Have Audiences Turned on ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’?

There are certain sections of the internet on fire recently after Obi-Wan Kenobi seemingly fails to reach many fan expectations. But when did this happen? After an auspicious start to the series, it seems shocking that so many fans seem to hate the show since the release of Episode 4. 

As it stands on Rotten Tomatoes,  the Kenobi series has an 85% approval rating from critics, but the audience rating is down to 60%. What is happening here? 

The hype train for this show has been immense. It’s release has felt like a films rather than a TV show (unless it’s Game of Thrones). That might be part of the problem as no matter what the show turned out to be, it would never reach people’s expectations. 

Audience criticisms of Obi-Wan Kenobi range from:

  • Poor story
  • Poor direction
  • Poor action
  • Poor acting 
  • Not enough Obi-Wan
  • Not enough Darth Vader 
  • Cheap-looking sets
  • “Plotholes”

Not all of these criticisms are invalid but some seem to actively be part of a rejection of the current trajectory of the show, i.e. expectations vs reality.

This is most clear in the reaction to the show’s treatment of Obi-Wan and Darth Vader. Rotten Tomatoes user, Tasosaxi t, said, “The perfect way on how to destroy a good idea about a hero that they could have built a mythological arc around him [Obi-wan].” 

What they meant by “mythological arc” is anyone’s guess, but it seems they mean that they wanted more Obi-Wan focused badass-ery. The show does not do that, it is about Obi-Wan coming to terms with his past, which means that his powers have diminished. Obi-Wan isn’t the only character that people have a problem with.

The Inquisitors have copped a fair beating from audiences. Some are mad that the Third Sister is the “real” main character, others that there isn’t enough focus on the Inquisitors, others that there’s too much. The Inquisitors seem to be copping criticism no matter what. 

One Rotten Tomatoes user, Kurt K, said, “Who on Earth chose these inquisitors to intentionally completely lack menace, one of which is so OBVIOUSLY meant to be redeemed and become the true hero of the series.” 

However, one reddit user, niberungvalesti, put it quite well and is a fair criticism of the show. 

What people really wanted (apparently) was an “epic show about Vader and Obi-Wan.” As Rotten Tomatoes user, Derek V, said, “It all feels very cheap and amateurish compared to what should have been an epic show about Vader and Obi-Wan.”

It is not really about Vader v Obi-Wan, and it’s understandable why it isn’t – we already got that. That was the end of Revenge of the Sith and it was present in A New Hope. We know how this story goes so why would they produce something we’ve already seen? It seems that’s what a solid chunk of the fanbase wanted. Not all of them, mind you, but enough to make noise. 

What is baffling is the criticisms of the show looking cheap. This is certainly subjective but it truly doesn’t feel appropriate given that the per episode budget is $25 million USD. Money doesn’t always equal quality, but it certainly doesn’t make Obi-Wan Kenobi look cheap. The Mandalorian’s first season cost $15 million per episode and visually is about on par with Kenobi. And maybe that’s just it, what’s being done with the extra $10 million? 

The lack of respect for established canon has been a large part of the criticism as well. However, Kenobi‘s writer, Joey Harold, has addressed the issues with canon directly and promises answers will come. As he told Entertainment Weekly, about the inclusion of Leia,

"We talked about it a lot. And we're looking forward to the show airing in its entirety so that hopefully all questions are answered fully... it's tricky to field some of those questions mid-process. But yes, all I can say is we're very cognizant of that, and of canon. And it's a massive team, Lucasfilm, so we're all very aware of all the choices that are being made."

He continued when asked about the Grand Inquisitor who has “died” before his canon appearance in Rebels

"As I said before, we very much take canon very, very seriously. And there are many, many people behind the scenes who prioritize that. So we have it in mind, and by the time everything has concluded, all things should be in place."

What do you think? Is the show terrible or fantastic? Or is it somewhere in the middle? 

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