(L-R): Yord Fandar (Charlie Barnett) and Tasi Lowa (Thara Schöön) in Lucasfilm's THE ACOLYTE, on ship bridge

The Acolyte’s Two-Part Premiere Is Captivating for All the Right Reasons


Who wants to hang out in apothecary with Manny Jacinto? Everyone? Everyone.

Recap: “Lost / Found”

(L-R): Yord Fandar (Charlie Barnett) and Tasi Lowa (Thara Schöön) in Lucasfilm's THE ACOLYTE, on ship bridge
Image: Disney+

A young woman (Amandla Stenberg) enters a small city on the planet Ueda and asks at the entrance where their Jedi can be found. She’s directed to a cantina where she meets Jedi Master Indara (Carrie-Anne Moss). The woman insists that she and Indara have unfinished business and tells her to attack with all her strength. When Indara won’t, she begins attacking the locals until Indara acquiesces. Indara asks who trained the young woman in the Force, and tells someone at the other end of the commlink that she has an unauthorized Force user here. Indara finally gets the woman to drop her veil and sees someone she recognizes, though she’s confused about her presence. The young woman threatens the life of the cantina’s owner, distracting Indara long enough for the woman to stab her in the chest with one of her daggers. Indara dies.

A young woman named Osha Aniseya (Amandla Stenberg) wakes on a Trade Federation ship where she is one of the mekneks who does repairs. She and fellow meknek Fillik (Anthony J. Abraham) are assigned to a repair on the outer hull of the ship, which they work to repair with Osha’s little droid buddy, PIP. Osha has a PTSD flashback that interrupts their repair work. At the same time, two Jedi have boarded the ship: Jedi Knight Yord Fandar (Charlie Barnett) and his Padawan Tasi Lowa (Thara Schöön). Yord almost probes the captain’s mind for information until he’s given Osha’s location by the second in command. It turns out that Lord knew Osha as trainees back at the Jedi Academy before she left the Order. They believe that she killed Indara, though she insists that she didn’t.

On Coruscant, Jedi Master Sol (Lee Jung-jae) teaches a group of younglings. He’s interrupted by Master Vernestra Rwoh (Rebecca Henderson), who informs him that his former Padawan has killed Master Indara. Sol doesn’t believe this, but agrees to help in bringing about the swift resolution to the issue. On the prison ship, Osha wakes and finds another group of prisoners ready to make a break for it by destroying all the droids guarding/running the ship. Osha insists that’s dangerous, but they do it anyway, making their escape without her. Osha gets free using PIP, and frees the only prisoner left aboard, but he panics and leaves in the only remaining escape pod. Osha crashes with the ship on Carlac.

Sol is able to talk to one of the (briefly) escaped prisoners and finds out that she saved his life. He asks for permission to look for her in the wreckage, and is granted it, bring along his current Padawan, Jecki Lon (Dafne Keen). They also bring Yord along, who is eager to make up for his error in failing to bring Osha in. On Carlac, Osha has a dream/vision about her twin sister Mae, the two of them speaking as children. Sol and Jecki also talk about Osha’s past, and he tells his Padawan that that Osha’s sister started a fire 16 years ago on the planet Brendok that killed their whole family, leaving him to take Osha as an apprentice. The Jedi find the crash site and track Osha, who nearly slips from a cliff in fear. Sol saves her and believes her when she tells him that she thinks Mae is alive. On another world, Mae approaches a figure with a red lightsaber, who insists that Jedi cannot be defeated by weapons: Only an Acolyte can truly destroy Jedi and their dream.

Recap: “Revenge / Justice”

Master Sol (Lee Jung-jae) in Lucasfilm's THE ACOLYTE
Image: Disney+

On the planet Olega, Mae has a child distract the droid guard at the local Jedi temple so that she can enter. She finds her next target, Jedi Master Torbin (Dean-Charles Chapman), who is in a state of constant meditation. When she moves to attack him, a bubble of Force energy prevents her approach entirely. She leaves frustrated. On the Jedi ship, Sol checks in with Vernestra only to find that she agrees with him about Osha—there has been word of another attack on Olega, and she wants him to investigate and take the real murderer into custody. Yord protests this when he learns of it, but settles once he finds out that the Jedi on Coruscant support Sol’s mission.

