This Star Wars article contains spoilers.
Disney’s upcoming Obi-Wan Kenobi series will not only bring back Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen to their iconic roles but also unlock a new era of storytelling for these beloved Star Wars characters. From a certain point of view, the show will walk a similar path to The Book of Boba Fett, exploring the lost years of the Jedi Master before his fateful meeting with Luke Skywalker in A New Hope, just as Boba Fett used flashbacks to flesh out the bounty hunter’s untold story after Return of the Jedi.
But some might say Obi-Wan Kenobi is at a disadvantage compared to The Book of Boba Fett‘s relatively blank slate. Since the character’s overall story is already set in stone — we know where he’s going and where his journey must end — how high can the stakes really get in the new Disney+ series?
Of course, Rogue One faced a similar challenge in 2016. If we already know the Death Star plans will be successfully delivered to the Rebel base on Yavin IV, can Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor’s journey really surprise us? Well, it did when the film shockingly killed off its entire cast of colorful, all-new characters in the third act. But Obi-Wan Kenobi, which is set nine years before A New Hope, won’t be able to pull the same trick with its famous protagonist.
One of the reasons The Mandalorian has been so successful is because it features characters whose stories are unwritten during the largely unexplored post-Return of the Jedi era. Week after week, we can huddle up to theorize what might happen next to Din Djarin and Grogu, and the similarly set Ahsoka spin-off series will have this advantage, too.
It’s also why The Book of Boba Fett, another show set during the same era as The Mandalorian, feels like such a disappointment. Despite having the exact same open road on which to drive its story, the series floundered under the weight of its own star. In fact, it may have done more harm than good to the character’s legacy as the silent mystery man in cool armor — something even Temuera Morrison seemed to understand when he suggested to executive producer Jon Favreau that Boba talked way too much in his scenes. Inconsistent characterization — is he a nice dude or is he a crime lord — and the show’s obsession with explaining every single trivial detail about Boba’s return from the dead didn’t do the character any favors, either. That the two best episodes of The Book of Boba Fett didn’t even feature Boba Fett is just the cherry on top of this bland, melting sundae.
Fortunately, there’s new Star Wars coming in May to help us all move on. But will things really change for Obi-Wan Kenobi? After all, this is another show that will address an unanswered question that isn’t exactly necessary to our understanding of the long-established character: what was the Jedi Master up to while in exile on Tatooine? It’s easy to see how Obi-Wan Kenobi could end up falling into the same traps as The Book of Boba Fett, becoming so self-referential and obsessed with explaining the past that it leaves absolutely nothing to the imagination, turning the mystery of Obi-Wan’s lost years into the visual equivalent of a too-thorough Wookieepedia entry.
On the surface, there are some key differences that separate this miniseries from what’s come before, such as the creators telling this story. The Mandalorian veteran Deborah Chow returns, directing the entire six-episode series from scripts by Joby Harold (Army of the Dead). Bringing in fresh perspectives could mean a slightly different visual language and aesthetic, and perhaps writing that isn’t so preoccupied with the next cameo or easter egg — hallmarks of Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni’s writing style, which have worked well for The Mandalorian but terribly for Boba Fett. Of course, some of these things were likely decided in an executive boardroom, and not necessarily by the people behind the camera.
Obi-Wan Kenobi is also the first live-action Disney+ show set in the era between the Prequels and the Original Trilogy, which will inherently lend the series a bit of freshness. It won’t need to sneak in connections to The Mandalorian or The Book of Boba Fett — it won’t really be able to (unless young Din and Boba are now somehow on the menu). Setting the show 10 years after Revenge of the Sith should also mean that Obi-Wan Kenobi can naturally develop its own look and feel, an aesthetic that isn’t quite the chrome of the Republic years but not exactly the cold Imperial design of the Original Trilogy. The Rebels animated series, for example, excelled at marrying both eras to create something that looked unique but also unquestionably Star Wars. There’s a real opportunity to do that again in Obi-Wan Kenobi.
That is, if the Jedi Master is actually able to escape the dull sands of Tatooine, if even for an episode. This is where the miniseries steps into dangerous territory. After five episodes of watching Boba Fett run errands on the most important unimportant desert planet in the galaxy, are fans really willing to watch Obi-Wan do the same in May? Arriving just months after Boba Fett, this miniseries will need to offer a serious change of pace to succeed.
