**Spoilers for Obi-Wan Kenobi Episodes 1 & 2 Ahead!**
It seems that the marketing team behind Obi-Wan Kenobi managed to pull their own Jedi mind trick on us all. For months — if not years — the assumption has been that Disney+‘s Obi-Wan Kenobi show would focus on the Jedi Master’s relationship with little Luke Skywalker (Grant Feely). After all, Luke’s been the focus of the trailers, the lore, and the single preview clip released ahead of the show’s premiere.
However Obi-Wan Kenobi is the story of how good old Ben Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) finds himself pulled out of his self-imposed retirement to save young Princess Leia (Vivien Lyra Blair) from kidnappers. Obi-Wan is called to action by none other than Bail Organa (Jimmy Smits), who tells the Jedi over a hologram message that he is Leia’s only hope. (Moreover, Bail reminds Obi-Wan that he shouldn’t put all his focus on Luke Skywalker when his secret twin sister is arguably more important.)
This flip — pairing Obi-Wan with Leia instead of Luke — is honestly inspired. Not only does it help establish Princess Leia as an important part of the Jedi’s plan to re-emerge from the shadows, but it also gives even deeper context for why Leia would call upon the Jedi’s help in Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope in the first place. But most importantly, Obi-Wan and Leia’s relationship is reminiscent of the most beloved partnership in recent Star Wars history: The Mandalorian’s Din Djarin and Grogu. Once again, a reluctant hero has been roused to action to save a Force-sensitive child and it’s honestly adorable.
Obi-Wan Kenobi is set ten years after the events of Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith. The Jedi have been slaughtered and the Republic usurped by the evil Galactic Empire. The few Jedi and Force users who escaped the devastation of Order 66 live on the run and a group of Dark Force users known as Inquisitors are after them. A dogged Inquisitor named Reva (Moses Ingram), or the Third Sister, believes she has tracked Obi-Wan Kenobi to Tatooine. Her superiors are less than certain, if they even care.
After nothing seems to shake Obi-Wan out of his hiding hole, Reva hires a bounty hunter played by Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers to kidnap Bail Organa’s beloved daughter Leia. Reva has no idea that Leia is the Force-sensitive child of Darth Vader. Her plan merely hinges on knowing that Obi-Wan Kenobi and Bail Organa were tight during the Clone Wars. She theorizes the Senator from Alderaan, a pacifist world that has no weapons, will call upon his old Jedi buddy for help. Spoiler: he does. But only after Bail Organa guilts him into it.
Yes, Obi-Wan, Leia is as important as her tow-headed farm boy brother is!
Obi-Wan hurries to the planet of Daiyu and rescues Princess Leia only to fall into an immediately adorable rhythm with the sassy little royal. He tells her to tell anyone who asks that she’s his daughter. She mutters “more like granddaughter” under her breath. When Leia sees his lightsaber, she tells Obi-Wan that he looks too old and beat up to be a Jedi. When Obi-Wan tries to compliment her by saying she reminds him of an old friend* who was “fearless, too. And stubborn,” Leia freaks out. “I’m NOT stubborn!”
I personally loved the fact that young Princess Leia is depicted as a bratty tom-boy who can rip a grown man to shreds with just one withering psychological diagnosis. You want Leia to be humble and demure? Uh, did you watch how adult Leia (Carrie Fisher) ordered Luke (Mark Hamill) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) around that Death Star in A New Hope? She was a poised leader, yes, but after a blaster, her choice weapons were cruel asides, haughty statements, and total confidence. She saves her polish for moments of pomp and circumstance.
Nevertheless, Obi-Wan clearly melts for the girl, as evidenced in the way he first tells her she can’t get gloves from a clothing stall and then just smoothly adds them to the order. Is it the path of least resistance? Sure. But is Obi-Wan also doting on Leia? Obviously.
Obi-Wan and Leia’s cute connection is an obvious echo of that of The Mandalorian‘s Din Djarin and Grogu. It is a classic “Lone Wolf and Cub” set up. That is, a trope of Japanese samurai storytelling where a hardened warrior finds purpose on the run with a young charge. The warrior also softens because of the child. It’s such a perfect convention for Star Wars not only because the universe is rooted in samurai film motifs, but because it gives everyone watching something to emotionally latch onto.
When I first watched The Book of Boba Fett, I lamented that Disney+ Star Wars show didn’t have a “Baby Yoda” figure. That is, something that could give both the show’s characters and its audience a reason to care about what’s going on. There was no emotional hook for Boba Fett’s takeover of Tatooine’s underworld. Here, though, we see Obi-Wan first motivated by guilt to help rescue Leia. Then, he is compelled by his adoration of this spunky youngster. He sees ghosts of his past in her and the hope of a brighter future still to come. It doesn’t hurt that child actress Vivien Lyra Blair is incredibly cute in her own right. You want to protect this precocious little girl with your life.
With just two episodes, Obi-Wan Kenobi has flipped the script on characters we assumed we knew for decades. No longer are Old Ben and Princess Leia star-crossed strangers, but Leia is the impetus to rouse Obi-Wan back into action. She’s going to drag him straight into Darth Vader’s path and potentially inspire him to further heroics. Most importantly, the choice to focus on a young Leia helps underscore her larger importance to the Skywalker saga.
Star Wars’s main films aren’t just about the Skywalker sons, but the family’s proud princess, too.
*Conventional wisdom suggests Obi-Wan was referring to none other than Leia’s mother, Padmé Amidala (Natalie Portman). However there is an outside chance he’s referring to the first fearless and stubborn leader he had to go on the lam with, Duchess Satine of Mandalore. But it’s probably Padmé.
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