Obi-Wan’s Disney Plus success may be bad news for Star Wars
It’s official: Obi-Wan Kenobi’s final episode is the most popular Star Wars TV episode to air on Disney Plus – and that’s bad news for the franchise.
According to streaming data analyst Samba TV (per Deadline (opens in new tab)), the season 1 finale of Obi-Wan’s TV series drew in 1.8 million viewers between Wednesday, June 22 (its release day) and Sunday, June 27. That figure may not sound that significant, but it’s a number that far outweighs those posted by previous Star Wars shows that launched on Disney Plus.
For context, Obi-Wan’s season 1 finale drew in 20% more viewers than The Book of Boba Fett, whose final episode pulled in an audience of 1.5 million in the five days after it initially aired. Meanwhile, The Mandalorian season 2 finale only registered 1.1 million viewers across a similar five-day period (per SlashFilm (opens in new tab)) – a surprisingly low figure, given how popular Mando’s adventures with Baby Yoda have supposedly been.
With Obi-Wan’s premiere also attracting a bigger audience than The Mandalorian season 2 and The Book of Boba Fett – 2.14 million to the latter duo’s 2.08 million and 1.5 million – the Jedi Master’s solo series is the most popular Star Wars Disney Plus show ever. That won’t come as a shock to many fans, though. Obi-Wan is an immensely popular character in Lucasfilm’s legendary franchise, while Ewan McGregor’s portrayal of Kenobi is as beloved as they come.
Pleasing though Obi-Wan’s viewing figures are, however, the show’s popularity proves that Star Wars is unable to shake one major criticism that’s been leveled at it for years. That being, introducing new characters to its extensive universe rather than recycling its legacy characters.
Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way first: yes, Star Wars has introduced us to original characters in recent years. Ahsoka Tano, Mando/Din Djarin, Baby Yoda/Grogu, Rey, Ben Solo and the cast of Rogue One (including Cassian Andor) are new individuals Lucasfilm has established in the Star Wars universe. They’ve helped to flesh out the franchise’s main series, as well as tell new tales across the film and TV mediums.
As welcome as their arrivals are, though, Star Wars is a series that continues to be fuelled by nostalgia. Subsequently, the franchise regularly returns to what it knows best, i.e. centering projects around legacy characters – Obi-Wan, Boba Fett, Luke Skywalker, and Han Solo to name four – to indulge its sizeable fanbase.
That’s not a terrible formula to follow. Lucasfilm and Disney know that any movie or TV series, which contains these characters, will be successful – they’re fan favorites for a reason, so the studios are bound to build projects around them.
But doing so is a double-edged sword. Yes, Obi-Wan, Luke Skywalker and company will draw in viewers, but that’s to the detriment of the franchise as a whole. As a series, it can’t evolve without the introduction of new characters, worlds, or storylines.
Additionally, filling in the gaps of a character’s backstory can potentially lead to fan confusion surrounding an individual’s pre-established history. Obi-Wan’s TV show is a classic example of this, with some fans baffled by numerous plot holes and the retconning of events that take place in Star Wars’ wider lore. Even the critically-acclaimed Mandalorian series isn’t immune to such problems, with fans mixed over Luke Skywalker’s arrival in the season 2 finale and subsequent cameo appearances in The Book of Boba Fett.
Thankfully, it seems that Lucasfilm and Disney are beginning to realize how vital it is to establish even more new characters in the Star Wars universe. Thor: Love and Thunder director Taika Waititi, who is set to direct a new Star Wars movie, has revealed his intent to install new individuals in the series (via Total Film (opens in new tab)).
Meanwhile, Spider-Man‘s MCU trilogy director Jon Watts is helming a coming-of-age project, called Skeleton Crew, that’s billed as a Goonies-style Star Wars TV series. Jude Law is set to star in the lead role of that production. Add in Patty Jenkins’ Rogue Squadron film and other TV shows, including The Acolyte, to the mix, and the Star Wars franchise may finally be moving in the correct creative direction.
Yes, there’s a time and a place to revisit Star Wars’ legacy characters – Obi-Wan may get a second season, while upcoming series like Tales of the Jedi show Lucasfilm isn’t ready to completely let them go just yet. The success of Obi-Wan’s TV series, too, shows that Lucasfilm and Disney will continue to develop projects based around the series’ iconic characters. Given how popular it and Boba Fett have proven to be, despite fan criticisms over certain aspects of their plot, Lucasfilm are even more likely to lean into creating films and TV show about other legacy characters.
But, if the Star Wars franchise truly wants to evolve, it needs to abandon its plan of relying solely on its legendary characters and planets. Otherwise, its current blueprint may not be enough to retain the level of success that Star Wars has enjoyed over the past 45 years.