The fact that Christensen will feature as both Darth Vader and Anakin Skywalker (according to McGregor himself) definitely suggests an adventure off-planet. After all, Vader can’t know Obi-Wan is in exile and hiding Luke on Tatooine since he has absolutely no idea this is the case in A New Hope. That means that if master and apprentice are meant to duel once more on this show, it’ll have to happen somewhere that isn’t that backwater rock. And really, hasn’t The Book of Boba Fett shown once and for all that it is time to move on from the desert planet?
There’s even precedent for Obi-Wan going off-world during his exile in the now non-canon Legends continuity, a roadmap for how it can work. In The Last of the Jedi series by Jude Watson, for example, Obi-Wan leaves Tatooine to protect a former Jedi padawan now being hunted by the Empire. Could Obi-Wan Kenobi benefit from a similar setup?
When it comes to Kenobi the character, the show will also need to avoid The Book of Boba Fett‘s biggest errors. Specifically, it’ll have to give its main character something interesting to do without just digging up the tedium of his everyday life. There shouldn’t be a detailed account of how Obi-Wan built his hut in the desert, how he learned the krayt call that scared away the Tusken Raiders in A New Hope, or where he got the journal Luke later sifts through in the Marvel comics. In other words, modern Star Wars needs to stop confusing lore explainers for actual storytelling. The audience didn’t care about these details in 1977 and they’re just as useless in 2022.
While it’s true that The Book of Boba Fett is meant to be part of a bigger tapestry of shows set five years after Return of the Jedi, it explored those connections not by showing how its main character was important to that tapestry but by benching him completely while more interesting storylines unfolded elsewhere. It made him seem insignificant on his own show. If Obi-Wan Kenobi is meant to kick off another era for Star Wars television, it needs to show from the start why he’s an important part of the larger story. His adventure shouldn’t feel like a quick, skippable pit stop while we wait for the real Star Wars shows to return. This shouldn’t be too hard to do considering the character in question, but two months ago I would have said the same about Boba Fett, arguably the most popular Star Wars character not named Skywalker.
The Mandalorian has also done a great job of investing in its cast of supporting characters. History helped heroes like Bo-Katan Kryze and Ahsoka Tano become instantly recognizable in live action, but The Mandalorian has also given them vital roles within the aforementioned tapestry, both key characters in major storylines that will continue to play out across all the series set in that era. The Book of Boba Fett couldn’t replicate this with the daimyo’s one-note cast of goons. (And don’t get me started on the disservice Disney does to Ming-Na Wen’s Fennec Shand by devoting none of the show’s runtime to developing her character further.)
Hints of personality from new characters like Drash (Sophie Thatcher) were shoved to the side almost as quickly as they arrived. By the end of the show, I mostly wanted to spend more time with Amy Sedaris’ Peli (who’s actually from The Mandalorian) and the majordomo played by David Pasquesi. The Tusken Raiders were highlights too, but the show unceremoniously killed them off-screen before it could really dig into them. The rest of the characters went the way of those Gamorrean guards in the finale, so to speak. Which is a shame since Thatcher is an incredibly talented actor who you should all watch on the much better Yellowjackets.
Obi-Wan Kenobi will count on an ensemble of characters played by Moses Ingram, Kumail Nanjiani, Indira Varma (reportedly as an Imperial officer), Rupert Friend, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Sung Kang (possibly as an Inquisitor?), Simone Kessell, Benny Safdie, Maya Erskine, and Rory Ross. These are big names and should feel like exciting new additions to Star Wars, like Carl Weathers as Greef Karga or even Misty Rosas in a Frog Lady costume. We miss the latter badly despite the size of her role. Not all supporting characters need to play a major role in the story, but they should be colorful, not just cardboard cutouts stood behind the protagonist while he stares down the Empire.
Don’t get me wrong: you’ll absolutely see some of The Mandalorian/Boba Fett formula in Obi-Wan Kenobi. Joel Edgerton and Bonnie Piesse return as Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru, respectively, which means that a young Luke Skywalker cameo is very likely. While that might trigger bad memories of little Ani in The Phantom Menace, this is Star Wars. It will always somehow connect back to the Skywalkers. This is just the way.
But we can only hope that in exploring the journals of Obi-Wan Kenobi, this miniseries finds something new and exciting to say about its well-known protagonist. And even if the show does end up feeling like another retread of the past, at least let Obi-Wan actually be the star of it.
Obi-Wan Kenobi will arrive on Disney+ on May 25. You can check out the full schedule of upcoming Star Wars movies and TV series here.