Obi-Wan Kenobi: Star Wars spin-off rightly brings the spotlight on Leia: ‘She is just as important as Luke’
Spoilers for episodes 1 and 2 Obi-Wan Kenobi ahead: The Star Wars spin-off miniseries has corrected a historical wrong by finally giving Leia the respect and place she deserves, alongside Luke, not behind him.
Since its inception and through the course of the three trilogies spanning close to five decades, the Star Wars’ core story has been about the Skywalker family. The story is officially called the Skywalker saga, as it traces the rise and fall of Anakin Skywalker and his family. But while Anakin’s son Luke has always been at the centre of all the stories and tracks in the expansive saga, his daughter Leia has had to contend with somewhat of a supporting role. Don’t get me wrong. Star Wars has time and again established Leia as an important character--just not as important as her brother though. The franchise’s latest offering--Ewan McGregor-starrer Obi-Wan Kenobi--has made an earnest attempt to change that in its first two episodes itself. Also read: Exclusive: Obi-Wan Kenobi's Moses Ingram on lightsaber duels and Vader's return
Obi-Wan Kenobi is a spin-off series based on the titular Jedi knight, whom we have earlier seen in both the Original Trilogy and the Prequel Trilogy. Ewan McGregor, who played the role in the prequels, returns to the universe after 17 years. The series is set 10 years after the events of Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and sees Obi-Wan hiding from the Galactic Empire and look after Luke and Leia. The first two episodes of the six-episode series released on Disney+ (and Disney+ Hotstar in India) on Friday, May 27.
Spoilers for episodes 1 and 2 Obi-Wan Kenobi ahead!
The trailer and teaser for Obi-Wan Kenobi was a good mislead as it focused on Obi-Wan looking over Luke. But in the very first episode itself, we see the story shift to Leia (Vivien Lyra Blair) and her life with Senator Organa, who had adopted her at the end of Revenge of the Sith. And from then on, it is all about Leia and how she is used as a pawn by the Inquisitors to draw out Obi-Wan. As Senator Organa reaches out to his old friend for help, Obi-Wan reiterates, “My duty is towards the boy.” Organa says something that many fans have wondered for decades, “And what about your duty to his sister? She is just as important as him.”
Even though Leia was always front and centre of the original Star Wars trilogy, downsizing her from a rebel to a damsel in distress wasn’t appreciated by fans. That needlessly titillating sub-plot in Return of the Jedi that involved her dressed (barely) in a golden swimsuit and chained up was demeaning to what had till then been a strong, well-written character. Star Wars did make up for it later by transforming Leia into General Organa in the sequels. But even then, as focus shifted to Leia and Han’s son Kylo Ren, the emphasis was on Kylo’s bond with his uncle Luke and not as much his mother. Writers kept finding ways to shunt Leia to the side in favour of other characters.
The Star Wars universe has grown over the years, with numerous animated series, spin-off films, and now even live-action shows. Luke has appeared in a few, mainly in The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett. Leia, however, so far had to contend with a single-episode appearance on the animated show Rebels and a five-second cameo in the spin-off film Rogue One. It’s more than just the length of her appearance though. Very seldom since the original trilogy, has Leia found herself as a propeller of the story. But, it is finally happening.
Obi-Wan Kenobi is only two episodes old and it has already set out to correct that. For starters, we have seen a lot more of Leia on the show than Luke. We are getting to know about her traits, her growth, and also seeing a chemistry develop between her and Obi-Wan. In an interview with me before the series aired, Moses Ingram--who plays Inquisitor Reva on the show--talked about representation of women in the universe. “I think it’s important. I think all of the archetypes should have a reflection of the world we live in. And in the world we live in, there are all kinds of people who do all kinds of things,” she said. And it’s good to see Obi-Wan Kenobi has embraced that, realising that ten-year-old girls exist in the world too. And sometimes, they can do badass things, without needing mentoring from a father or protection from a brother.
Four episodes of Obi-Wan Kenobi are yet to be streamed. They will arrive on the streaming platform weekly, starting next Friday. Hope is that it will flesh out Leia’s character and explain how the tiny princess goes on to become a rebel leader by the time she is a teenager. Of course, given Star Wars’ track record, it can all go belly-up at any moment. But so far, the force is strong with this show. And let’s hope it stays that way.