In twenty years time, a film student will sit down in a lecture theatre. They’ll take out their pen, pad and whatever other stationary they’ve managed to scramble together. Their eyes will look eagerly to the front of the hall. Today’s lecture: Lessons to learn from the worst TV shows in history. The prime example? Obi-Wan Kenobi.
In fairness, one lecture wouldn’t do this show justice. You could write a 700-page novel on its failings and you’d still be itching to do more; it really is that bad. Everything that could have gone wrong went even worse than imaginable.
A quick word of advice – tread carefully before watching Season 3 of The Mandalorian. Disney’s ensemble of below-par writers clearly had a huge stroke of luck in making the first two watchable, because everything else they touch at the moment turns to dust.
Creating their own set of awful characters for their own awful trilogy clearly wasn’t enough (Rey ‘Skywalker’ springs to mind). Dumbing down legendary figures from the original films is now firmly on the agenda – Boba Fett has already been ruined, but it really takes a special talent to do the same to Kenobi and Darth Vader.
This show breaks canon at every turn. Its use of CGI is woeful, while the cast either have non-sensical arcs or no arcs at all. The acting is appalling, the storyline is cheap and action scenes are horribly put together.
It’s difficult to decide where to start when dissecting the mess that has finally killed off Star Wars, but the main character is a good place to begin.
Kenobi himself is a shadow of the masterful figure we last saw in Revenge of the Sith. When the titular character of your show is as dull, bland and flavourless as the Jedi master is here, you are always going to face an uphill battle – and he ticks all three boxes with ease.
Why is the protagonist so boring to watch? Well, as seems to be a common theme in the most recent Star Wars material, he quite simply has no development whatsoever.
Episode One tries and fails to create something of the sort by having Kenobi supposedly struggle with his past failures, rotting on (you guessed it) Tattoine and unwilling to wield his lightsaber – having bafflingly buried it in the desert. How he means to protect a young Luke Skywalker with no weapon should the Empire come calling is anybody’s guess.
However, this attempt is half-hearted. In the space of one episode Kenobi has picked up where he left off, and by the end of the second he’s back to normal as far as the writers are concerned. After that, he plateaus as a character – he sets off on quest after quest, rescue mission after recue mission, and just stays the same. It’s painful to watch.
It’s actually sad to look back at wondrous scenes like the one below…
… when you know how badly the character is going to be treated 17 years in the future. It’s a shame.
Ewan McGregor was dealt a bad hand. However, he is far from blameless. In fact, he’s the opposite. Despite his constant media assurances that he was delighted to step back into Kenobi’s boots, his heart simply doesn’t look in it. His performance is nothing short of awful.
It is no exaggeration to say that his acting does not get out of first gear on one single occasion. He speaks in the same monotonal voice throughout every episode and every scene – no matter what situation Kenobi finds himself in, McGregor acts the same. Considering this was a shot at redemption in the eyes of fans who dislike the prequel movies, the Scot came up worryingly short. He was pathetic.
On the other hand, Hayden Christensen at least looked up for it – but he was utilised horribly. Why bring back a 41-year-old actor just to play a version of himself from nearly two decades ago in flashback scenes? He looks frightfully out of place and downright creepy. Just look at the picture below…
… and then the next image, which is supposedly the same character at the same point in the Star Wars timeline. This was awful decision making.
In this scene, the two characters genuinely look as though they’re trying to cut each other’s limbs off. I mean, that’s not exactly a realistic training exercise for two Jedi friends, is it? It’s more proof that the writers just don’t understand Star Wars.
Why not give Christensen the chance to shine as a scarred Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader in the present, rather than have him try to relive the glory days? The flashback scenes come across as forced, and the way they are interlinked with the Kenobi timeline is a prime example of a bad writing team trying to be clever. It felt like something a bang average National 5 English student might attempt before being laughed off by their teacher.
Instead, he is in the show for what feels like a combined five minutes and is forced to contribute to one of the most legendary movie characters in history being reduced to a blundering fool at a point in the timeline when he is supposed to be at his peak. What a disaster.
When Vader isn’t being made to look like a fool, he’s having his personality tossed aside. The scene where he mindlessly snaps the necks of random civilians, for instance – that is not what Vader does. He does not wander streets killing people who mean nothing to him – he kills when he needs to, when it actually matters.
This has been established in previous films, cartoons, comics and books, but it’s blatantly ignored here. Instead, the writers bid for a quick scene which they think makes Vader look monstrous but really just destroys his personal canon.
