It’s hard to believe, but it’s been 17 years since last we saw Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), the saddest of all Jedi knights.
In “Revenge of the Sith,” he claimed the high ground before fricasseeing former apprentice Anakin Skywalker, dropped baby Luke off with his Uncle Owen and then disappeared into the sands of Tatooine to become “that crazy wizard Ben Kenobi” we first met in “A New Hope.”
Starting this Friday, we get to see what Obi-Wan was doing in the desert while Luke was shooting womp rats in Beggar’s Canyon with Biggs Darklighter. Disney has essentially given us a six-hour Obi-Wan movie with this limited series, which will continue through June 22.
Now, did the world need an Obi-Wan show?
Not really, no.
But here’s the thing: for 20 years, there’s been an imbalance in the Force.
Ewan McGregor is a talented actor — far too talented to have been saddled with the sub-par scripts that were the prequels — and deeply loves the character of Obi-Wan. Against all odds, he managed to deliver a genuinely emotional, affecting performance in “Revenge of the Sith”; he was by far the best thing about that entire film.
The Universe owed him a chance to do right by the character. Hopefully, “Obi-Wan Kenobi” will give him far better material to work with, and let him erase the bad taste “Sith” left in our mouths.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether the series is necessary. I’m just glad McGregor, a lifelong Star Wars fan, has another chance to don the robes and wield the lightsaber.
While we wait to see if “Obi-Wan Kenobi” continues the trend of great Star Wars television — and if it can redeem Hayden Christensen’s reputation in the fandom, as he also returns as Darth Vader — I wanted to take a moment to rank the stories that have come before, starting with:
1. The Original Trilogy
How can you not put the original trilogy at the top? Without “A New Hope,“ “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi” there simply is no Star Wars. No extended universe (EU) of books (and I understand Disney has thrown them out of the official canon, but that’s a choice I’ve opted to ignore). No comics. No animated series or live-action space westerns. No “Star Wars Holiday Special.”
OK, so maybe the world would be better off without that. But still.
And we can all debate until we’re blue in the face re: which film is the best one (obviously “Empire”), or whether the Ewoks are great or annoying (great), and about the symbolism of Luke facing down the Emperor and his father dressed all in black, or whether Lando is a hero or a traitor (a hero), or how it’s an outrage we never got to see Leia do Force training …
But the fact remains: the original trilogy revolutionized sci-fi and became a pop culture juggernaut for a reason. And that reason is because it’s AWESOME. Full stop.
2. “The Mandalorian”
The first live-action series is the best piece of Star Wars media for three reasons.
One: Pedro Pascal as the titular hero, aka Din Djarin. Every choice he’s made in the role, from his physicality to his quiet way of speaking, has been brilliant. His Mando is a capable killer, yes, but he’s also polite and respectful, shows mercy whenever possible and will do whatever it takes to keep his tiny frog son safe.
Two: Baby Yoda/Grogu. Yes, his design is adorable, and I’m a total sucker for the “hardcore warrior forced to become a concerned single dad” trope (see also: “The Witcher”). But more than anything, it was the choice to make Grogu an animatronic puppet rather than relying on CGI — that’s key to the entire show’s success.
Three: “The Mandalorian” finally steered us away from the Skywalker Family Drama. Finally we get to focus on other characters and stories. And while Mando gets pushed toward Giant Plot Things, he consistently chooses the side quest instead of the Big Damn Hero stuff. He’d rather rebuild his spaceship and get his kid a juice box than become the rightful King of Mandalore. Love that for him (and us).
3. “Clone Wars” and “Rebels”
I confess I’ve yet to finish either of these multi-award winning animated series, but I’ve seen enough to know all of the praise that’s been heaped upon them over the years is absolutely warranted.
“Clone Wars” is set between the prequel films, and primarily follows Anakin, Obi-Wan and Padme Amidala as they fight against the Separatists, led by Sith Lord Count Dooku. “Clone Wars” introduced fan favorites like Ahsoka Tano (soon to have her own live-action series) and General Grievous, and greatly expanded the Star Wars mythology, with several episodes focused on alien species and Jedi Knights only mentioned in the films.
“Rebels,” set between “Revenge of the Sith” and the original trilogy, follows the ragtag Ghost Crew, led by a former Jedi who escaped Order 66. “Rebels” has big “Firefly” vibes, with its colorful found family based on a small freighter ship, resisting fascism and oppression while trying to stay alive.
