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Home > ‘Star Wars: The Acolyte 2’ Episode Premiere (2024): A Review

‘Star Wars: The Acolyte 2’ Episode Premiere (2024): A Review

An extension of the Star Wars: High Republic publishing initiative, the show takes place at the height of power of both the Galactic Republic and the Jedi Order. Amanda Stenberg, Carrie Anne-Moss, and Lee Jung Jae in 'Star Wars: The Acolyte.'

Kung-Force Free of the Skywalker Saga

Star Wars: The Acolyte is a live-action series currently streaming on Disney+ and premiered June 4th with two episodes, ‘Lost/Found’ and ‘Revenge/Justice,’ respectively, each around 40 minutes long. The series is the first of two live-action Star Wars series to premiere in 2024 and takes place approximately 100 years before the Star Wars prequel trilogy. An extension of the Star Wars: High Republic publishing initiative, the show takes place at the height of power of both the Galactic Republic and Jedi Order. The series was created by Leslye Headland, the creator of Russian Doll for Netflix.

The Bantha in the Room….

The Acolyte has been in development since 2020, which is a lot of time to build anticipation. Critics were treated to the first four episodes of the show in early previews, and praise for the show was nearly universal. At the time of this writing, The Acolyte sits at 93% on Rotten Tomatoes, tied with the 2nd season of The Mandalorian and second only to Andor season 1 at 96% fresh. However, audience scores are the lowest of any Star Wars show to date, at this time sitting at 26% and dropping. Many sites have commented on it, but the problem primarily stems from review bombing from a small but vocal contingent of Star Wars fans who, by and large, claim that The Acolyte is ‘woke’ Star Wars.  

An article from Entertainment (Australia) from early June stated that a “…male-heavy fan base of Star Wars react negatively “against the projects that come from female creators or focus on female characters.” More specifically, Leslye Headland, as a gay creator, and Amanda Stenberg, as the female lead, have felt the impact. In an interview with Variety, Kathleen Kennedy, the head of Lucasfilm, noted, “Because of the fan base being so male-dominated, (women) sometimes get attacked in ways that can be quite personal.” adding later in the article, “Anyone who engages in bigotry, racism or hate speech … I don’t consider a fan.”

While The Acolyte does have many strong female leads in the show, a male presence is felt as well, including Master Sol, Knight Yord, and the mysterious Qimir, played by Manny Jacinto, whom some fans are guessing might be by the mysterious Sith Master’s hidden in plain sight alter-ego (including this reader, for what it’s worth). The worst part about the vitriolic ‘heavy male’ fan base is that it gives the rest of the male viewership a bad rep. Speaking as a male Star Wars fan, those guys don’t speak for the majority of men out there, and certainly not this reviewer. 

It’s also strange how quickly these vocal fans forget all of the great male-driven shows in recent years, including Andor The Mandalorian, and no matter how a viewer feels about The Book of Boba Fett, it’s most definitely male-led. This doesn’t even take into account animated shows like Bad Batch or The Clone Wars, or Rebels, which were also primarily male-driven. Women, and yes, gay women, want to be represented on screen, even in a galaxy far, far away. In short, it’s a Tatooine-sized sandbox with room for everyone. If a viewer doesn’t like The Acolyte, there’s a simple solution… don’t watch it. 

Jedi Power Dynamic

In Star Wars: A New Hope, Jedi were referred to as guardians of peace in the galaxy for a thousand generations. By the time audiences meet them in the original film, the Jedi are all but extinct, and even in The Phantom Menace, the Jedi’s powers are waning as they unknowingly march towards their own doom. But this show is set at the height of the Jedi power, during ‘The High Republic’ era as it has come to be known. These Jedi aren’t the stoic monastic warriors we will come to know but are presented here as elitist, plentiful even, with outposts on many worlds, and they are highly involved in the business of keeping the galaxy safe.

