The Acolyte Is Everything Star Wars Should Be

The prequel-to-the-prequels is unlike anything else in Star Wars.

Inverse Reviews

On Dec. 10, 2020, Kathleen Kennedy announced 10 Star Wars series as part of Disney’s 2020 Investor Day presentation. Some, like Andor and Ahsoka, actually managed to make it to the platform. Others, like Rangers of the New Republic and A Droid Story have been either canceled or indefinitely delayed. Some, like Lando, were transformed into future movies. Now, four years later, the last of these series is set to premiere — and it’s the most experimental and galvanizing of the lot.

Helmed by Russian Doll co-creator Leslye Headland, The Acolyte finally explores a previously unseen time period in the franchise: the High Republic, which is set a century before everything else we’ve seen in Star Wars canon. The result is a noir-esque series that paints an entirely different light on the parts of Star Wars that seemingly had been unquestioned and redefines the very standards by which we define what makes Star Wars so good in the first place. It may be the last series in that presentation to come to fruition, but it’s the start of a new Star Wars era — and one that’s more than welcome.

The Acolyte’s opening scene features impressive combat and a big twist.


From the very first second, The Acolyte takes a different approach from any other Star Wars project. Instead of the opening crawl of the movies or the blue maxim texts from The Clone Wars, The Acolyte instead displays two short paragraphs by way of prologue: “A hundred years before the rise of the Empire, it is a time of peace. The Jedi Order and the Galactic Republic have prospered for centuries without war,” it reads. “But in the dark corners of the galaxy, a powerful few learn to use the Force in secret. One of them, a lone assassin, risks discovery to seek revenge.”

That’s all the hand-holding exposition the viewer gets. From that point on, you’re discovering every element alongside these characters. Someone is killing Jedi, and Jedi Master Sol (Lee Jung-jae) is sent to find his former Jedi Padawan (Amandla Stenberg) to clear her name of the crime. The mission barely takes place within the high-powered worlds of the High Republic, so other than the welcome appearance of Vernestra Rwoh (Rebecca Henderson), knowledge of the books won’t give you much of a leg up.

Instead, The Acolyte takes after Andor and shows us the parts of Star Wars that are rarely seen: Normal people living their normal lives. When Sol seeks out his former Padawan, he finds her not operating some secret sect of Force training but working a blue-collar job that normally would be performed by a droid. Even as the characters do seek out Jedi, this is an era where even the most distant planets have Jedi stationed to act as a representative of the Republic, allowing for us to see all-new planets and culture, as opposed to just Coruscant. This setting also allows for one of the hallmarks of Star Wars to really be on display: a range of weird-looking aliens who show up only for a scene or two.

While the series’ marketing has teased the series would be a murder mystery, that isn’t entirely true. Within the first five minutes, it’s clear who is murdering all the Jedi. Much like an episode of Columbo, the intrigue comes from how the culprit manages to go about her mission, and how loyalties shift. It’s a cat-and-mouse chase that is often far more rewarding than a whodunit, bringing to mind the most noir-influenced episodes of The Clone Wars. It isn’t about who the killer is but how they are caught.

Episode 3 of The Acolyte focuses almost entirely on a unique culture.


This shift in genre allows each character to really shine not as suspects, but as fully formed beings. Manny Jacinto is a particular standout as Qimir, a true neutral accomplice who completely flips the script of a henchman and provides plenty of quips to cut through the bleak tone.

The highlight of the first half of the season is Episode 3, which abandons the story the two-episode premiere established and instead devotes its runtime to a secluded location years earlier, depicting a part of Force-using culture that’s unlike anything we’ve seen before and showing a part of the Jedi Order that goes even further than just “training children away from their families.”

The Acolyte understands that Star Wars isn’t just a box of action figures to play with. It’s a sandbox where original stories — stories that would ostensibly be just as intriguing outside of the Star Wars franchise — are heightened by the depth the setting brings to them and the depth they bring to that galaxy far, far away. It makes for a standalone story that establishes a new caliber of what Star Wars TV can do.

The Acolyte Episodes 1 and 2 premiere at 6 p.m. PT/9 p.m. ET June 4 on Disney+.

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