The Star Wars galaxy didn’t slide into darkness overnight. Although the prequel films chart how the Republic was twisted into the Empire, the shadow of the Dark side predates Shee Palpatine’s rise to power in The Phantom Menace. Now it seems we’ll finally get a clearer picture of the galaxy’s slow slide into evil thanks to one new Star Wars show: The Acolyte.
The Acolyte timeline explained
The premise for The Acolyte sounds like a kind of True Detective spinoff set in the Star Wars universe. From the November 7 press release, here’s the official synopsis:
“The Acolyte is a mystery-thriller that will take viewers into a galaxy of shadowy secrets and emerging dark-side powers in the final days of the High Republic era. A former Padawan reunites with her Jedi Master to investigate a series of crimes, but the forces they confront are more sinister than they ever anticipated.”
From previous interviews, we know that showrunner Leslye Headland set this Star Wars series roughly 200 years before The Phantom Menace. Now, we know the show will be focused on the end of the High Republic era, which indicates The Acolyte will reveal exactly how the centuries-long peaceful galactic stewardship of the Jedi began to unravel.
How The Acolyte fills a pivotal gap in Star Wars history
Although The Acolyte will end up being about its central characters — who have yet to be fully revealed — the context of the show being focused on “emerging Dark-side powers,” suggests the series will fully link the hazier canon of everything that happened before The Phantom Menace with everything that happened after. Yes, the various books that comprise the “High Republic” era are 100 percent canon, starting with The Light of the Jedi, which, seems to be set around the same time as The Acolyte.
But as great as the various High Republic books are, the truth is that for the larger Star Wars fandom, the shows and movies are what really count. The Mandalorian even overruled Disney-era book canon when its version of Cobb Vanth differed slightly from the version we met first in the novel Aftermath.
So, what does this mean for The Acolyte? Well, nothing concrete yet, but the new synopsis does suggest the series could take bigger canon swings than we previously thought. Back in 2021, Leslye Headland said, “I actually was very intrigued by why George Lucas had started us at that particular point [in The Phantom Menace]. I kind of wondered, but what happened to lead up to this? ... Why are the Jedi like this?”
In other words, the High Republic novels are certainly the foundation of the canon for this specific time period in the Star Wars timeline. But it seems like The Acolyte might reveal exactly how the Jedi react to the discovery of “emerging Dark-side powers.”
Of all the Star Wars prequel projects, The Acolyte stands to be the most pivotal if only because the entire political status quo of the Jedi in The Phantom Menace is what sets the rest of the saga in motion. Headland has already stated what the real question is: why are the Jedi like this?
“Like this” could mean a lot of things. But for most fans, the rigidity of the Jedi Council combined with a myopic view of the Force is what led to the downfall of the Jedi Order and the rise of Palpatine. And while it feels very unlikely that Palpatine himself will appear in this series, The Acolyte might end up becoming the one Star Wars backstory to rule them all. This time, some secrets of the dark side might finally come to light.
The Acolyte is currently filming and expected on Disney+ sometime in 2023.