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Things Obi-Wan Kenobi Does Better Than Other Star Wars Series

"Obi-Wan Kenobi" — or at least its first season — has wrapped. It's possible that this Obi-Wan in-between-quel may have been a better movie than a TV series, but there are more hits than misses, and that speaks well of the series, especially considering the impossibly high expectations it had to live up to. Old Ben and little Leia's misadventures, set smack dab in between the prequel and original trilogies, are an object lesson in not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. 

While "The Mandalorian" and baby Yoda came out of nowhere to captivate the world, and animated series like "The Clone Wars" and "Star Wars: Rebels" allow hardcore fans to venture farther out into the periphery and dive deeper into the lore, "Obi-Wan Kenobi" excels in some areas that other series just can't match. Not the least of which is the enthusiasm of its cast members, many of whom returned from the prequel trilogy, for which there's a renewed fondness as the generation who saw them as children are now adults, in some cases watching with their own kids at home. Yes, there are some questionable plot twists and some cringy exchanges here and there, but hey, that's "Star Wars." For viewers who go in with an open mind and their high hopes (and fan theories) in check, there's much to appreciate. With that in mind, here's a look at some things "Obi-Wan Kenobi" does even better than the other "Star Wars" shows.

The opening, episode titles, and score feel like vintage Star Wars

With the exception of "Star Wars: The Clone Wars," the other "Star Wars" television series have largely existed adjacent to the nine films that make up the Skywalker Saga. Shows like "Star Wars: Rebels" and "The Mandalorian" feature plenty of Easter eggs, significant cameos, and narrative overlap, but they have the freedom to look, sound, and feel unique. "Obi-Wan Kenobi" was always going to be a high-risk proposition for Disney because it directly ties into the most crucial lore of the whole franchise, connects the prequel trilogy to the original trilogy, and centers around one (well, actually three) of the most revered characters in all of "Star Wars." It's fitting, then, that "Obi-Wan Kenobi" sports an aesthetic that's squarely evocative of vintage "Star Wars." The series isn't trying to obscure the fact that it's central to the canon. 

The Disney+ show opens with a familiar phrase presented in a nostalgic font and color, before it provides viewers with a previously on-type highlight reel that reminds audiences of Anakin, Padme, and Obi-Wan's story arcs from Episodes I-III. When the premiere installment begins in earnest, we can hear John Williams' new "Obi-Wan Kenobi" score, which is symphonically of a piece with his brilliant work on the films. Another small but surely purposeful difference is that while "The Clone Wars," "Rebels," "The Mandalorian," "The Bad Batch," and "The Book of Boba Fett" have named episode titles such as "Dark Disciple" or "The Gunslinger," the "Obi-Wan Kenobi" episodes are simply referred to by Roman numerals, with the premiere serving as Part I and the finale serving as Part VI. It's likely the word "Episode" itself was avoided so as not to create confusion with the titles of the movies. 

The series rhymes with the movies

Speaking of those episode titles, clever fans noticed fairly early on in the series' run that the Roman numerals weren't the only parallel to the Skywalker Saga. Each of the six parts of "Obi-Wan Kenobi" appears to "rhyme" (as George Lucas would describe it) with one of the films from the prequel and original trilogies, in matters of plot, character introduction, setting, action, and theme. Some of the allusions are more obvious than others, but none of the references are particularly subtle. 

Part I takes place mostly on Tatooine, where Luke is approximately the same age Anakin was when Qui-Gon Jinn took possession of him to train him as a Jedi. Similarly, young Leia's dress-up switcheroo recalls her mother Queen Amidala's use of her handmaiden Sabé as a body double decoy in "The Phantom Menace." Part II explores the urban planet Daiyu, and its chase sequence brings to mind Anakin's pursuit of Zam Wesell in "Attack of the Clones" as well as Obi-Wan's underground sleuthing about Jango Fett's dart. There's also a Temuera Morrison cameo as a veteran clone trooper. Part III is an impossible-to-miss rematch of the duel on Mustafar, with a subplot involving a former Jedi (Reva instead of Anakin) trying to curry favor with a Sith (Vader instead of Palpatine). 

