Kenobi – Episode 2 – A Complete Disaster

This review is only going to be about the first fifteen minutes or so of the episode, because that’s all I could stomach watching. I couldn’t watch any more – it was that bad. It’s rare that I can’t finish watching an episode of a television show if I intend to review it, but this episode was so bad it was repulsive.

Let’s dissect this episode moment-by-moment.

Kenobi lands on a city-planet called Daiyu. It’s like Coruscant, but not. As soon as Kenobi comes out of the spaceport terminal, he looks around at the busy environment as though slightly scared of it all. Already, this is bollocks. Obi-wan Kenobi has been in environments like this for most of his life. He’s spent a huge amount of time on Coruscant; he’s been all over the galaxy as a Jedi Knight, to countless different planets with different peoples, cultures, and technologies. He would not be scared of a busy street. ‘But he’s been living in isolation on Tatooine for ten years! He’s changed!!!’, I hear the Twitterati scream. No. When you’ve had that much experience of all these kinds of places, ten years on Tatooine is not enough to make you scared of it all again. What is this bizarre obsession with diminished characters that Hollywood and idiots on Twitter have nowadays? They relish in the idea of making great characters shit. It’s grotesque. Kenobi is a Jedi Master – he didn’t stop being that just because the Jedi Order was disbanded. He should still be an extremely powerful Jedi. He does not have this timidness at the end of Revenge Of The Sith; he doesn’t have it at the start of A New Hope. This is bollocks.

Kenobi goes and asks a random person about a ship he’s tracking. Why? Why does he go and ask this person? It isn’t apparent. And then we get some more insanely expository dialogue – the person replies ‘You’re in Daiyu now. All signals in or out are blocked. People like their secrets out here.’. This is just pathetic. A real person, in this setting, would not talk like this. This line reeks of the writers wanting to say something to the audience, but not having the talent to do it in a naturalistic way. The line is also performed in a way that only Hollywood actors can do – as though this one line is going to be their big break into television, if only they can perform it with enough over-the-top American brashness.

We see a lingering shot of a street on this planet. It lingers too long, suggesting that this street is somehow central or important – it’s one fucking street on a city planet – this street is not important. We see Kenobi wandering down the street, looking at the others on it. The framing of the shot and the primary-school-level acting of the other actors make you painfully aware that this is just a set (somewhere in Los Angeles, I assume). It’s a caricature of a ‘bustling street’ – makes you wonder if the writers and directors have ever even been down a busy street. (Perhaps this is enduring effects of America’s car-centric, non-walkable cities.) Kenobi just wanders around – you’d have no idea he was on a time-critical mission at all.

There’s a homeless clone army veteran at the side of the street. This allegory isn’t just on-the-nose – it’s kicking me in the head, I collapse, unconscious, and then it’s kicking me on the ground out of baseless spite.

A lot of people nowadays accuse television shows of being ‘political’. Now, this isn’t really a correct use of the word ‘political’, which ought to mean ‘having to do with polity’, where ‘polity’ means ‘the organisation and governance of human society’. This is a television show – it has nothing to do with organising society. But I know what these people mean – the term their looking for is ‘social commentary’. This is social commentary – it’s making a comment about society.

Now, I’ve written many allegorical stories in my life. In some of them the allegory is very obvious – deliberately so – and in others it’s a bit more obscure – also deliberately so. Now I would hope that my stories have never come across as preachy or patronising. (I would like to think that I could tell if that were the case, and edit that tone out, but it might be that when one is writing an allegorical story, one just can’t tell if it’s going to come across that way.) Because it is bad when stories or story elements come across as preachy. I think it’s particularly bad when the message is something that’s so obviously true (yes, it’s bad that there are so many homeless people – this isn’t a revolutionary thought), and when so little effort is put into the metaphor (I mean, here, they just have a homeless veteran in the street – that’s it – that’s the extent of the allegory – put some fucking effort in). It comes across as someone thinking their a genius for coming up with something everyone already knows and putting in very little thought or effort.

I think it’s fine for stories to have social commentary in them, but if it comes across as preachy, it completely pulls you out of the story, and you realise you’re just hearing the opinions of the writers. And I think in order to not be preachy, it’s got to be more deftly done than this.

We are 1:30 into the episode, and there has already been THIS much wrong with it.

Some Stormtroopers walk along the street saying ‘Clear a path.’. Why?

