The Acolyte Just Changed The Way We Think About Darth Vader

Spoilers ahead for The Acolyte Episode 6!

Darth Vader holding a red lightsaber, standing dramatically in a misty canyon with towering rocky wa...
The Acolyte

Other than disguising your identity and looking extremely badass, helmets worn by wielders of the Dark side of the Force might have a deeper meaning than just looking generally evil. In The Acolyte Episode 6, “Teach/Corrupt,” the Stranger (Manny Jacinto) — formerly known as Qimir — suggests that Osha (Amandla Stenberg) try out his evil helmet and see how she likes it.

This leads to a chilling final shot, which seems to overtly echo a similar moment from Revenge of the Sith. But if we believe what Qimir is saying about the purpose of his helmet, certain things we assumed about Darth Vader are now very different. In re-exploring the nature of the Jedi and the Sith, The Acolyte seems to be using the Stranger’s helmet as a new metaphor to help us unlearn what we’ve learned about the original Dark lord.

The power of the Stranger’s helmet

More than just a cool helmet.


While Qimir confirms to Osha that his helmet is made of a substance called Cortosis — which he quips is “handy against lightsabers” — the larger purpose of the helmet is a little more complex. It serves as a sensory deprivation device, which he equates with helmets used by Jedi younglings. (This references a scene in Attack of the Clones where we see several younglings training with their eyes covered.) But it seems that, for the Stranger, the helmet goes deeper. Because it blocks out his senses, it allows the wearer to get even closer to the Force, and thus, the Dark side.

When Osha accuses the Stranger of being focused on the Dark side, he dismisses this as semantics. But he does emphasize that the helmet allows him to access the Force better, noting: “It’s just you and the Force.”

At the very end of the episode, Osha tries it on. When she does, director Hanelle Culpepper gives us a point-of-view shot that feels very specifically evocative of the moment in Revenge of the Sith when Anakin Skywalker became encased in Vader’s helmet. It’s in this moment where the larger point of the episode retroactively casts Vader’s journey in a new light.

A Darth Vader story — redefined

Vader needed his helmet to get closer to the Dark Side.

Sunset Boulevard/Corbis Historical/Getty Images

Throughout the classic Star Wars trilogy, there was a general sense that, while Darth Vader’s mask inspired terror, it was a hindrance to his actual day-to-day life. After Obi-Wan wounded him on Mustafar, Vader was unable to breathe without his helmet and suit, which is why he spent his downtime in a meditation chamber on his Super Star Destroyer in The Empire Strikes Back and in Bacta tank in Rogue One. Luke says Vader can’t survive without his mask in Return of the Jedi, while Snoke taunts Kylo Ren about wearing a similar helmet in The Last Jedi. (Kylo didn’t need the helmet the way Vader did.)

Prior to The Acolyte, helmets worn by Dark side users tended to feel like edge-lord affectations (Kylo Ren) or literal life-saving devices allowing someone to breathe (Darth Vader). But now, the Stranger and Osha have made us rethink all of that. When Osha goes to put on the helmet, the imagery feels like Anakin putting on the helmet. Anakin’s journey to Vader has often been perceived as tragic. He was out of options at that point, right?

But Osha’s journey is different. She puts on the mask and starts feeling her own heavy breathing willingly. Now, Anakin didn’t want to be hooked up to a breathing machine for the rest of his life, but we can now imagine a version of Darth Vader who still wore a helmet even if he hadn’t been wounded by Obi-Wan. Here’s why: The Stranger makes it clear that the sensory deprivation aspects of the helmet allow him to access the Force more effectively. The helmet enhances his Dark Side mojo because he’s tapping directly into the Force without being bogged down by sentiment. This is part of what makes him merciless. So if you’re trying to become the ultimate Sith Master, it seems that a helmet like this is not just handy against lightsabers but a literal tool to bring you closer to your power. And that sounds very Vader.

When Osha puts on the helmet at the end of this episode, we’re thinking about her journey, but Vader’s journey, too. Embracing the Dark side isn’t just a series of accidents. And these evil helmets aren’t just for show.

The Acolyte streams on Disney+.

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