Part IV has Obi-Wan break into Fortress Inquisitorius to rescue Leia, who's being held there in an homage to a "A New Hope." In Part V, the small resistance has to defend itself while holed up on Jabiim against the mightier Empire as the Rebels did on Hoth, and the survivors barely escape. Finally, Part VI features Vader's unmasked face, the turn of an antagonist to the light side, and a happy ending. 

It's nice to see some faces

"Star Wars" has always been able to make compelling characters out of puppeted beings and humans under helmets. Yoda, Darth Vader, Boba Fett, Din Djarin, and Grogu are some of the most recognizable (and marketable) presences in all of pop culture. But, as successful an experiment as "The Mandalorian" was and is, it's refreshing to see people's faces fill the screen in "Obi-Wan Kenobi." 

It wasn't lost on fans that "Obi-Wan Kenobi" borrows from the formula that worked so well for "The Mandalorian." In that show, a jaded Din Djarin reluctantly becomes the keeper of the Child, aka Grogu. Here, a jaded Obi-Wan reluctantly embarks on an extended rescue mission to save and then protect young Princess Leia of Alderaan. Both relationships work, especially in series that are intended for general audiences including kids, and it's probably fair to admit that Mando and Grogu share a more special and endearing connection. However, being able to see Ewan McGregor and Vivian Lyra Blair's expressions unobstructed lends more nuance and a different kind of emotional depth to the "Obi-Wan Kenobi" story.

As the "Star Wars" universe has expanded, more and more of it has been told through animation, video games, and live-action series that involve masks and heavy CGI. "Obi-Wan Kenobi" is comparatively analog. With the partial exception of Vader, the primary cast's faces are entirely visible, as are most of the characters who appear in cameos or who show up for an episode or two. For the plot points and themes that "Obi-Wan Kenobi" is exploring, staying so human is a smart choice and an interesting change of pace. 

The actors are top-notch

Another benefit to seeing all those facial expressions? The production team behind "Obi-Wan Kenobi" lined up of the best actors in the business. 

The show wouldn't have happened without prequel standout Ewan McGregor agreeing to return as the title character. McGregor is one of the most accomplished actors in "Star Wars" history, having appeared in nearly 100 movies, TV series, and plays for which he's been nominated and won dozens of awards. His performance as Obi-Wan at his low point is gripping, and serves as the keystone that holds the show together. Joel Edgerton and Jimmy Smits have less screen time than is typical for actors of their stature, but they effectively show their characters' growth and circumstances over the ten years that have passed in universe. One of the show's strokes of genius was in casting Vivian Lyra Blair as young Leia. Blair resembles the late Carrie Fisher, but more importantly, this gifted child actor has precisely captured the Rebel Princess's attitude, and she holds her own in scenes with McGregor, Varma, and Moses Ingram. 

An unfortunate and ugly controversy plagued the series when hostile fans began to attack Ingram and her performance as Third Sister online. "Star Wars" — which is intended to be a melodramatic space opera — has always encouraged its actors to go big, and Ingram — who earned an MFA from Yale Drama and appeared in "The Queen's Gambit" — did exactly what director Deborah Chow asked her to do. "Game of Thrones" and "Rome" alum Indira Varma also deserves credit for creating a fantastic new character in Tala Durith, an Imperial officer who became a spy for the Path when she saw what the Empire was really up to. 

The new droid designs are distinct

"Star Wars" is as famous for its production design as it is for its epic storytelling. From the Death Star to the lightsaber to Boba Fett's armor, "Star Wars" vehicles, props, and costumes are a huge reason it's such a part of the zeitgeist. Chief among its innovations are its many droid characters and their myriad imaginative appearances. It's hard for any artificially intelligent beings to live up to the OG droids, C-3PO and R2D2, who are so iconic they were inducted into the Robot Hall of Fame. BB-8 became a star in his own right after "The Force Awakens," but not every new droid is destined for lasting toy-and-t-shirt-dom. 

Other "Star Wars" series have used deployed droids effectively. Chopper is an integral member of the Ghost's crew. IG-11's sacrifice in "The Mandalorian" is one of that show's most memorable moments. But those designs were in essence riffs or exact copies of pre-existing droids. "Obi-Wan Kenobi" gives us L0-LA59 (or Lola) and NED-B, which are entirely new, compelling designs and characters. 

