The four minute recap that opens the first episode of Obi-Wan is a brilliant distillation of all of the important points from the much-maligned Star Wars prequels, without any of the other issues that made them such tonally inconsistent and messily told stories. It gets right to the heart of what brings us to the beginning of the series and does so in a way that makes me actually want to watch the prequels again, which is a minor miracle in itself. Spoilers follow for the Disney Plus show – you have been warned. I mean, Obi-Wan Kenobi episodes 1 and 2 are right there – so if you haven’t seen them already, go watch them now!

Yet rather than heading straight to Tatooine, the series opens with an unexpected and thrillingly executed scene of Order 66 being carried out. The scene does make for uncomfortable viewing in light of recent real world events, however, as a teacher defends their young students from the attack.

A decade later, Obi-Wan – in his role as hidden protector to the young Luke Skywalker – residing in the Tatooine desert; working a menial job for terrible pay, keeping his head down and minimising contact with the outside world. He’s a beaten, broken, utterly defeated man who is laser-focused on ensuring Luke’s safety from afar, at the cost of everything else. Meanwhile, Inquisitors – the Empire’s elite Jedi hunters – are heavy-handedly weeding out hidden Jedi; one of their number frustrated with not having been able to find Kenobi after so much time. Across the galaxy, an important young child is in danger – but can Kenobi risk coming out of hiding to help?

From the aforementioned opening sequence, it’s clear that this is going to be quite a tonally dark show. The point at which it’s set in the Star Wars timeline practically demands it, but what may shock viewers is just how far this first episode is willing to go to establish how deadly the universe now is not just for the few remaining Jedi, but also for anyone in their orbit. There’s some stunningly tense, sometimes shocking scenes with the Inquisitors intimidating the locals on Tatooine – which really drives home how they’ve been able to find and get rid of the Jedi.

Obi-Wan’s lonely vigil, which necessitates him turning his back on others who find themselves in need, is also incredibly well-handled – not least by an older, much wearier Ewan McGregor. McGregor slips back into the role beautifully; stripped of the smirks and one-liners that characterised the younger character, he’s a man absolutely haunted by his past and dedicated to his current role in keeping the potential future Jedi safe – at great cost to his morals and own wellbeing.

I’m not going to spoil everything in the episode, but the developing situation on another planet is initially jarring in tone, but the importance of this is soon realised. It’s wonderful to see another actor returning to a role he’s made his own though, that much I will say; he’s an underrated part of the saga. Look out for a slightly jarring rock star cameo too; admittedly, it’s only actually jarring if you know who it is – but he ends up being a pretty important part of the episode.

Almost more than even The Mandalorian, Obi-Wan Kenobi feels like a Western, though its tone and aging, ex-lawman character is possibly the closest the Star Wars saga has come – or may ever come – to the melancholy, tragic inevitability of Westerns such as Unforgiven. It’s an intoxicating, dramatically powerful premise on the strength of this opening episode alone – and with episode 2 already available to watch, it won’t be long before I catch up with my old friend Obi-Wan Kenobi again.

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