Then we get an absolutely disgusting scene. A random person comes up to Kenobi and says ‘You wan’t some spice, old man?’. This is very obviously a reference to the ‘deathsticks’ scene in Attack Of The Clones, but this time, rather than Kenobi instantly telling this person to go away and rethink their life, this person just gives him one of the substances she’s selling – Kenobi doesn’t even agree to take it – she just puts it in his pocket.

The sheer arrogance of the writers to do this. Apparently they were so insulted by a scene in the prequels telling a drug dealer to maybe stop selling that shit (I would guess because some of these writers are obsessed with consuming a particular intoxicant themselves), that they wanted to put in a new scene where instead Kenobi is just given some of this shit – doesn’t even get a choice. I have had the misfortune to meet a lot of very arrogant people in my life – I have never seen arrogance like this. It’s pathetic, disgusting, and grotesque. To be so self-obsessed, smug, and self-righteous that when given the opportunity to write a sequel to another writer’s work, all they can do is think about how they can undermine and displace what that writer did, to put their own vapid, self-centred, immoral worldview into every corner of it. There are few things in this world that I have been more revolted by.

We are then introduced to a fake Jedi who is some kind of people-trafficker. This allegory is harder to not notice than a used dildo in a public library. This scene tries to be funny, but it’s a style of humour that is very un-Star-Wars.

Kenobi then goes through some kind of drugs factory – again, this allegory is harder to not notice than a condom in a bride’s hair. This scene looks more like something out of a contemporary Marvel action show than something out of Star Wars.

Kenobi then finds his way further into the building / complex. It’s not really very clear where he is (other than a film studio somewhere in California). It’s a bit weird that the first street he tried on this city planet just happens to be the one with the building where Leia’s being kept, but that’s what happens when the writers are thinking more about shoving a message down the viewers’ throats than worldbuilding.

Kenobi is immediately found by some goons. They fight. We see that Kenobi has gotten a bit out-of-practice. Again, what the fuck is this obsession with diminishing characters?! This guy is a very skilled Jedi Master – taking on two goons should be piss-easy, even after ten years. Why? Because this guy is an incredibly skilled force user, and that doesn’t diminish with age (see Yoda). Bizarrely, Kenobi doesn’t use the Force or his lightsaber at any point in this fight, despite both being available.

There’s another fight. Kenobi continues not to use the Force or his lightsaber, for no good reason. Another goon comes in; there’s some pointless dialogue. Then the goon says ‘You’re not a Jedi anymore, Kenobi.’, and here once again we are hearing the voice of the writers, not the characters. The writers are thinking about Kenobi as ‘no longer being a Jedi’ – that thought was in their head when they were writing this show. But this just shows how utterly misguided they are. You don’t stop being a Jedi just because the Jedi Order has been disbanded. That would be like saying you stop being a Christian if the Vatican shut. Jediism is a way of life, and a belief system. As long as you continue to live the Jedi way of life, or continue believing in its tenets, you are still a Jedi.

We see a bit more of the Inquisitor – not the main one – the other one – Reva, I think she’s called? This actress has absolutely no ability to come across as menacing or threatening whatsoever. (And this time it can’t be put down to bad writing – she has some very short, simple lines, that should be easy to deliver well, but they are weak and ineffectual. This is what happens when your understanding of evil is merely a caricature of evil.)

Kenobi finds Leia, and once they’re out in the street again, Leia says ‘You seem kinda old and beat up.’ – once again, this is just the thoughts of the writers. This is such basic shit – I don’t think I have ever seen such bad writing in a television show. (I might even include the ending to Game of Thrones in that.)

The inquisitors talk to each other for a bit – the main one and Reva, with a few throw-away lines from the others. The whole thing comes across like an annual review in a big corporation, not like two dark side users talking to each other – it’s quite comical. The main inquisitor guy tells Reva that she’s the ‘least of us’ because she ‘came from the gutter’ – for fuck’s sake – when have force users ever cared about class? Dark side users care about one thing: the accumulation of power for its own sake. Your status is determined by your power, not your class. They don’t give a shit about where you came from.

The main inquisitor guy then puts Reva on leave, promising that HR will speak to her later.

And that’s it. That’s the first fifteen minutes. I couldn’t watch any more, and won’t. I mean, bloody hell, almost every frame of those fifteen minutes had an issue. It’s so bad it’s almost nauseating – I feel like throwing up.

This show is quite possibly the worst television I have ever seen, and I will not be watching any more of it. This isn’t Star Wars, or even remotely connected to it. This is artistic defilement.