Lola, who looks like a cross between a ladybug and a Discman, is Leia's toy and is so cute, she's destined to be many more children's toys. The idea that the galaxy's kids would own droids that occupied and entertained them, and taught them about engineering and droid ownership, completely makes sense within this world. NED-B is a loader droid. Loaders were mentioned in the novel "A New Dawn" but haven't been seen onscreen until now. NED is a gentle, silent giant whose hulking metal physique belies his altruism and loyalty to Tala; like his human companion, we lost him too soon. 

We understand the scope of the galaxy and the Path

When "Obi-Wan Kenobi" was announced, especially on the heels of "The Book of Boba Fett" which mostly stayed put on Tatooine, fans worried that we'd be stuck for another six episodes on the desert planet in the Outer Rim. After all, as far as fans knew, Obi-Wan hadn't left since he delivered infant Luke to the Lars family's moisture farm. The trailer was littered with shots of sand dunes and featured only glimpses of Daiyu or the Fortress Inquisitorius, so it was a welcome surprise when at the end of Part I, Obi-Wan was already boarding a ship for parts unknown. 

In just six short episodes, "Obi-Wan Kenobi" takes viewers to a still-thriving Alderaan, the neon drug den of Daiyu, the intensely occupied mining planet Mapuzo, the water moon Nur, and the burgeoning resistance's hideout on Jabiim, not to mention back to the volcanic Mustafar where Vader has built his castle and the rocky planet where he and Obi-Wan stage their rematch. Each of these places is brought to life with helpful detail, especially considering they're all basically a projection onto a green screen behind the actors. We get a sense of their economies and civilizations through Obi-Wan's fish processing gig and Mapuzo's checkpoints. How much of an influence the Empire has on each location is openly discussed and demonstrated by the characters, which makes the potential consequences of Obi-Wan and Leia's actions feel like real stakes. 

Similarly, the Path — which is basically an Underground Railroad for refugees and the Force sensitive (particularly younglings) — is depicted as having fragile but persistent tributaries throughout the galaxy. For the first time, viewers can see how the Rebels rose up from the ranks of these brave light-side holdouts. 

The Empire has never been scarier

The trailer for "Obi-Wan Kenobi" included a haunting line reading by Ewan McGregor in which Kenobi lamented that "The fight is done. We lost." It's painfully clear to audiences that ten years into Imperial rule, Obi-Wan, the Jedi, and those opposed to the Empire are truly living under a fascist regime whose goal is to find and exterminate them. It's one thing when Inquisitors violently disrupt business at your open air bar looking for Force users, and the scenes in which the Grand Inquisitor, Fifth Brother, and Third Sister terrorize Tatooine's locals are definitely intense. But "Star Wars" has never been more unsettling than when Leia asks passerby Freck for a ride and Obi-Wan can't help but notice the seemingly homemade Imperial crest flag on the back of his truck. 

We expect bad guys to act like bad guys. For a moment, Freck fools Leia and viewers into believing he's as friendly as he seems (or at least not so radicalized that he'd turn in a child). Later on, when Tala confesses that she joined the Empire thinking she was doing the right thing only to find out how wrong she was, we can sense that a likely majority of the planets' inhabitants realized too late that they'd either supported the Chancellor as he turned himself into the Emperor or that they didn't do enough to stop him. The galaxy might not technically be at war, but for most, the peace the Empire brought is no peace at all. "Obi-Wan Kenobi" gets the closest to fully realizing George Lucas's historical inspirations. In "Obi-Wan Kenobi," the near-constant stormtrooper patrols and brutal crackdowns from Inquisitors combined with the ever-present anxiety that you can never really trust anyone make for a deeply felt cautionary tale. 

We get more of a more powerful Vader

Though fans were thrilled to see Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi again, they were just as excited when it was revealed that none other than Darth Vader himself would be one of the series' antagonists, and that Hayden Christensen was joining the cast. Those fans may have been hoping against hope for more Anakin (and we do get a few scenes with Christensen before his character's transformation), but Lord Vader (whose vocal performance is credited to James Earl Jones) is a major character in "Obi-Wan Kenobi." Better yet, this Vader's power is on full display. 