Both shows have quality voice acting, extremely cool fight choreography and fill in all sorts of character and world-building gaps the movies didn’t have time to.
4. “Rogue One”
Of all of the Star Wars films, “Rogue One” may be the best one. By which I mean to say, it’s not necessarily my favorite, nor the most enjoyable, and it’s certainly not the most fun.
This is, after all, the incredibly bleak story where (spoiler) everybody dies at the end. It’s not a film I’ve ever had the urge to rewatch.
But in terms of moral complexity and emotion? Yeah, this is the best film yet. It dared to show that the good guys aren’t entirely white hats — that in a brutal war you sometimes have to make horrible choices.
It also addressed one of the most glaring plot holes of the original trilogy: why would the Death Star have such a huge flaw? Because someone built it in intentionally, of course!
The shades of grey throughout “Rogue One” make it such a powerful story. The primary hero kills an injured ally within minutes of being introduced. The female lead initially cares only about herself, not the cause. A cowardly Empire pilot ultimately finds the strength to get the message to the Rebels, and inspires the Rogue Squadron that follows.
“Rogue One” is bittersweet, and the most human of the Star Wars adventures. It’s rough, watching the colorful, likable characters die so tragically. But their sacrifices aren’t in vain, and the knowledge of those future victories ensured by their efforts makes that last shot of Cassian (Diego Luna) and Jyn (Felicity Jones) hugging on the beach before the blast hits them heartbreakingly poignant.
5. “The Book of Boba Fett”
So this wasn’t as great as “The Mandalorian” — in fact, it basically became “The Mandalorian” season 2.5 in the back half. And sure, that was more than a little disappointing.
But the first few episodes of “Boba Fett” are still really, really good, thanks to the charisma of lead Temuera Morrison, who fleshed out the character into something more than a guy in fancy armor who gets eaten by a sarlacc, and an unexpected focus on the Tusken Raiders.
Something I’ve really loved about both “The Mandalorian” and “The Book of Boba Fett” is how the shows have taken races that have been previously maligned — Mandalorians, Ugnaughts, Jawas, Tuskens — and showed they’re more than stereotypical canon fodder or mindless baddies.
Tuskens, the indigenous people of Tatooine, have their own unique sign language (developed by Academy Award-winning deaf actor Troy Kotsur) and a warrior-centric culture. The show’s writers drew a very obvious parallel with the Tuskens and Native Americans of our own world in a scene where riders on a train fire upon the Tuskens and their giant hairy banthas; in the 1800s and early 1900s, it was common practice to shoot at buffalo herds from trains, in an attempt to eradicate the primary food source for many Plains tribes. Seeing that referenced in “Boba Fett” knocked me flat.
And, on the fun side of the scale, there’s also a super cool Wookiee gladiator, Ming-Na Wen returns as the cutthroat Fennec Shand, Danny Trejo shows up with a baby rancor and Boba adopts a group of teenaged cyborgs. There really is a lot of enjoyment to be had in “Book of Boba Fett.”
6. The Sequel and Prequel Trilogies
Look: there’s a lot of great stuff in these six films.
I sincerely love “The Force Awakens” and the new trio of Finn, Rey and Poe. Padme Amidala’s wardrobe is Iconic. Ewan’s Obi-Wan is delightful. Seeing Leia use the Force was beautiful. Any time you give Christopher Lee scenery to chew on and a sword to swing, it’s gonna be entertaining.
But ultimately, both the prequel and the sequel trilogy suffer from “so much promise, not enough pay off.” George Lucas’ clunky dialogue and soap opera-style directing is extremely hard to watch in the prequels, and the poor treatment of the two male leads — who also happen to be men of color — in favor of more screen time for the patricidal fascist Kylo Ren left an awful taste in my mouth re: the sequels.
Knowing the storylines and ideas that were scrapped along the way, seeing what could have been for these films … it’s extremely frustrating. At their core, both of these trilogies could’ve been truly great. But mismanagement, too much outside interference and nobody telling Lucas “NO!” at key junctures left us with some messy films. We’re forced to sift through the dreck to find the small gems, which is why I have to lump these trilogies both together at the bottom of the list.
Hopefully, “Obi-Wan Kenobi” will rank much higher.
• ANGIE BARRY is a contributing columnist for Shaw Media. To suggest future topics for The B-List, which covers topics in pop culture, history and literature, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.