“The Acolyte”: A Thrilling Prequel to “The Phantom Menace” Revealing the Early Days of the Jedi Order

  • "The Acolyte" takes place 100 years before ‘The Phantom Menace,’ highlighting the early days of the Jedi Order where concepts of light and dark sides don’t yet exist.
  • A masked Jedi named Mae, played by Amandla Stenberg, kills Carrie-Anne Moss’s character, Indara, to please her mysterious master, sparking major conflict and raising suspense.
  • Mae and her twin sister Osha, both played by Stenberg, find themselves entangled in a series of action-packed events, leading to revelations about their past and future allies like Jedi Masters Sol, Yord, and Padawan Jecki Lon.

‘Star Wars: The Acolyte’ Review: Old Jedi Mind Tricks In A Galaxy Even Farther Away, and It’s a Fun Ride

WARNING: This review contains spoilers from the first two episodes of Disney+/Lucasfilm’s series "The Acolyte," which will be available at 6 PM PT.

Alright, fellow Star Wars fans, let’s travel way back, 100 years before "The Phantom Menace," where it’s all still pretty old-school Jedi business. No Sith, no clear division between the light and dark sides—just lots of peace-loving Jedi doing their thing.

But, hey, there’s a disturbance in the Force in this new Disney+ series "The Acolyte". And let me tell you, it’s shaking things up. Meet Amandla Stenberg’s Mae, a masked Jedi (yes, masked, so mysterious!) who’s out there picking fights with four well-meaning Jedi. The series kicks off with a bang (or should I say, a slice?) as Mae takes on Carrie-Anne Moss’s character, Indara. Indara, in top "Matrix" form, shows off some serious acrobatic skills before biting the dust—and not a lightsaber in sight! Mae opts for little spears instead. Different, right?

Sidenote: We don’t know how "dead" Indara really is, because she didn’t get the classic "Obi-Wan Kenobi abdomen slice." Fingers crossed, people!

Mae, frustrated with the Jedi peace vibes, grumbles to her buddy Qimir (Manny Jacinto), the poison-chemist, “Peace is alive! I know!” She then enlists Qimir’s services for some shady activities.

After Mae offs Indara, we see her waking up on a Neimoidian cargo ship (remember those green guys from the beginning of "Phantom Menace"? Yeah, them). Suddenly, she’s in mechanic gear and seems way softer. But surprise—she’s actually Osha (also played by Stenberg)! She’s soon confronted by two Jedi, including Yord (Charlie Barnett), a former colleague who accuses her of something she didn’t do. Picture "The Fugitive" with a Jedi twist. Osha ends up on a prison rig, which crashes on an icy planet. There’s a thrilling escape and a nod to the classic Harrison Ford-jumping-from-the-ledge scene.

Osha’s old Jedi Master, Sol (Lee Jung-jae), teams up with Yord and Jedi Padawan Jecki Lon (Dafne Keen) to pursue her. Meanwhile, Osha has a vision—her twin sister Mae, thought dead in a fire, is alive. Sol took Osha as his Padawan after the tragedy, but like Ahsoka, she fell out of love with the whole Jedi thing. Osha tells Sol, “Mae is alive,” pulling them all into the hunt for her sister.

Episode 2 kicks off with Mae approaching Qimir for some poison to kill a Jedi named Master Torbin, who has secluded himself due to past dark deeds. Sol and his team learn from Qimir that Mae is alive. There’s an epic kung-fu showdown between Sol and Mae, where Mae learns even she doesn’t fully understand the voice in her head. And guess what? Mae’s as surprised as anyone to discover Osha is alive.

The eerie silhouette with a red saber at the end of episode 1? He ominously tells Mae, “Jedi live in a dream, a dream they believe everyone shares. If you attack a Jedi with a weapon, you will fail. Steel nor laser are no threat to them. But an acolyte kills without a weapon, an acolyte kills the dream.” Chilling, right? But who is this guy? Could he be Emperor Palpatine’s great-great-grandfather or Darth Maul’s uncle? Intrigue abounds!

Big props to Lucasfilm for daring to set a series so far back in time before the High Republic. It’s a bold move that might be too risky for a feature film but works brilliantly as a TV show. The earth-tone, purple-green production design might make you forget the series is set 100 years before "The Phantom Menace." Sure, it looks a bit closer to George Lucas’s pre-millennium CGI world, but hey, it’s gorgeous.

Creator Leslye Headland, known for "Russian Doll," nails the classic "Star Wars" motifs: hooded baddies, separated twins, shadowy masterminds, and past actions echoing into the future. It’s all familiar, comforting stuff for any fan. But "Andor" still feels more mature and sophisticated, playing to an older crowd, whereas "The Acolyte" seems to aim for the younger audience, like under 15.

Disney’s walking a tightrope with "Star Wars," constantly risking fan backlash over any mythological misstep. And now that Disney+ is cutting down on series, balancing different levels of "Star Wars" drama to keep subscribers is trickier than ever. Still, wouldn’t it be cool to see a wild take on Jedi lore, maybe even with memory loss and split personalities?

All in all, Headland’s "The Acolyte" succeeds in expanding and intriguing the "Star Wars" universe, especially with Osha’s ship-hopping escapades. And let’s not forget, the Wookie Jedi are coming in episode 3! So, buckle up and enjoy the ride.

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