‘The Acolyte’ Episode 7 Recap: The Jedi Blame Game
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‘The Acolyte’ Episode 7 Recap: The Jedi Blame Game

Boy, that escalated quickly. I mean, that really got out of hand fast.

One day you’re doing some surveying, gathering moss samples, and searching for a Force hot spot with your metal vergence detector on a seemingly uninhabited planet. The next day, you discover that the planet has inhabitants after all. And the day after that, it goes right back to being almost uninhabited, because you kinda killed your new acquaintances. Oops! What a whirlwind.

After Episode 3 of The Acolyte gave us Osha’s side of what went down on Brendok 16 years before the series’ present, we knew another flashback was coming. As expected, it arrived in Episode 7, “Choice,” which featured the same director (Kogonada) and one of the same writers (Jasmyne Flournoy, along with Charmaine DeGraté and Jen Richards) as the first flashback. And wouldn’t you know it: While nothing we saw in Episode 3 was strictly false, most of it was true only from a certain point of view.

The series took its sweet time getting to the big Brendok reveal—and I’ll take my sweet time getting to the part of this piece where I discuss the season’s structure—but now that we’ve watched a more comprehensive account of the coven’s demise, we can finally play the blame game. The Jedi did indeed behave badly, but they weren’t the only ones. Let’s assign responsibility, via bullet points and percentages:

Sol: 51 percent (a symbolic majority share)

  • Bizarrely obsessed with saving twins from imagined danger, an impulse that ends up placing them in danger.
  • Contradicts the Council’s instructions to stop meddling in the coven’s affairs: major main character syndrome. Shows no respect for the chain of command, family relationships, or private property.
  • Kills Aniseya, who was seemingly just trying to whisk Mae away. (After this episode, can anyone explain why Mae suddenly decided to turn herself over to the Jedi in Episode 4?) Granted, it’s easy to misinterpret intent when the witch standing next to you starts making like the smoke monster from Lost, but still: He started it. Aniseya appears to have been unarmed; is that why Mae’s master demanded that Mae kill an unarmed Jedi to complete her mission of vengeance? (Or did he demand that she kill a Jedi without being armed? It’s still tough to say for certain.)
  • Mistakes Mae for Osha, just as he does on Khofar 16 years later. His whole “I feel a connection to Osha; … I feel she is meant to be my Padawan” stance would be a bit more persuasive if he could tell the twins apart. (In fairness to Sol, because the twins are two halves of the same consciousness—hence their creepy rhyme—they’re even more alike than regular twins or clones.)
  • Showed piss-poor telekinesis skills in maxing out at one twin saved from the falling bridge. For Sol, size seems to matter very much. (This is the guy who goes on to train the next generation of Jedi?) But, hey, it’s OK: You don’t have to hold the whole bridge up. Just grab the twins! How hard can that be for someone who’s reputed to be as powerful as Sol—even a younger Sol who hasn’t made master? Are you telling me this man’s max lift is one little girl? (I get that this is a stressful situation, Jedi abilities vary, there could be complications from proximity to the vergence, etc., but it would be nice if Star Wars stories were slightly more consistent about what their space wizards can and can’t do.)
  • It wasn’t his idea to lie about what happened, but he didn’t mount much of a protest. (That goes for Kelnacca and Torbin, too.)

