of these identical soldiers in the Clone Wars (as seen in the cartoons). No wonder he looks shocked. There's also the bitter irony of a soldier forced by an uncaring regime to commit unspeakable acts, then cast aside (and simply replaced by a fresh crop of unquestioning trigger men, in the form of the Stormtroopers who push past in this scene).
If you want to fill in even more of the gaps or just can't wait to get your fix of Obi-Wan action, CNET's guide to everything Kenobi includes a handy list of animated TV shows, novels, and comics featuring the man in the robe.
How come Reva could read Haja Estree's mind but not Owen's?
It remains unfeasible that Ewan McGregor, who is 51 and doesn't look it, will turn into grizzled Alec Guinness in the time between this show and A New Hope. Funnily enough, Guinness was 62 when he made a New Hope, only 10 years older than McGregor is now. Then again, to paraphrase another George Lucas-related character, it's not the years, it's the mileage.
In A New Hope, it's Uncle Owen who introduces Obi-Wan, trying to put off young Luke: "That wizard's just a crazy old man. You stay away from him, you hear me? He's dangerous."
In 1977, Uncle Owen was played by Phil Brown, an actor who was blacklisted during the McCarthy era and relocated to the UK. He died in 2006. Aunt Beru was played by Shelagh Fraser, an English actor whose career spanned from the 1940s to a final TV appearance in 2000. She died that same year.
No idea if we'll we ever see an Aquilian Ranger hunting for Merson pirates, but it sounds cool. Just one of the neat little bits of worldbuilding detail in the show.
See also: Spice is a drug in Star Wars, with variants including Kessel Pure, Glitterstim and Felucian. And the drug dealer who says "I was somebody's daughter too", is none other than McGregor's daughter Esther Rose McGregor.
How many of these recaps will I write before I stop typing "Oboi_Wan" every damn time… Stay tuned to find out.
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