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Obi-Wan Kenobi was aces, but can Star Wars get out from under its own shadow?
The Obi-Wan Kenobi finale marks the end of a terrific new chapter in the Star Wars saga on Disney Plus. The prequel series focused on the aging Kenobi is deeply satisfying and a joy to watch, bucking expectations while delivering the nostalgic kick fans have come to expect. The series took Kenobi’s story to new heights, with a killer return by Ewan McGregor. But it did beg the question: where does Star Wars go next? And how many more stories can be squeezed out of existing lore?
With numerous aborted or delayed projects, it’s not entirely clear what Lucasfilm and Disney have in store beyond a few streaming series revisiting familiar characters and storylines. Isn’t Star Wars bigger than that though?
Read on for our review of the Obi-Wan Kenobi limited series, and a look ahead at what we can expect from future Star Wars projects. If you haven’t watched it yet, you can catch all six episodes on Disney Plus, including the Obi-Wan Kenobi finale, by hitting the link below.
Please be aware that we do discuss some potential spoilers below.
Obi-Wan Kenobi was a knockout Star Wars show
Obi-Wan Kenobi managed to do a lot with a seemingly flimsy premise. It feels like we know roughly what happened to Obi-Wan between the events of Revenge of the Sith and 1977’s Star Wars. He lived a quiet life as a hermit on Tatooine. There, he watched over young Luke from a distance. What more could this period in the Jedi’s life have to offer? Well, a lot, apparently.
Obi-Wan Kenobi defies expectations and is among the best Star Wars shows.
The series immediately sees Obi-Wan back at work. The galaxy has changed since the Jedi were wiped out. What few are left are hunted by ruthless “Inquisitors,” and one, Reva, is particularly interested in capturing Kenobi to please her master Darth Vader.
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When Reva kidnaps Princess Leia, her adoptive father and Obi-Wan’s old friend and ally Bail Organa seeks the aging Jedi’s help. Beyond the clever bait and switch of bringing Leia into the fray, this also brings Obi-Wan temporarily out of hiding. This puts him in touch with resistance fighters and the beginnings of a Rebel Alliance and sees him face to face with his old Padawan, now the evil Darth Vader. But Obi-Wan has walked right into Reva’s trap. She knew he would be lured when his old friend’s daughter was kidnapped. She knew he was just the prize to bring to her master and ascend to the title of Grand Inquisitor.
But nothing is as it seems. The series sees allegiances tested, as Obi-Wan tries to find his footing. He’s out of practice and needs all the help he can get. Luckily, he has it in the form of new allies. The fight against the Empire has already begun.
The limits of nostalgia
I love nostalgia as much as the next Star Wars fan. Seeing Obi-Wan on Tatooine, hearing the mechanical breathing of Darth Vader, watching the screen light up with every lightsaber flare — these moments trigger an instant return to childhood excitement in a rare and very welcome way.
See also: The best Star Wars movies on Disney Plus
Star Wars has been mining this source of fan excitement for years. That’s as true of Obi-Wan Kenobi as any other title. It’s built into the premise. Disney managed to keep some big surprises under wraps, like the return of Jimmy Smits as Bail Organa, or the very presence of Leia. The return of both Ian McDiarmid as the Emperor and a mysteriously uncredited Liam Neeson as Master Qui-Gon Jinn in the Obi-Wan Kenobi finale were among the best-kept secrets in the whole series.
Winks and throwbacks can be limiting, even if they're fun.
Thematically, the show also added depth to existing stories and relationships. It does feel like Obi-Wan and Anakin’s parting of ways was abrupt in Revenge of the Sith. The final duel between the two in the original Star Wars feels vaguely anticlimactic with the added context of the prequels. Allowing the two characters to interact, both in real-time and in flashbacks, fed into nostalgia, but it also built the missing foundations for their final duel.
So what now? Can we leave the past in the past? Evidently not, as the next Star Wars project is yet another prequel. Andor may well be an exciting new show, but it does feel like we’re getting caught playing in the same old sandbox, no? There are unknown planets, aliens, cultures, and adventures to be explored. Can’t we leave the familiar for something new?
Fans are always ready to pounce
Telling new stories would be a refreshing narrative move, and it might also help sidestep one of the most volatile fandoms around.
No one hates Star Wars more than people who love Star Wars, apparently. One of the problems that inevitably occurs when we dip back into familiar Star Wars lore is that fans become outraged at any perceived deviation from canon.
No one hates Star Wars more than people who love Star Wars, it seems.
Sometimes fan backlash is quite simply an expression of bigotry. That was the case when Moses Ingram, who plays Reva, received a stream of racist abuse online. That kind of “fan” response exists at the more toxic end of the spectrum. But the more humdrum claims of canon breaking are also relentless. Does one throwaway line contradict something Vader said in the original Star Wars? Would it make sense within established chronology for Leia to have ever met Obi-Wan Kenobi? The list of gripes is endless.
Star Wars canon has always been a little murky. The infamous kiss between Luke and Leia has often been held up as a prime example that the choice to make the two brother and sister came quite late in the original trilogy’s production. Or take Leia’s assertion that she remembers her mother in Return of the Jedi. That seems unlikely when we see her mother die in childbirth in Revenge of the Sith.
None of these seeming contradictions should really matter to anyone willing to suspend their disbelief and just go with it. But it does seem like prequels open themselves up to such quibbling. Why not avoid it altogether by telling entirely new stories?
We’d move away from the safety of pre-sold properties, but isn’t that exciting?
A bright future for Star Wars?
There’s already hope for a change of pace. Of the upcoming Star Wars films, one seems to be closest to the finish line: an as-yet untitled project from director Taika Waititi. Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy has said that Star Wars will need “to create a whole new saga” to return to the big screen, and Waititi seems to be offering just that.
Lucasfilm is in the market for a whole new saga.
In an interview with Total Film, Waititi didn’t mince words: “Look, I think for the Star Wars universe to expand, it has to expand,” he said. “I don’t think that I’m any use in the Star Wars universe making a film where everyone’s like, ‘Oh great, well that’s the blueprints to the Millennium Falcon, ah that’s Chewbacca’s grandmother.’ That all stands alone, that’s great, though I would like to take something new and create some new characters and just expand the world, otherwise it feels like it’s a very small story.”
Check out: Everything you can watch on Disney Plus
There’s so much to be done with Star Wars. Maybe more Jedi survived elsewhere in the galaxy. Or other Force-sensitive beings exist entirely outside the scope of the Jedi Order. Perhaps we could check in on planets or peoples that were never part of the Republic to begin with. The possibilities are infinite.
The established characters and stories are great. Obi-Wan Kenobi proved that there’s plenty of room left to tell stories there. But it’s time to go bigger and to test the limits of this story world.
Fingers crossed! We’re excited for what comes next.