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J.C. Reviews: The Acolyte is a Subversive Breath of Fresh Air for Star Wars


by James Coulter

I’ll confess: As much as I like Star Wars, I’ve never really been a huge fan. I love the original movies and prequel films, but mostly as popcorn flicks. I’ve never been deeply invested in the lore to the point of becoming a walking encyclopedia—or rather, Wookiepedia.

That’s especially been true of Star Wars since Disney’s acquisition. I consider the sequel film trilogy to be one exceptional masterpiece sandwiched between two mediocre movies. And as for the Disney Plus streaming shows? Aside from The Mandalorian, most of them haven’t captured my interest, being middling at best and meh at worst.

(I’ve heard Andor is great, but I could never make it past the first few episodes. So, I’ll take everyone’s word that it’s the GOAT.)

But then something like The Acolyte comes along: a highly-promising show with a highly-promising premise that carries with it the potential of setting itself apart from the current sludge of mass-produced Disney/Star Wars content—if for no other reason than it’s an original show that doesn’t try to connect itself to the larger Star Wars narrative.

So, will The Acolyte succeed in fulfilling this potential and bringing balance to the Force? Or will its potential end up being burned away more severely than Anakin after Obi-Wan defeats him on Mustafar in Revenge of the Sith?

The Acolyte takes place during the High Republic Era, nearly 100 years before the events of the prequel films. A former Jedi named Osha is framed for the murder of several high-ranking Jedi. Now, she must team up with her former Jedi master to clear her name and solve these crimes.

Through their investigation, she learns the culprit is her long-lost twin sister, Mae, who was presumed dead following an incident on their home planet. She also learns that these murders are connected to that same fateful incident, implying that what happened long ago may have been a cover-up for much shadier intentions. Will Osha solve this mystery and uncover the truth about the past?

As I mentioned, The Acolyte has the potential to become a great show, if for no other reason than that it’s an original story. Most of the other Star Wars streaming shows set themselves during the main movies. As such, they usually devolve into mere fan service by trying to tie themselves into the larger Star Wars narrative and through cameo appearances of fan-favorite characters.

By being set during the High Republic Era, not only can The Acolyte explore and develop a time period rarely explored in Star Wars media (outside of the Knights of the Old Republic video games), but it also forces the story to succeed or fail on its own merits. There will be no Uncanny Valley appearances of young Luke Skywalker or obscure characters from children’s shows to fall upon for cheap fan service. The Acolyte can only prove itself through good storytelling and character development.

So far, four out of eight episodes have been released on Disney Plus, and (despite the incessant whining of terminally online toxic fanboys) The Acolyte is showing some real promise. The

entire story is an unfolding mystery with plenty of twists and turns to keep viewers guessing until the very end. (No spoilers, but the fourth and newest episode does reveal one character to potentially be a red herring and another to be the real mastermind behind the scenes.)

The premise itself is sheer gold. The main characters are a set of twins: one raised on the light side of the Force, and the other (presumably) on the dark side. As such, they serve as a unique foil for one another and make for a much more compelling “force dyad” than what was offered in the sequel film trilogy. (Also, this series has a Jedi Wookie. How is that not cool?)

Moreover, The Acolyte explores themes and concepts often overlooked in the Star Wars universe. For example, witches who use magic rather than the Force have long been established in the franchise but rarely explored. This show manages to expand upon their presence and belief system, revealing themselves to be a small religious faction with a contentious history with the Jedi.

Speaking of the Jedi, the show also fleshes them out as an institution. For most of Star Wars, the Jedi were presumed to be the only (if not most dominant) religious belief system in the Star Wars universe. By introducing another religion (and a rival one at that), the show makes some implications about the Jedi and their rise to power.

Many fans have complained this show has “ruined” Star Wars by implying that the Jedi may not have always had noble intentions (you know, like most other religious institutions). But, if anything, the show is only continuing to add depth and dimension to the Jedi that George Lucas started exploring in the prequels. After all, this was a group of “warriors for truth and justice” who were more preoccupied with grooming a prophesized “chosen one” that they unwittingly assisted a dictator’s rise to power that led to the downfall of them and the republic.

Overall, only time will tell if The Acolyte’s unfolding mystery will pay off by the series finale. But so far, this is proving to be one of the more interesting Star Wars streaming series to debut on Disney Plus in a long time—for me at least. Don’t listen to the toxic fanboys! Give this show a watch and decide for yourself.

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