Indara: 10 percent

  • Sure, she wasn’t the instigator—if Sol and Torbin had followed her lead, all would’ve been well—but she let herself be swayed by Sol at first. As the ranking Jedi on the expedition, the buck stops with her. She’s the one who’ll have to file the very vague incident reports.
  • Her “That’s why I have a Padawan and you do not” crack apparently put Sol on tilt.
  • Waited seven weeks to tell her Padawan why he was wandering around Brendok saving seed samples. Which was handy for the writers of The Acolyte, who got to treat Torbin as an audience proxy as they explained the concept of a vergence, but seemed inconsiderate otherwise. I guess that was part of “teach[ing] him to seek the answers for himself.” No wonder he wanted out.
  • I don’t think she meant to kill almost the entire coven when she forced the witches from Kelnacca’s mind, but, well, that’s what happened. Which, on the witches’ end, seems like a serious flaw in that particular Force power. Excuse me, Thread power. Speaking of which, what happened to that “the Thread is not a power you wield” rhetoric from Episode 3? Desperate times, desperate measures, but maybe the witches would’ve been better off practicing what they preached. Or, you know, not practicing. I suppose it’s possible that the witches died not when they were booted from Kelnacca’s brain but in the subsequent explosion, but regardless, the result is the same: carnage of the kind the Nightsisters suffered at the hands—er, mechanical claws?—of General Grievous.
  • She’s the one who perpetrates the cover-up—ostensibly because Osha, who’s already lost everything else, won’t get to fulfill her dream of training to be a Jedi if the unvarnished truth comes out—but we can’t take this quartet at their word when it comes to their “noble intentions.” In this case, the crime is worse than the cover-up, but both are bad.

Mother Aniseya: 10 percent

  • In an attempt to drive the Jedi away from Brendok, turns Torbin’s desire to get back to the bright lights and big city into a pressing need, which backfires when he comes to see the twins as his ticket home.
  • Like Sol, puts her emotional attachment over what’s good for the group—though at least the girl she’s emotionally attached to is her daughter, as opposed to someone else’s daughter whom she met yesterday.
  • It’s good to give your kid some autonomy. But if she’s still a minor—even a Force-sensitive minor whose consciousness was split into two identical bodies by a vergence—you don’t have to let her leave to be “raised by an institution instead of a family.” Especially when you’ve foreseen—maybe through the vergence’s vision-granting power—the destruction of “every Jedi in the galaxy.”
  • In the midst of a tense standoff, a heads-up about the smoke monster transformation probably would’ve been wise.

Torbin: 10 percent

  • Dangerously homesick for Coruscant. Torbin, buddy, I know the feeling of wanting to head home after an interminable business trip, but I draw the line at trespassing. Of course, Torbin might have too, if he’d been in his right mind. Honestly, Torbin is sort of a scapegoat and pays a disproportionate price. Not only was he the only Jedi not to escape physically unscathed, but he also had the decency to withdraw from the world in penance (after he made master, anyway). Though now that we’ve seen what part he played, the decade-long Barash Vow, followed by a poison snack, seems like literal overkill. You were just a Padawan, acting under the influence of a Force witch. These are major extenuating circumstances! Give yourself a break!

Koril: 10 percent

  • Clearly spoiling for a fight from the start; flouts Aniseya’s prohibition of violence. Definitely not trained in de-escalation techniques.
  • Tells Mae to “get angry,” which helps spark (so to speak) the catastrophic outcome. I must have skipped that page in the parenting playbook.
  • Suspiciously absent after the brief, one-way melee with Sol—“Fight me!,” she screams, anticipating Mae’s “Attack me with all your strength!”—and thus seemingly the lone member of the coven to survive, aside from the twins.

Mae: 5 percent

  • So, no, she didn’t mean to start a fire, but she did practice poor fire safety after locking her sister in her room and seemingly sealing everyone else inside the base.
  • Also, all those midi-chlorians and much-ballyhooed blocking abilities, and you can’t extinguish a tiny fire before it mysteriously rages through a stone settlement and blows up a big generator? (By the way: The Jedi frame Force potential in terms of “M-count.” Does the coven call it Thread count?)

Kelnacca: 4 percent

  • He sliced the coven’s elevator. Indara told him to, but still, rude.
  • He allowed his head to get hijacked by the coven, even after seeing the same thing happen to Torbin. Amateur move.

The tragedy on Brendok doesn’t directly implicate the order itself: The Council actually rebukes the quartet for meddling too much even before the body count climbs. One could chalk this disaster up to the actions of a couple of rogue Jedi, and one wouldn’t be wrong. But the roots of the conflict extend deeper.

