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‘The Acolyte’ Will Take You to an Exciting New Galaxy Far, Far Away (You Just Have to Let It)



Lee Jung-jae as Jedi Master Sol, teaching a class of younglings in The Acolyte
Disney / Lucasfilm Ltd.



The number 8 with "TAC Rating" written next to it.

For the Star Wars at large, The Acolyte marks a thrilling new direction. Introducing us to the world of the High Republic, set a century before the events of The Phantom Menace, we are effectively in what feels like could be the start of a new era of this long-standing franchise, one that treats us to new faces and allows new voices to be heard. Considering how Star Wars has spent close to 50 years telling stories within the Skywalker Saga, this will be a relief for those who have been waiting for a much-needed breath of new life. At the same time, it will be a test for fans who, whether out of sentiment, nostalgia, or even a fear of change, would rather cling to the old franchise they know and grew up with.


There are certainly echoes of the Star Wars we are familiar with — from kinetic fight sequences with high emotional stakes to ensemble storytelling filled with complex character dynamics — but The Acolyte largely steps out on its own. In truth, what makes this show so fascinating is how resolutely it expands the Galaxy, unearthing ripe narrative pathways that turn the franchise more towards science-fantasy than science-fiction. The key, of course, is to accept the ride that it offers (and conjecturing what Disney has planned, this series is the perfect opportunity to buckle in early before the ship departs for its next destination).


Created by Leslye Headland (co-creator of Russian Doll), who directs the first two episodes, The Acolyte follows the Jedi’s investigation into a series of murders being committed against Masters of their Order. Leading the investigation is Sol (Lee Jung-jae), a revered Jedi Master. Things become complicated when his former Padawan, Osha (Amandla Stenberg), who voluntarily left the Order six years prior, is suspected of the murders. As Osha works with Sol and a small team of Jedi — which includes his new Padawan, Jecki Lon (Dafne Keen), and a by-the-book Jedi Knight, Yord (Charlie Barnett) — to clear her name and discover who the real murderer is, secrets from her and Sol’s collective and individual pasts come to light. What’s more, a darker and more sinister threat looms ahead, one whose name, face, and objective are so far unknown to the Jedi.




Lee Jung-jae as a nervous-looking Jedi Master Sol in The Acolyte
Disney / Lucasfilm Ltd.

The Acolyte hits the ground running from the start, beginning with an epic duel between Master Indara (Carrie-Anne Moss) and a masked assailant. Moss’ role has been promoted as Trinity (her famous role in The Matrix) with a lightsaber, and rightfully so: the actor was made to be a Jedi, confident and appropriately restrained. In fact, each role is impeccably cast: Lee brings a quiet depth to Sol, a soulfulness that calls Liam Neeson’s Qui-Gon Jinn to mind; and Stenberg, magnetic and forceful, commands your attention as they showcase their range as an actor. Of the smaller roles, Keen’s earnestness as Jecki and Manny Jacinto’s fumbling Qimir stand out, bringing a warmth and levity that properly offset the grief, anger, and trauma that permeates the series. 


Also apparent is the sheer amount of texture we are able to revel in (which only gets better as each episode goes on), whether it’s the rustling of the Jedi robes or the fact that real sets were built and real locations used (a far cry from the blue screen plague that hindered the franchise ever since the prequel trilogy). Particularly noteworthy is the planet Brendok, dark and cold as stone, which sees a fantastic Jodie Turner-Smith as Mother Aniseya, the leader of a coven of witches. Everything here offers viewers an interesting and new way of seeing the Force — something more magical, almost alive — building on what we saw with the Nightsisters in Ahsoka last year. While these two shows seemingly have nothing to do with each other, their inclusion of witchcraft is nonetheless an exciting turn for the franchise.


Where The Acolyte falters is in its pacing. The first two episodes introduce a high-stakes murder investigation that involves many moving parts and players, which is a lot to tackle on top of introducing a new world, but then switches gears in the third episode by venturing into the past. Here, there is some reliance on certain tropes that feel, at best, overly familiar (i.e. a Jedi is torn between their heart and their duty) and, at worst, somewhat like cheating. By the time we get to the fourth episode, the stage is set for an ultimate reveal that, while riveting, feels like a thematic checkpoint we were rushed towards. 


Ultimately, The Acolyte is far from perfect, but it deserves praise for daring to be different. At a time when Pixar, a Disney subsidiary, proclaims to be turning towards films with “clear mass appeal” (we all know what that is code for) and when Marvel Studios, another Disney property, is hell-bent on keeping things safe, simple, and stupid, Lucasfilm is taking an important step. You can definitely hold out hope that this series will give you the Star Wars fix you’re used to — and, really, the old school franchise flavours are there — or you can come along for the adventure and try something new.


The Acolyte episodes will release weekly on Tuesdays at 6pm PT / 9pm ET exclusively on Disney+.

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