The Acolyte

Star Wars: The Acolyte - First 2 Episodes Review: We're left waiting for a big twist

Could Leslye Headland be the acolyte needed by what many see as a religion?

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While 'the Filoniverse' prepares on several fronts for its own Endgame with The Mandalorian & Grogu movie, other Star Wars projects are finally coming to the fore to make a name for themselves. When I went to the premiere of The Acolyte at the Callao Cinema in Madrid the other day, I wondered if Leslye Headland's idea would be the breath of fresh air it promises to be and, particularly, how much it would be able to tell if each episode is only half an hour long. Having seen the first two episodes, I can answer some of these questions and raise others.

The Acolyte

The most vaunted thing about the show is that it is primarily about a serial murder mystery. And that it takes place in the time of the High Republic, a century before The Phantom Menace. And that it will supposedly be somewhat darker, both in terms of the murder theme and the emergence of the dark side of the Force.

I'm not going to gut the events of these episodes here, but I have to share my main impression already: The Acolyte must be holding its cards close to really surprise me towards the end of the season. I say this because, while it starts off mysterious, much of the mystery is resolved or diluted already in these first two acts, so I imagine it's playing a game of misdirection to surprise me later on. In fact, if you haven't read into any of the series, I recommend that you continue like this, because the mystery that it tries to raise right from the start is already gutted in the synopsis itself.

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In any case, someone has commissioned a series of murders among the highest ranks of the Jedi Order, and it is up to the Order itself, with Lee Jung-jae's Sun Master at the helm for personal reasons, to do the investigation work in the purest CSI style. The who and how of the first two murders are resolved seemingly instantly, so the most interesting thing for now will be to find out the why. That's the real intrigue of this series: the Jedi did something very bad when the protagonist was a child, and the real curiosity lies in discovering what happened then and how those acts put in check everything the reputed Order stood for in these times.

The Acolyte

I like the narrative pace, especially in the first episode, and the contrast between the roles of the different characters. Master Indara (Carrie-Anne Moss) comes across a little too "Trinity with a lightsaber" to me, although that's exactly what the showrunner and director of these two episodes wanted, but at one point I thought, "if she does the scorpion kick, I'm up and leaving". That said, she does give a good example of her power and more of a martial artist style.

My favourite, however, is Dafne Keen's Padawan Jecki Lon, a very young apprentice who is as cunning as she is wise, somewhere between the younger Ahsoka from The Clone Wars and Omega from The Bad Batch, but with her own charm and more accurate observations. Plus, she always knows how to contain Charlie Barnett's Yord Fandar, her abundant, rule-obsessed Jedi sidekick, who starts off as a clown but quickly works with this show's sense of humour too (I admit it: I giggled at the "who is he?" bit).

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In fact, in these two episodes the cast is starting to come together really well, led by a chameleon-like Amandla Stenberg who, by the looks of things, must have had a big part to play in resolving her dual performance and coming out on top. We'll see as the episodes go on.

Another note that the start of The Acolyte leaves us with is that it is well made. It's not another Obi-Wan Kenobi case, at least for now. The scenery, the shots, the lighting, the choreography, and even the somewhat repetitive music, also borrowed from The Matrix in each fight, are convincing in its more confined scales. Of course, they also suffer in the wider scales, especially on Coruscant, which is a bit too CGI.

The Acolyte

The series also makes an effort to show new or different things from the beginning, even if sometimes in a somewhat strange way. In barely an hour it has time to travel around planets like Ueda, Olega, Brendok or Khofar, and to show (almost) never-seen-before extras, like the work of the meknek or the Wookie-jedi Kelnacca. Some, I get the impression, will come off as pastiche. There is also some peculiar technology used now in this style of crime, although again some gadgets seem more modern than those available a hundred years later, a typical temporal paradox in this universe.

And what about the dark side? Disney promises a tougher, more mature plot, while Headland adds that it will have a good deal of passion and love. Of all this, we have seen little. It's true that these are murders, after all, and that the apparitions that Osha sees in the dark generate bad blood, but so far, apart from the temporal and therefore socio-cultural and political leap, there's nothing that hasn't been seen in some of the subplots of The Clone Wars.

This brings me to the big question: will this murder mystery be intriguing enough on its own given its compact format, or will it rely on the wider Star Wars lore? And if so, will we see Darth Plagueis the Wise dealing with death, or even Yoda? Will this 'eat' into the rest as it sometimes does in the Filoniverse?

In any case, it left me with a good taste in my mouth and a desire for more, especially for those more refreshing touches. If it ends up being more of a "whodunnit in a Russian doll" than an expensive self-contained arc of The Clone Wars, and if it nails that big twist, the Force will be with The Acolyte.

The AcolyteThe Acolyte
08 Gamereactor UK
8 / 10
overall score
is our network score. What's yours? The network score is the average of every country's score

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