The Jedi power dynamic is one most audiences will already be familiar with: Masters train Padawans to become Knights.  Audiences see this play out primarily through Jedi Master Sol, played by Lee Jung-Jae, Knight Yord Fandar, played by Charlie Barnett, and Padawan Jecki Lon, played by Dafne Keen, who form a sort of away team sent to investigate the assassination of one of their own, a Jedi Master named Indara, played by Carrie Anne Moss, killed in a spectacular opening by a mysterious and titular Acolyte (presumably a Sith Acolyte) in an impressive fight scene that uses every square foot of a multi-level set piece. Some viewers may be disappointed that Master Indara dies in the first episode, feeling duped, but in this galaxy, Jedi can always come back to offer some ghostly advice down the line. 

The Jedi power dynamic is interesting in that these Jedi are a bit more insecure and more taciturn than those of the prequel trilogy, like rebellious teens who are exploring the boundaries of what they can get away with. Jecki Lon has a clear disdain for Knight Yord, despite his higher rank. The younger Jedi often question their superiors; Lon questions Sol’s nostalgia for his former Padawan, Yord makes assumptions rather than observations, and even Master Sol pushes back against Master Venestra’s insistence to return to Coruscant to discuss the situation in person, insisting to carry on the investigation on his own terms. Added to the mix is a former padawan who left the order years ago to pursue another path, which is not something that has been explored in the live-action franchise before but does present an interesting question of what exactly a Jedi drop-out is to do in a galaxy far, far away. 

Sadly, the High Republic Jedi are perhaps the most, dare we say, boring Jedi ever? When compared to rule breaks like Qui-Gon Jinn and Anakin Skywalker, these Jedi seem very pedestrian. If the High Republic is the Renaissance of the Jedi, where are the artists, the free-thinkers, and the Jedi pushing back against the way things are?  Well, interestingly enough, that’s perhaps the entire point of the show. When one power base sits atop the temple, others will look for a crack at the base. Hubris has always been a problem with Jedi, and these intergalactic space cops are no exception. 

Wuxia-Style

From the design of the sets to the costumes to the fighting styles, there’s a clear Wuxia influence. What is Wuxia, one might ask? Think Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, think Hero with Jet Li, and more recently, think Raya and the Last Dragon. Wuxia is a combination of elements and style; martial arts is at the forefront of the movement, and in most cases, all the primary characters are masters in their own right of their chosen art form.

Acrobatics seems inadequate to describe the sort of stunts and aerial displays that are hallmarks of the genre. It’s useful to view the show through this lens; the opening fight set piece is a clear homage to and framing device for the story to follow. In the opening lines of the show, when Acolyte Mae, played by Amanda Stenberg, declares, “Attack me with all of your strength.” it’s both a tad clunky and a loving throwback to films in this style when warriors actively sought to test their skills against other warriors in the same way contemporary athletes do on the field. 

If there is a disappointment to be had, it’s that the fights, while impressive, aren’t nearly as exciting as their Wuxia-inspired predecessors; tenets of the genre are combatants crashing through ceilings and walls, tearing the scenery apart or balancing on impossibly small surfaces. Likewise, those films often feature warriors trading out weapons throughout a fight in a sort of weapon-o-rama showcase, and since the Sith (at least those in the expanded universe) are known for using a variety of bladed weapons, this would be easy to insert that idea that sadly doesn’t find a place in the material (so far), perhaps due to budget, perhaps due to creator Leslye Headlands preference, or perhaps due to timetable and production.

Much like many Wuxia films, the heart of the narrative is framed around a revenge story, as Acolyte Mae travels from one world to the next, seeking to quench the fire of revenge burning in her heart. Beneath the grandiose fight scenes is a compelling backstory about a sister left for dead by four Jedi Masters on an obscure Jedi outpost. Years later, the girl-turned-assassin confidently challenges warriors who wield the most lethal melee weapon in the galaxy with a set of throwing knives and her bare hands. When it works, it’s bold and breathtaking, and it’s far easier to empathize with Mae than the Jedi who abandoned her only to be scooped by a cult of force users (yet to be revealed by Episode 2) who trained her as a living weapon to take revenge on the self-proclaimed guardians of peace in the galaxy.