Previously, David Prowse's Vader fought against Alec Guinness' Obi-Wan in a duel that's more important to canon than it is thrilling or impressive. After all, Vader only has about eight minutes of screen time in "A New Hope." A properly terrifying Vader turns up in "Rogue One," but only in two scenes. Christensen only just dons the suit at the very end of the prequel trilogy. And while the character is used well in "Rebels," there's nothing like seeing a live-action Vader get busy with a Force choke or a lightsaber. 

Unlike the emotionally torn Anakin we see in "Revenge of the Sith," in "Obi-Wan Kenobi," Vader is the Empire's chief intimidator and enforcer. He breaks a child's neck on Mapuzo without hesitation. He plays with the out-of-practice Obi-Wan like a cat with a mouse. He barely breaks a sweat crashing down the Path's transport ship. His duel with Reva — in which he never draws his own weapon — is one for the ages. That is, until Obi-Wan lures him into battle, lets go of his guilt, and bests him again after a lengthy fight. 

The flashbacks are meaningful

For the longest time, "Star Wars" didn't do flashbacks. There were dream sequences and visions in the original and prequel trilogies, but even those were few and far between. Only in the sequel trilogy and the television series (Luke's misjudgment of Ben Solo, Rey's parents, the Night of a Thousand Tears, Boba Fett's time with the Tuskens) has the franchise relied on this storytelling technique, and with varying degrees of success. 

"Obi Wan-Kenobi" might not offer up as many flashbacks as fans of Christensen and McGregor may have wanted, but it does use flashbacks as a framing device in Part V, in what's probably the most meaningful example yet of a peek back into "Star Wars" past. The episode begins as Obi-Wan and Anakin spar on a balcony at the Jedi Temple in Coruscant. It's not a particularly consequential moment in the grand scheme of things, and from context clues (their hairstyles, Anakin's intact hand) we can tell this session occurred probably just before the events of "Attack of the Clones." Anakin and Obi-Wan are on good terms, but the tension between their different approaches to Force usage and Jedidom is apparent. 

The lessons learned from the sparring session are reflected in the episode's present timeline, in which Obi-Wan attempts to outsmart his former Padawan on Jabiim. In the past, Obi-Wan concedes that Anakin's the better fighter, but warns that he'll never become a true master until he gets his aggression and hubris under control. The flashback not only gives fans one last live-action scene between the old friends, it also shows that Obi-Wan didn't fail his pupil. He tried to impart his wisdom; it just wasn't advice the chosen one wanted to hear. 


As much as fans love "Star Wars" for its mythmaking, world-building, rich characters, and resonant themes, there's one reason those fans go to theaters or tune into Disney+ above all others, and that's awesome lightsaber duels. Though the elegant weapon for a more civilized age makes regular appearances in the animated series, they scarcely exist in "The Mandalorian" and "The Book of Boba Fett" except for the Darksaber and the fleeting moments in which Ahsoka and Luke wield them. 

At first, "Obi-Wan Kenobi" is judicious about reaching for its hilt. In Part I, Reva cuts off a disobedient woman's hand and holds her red beam at Owen's neck. In Part II, she skewers the Grand Inquisitor. But by Episode III, Obi-Wan and Vader are crossing lightsabers in the first of their two heart-stopping encounters. Obi-Wan gains some of his confidence back as he uses his weapon to break into and then out of the Fortress Inquisitorius. Then there's the flashback to Coruscant, and Reva's sneak attack on Vader, who totally saw her betrayal coming. She uses one as she ambushes the Lars' farm, too. 

But let's get to the main event: the lightsaber battle that will put "Obi-Wan Kenobi" on the map is the haunting twilight duel between the former master and apprentice. As Obi-Wan raises his weapon above his head, it's clear he's no longer on the defense. Even though we know both will survive, their fight (which also makes use of literal tons of magically lifted rocks ... another Force-user go-to) is one of the most breathtaking and extended sequences of its kind in all of "Star Wars." No other television series (so far) can compare.