Star Wars

The Acolyte's Biggest Mystery Is Much More Complicated Than It Seems

The Acolyte, or Rashomon in space?

Amandla Stenberg as Osha Aniseya in The Acolyte
Lucasfilm
The Acolyte

“What I told you is true, from a certain point of view.” From the moment Alec Guinness’ Obi-Wan Kenobi uttered those words in Star Wars: Episode VI — Return of the Jedi, the saga has been exploring new ways to play with perspective. The best examples of this feel like a tribute to Akira Kurosawa, the legendary director whose samurai films have been inspiring Lucasfilm for decades. Rashomon in particular uses dueling perspectives as a narrative device: the film tells the same story from the POV of three very-different characters, all while denying audiences the objective truth.

As Star Wars has always depicted a straightforward battle of good versus evil, it’s never going to fully embrace the nuances of Rashomon. The Last Jedi came close by exploring the beef between Kylo Ren and Luke Skywalker, especially with Rey struggling to discern the truth. Both parties made grave mistakes, so neither were completely in the right — but at the end of the day, the narrative clearly sides with Luke, not Kylo. In Star Wars, good always triumphs over evil... but what happens when the moral lines are blurred, and the characters that ought to be heroes actually act more like villains?

The Acolyte might be the first Star Wars story (apart from anthologies like Visions) to truly flip the script on the struggle between light and dark. The series is a murder mystery that tips the balance of power from the Jedi to the Sith. Based on its latest episode, it might also make the Jedi the objective villains for the first time. Spoilers ahead!

The Acolyte’s Flashback, Explained

Mae Aniseya has been posited as one of The Acolyte’s main antagonists... but another may be hiding in plain sight.

Lucasfilm

After some tantalizing set-up in its two-episode premiere, The Acolyte finally takes us back to where it all began. Episode 3 flashes back to the childhood of Mae and Osha Aniseya (played by Amandla Stenberg as young adults, and Leah and Lauren Brady as children), shortly before the disaster that allegedly killed their entire family. In The Acolyte’s first episode, Jedi Master Sol (Lee Jung-jae) claims that Mae started a fire that destroyed her home, leaving Osha as the sole survivor. We finally see the circumstances that led to that fire, but it’s getting harder to believe that Mae could have caused such destruction alone.

The Acolyte depicts this flashback solely from Osha’s perspective. That choice is hugely effective, as it helps us understand her discomfort with her twin sister, her reluctance to become a full-fledged member of their coven, and her fascination with the Jedi Order. Mae’s dependence on Osha, and her hostility to the Jedi stationed on their home planet, certainly make her feel like the villain in Osha’s story.

But the Jedi notably aren’t the heroes she thinks they are, either: they’ve been sent to prevent her coven from using the Force (which they call the Thread) and training Mae and Osha independently.

If Memory Serves...

Even after a flashback episode, we still don’t know what really happened to the Aniseya coven.

Lucasfilm

Mae might have started a fire to punish Osha — but there’s no way it caused enough damage to destroy her coven. Telling this story from Osha’s point of view prevents us from seeing how exactly their family is killed, as she’s trapped underground and can’t witness the destruction herself. But there are elements of the Jedi’s story that don’t add up: Mae’s fire started underground, and when Osha is rescued by Master Sol, she learns that her mothers and other members of her coven died just outside of their home.

One of the Jedi working with Sol, the baby-faced padawan Torbin (Dean-Charles Chapman) also sports a nasty knife wound after the disaster. Again, we don’t see how he was injured — but given the guilt he feels about Brendok 16 years later, there’s clearly much more to the story.

Flashbacks are typically designed to clarify past events, but The Acolyte’s latest episode only twists the story we’ve gotten so far. Sol’s version of events is definitely not accurate, and Mae’s experience is riddled with blindspots. That confusion is obviously by design: the series is taking a page from Rashomon. Future episodes of The Acolyte will likely give us the true story, implicating the Jedi in a way no other Star Wars story has been brave enough to do. Like previous installments in the saga, it won’t be a true adaptation of Rashomon. But after years of one-sided storytelling, it’s certainly be a novelty.

The Acolyte streams Tuesdays on Disney+.

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