The Acolyte

Star Wars Just Changed The Job of the Jedi — Maybe For the Worse

Are they space monks or... Blade Runners?

Jedi Master Indara (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Mae (Amandla Stenberg) battle in the opening episode of 'T...
Star Wars

In the first Star Wars film back in 1977, Obi-Wan made it clear that “the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic.” But in the even older Republic, about a century before Obi-Wan was even around, the Jedi had another job beyond guarding peace and justice. Turns out, the other major job of the Jedi was to be a kind of Force cop — a person who keeps an eye on those who use the Force in secret.

In the first scene of the first episode of the latest Star Wars series, The Acolyte, one quick line from Jedi Master Indara (Carrie-Anne Moss) changes the nature, philosophy, and purpose of the Jedi, maybe forever. Spoilers ahead for The Acolyte, Season 1, Episode 1.

The Acolyte starts out with text on the screen telling us that “in dark corners of the galaxy, a powerful few learn to use the Force in secret.” This is not a casual assertion, either. Nearly the entire premise of The Acolyte is tethered to the fact that the Jedi have a monopoly on not only wielding the Force but also deciding who is allowed to use the Force and who isn’t. This regulatory aspect of the Jedi is something we’ve been vaguely aware of ever since the prequels. Qui-Gon Jinn pulls little Ani Skywalker out of his home, and away from his mother, mostly because he’s just so strong with the Force. But as we all know, the Jedi Council wasn’t totally sold on training Anakin as a Jedi, implying that just because someone could use and feel the Force, that didn’t make them Jedi material. In the years since The Phantom Menace, we’ve seen all sorts of examples of people wielding the Force who weren’t explicitly Jedi or Sith.

But in the opening moments of The Acolyte, the duties of the Jedi in the era of the High Republic seem hyper-focused on knowing who is and isn’t a law-abiding Force user. As Master Indara is attacked by an unknown assailant (who we later learn is Mae), she busts out her comlink and radios to someone to report: “I have an unidentified Force user.”

There’s something very police-like in the way Indara calls this in. If you knew nothing about Star Wars, you might assume the Jedi are like undercover cops tracking down other people who can use the Force but aren’t registered to do so. Like a Replicant hunting rogue Replicants in Blade Runner 2049 or an Auror finding untrained wizards hiding in a a Muggle house, there’s a sense of burnt-out cynicism to Indara’s reaction. Even before she figures out that this person is someone she knows, personally, she’s still determined to dot the i’s and cross the t’s. Indara demands, “Who trained you!” And this question is destined to become the battle cry of the entire series. If the Jedi find someone who can use the Force well and that person isn’t on their nice and naughty lists, they freak out.

Mae (Amandla Stenberg) is using the Force and Indara (Carrie-Anne Moss) is annoyed.


Subtly or not, this feels very different than the bossy Jedi of the prequel era. Yes, the Jedi Council had weird rules about how much you were allowed to miss your parents, but it didn’t seem like they were specifically interested in keeping a detailed database of anyone who could use the Force. If anything, the Jedi of The Phantom Menace acted more like a really exclusive college: they didn’t really care if you had the grades to get in or not, because ultimately, they’d make the call based on other mysterious criteria.

The text-on-screen prologue and everything about the first two episodes of The Acolyte changes this perception and makes the Jedi into busybodies who simply can’t stand it if they don’t know who is using the Force, where they’re using the Force, and who is teaching other people to use the Force. Indara’s line about an “unidentified Force-user” makes it seem like the Jedi in this era are cops first and philosophers second.

So if the series is trying to get us to have sympathy for people who don’t wield blue, yellow, or green lightsabers, but maybe prefer that red-hued variety, it’s already accomplishing its goal. These Jedi don’t seem to have a wider view of the Force at all, but instead see their version of the Force as the law. And like Judge Dredd in a galaxy far, far away, these Jedi are the law.

The Acolyte is streaming on Disney+.

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