There are plenty of other character woes throughout the show – a young Princess Leia feels particularly out of place, being either remarkably smart or unbelievably naive depending on what the writers need her to do in any one scene. She feels more like a Disney TV show youngster from the mid-2000s than she does a Star Wars character, which isn’t surprising but is disappointing all the same.
Tala Durith (pictured below in case you forgot who that is, because you probably did) is pointless and serves only as a deus ex-machina whenever Kenobi is in a spot of bother. Her death scene is awkward to watch and feels completely unearned – the writers try too hard to make us care about a character we simply feel nothing for.
The ‘action’ piece that saw her slap a Stormtrooper’s helmet and send him reeling, head spinning, was especially bad.
A special mention has to go to the immeasurable talent of Kumail Nanjiani (again, pictured below because you most likely don’t know who he is), who, after his childlike performance in Eternals, was clearly told to act the exact same under the guise of a different character in a different franchise.
Not only are Disney getting lazy with their writing, but they’re getting lazy with their casting. That’s a number of actors who have crossed the Marvel Cinematic Universe/Star Wars divide and put in uncannily similar performances. It’s not good, and Nanjiani is the most annoying of the lot.
The worst performance of all, however, goes to Moses Ingram. Reva Sevander (The Third Sister) is without doubt the worst Star Wars character to ever grace our screens, courtesy of bad writing, a shocking performance and a huge woke agenda.
It was painfully apparent from the start that the Disney team was going to find a way to redeem this murdering psychopath. However, the way they do so is cheap even by their standards. For starters, there isn’t a single hint that Reva is really hunting down Vader until Kenobi magically works it out in the space of a few plot-contrived minutes – but there had to be a simple way to begin the sympathy-garnering.
Then Reva travels to Tattoine in the space of ten minutes (the writers don’t understand how time works) to murder a young Luke Skywalker (why? That’s anyone’s guess) but changes her mind at the last moment. Kenobi’s reaction? To tell her she has done her fellow Jedi proud and that she is ‘free’.
Sorry – what? This woman has been killing Jedi for the last decade, hunting them down alongside powerful allies like a pride of lions going after a weak antelope. A few episodes ago, she was ready to torture a ten-year-old Leia to get what she wanted. Her least heinous act in this series still involved cutting off an innocent civilian’s hand. But now, according to Kenobi, she has ‘honoured’ her old friends? Give me a break.
The goal is clear – another strong female character who can do no wrong and who the audience must love as soon as the writers demand it. Fortunately, there are viewers who don’t fall for such lazy tricks – but plenty do. It’s not good, it’s not healthy, and it’s downright awful that once great franchises like Star Wars have fallen foul to such obviously woke tactics.
If the character herself wasn’t bad enough, Ingram’s performance was miserable. Strange facial expressions at all the wrong moments were coupled with cringeworthy dialogue throughout – a mistake to forget, you’d hope. Unfortunately, that probably won’t be the case.
We’re 1450 words into this and we’ve only covered the characters and cast themselves – a damning indictment. It gets worse, though – not only are the writers on this show feeble and out of their depth, but they willingly break Star Wars canon at every corner. For any real fans, this should be painful.
George Lucas made it clear time and time again that Kenobi and Vader did not meet between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. Do Disney care? No – in fact, they care so little that they had the pair meet on multiple occasions. It completely ruins any mystique between their meeting in the latter film, and immediately has to be discounted from fans’ personal canon if they have any respect for the universe.
A young Luke being chased by a lightsaber-weilding villain, only to not know what a lightsaber is in A New Hope? Leia not showing any emotion when Kenobi dies in that film, and yet developing a father-daughter bond with him in this series? The list goes on and on. The writers don’t care, Disney don’t care – I only wish I didn’t care.
Moving away (briefly) from the writing side of the show – it also look appalling. Every set piece looks so, so cheap, as if the series was put together by an early year university student on their first real computer.
Ships and any other flying objects move far too fast, as though their coding is slightly off and their speed put into fast forward mode. It’s not a good thing when a set of prequel films first released in 1999 look better than a show created with the tools at Disney’s disposal nowadays.
I’m not sure what the issue is. Have they blown too much of their budget with the ever-growing number of projects across their various franchises? If so, why waste even more money generating CGI soup in the opening episode of the Kenobi series? That’s right – they were so lazy they couldn’t even buy real food for the show.