Mae enters an apothecary on Olega and finds Qimir (Manny Jacinto), an agent aligned or directly connected to her cause. She tells him that she needs a poison to kill Torbin and asks him to add bunta to it. He reminds her that she’s supposed to be killing these Jedi without weapons, but Mae insists that she has two more Jedi on her list after this, and she will kill one without weapons to please “the Master.” Qimir makes the poison and tells Osha that Torbin isn’t the serene façade he projects, that he craves absolution, which she can give him. On the ship, Sol questions Osha about her new tattoo, and they talk about what happened to her family on Brendok. When Osha insists that it wasn’t his fault, Sol tells her that he’s made peace with it, while Osha admits that she couldn’t and feels she was a poor student. Sol wonders if he was a bad teacher.

The Jedi arrive at the temple on Olega directly after Mae has broken in again. This time she puts the poison before Torbin and tells him that he either confesses his crime to the Jedi Council, or takes it and receives absolution from her. He comes out of his trance and takes the poison. As this is happening, Osha walks through the temple and takes a turn, having another vision of her young sister. She comes upon Torbin’s body, but when she’s about to be accused, Yord comes to her defense; he followed her when she wandered off and knows she came upon Torbin already dead. Because it’s bunta, Osha knows it had to be made fresh, so they check out the apothecary and the local Padawan (Ed Kear) confirms that Qimir is not their regular guy. They decide to send in Osha as her sister to get information from him, and get him to confess to being an accessory so that the Jedi have reason to arrest him. She gets the confession before Qimir can tell that she’s Mae’s twin, and the Jedi corner him. He feigns ignorance, though Qimir does admit that he knows Mae wants revenge on four Jedi and that she’s coming back later for some things he’s holding for her.

The Jedi keep the apothecary on watch until nightfall and Sol gets ready to confront Mae. Osha doesn’t want him to do it because she knows that he must be one of the Jedi her sister is intending to kill—one of the four who were present for the fire. Sol asks Osha to let him try to save Mae the way he couldn’t when they were children. He also asks her to have faith in her sister… and in him. Sol confronts Mae and they duel with the Force; he takes her daggers from her. Sol tries to find out who her master is, but learns that he has taken pains to hide his identity, even from her. The Jedi have Mae cornered, so she uses a smoke bomb and vanishes. Osha manages to find her, but doesn’t hit her with the stun weapon she’s carrying. Mae gets away. Sol contacts Coruscant, only to be told by Vernestra to come in, despite his objections. Mae finds Qimir, furious with him for selling her out, but he mollifies her by telling her where to find Kelnacca, the Wookiee Jedi she’s after. On Khofar, a couple of travelers find a homestead and wonder if they can find parts there to repair their ship. This turns out to be a mistake when Kelnacca (Joonas Soutamo) emerges to chase them from his home.

Commentary

Jedi Master Indara (Carrie-Anne Moss) in Lucasfilm's THE ACOLYTE, lightsaber drawn, Episode 1, "Lost / Found"
Image: Disney+

In hindsight, it’s pretty obvious to bring in the big star in an awesome role and kill them immediately, but I’m still unhappy about it. Carrie-Anne Moss deserves better than this! Also, I was looking forward to her being around. But, y’know, it’s probably illegal to have more than one over-40 star in your cool new show, particularly if the extraneous character in question is a woman. (Also, do I really need to get into how all the “young” men on the show are basically my age, but our young main female characters are played by actors who are 19 and 25 respectively? Particularly when you account for the fact that Yord and Osha are supposed to be contemporaries?) I will let it go, for now, but it’s kind of important to point out that it’s screwy as hell.

Having started with that—because the show started with that, it’s not my fault—I can move on to the many things I absolutely love about what’s happening here. Starting with the best/worst: The Jedi are cops.

It’s been implicit in so much of what audiences saw in the prequels, but moving it to the High Republic era does so much work to clarify that truth. The Jedi under the auspices of the Republic are particularly terrible cops. Everything they do is TV Cop Playbook 101: Intimidate civilians, check. Arrest people at will, and with no indication of legal process, check. (I mean, arrest people fullstop—the Jedi literally cuff folks and throw them into outer space hurry-up wagons?) Give no regard to local customs or individual rights, check. Expect automatic and thorough cooperation due to station, check.

Oh, and these cops can and will read your mind at their convenience, without any permissions needed whatsoever, and no one’s gonna help you because of their fancy powers. This is horrifying. I love it.

I’m guessing George Lucas hates it. But I love it.

Though it’s something Star Wars has been reticent to touch on, you can’t get the Jedi Order we see in the prequels without years and years of flagrant abuse. The Jedi are so atrophied by the time we reach that point that converting them into generals for the next major galactic war isn’t a stretch so much as a foregone conclusion. This is exactly how you get there. And you can’t count out the relevance that Osha’s difficulty with the Jedi Order comes from being in the exact same position as Anakin: “too old” to train and shaped by traumatic family events.

