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‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ Didn’t Work Because It Took Itself Too Seriously

The first act of the first Star Wars film follows two droids who hate each other but are stuck together. The even goofier Star Wars prequels include characters like Jar Jar Binks, a diner owner named Dexter Jettster, and the incredibly annoying lightsaber collector General Grievous. The Last Jedi is the most harrowing, darkest, and (most importantly) horniest entry in the Star Wars franchise, but it includes Porgs and Kylo Ren in high-waisted pants. Even in its darkest moments, Star Wars has always had a campy undercurrent that makes it unique amongst other sci-fi and other film franchises.

In the ultimate lightsaber battle in the Obi-Wan Kenobi finale, Obi-Wan Kenobi faces Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker. Obi-Wan strikes Vader’s face and his iconic helmet breaks, revealing one-half of Anakin’s face. For the first time since Obi-Wan Kenobi left Anakin Skywalker for dead on Mustafar in Revenge of the Sith, Obi-Wan sees that Anakin truly is Darth Vader. The boy Obi-Wan trained for so many years and lost to the dark side is lying right there in front of him, desperate for revenge on his former master. Darth Vader continues to shout threats at Obi-Wan, but now, his helmet’s voice distortion feature (I don’t know what it’s called) is broken. His voice weaves between sounding like James Earl Jones and Hayden Christensen, from monster to boy.

For years, Obi-Wan, ignorant of the medical marvels Emperor Palpatine had at his disposal, assumed that Anakin was dead at his own hands. He spent a decade drowning in grief and guilt, feeling responsible and punishing himself for not only Anakin’s downfall, but the downfall of the Republic. Once Obi-Wan discovers Anakin’s new identity as Darth Vader in Obi-Wan Kenobi, he is in denial that they could possibly be the same person. Looking into Anakin’s eye and hearing Anakin’s real voice emotionally affects an already emotionally affected Obi-Wan. But moments later, Obi-Wan, as he did many years ago, abandons a helpless Anakin Skywalker by riding off in a ship, leaving his former padawan with a cold but confident, “Goodbye, Darth”. Obi-Wan’s snappy exit embodies the character, but not the moment. Almost is the theme of Disney+’s Obi-Wan Kenobi. This lightsaber battle was almost iconic. “Goodbye Darth” was almost funny. Obi-Wan Kenobi was almost a good show. But ultimately, the entire thing fell flat because it did not allow itself to be fun.

Despite its best moments including that lightsaber battle and Ewan McGregor’s facial hair, Obi-Wan Kenobi feels very fleeting. We got almost six hours of storytelling but learned nothing new about characters we already knew, and also learned absolutely nothing about new characters. Obi-Wan Kenobi was sad. Darth Vader was violent. Obi-wan was sad. Leia Organa was feisty. And Reva, the former padawan who was on a mission to avenge her peers Anakin Skywalker murdered has a narrative arc that’s shaped more like a twig and adds nothing to Obi-Wan’s journey.

The Obi-Wan Kenobi finale is peppered with attempts at quick references to Obi-Wan’s sly, slightly rude but ultimately very charming (and hot, sorry) attitude. None of the lighter, sillier moments work because Obi-Wan Kenobi, like the rest of the Disney+ shows, thinks Star Wars is not camp. Even “Hello there,” an Obi-Wan moment that one could argue is the reason why this series exists in the first place (that’s a blog for another day when I am way less tired), was crammed into the final episode out of desperation, a studio note in visual form.

Star Wars should be fun. Obi-Wan Kenobi should have been the most fun, with so much potential for a good, weird time in space. But the franchise has quickly become a soul-sucking bore. The last time Star Wars was fun, really, was when we as a society were first introduced to baby Grogu during the first season of The Mandalorian. Since the appalling Rise of Skywalker and the middling, Skywalker Saga-focused second season of The Mandalorian and The Mandalorian-focused first season of The Book of Boba Fett, the initially promising Disney+ Star Wars shows have all but eliminated the goofy soul from Star Wars by taking it too seriously.

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