The manner in which scenes were put together is equally as bad. The two chase scenes in the opening episodes require no introduction from me, and there were only two ways to watch them – you were either rolling around with laughter or you were clawing your eyes out. They are shocking.
The second one is particularly bad when it coms to padding the runtime; for a whole two minutes and five seconds (yes, I counted), Kenobi chases after a ten-year-old and is unable to make up any ground on her. He shouts ‘Leia’ no fewer than 13 times in that spell, occasionally mixing it up with either ‘stop’ or ‘don’t’. That’s it, bar a few obviously wire-assisted front and back flips from Reva that look so fake that you have to either laugh or cry (a common theme).
Disney also failed with their lightsaber fights – again. They just can’t seem to crack it, and went for some odd aesthetic choices in Kenobi – the design team obviously thought the weapons would look cool in darkened settings, but when you’re consistently struggling to see your characters’ faces, it gets a bit frustrating.
All of this goes without even mentioning the downright criminal scene that sees Kenobi smuggle Leia out under his stolen jacket where she is clearly visible. Again, I hope I don’t need to discuss this in detail – you should know how bad it is.
Design issues, you’re benched – it’s time to discuss the various deus ex machinas required to get the writers out of the corners they scripted themselves into.
I’ve already touched on Indira Varma, who seemed to exist solely to get the protagonist out of some nasty situations he otherwise couldn’t have. Then, come the end of Episode 4, with our characters cornered with no means of escape, in fly two ally ships to blast away the enemy despite receiving no signal to do so. Convenient.
Kenobi captured by Reva with Vader on the way? Need him to escape again but don’t know how to do it? Just have Reva send him back inside with two Stormtroopers, away from the rest of the Empire army, and have the Jedi defeat them off-screen so he’s free to do whatever the plot demands of him next. That’s the Disney way.
This kind of writing follows a template that seems to be popular with Star Wars writers these days – everything follows a video game pathway. This show, for instance, is an endless loop of Leia, Kenobi or someone else being captured, being rescued, and then immediately racing off to rescue someone new. It’s unbelievably boring and predictable.
There are also a number of baffling scenes where characters are stabbed through the chest or stomach with lightsabers, and yet miraculously survive. This does not happen in Star Wars – for the most part, being slashed with the weapons will kill you, never mind having it pierce your vital organs.
The lead Inquisitor (whose appearance is dire and nothing like it should do) comes back to life just as the writers demand it. Was there any hint that he’d survived? No. Did it matter? Clearly not. Here he is, back from the dead – deal with it.
Reva is stabbed and at Vader’s mercy, but the Sith Lord just leaves her behind. Cut to the next episode and not only is she fine, but she’s travelled an incomprehensable distance to another planet. It’s odd.
That’s another issue – the writers don’t understand that the time in between episodes still matters. All too often they treat that space as a blank canvas, transporting characters around the galaxy when it doesn’t make sense. They treat their audience like fools.
And don’t get me started on the episode descriptors. ‘Obi-Wan searches for allies’. ‘Obi-Wan plots a mission’. Great creativity, Disney. ‘The action-packed special season finale’? I beg to differ.
If this review is a box ticking exercise for me, it’s nothing like the checklist Disney once again had out for this show when it came to woke nonsense that has no place in Star Wars – let alone with already-established characters.
A black female character who can kill anybody she wants but is still told she has ‘honoured’ her friends? Wives telling husbands to man up and stay to fight even when running away is the smart option? Women putting nasty white men in their place on a regular basis? It’s painfully evident what the writers are trying to do by pushing these agendas, and once again it falls flat.
If you’re not going to find a smart way to incorporate political views into your script, don’t do it. Shoving your own opinions onto characters in entirely unrelated circumstances will not work, and it certainly doesn’t here.
Believe me when I say that everything covered so far barely scratches the surface of this show’s sins. Maybe one day I will write that 700 page novel on its crimes, but for now I’m going to do my best to forget its existence. Even if it didn’t blatantly break canon on its own and therefore automatically exclude itself from the Star Wars timeline, I’d be doing that anyway.
I hope that one day, film students do learn some valuable lessons when they analyse Obi-Wan Kenobi. It’s a mess from start to finish, and has officially killed off the Star Wars universe until someone brave (and rich) enough is able to prise it out of Disney’s vice-like grip.
Goodbye, old friend. May the Force be with you.
Feature Image Credit: Star Wars News Net