Obi-Wan Kenobi has a deep history. Before the Disney+ series, here’s what to know
For anybody familiar with “Star Wars,” Obi-Wan Kenobi requires no introduction.
Debuting in 1977’s “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope,” Obi-Wan (played by Alec Guinness) is a former general and Jedi master living in solitude on the remote desert planet of Tatooine. When farm boy Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) brings him a droid with a message from the Rebellion’s Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), it kicks off the adventure that launches the franchise.
It was not until years later that Obi-Wan’s backstory was expanded. The prequel trilogy, starting with 1999’s “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace,” follows a younger Obi-Wan, played by Ewan McGregor, as he rises through the ranks from a Jedi padawan apprentice to knight and eventually master after meeting his eventual pupil Anakin Skywalker.
A limited series launching Friday on Disney+, “Obi-Wan Kenobi” sees McGregor return to the role for the first time since 2005’s “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith.” Written by Joby Harold and directed by Deborah Chow, the six-episode series picks up 10 years after the fall of the Republic and Jedi Order in “Revenge of the Sith,” as Obi-Wan, in hiding, watches over young Luke from afar.
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“You came out of the original [‘Star Wars’] trilogy thinking of Obi-Wan as this avuncular, wise old man [who’s] patient and allows you to make the mistakes you have to make to become the person you need to be,” Harold told The Times in a recent video call. But McGregor in the prequels is “all the things that you would not have imagined Obi-Wan could have been”: “Alec Guinness’ Obi-Wan is the finished article. It takes a long time to get to that.”
For Harold, part of the excitement of the Disney+ series was exploring what could have happened between “Revenge of the Sith” and “A New Hope” for McGregor’s version of the character to become the version embodied by Guinness.
While specifics about “Obi-Wan Kenobi” are scarce in advance of the premiere, Harold explained that the series follows the character at a time in which the events of “Revenge of the Sith” are behind him — but “still with him and still haunt him.”
McGregor himself noted during the Lucasfilm presentation at Star Wars Celebration on Thursday that there seemed to be no love for the prequel films at the time of their release. But enthusiasm for the series is high, as indicated by the audience’s raucous applause and raised lightsabers for McGregor and Hayden Christensen, who returns as Darth Vader for the series, as they stood together onstage in the Anaheim Convention Center’s arena.
Harold also teased that “there are little moments within the show where you get to enjoy the fact that Ewan is playing this character.”
“We get to put him in places and moments where we challenge and stress test the Jedi to find out where he is in his journey,” said Harold. “I wanted to see him go a bit rough and tumble in a corridor and throw some people around and shoot a blaster and do things that weren’t just ‘Jedi Knight.’”
Obi-Wan’s story so far
When audiences first meet McGregor’s Obi-Wan in “The Phantom Menace,” he is the padawan apprentice of Qui-Gon Jinn, an unconventional Jedi master. An unexpected detour during a mission brings them to Tatooine, where they meet the young, exceptionally Force-sensitive Anakin Skywalker.
Though initially unconvinced by his master’s insistence that Anakin is prophesied to bring balance to the Force, Obi-Wan overcomes his hesitation to fulfill Qui-Gon’s dying wish of training the boy as a Jedi.
Obi-Wan rises up the ranks until he is a Jedi master and a member of the Jedi Council. He served as a general in the Republic Army during the Clone Wars alongside other Jedi and clone soldiers.
Unbeknownst to Obi-Wan, Anakin, who has also risen up the Jedi ranks, is slowly drawn into the dark side by Chancellor Palpatine, a politician who is secretly the Sith Lord Darth Sidious.
Obi-Wan learns of his former apprentice’s defection after Palpatine issues Order 66, which causes the clone troopers to turn on the Jedi to wipe them out. After confronting Anakin, Obi-Wan defeats him in battle and leaves him for dead.
One of the few surviving Jedi, Obi-Wan goes into hiding on Tatooine, where he can watch over Anakin and Padmé Amidala’s son, Luke, who he has left in the care of Anakin’s stepbrother.
The Vader of it all
Anakin isn’t dead, though. He was saved by Palpatine and given new prosthetic limbs, as well as a dark suit of armor that helps keep him alive. Now known as the Darth Vader, the character’s shadow is felt across the series.
According to Harold, “You can’t tell the story of Obi-Wan Kenobi without acknowledging the story of Anakin Skywalker.”
Obi-Wan “was charged with the responsibility of doing something quite profound when he probably wasn’t ready for it,” said Harold. “How do you carry the weight of [that] responsibility going forward when you discover the depths of the outcome of your failures?”
Because it is set in a different era than the other live-action “Star Wars” series such as “The Mandalorian” and “The Book of Boba Fett,” chances are slim that Grogu will make a surprise appearance in “Obi-Wan Kenobi.” But anything is possible.
It has already been established that some characters from the animated “Star Wars Rebels” will be playing a part in the limited Obi-Wan series. This includes the Grand Inquisitor (Rupert Friend) and the Fifth Brother (Sung Kang), who along with new character Reva (Moses Ingram) are Force-wielding dark side warriors tasked with hunting down any surviving Jedi Knights.
Obi-Wan also has plenty of history with “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” characters such as Ahsoka Tano and Bo-Katan Kryze who have already appeared in other live-action “Star Wars” shows. While any crossover seems unlikely, viewers will just have to wait and see if any other familiar faces appear in “Obi-Wan Kenobi.”
When: Any time, starting Friday
Rating: TV-14 (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14)
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