Because of their past wars with the Sith and their present primacy among Force users, the Jedi are both wary and dismissive of other Force-sensitive sects. Hence Sol’s instant suspicion of the witches and concern for the twins, even though there’s no real evidence that the latter are in any trouble. (Granted, the two quotes from Mae’s mom that Mae cites at her entrance exam—“Everyone must walk through fear” and “Everyone must be sacrificed to fulfill their destiny”—might raise an eyebrow over at CPS also. And then there’s the virgin vergence birth.)

Likewise, while we still haven’t learned the coven’s origin story, we’ve known since the third episode that they were “hunted, persecuted, [and] forced into hiding” because “some would consider [their] power dark.” No wonder they’re on high alert when the Jedi show up. The Jedi and the witches on the scene started the fire, yes, but this is more of an “It was always burning since the world’s been turning” scenario; the powder kegs were pre-supplied.

A lot of ill-advised actions have to be taken for this worst-case outcome to occur, but then, a lot of real-life disasters do arise from dumb mistakes. And it’s not as if there’s no reason for these characters to make missteps like these. Although there’s been some speculation that the Sith may have masterminded this confrontation and conflagration, there was no sign of them this week. Nor were they needed. Bias, bad blood, and intergenerational trauma could have caused these tragic misunderstandings without Sith assistance.

In Episode 3, we saw the same events through Osha’s eyes. This time, we seem to be seeing a wider-ranging version of events—perhaps some amalgamation of the content contained in Sol’s confession to Mae and Osha’s vision in Qimir’s cortosis helmet. If so, it’s possible that we won’t actually see him come clean to the twins next week. But we’ll certainly see the aftermath. When Sol said “I got you” and pulled Osha up from the edge of an abyss in Episode 3, it seemed like a rescue. This time, it seems like a capture. When we reunite with Osha next week, she’ll probably be viewing her whole history with Sol in a new light, too.

Next week, by the way, is the season finale. (Though not the series finale, Leslye Headland hopes.) We can’t fully assess the season’s structure until we see how it ends, but so far, I can’t say it’s working that well for me. I give The Acolyte’s creators kudos for trying something nonstandard for Star Wars—not a shocker, coming from the cocreator and Season 1 showrunner of Russian Doll—but the pacing, timeline hopping, and hoarding of reveals have hurt the spectator experience, at least as a week-to-week watch.

The first full-episode flashback came when we were still familiarizing ourselves with the world of the show, and it didn’t add a lot to our understanding of the present time frame. Saving other big beats for the penultimate episode forced the writers to stall in the interim, withholding or parceling out morsels of information in ways that sometimes seemed contrived. Worse, it meant that we watched most of this season knowing that we didn’t really know the main characters: Our foreknowledge of a deep, dark secret that was due to be unveiled prevented us both from bonding with anyone in the interim and from being surprised when we learned what the storytellers had been holding back. Thus, I’ve watched much of The Acolyte at an emotional remove—which, if nothing else, simulates the Jedi lifestyle. Throw in the abrupt endings to episodes that seemed like they could have been trimmed and combined (especially Episodes 4 and 5) and the momentum-killing absences of core characters during the protracted flashbacks—this week, Manny Jacinto’s mesmerizing “Stranger” remains one to us—and the overall flow seems disjointed.

Let’s hope next week’s big finish smooths it out. But for now, let’s also end in a disjointed fashion: with some stray observations.