Despite the textual background and how awful it is, the characters we’ve got are all wonderful. Lee said that he built Sol on watching Qui-Gon Jinn in particular, but he exudes far more warmth and candor than Episode I gave us with Jinn. His love for Osha radiates from him, his need to care for her and do right by her even years after their parting becoming a driving force to the plot from the moment he hears her name. (The supremely dad “no, I don’t hate your tattoo” bit absolutely got me.)

(L-R): Master Sol (Lee Jung-jae) and Osha (Amandla Stenberg) in Lucasfilm's THE ACOLYTE, talking on ship
Image: Disney+

Showrunner Leslye Headland said that she wanted to focus on Kurosawa’s influence on Star Wars rather than the more Western-based focus we’ve been gettingof late. It’s coming through clearly so far, though we’re liable to get more of it as the plot goes forward. (She said that Rashomon was a key text, which should prove interesting as the story unfolds.) But the place where it shines the most is in the bearing and code that Sol and Indara both keep; Mae tells Indara that a Jedi doesn’t draw their weapons unless they’re prepared to kill, drawing a clear connection between Jedi and Samurai codes of honor. At the reminder of this, Indara deactivates her saber. But Sol pointedly never draws his blade in this first fight with Mae. His commitment to that code, his desire to restore Osha’s faith, is where he stands.

We’ve also arrived at a point in Star Wars lore where lightsaber colors and variation tell us a great deal about character, and the reveal becomes exactly that—a small revelation about who we’re looking at. We can see an independence of thought in Indara through her green blade, just as we can see the commitment to protection of the Order in Yord’s yellow one. We know the color of Sol’s blade from the trailers, but it feels relevant that we’ve not yet been shown within the show itself. He’s a little bit of a secret, being slowly divulged as we go.

Headland’s direction on these episodes is great, even if I wished she’d allowed herself to go just a fraction more stylistic in the execution. Her competence stands out particularly well during the fight sequences, which are absolutely pristine down the line. The only thing I’m just a little disappointed on is the mystery aspect? Obviously the Jedi did something the day that Mae allegedly set that fire—something that I hope won’t simply be explained away as unavoidable so they can be entirely absolved of the incident. But the mystery around the murder would have been a lot more fun if the reveal were stretched.

Spanners and Sabers

(L-R): Olega Padawan (Ed Kear), Yord Fandar (Charlie Barnett), Master Sol (Lee Jung-jae), Jedi Padawan Jecki Lon (Dafne Keen) and Osha (Amandla Stenberg) in Lucasfilm's THE ACOLYTE, doing reconnaissance
Image: Disney+
  • Yord’s apprentice is Zygerrian, which isn’t unheard of, but is still a big friggin’ deal because her people make their money as slavers. The Republic outlaws the practice, so Zygerrians aren’t actually members, leaving a lot of questions as to how Zygerrians ever become part of the Order. There are only one or two more on record, far as I know.
  • I really love that Charlie Barnett had to be an unqualified wreck throughout Russian Doll, only to have Leslye Headland approach him this time like “Okay, can I make it up to you with Hot Jedi?” I have to assume that’s how the conversation went.
  • Jecki is a Theelin-human hybrid, which is a species we first saw in Return of the Jedi’s Special Edition release: The Max Rebo Band backup singer Rystáll Sant is also Theelin and human. But Jecki’s demeanor is a little unusual given that Theelin’s are known for being an artistic bunch. Her attitude is a lot more… I’m gonna say Vulcan. It’s thoroughly enjoyable watching her boss everyone around and generally be right.
  • Interesting that the Republic doesn’t allow for organic beings to do outer ship repairs, mostly because I’m curious about the economics of the situation. It suggests that having droids is more expensive than paying wages to people, and I’d just like a breakdown on how that works out. Is it an up-front cost issue at this point in time, perhaps?
  • As much as I’m interested in who the person with the red lightsaber is, I also enjoy that we’re getting confirmation through the ages on dark side users being absolute cowards: A good half of them are so afraid to show how normal they are, they keep modulating the hell out of their appearances and voices. Theater is a prime factor in how the dark side functions, and the Sith really said “If you can’t make your own, store-bought is fine.”
  • Absolutely adore Ed Kear’s Padawan character, please bring him back, please put him in everything.

See you next week… icon-paragraph-end



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