Serial Sister Saga

Though Star Wars has evolved from its humble Flash Gordon influences, at the core of the Star Wars franchise is a serialized form of soapy space opera storytelling, which at times puts off the more high-brow fans who seem overly invested in and exalt the mythological story archetypes of Joseph Campbell’s ‘Hero with a Thousand Faces’ that informed so much of George Lucas’ early writing. But that’s only half the format of a true Star Wars story, and the other half is often melodramatic, at times Shakespearean in its plot devices, so it should come as no surprise when moments into the show, it’s revealed that Osha and Mae are … duh-duh-duh, twin sisters!  In some ways, this pays clear homage to the first set of Jedi twins known to most fans… Luke and Leia. And while Mae isn’t so much Snoke-level evil as Kylo-Ren misguided, much of the early plot is split between following two siblings raised respectively to follow the light and dark side teachings of their respective masters. It’s a fun idea that’s right at home in a space opera. 

Perhaps the biggest weakness of the show thus far is that Osha, the sister raised by the Jedi, is by far the least active and engaging character on the show. Osha is a meknek, an outboard ship repair tech that does work similar to what an astromech droid does, repairing the outer hull of star ships with the help of her tricorder-sized droid, PIP, which seems like it was made to fit in Happy Meals. But for all of her space-mechanic background, she does very little to try and fix the prisoner transport she is literally crashing aboard about halfway through the first episode. Osha could have been a young Han Solo type, too reckless and cavalier for the Jedi order, and while Headland pulled the character in another direction, Osha (at least in the first two episodes) seems plainly vanilla, neither quite the risk taker her job would imply, dutifully following her former Jedi Master and peers around on their mission without a clear agenda of her own.  

The show doesn’t seem to want to explore Osha as an ex-Jedi and, by greater extension, what happens to Jedi that either fail their trials or choose to leave the order. Fans of the extended lore will know that Jedi Knight isn’t the only role Jedi can serve in the order, and those who fail their trials often find either other roles to fill, less exposed roles, more custodial, administrative, or academic, or even return to civilian life. But the show doesn’t seem interested in asking the question (at least so far) of what an ex-Jedi’s place in the universe is, as Osha’s ability to use the Force has either diminished or been shut off.  Even in the opening moments of the show, Master Indara speaks into a com-link stating that she has an ‘… unidentified Force-user’ clarifying in no uncertain terms that the Jedi order keeps tabs on all Force users, Jedi or not, which speaks to the greater problem of acting as not only stewards but police officers for the Force, consolidating power that doesn’t belong to them any more than it does any other group of Force-users; but rather than explore the idea ad nauseam, it seems content to browse the idea in a shop window and walk on by. But with six episodes left in the season, there is plenty of road ahead to explore the finer aspects of a fallen Jedi.

Stream or Skip? 

Stream, definitely.  As someone looking forward to this show for half a pandemic, the premiere was the most entertaining live action Star Wars show in years(sorry, Ahsoka). Even better, it doesn’t require you to be versed in a decade’s worth of content to fully appreciate it! Only a quarter of the way through the first season, but already Star Wars The Acolyte has distinguished itself in a rapidly expanding galaxy of spin-offs, shows, movies, and animated series. The first live-action Star Wars series set in the High Republic era, the show isn’t shackled to decades of pre-existing storylines, characters, retcons, or fan theory, free to navigate its own hyperspace route through the galaxy. And while every Star Wars property seeks to do its own thing with the Star Wars blueprint, The Acolyte is thus far both an exciting expansion of and a return to form that is sure to delight all but the most extreme and vocal Star Wars fans, favoring traditional sets and stunts versus more modern tools like The Volume, the show is both a loving tribute to and extension of the films that so many viewers grew up on. Guided by passionate creator Leslye Headland and featuring a talented and diverse cast, The Acolyte is worth your time. Check out the original trailer for The Acolyte below. 

Star Wars: The Acolyte (2024) Official Star Wars Trailer

Source: Dead Talk Live

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Caleb aims to write high-concept genre pieces that focus on broken families. His works have been recognized by the Nicholl's Fellowship, the ISA, Screencraft, Launchpad, and Nickelodeon.When not writing Caleb enjoys video games and tabletop RPGs, camping, and is a connoisseur of fine bourbon.

Elke Simmons' writing portfolio includes contributions to The Laredo Morning Times, Walt Disney World Eyes and Ears, Extinction Rebellion (XR) News/Blog, and Dead Talk News.