  • Well, we finally saw a live-action Wookiee swing a lightsaber on-screen, albeit for a less-than-heroic cause. I’m glad Kelnacca got to do some slashing and hacking, however misguidedly, which fulfilled a fan desire that George Lucas supposedly opposed. (Wookiee Jedi are scarce in the current canon, especially outside of The High Republic.) His fighting style is suitably brutal. But I still say Star Wars needs to let the Wookiees win—not by choking Torbin, but by speaking in an intelligible fashion. Why do Star Wars movies, shows, and comics subtitle the speech of crime lords and low-budget bounty hunters but not the most faithful and forceful of walking carpets? It may be tradition, but it ain’t right.
  • There’s such a stark disparity between the combat in The Acolyte and … well, almost everything else. That’s not to say the series has no other redeeming qualities, but the fight choreography is the one aspect we can confidently point to and pronounce The Acolyte the best in class in Star Wars during the Disney era. If that turns out to be the most lasting legacy of the series—and if some of its influence rubs off on future projects—there are worse ways to be remembered.
  • I’m still a little confused by an Indara line from Episode 3 that we hear again this week: “Mother Aniseya, you cannot deny the Jedi have a right to test potential Padawans. With your permission, of course.” Does this “right” extend to non-Republic worlds? And if it is a right that Aniseya “cannot deny,” then what good would withholding permission do? Presumably, the “permission” part is just a fig leaf obscuring the power dynamic that enables the Jedi to do what they want.
  • “A hundred years ago, this planet was cataloged as lifeless because of a hyperspace disaster,” Indara says about Brendok. That’s one of the series’ rare references to the High Republic books and comics—in this case, a shout-out to the aptly named Great Hyperspace Disaster, in which a freight transport ship broke apart in hyperspace, with devastating consequences. The pieces emerged from hyperspace unpredictably, bombarding various population centers as part of a terrorist plot by an enemy organization known as the Nihil. It’s an extremely long story.
  • Two of Sol’s lines from the Ascension ceremony in “Destiny” are missing in “Choice.” In Episode 3, between Mother Aniseya’s promise, “The scouts will bring Osha to your camp at midday,” and Indara’s response, “We appreciate your cooperation,” Sol interjects, “Both girls. Her sister, too.” In Episode 7, he doesn’t. This omission probably doesn’t reflect anything other than the creators’ desire to limit the amount of repeat material in this episode—which they did a decent job of, given that the format makes some rehashing inevitable—but it does reinforce the impression of unreliable narration. More obviously, Mae didn’t say “I’ll kill you!” to Osha this time. Memory is malleable!
  • Is Sol deluded in thinking that he and Osha are meant to be together, or will he turn out to be right, in a roundabout fashion? The Force works in mysterious ways; maybe Osha was meant to be Sol’s Padawan, despite all the pain their pairing has caused. Osha was seemingly created via vergence; Anakin Skywalker was a vergence. Obi-Wan Kenobi’s mentorship of Anakin didn’t have a happy ending, but as Qui-Gon Jinn anticipated, it worked out for the best for Anakin to leave his mother to join the Jedi, bringing-balance-to-the-Force-wise. (Just forget about the countless people killed by Darth Vader before balance was temporarily achieved.)
  • Now that the Jedi’s lies! and deceptions! have been laid bare, what’s the biggest remaining mystery and/or source of intrigue heading into the finale? Osha confronting Sol about how he misled her? Osha and Mae making up? Which one, if either, becomes the titular acolyte? The question of Sol’s survival, seeing as he may have to take his knowledge of the Sith’s existence to an early grave? The details of Mae’s survival on Brendok, and, relatedly, the whereabouts of Koril? More backstory about the Brendok witches, what the Ascension ceremony does, and whether Sol was right about the vibes being off? The potential for the Stranger to make clear how he fits into the history of the Sith and/or Knights of Ren? (Is that Darth Plagueis’s music?!) Vernestra confronting the Stranger, her possible Padawan of old? (We haven’t seen those characters interact at all, so I’m gonna go with “no” on that, though the prospect of Darth Teeth/Biceps vs. a lightwhip is tasty.) The potential for more of Jacinto to make it past the prudes at Disney? There are plenty of items of interest on this list, but Episode 7 didn’t do much to tee them up.
  • A pop song playing over Star Wars credits? Sure, why not? We’ll have the same song play us out today; take it away, Victoria Monét.

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