Kenobi – Episode 1 – Just Dreadful

I haven’t seen any of the Disney Star Wars television series’ up until this point. In my opinion, The Last Jedi was just awful, and killed the franchise. (And The Rise Of Skywalker did nothing to counter this.) I’ve generally held the position that I won’t return to the franchise unless they decanonise The Last Jedi. So I’ve not seen any of The Mandalorian or The Book Of Boba Fett. I haven’t seen the Han Solo movie either.

But I decided to watch (at least the first episode of) the new Kenobi series. I didn’t have high hopes for it, but I liked Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars prequel films, and thought he might be able bring a similar magic to this show.

But it’s garbage.

Starting with the worst part of it: the dialogue. The dialogue is just awful. It’s some of the worst-written dialogue I have ever seen on television. It’s glaringly expository – so obviously trying to just inform the audience about who’s who and what’s what that it immediately pulls you out of the story. When the main villain says his first line, I actually laughed out loud, it was so badly written.

The villains spend an awful lot of time monologuing. (It’s like the writers have never seen The Incredibles.) Monologuing isn’t so bad in a melodramatic, somewhat flamboyant and romantic setting like the actual films, but it really doesn’t work in a show that’s trying to be gritty. It also doesn’t work as the opener for your villains. The villains in this show spend a ridiculous amount of time pacing backwards and forwards, surrounded by what must be 0.0001% of Mos Eisley’s total population (I assume it’s Mos Eisley – I don’t think it’s ever said). They desperately try to look menacing and evil, but the writers seem to have a cartoon idea of what evil is. These characters have no presence whatsoever, and do not appear threatening.

Moving on to the next-worst part: there’s basically no plot. One of the first rules of writing for television must surely be: in the first episode, establish what your protagonists want, and are trying to do, and establish what your antagonists want, and are trying to do, and create tension between them. I see so many shows ignoring this principle nowadays – including this one. What does Kenobi want? Well … just to sit around and work cutting up meat in the desert. Not very compelling. What do the Jedi hunters want? To find Jedi. Kind of obvious in the name. How are they going to do it? Just sort of walking around and occasionally smouldering. There are three of them, but they don’t seem to have individual motivations. Leia gets captured, but obviously we know she’s fine in the end, so no real suspense there.

These things alone are enough to condemn the first episode, if not the whole series (which is only going to be six episodes long, so they’ve wasted the first episode not doing the essentials). But there are various other weird things that the show does that pull you out of it.

The main one is that where Kenobi works – at some kind of thrown-together outdoor factory in the middle of the desert, next to the body of some large creature that they’re cutting up and getting the meat from – when all of the workers finish for the day (which, curiously, is when the suns are still high in the sky), they just leave all these huge slabs of meat out in the desert sun. They do this every day. I was staring at the screen thinking ‘You’re just going to leave raw meat out in the desert sun? And then you’re going to continue cutting it up for sale the tomorrow? What?!’. How switched-off do you have to be not to notice a problem like that when you’re writing? Did no-one mention that during the production? (Or worse, and more likely, someone mentioned it, but a bad culture on the production meant that that person was ignored or shut down.)

Another one: Leia’s toy flying droid has a circular saw attachment, which it uses to untie her hands after she’s captured. What the fuck kind of children’s toy has a circular saw attachment? This droid isn’t big either – there is limited space for what kind of attachments to give it, and apparently the manufacturers decided on a circular saw.

They’ve also decided to do a Luke Skywalker on Obi-Wan Kenobi – he’s now a bitter, reluctant old guy who doesn’t want anything to do with the Jedi anymore. I mean, for goodness’ sake, who’s writing this shit? People didn’t like that in The Last Jedi; they’re not going to like it here. Stop doing this – it isn’t a good character point.

So it looks like this series is going to be a disaster. It’s a shame, because I don’t think it had to be. The CGI on the show is mostly excellent (though there are a few weird moments where it falls apart completely). The music is not especially good, but it’s not dreadful either – it’s passable. McGregor does what he can with the lines he’s been given, but he’s been given shit lines and no character work. The young actress who plays Leia is quite good (some very unrealistic lines, but quite fun). But while I like seeing a lot more of Alderaan, I don’t think they’ve chosen a particularly interesting story path for Leia.

So it looks like Disney continues to have no idea how to make Star Wars stuff, and continues pumping out shit.