It’s official: the final episode of Obi-Wan Kenobi 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 (for Deadline (opens in new tab)), the season 1 finale of the Obi-Wan TV series drew 1.8 million viewers between Wednesday, June 22 (release day) and Sunday, June 27. That number might not seem all that significant, but it’s a number that far surpasses those published by previous Star Wars shows released on Disney Plus.
For context, Obi-Wan’s first season finale drew 20% more viewers than The Book of Boba Fett, whose final episode drew an audience of 1.5 million in the five days after its initial airing. Meanwhile, The Mandalorian season two finale only registered 1.1 million viewers over a similar five-day period (for SlashFilm (opens in new tab)) – a surprisingly low number, given how popular Mando’s adventures with Baby Yoda were supposed to be.
With Obi-Wan’s debut also attracting a larger audience than the second season of The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett – 2.14 million to the last duo’s 2.08 million and 1.5 million – the show’s solo series Jedi Master is the most popular Star Wars Disney Plus show of all time. This won’t come as a shock to many fans, however. 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.
While Obi-Wan’s ratings are pleasing, however, the show’s popularity proves that Star Wars is unable to shake a major criticism that has been leveled at it for years. That is, introducing new characters into its sprawling universe, rather than recycling its legacy characters.
Let’s get the elephant out of the room 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 Rogue One cast (including Cassian Andor) are new individuals that Lucasfilm has established in the Star Wars universe. They helped develop the main series of the franchise, as well as telling new stories in film and TV media.
As welcome as its arrivals are, Star Wars is a series that continues to be fueled by nostalgia. Thereafter, the franchise regularly returns to what it knows best, namely centering projects around legacy characters – Obi-Wan, Boba Fett, Luke Skywalker and Han Solo, to name four – to satisfy its sizable fan base.
This is not a terrible formula to follow. Lucasfilm and Disney know that any movie or TV series that features these characters will be successful — they’re fan favorites for a reason, so studios are obligated to build projects around them.
But doing so is a double-edged sword. Yes, Obi-Wan, Luke Skywalker and company will attract viewers, but it will hurt the franchise as a whole. As a series, it cannot evolve without introducing new characters, worlds, or stories.
Additionally, filling in the gaps in a character’s backstory can lead to fan confusion around an individual’s pre-established history. The Obi-Wan TV show is a classic example of this, with some fans baffled by various plot holes and the retelling of events taking place in the wider Star Wars lore. Even the critically-acclaimed Mandalorian series isn’t immune to these issues, with fans confused about Luke Skywalker’s arrival at the end of season two and subsequent appearances in The Book of Boba Fett.
Fortunately, it looks like Lucasfilm and Disney are starting to realize just 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 intention to install new individuals in the series (via Total Film (opens in new tab)).
Meanwhile, Spider-Man MCU trilogy director Jon Watts is directing a coming-of-age project, called Skeleton Crew, which is billed as a Goonies-style Star Wars TV series. Jude Law is set to star in the lead role in this production. Add Patty Jenkins’ Rogue Squadron movie and other TV shows, including The Acolyte, into the mix, and the Star Wars franchise could finally be moving in the right creative direction.
Yes, there’s a time and a place to revisit legacy Star Wars characters – Obi-Wan could get a second season, while upcoming series like Tales of the Jedi show that Lucasfilm isn’t quite ready to let them go completely yet. The success of the Obi-Wan TV series also shows that Lucasfilm and Disney will continue to develop projects based on the series’ iconic characters. Given how popular he and Boba Fett have proven to be despite fan criticism over certain aspects of their plot, Lucasfilm is even more likely to create movies and TV shows about other legacy characters.
But if the Star Wars franchise really wants to evolve, it needs to abandon its plan to rely solely on its legendary characters and planets. Otherwise, your current plan may not be enough to maintain the level of success that Star Wars has enjoyed for the past 45 years.
For more Star Wars-based content, check out our hub on The Bad Batch Season 2. Alternatively, read all the upcoming Star Wars movies and TV shows.