Friday, June 14, 2024
Television

Acolytes, Witches, And The Dark Side Of The Shadows

Mae (Amandla Stenberg) in Lucasfilm’s THE ACOLYTE, season one, exclusively on Disney+. ©2024 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

Where to Watch: Disney Plus

Release Date: June 4, 2024

Episodes: 8


Starring:
Amandla Stenberg, Lee Jung-jae, Manny Jacinto, Dafne Keen, Charlie Barnett, Jodie Turner-Smith, Rebecca Henderson, Dean-Charles Chapman, Joonas Suotamo, and Carrie-Anne Moss.

The Star Wars franchise has consistently delivered quality shows on Disney+, and their latest offering, The Acolyte, is no exception. I was able to catch the first four episodes, and I must say I was surprised by what was put together.  This new series set a century before the prequel films, follows the esteemed Jedi Master Sol (Lee Jung-jae) as he confronts a shocking murder spree, leading him to a formidable warrior from his past, Mae (Amandla Stenberg). As their investigation unfolds, a web of secrets is revealed, exposing dark forces threatening to shatter everything the Jedi thought they knew. With its unique timeline and compelling storyline, The Acolyte will interest existing Star Wars fans and new viewers alike.

Performances

I started the series without knowing Mae or her role in the Star Wars franchise, mainly to keep my expectations fresh. I must admit that Amandla Stenberg did an exceptional job portraying both Mae and her twin, Osha. Stenberg’s performance as Mae, the talented former padawan turned assassin, was particularly compelling. Mae’s character is mysterious and showcases exceptional skills in both “The Force” and hand-to-hand combat, making her a captivating presence on screen. The big questions are: who is her teacher, what is their motivation, and what power do they possess? Lastly, what kind of awesomeness will we see with a Wookie Jedi?!

Jedi Master Kelnacca (Joonas Suotamo) in Lucasfilm’s THE ACOLYTE, season one, exclusively on Disney+. ©2024 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

Osha, on the other hand, is more reserved, having abandoned her padawan teachings to live as a freelance mechanic working on ships. She still has the power of “The Force” within her, but will she be able to tap into it and become as formidable as her twin sister? I can only assume her character will evolve as the series continues. 

Jung-jae’s performance as Sol left me with the impression that Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) were his mentors and masters of “The Force”. He is calm and sympathetic but deadly at the same time. Because of his past as a teacher, and especially to his former students Mae and Osha, he carries the burden of being responsible for Mae’s reign of murders. It’s clear he could easily take out Mae but doesn’t due to his belief in redemption and rehabilitation—or perhaps just plain ol’ guilt.

Until we get confirmation on whether we’ll see an adult X-23 return to the MCU (with rumors that she may appear in the Deadpool & Wolverine movie), we can enjoy Dafne Keen as young Padawan Jecki Lon. She’s one of the many joining Sol on his search to find the killer of the master Jedi. While she doesn’t have the show-stealing action scenes we saw in Logan, it’s still interesting to watch her in another popular sci-fi franchise as a badass Jedi.

Charlie Barnett, as Yord Fandar, a young Padawan and Sol’s top pupil, is also a close friend to Osha. He is talented and able to hold his own against enemies, even formidable against Mae, who seems to be one of the top fighters in the series, with room to grow! Given his past with Osha, Yord must stay true to Jedi teachings while trying not to let their relationship interfere with his ascension through the Jedi order.

Jodie Turner-Smith as Mother Aniseya was one of my favorite characters outside of Mae and Pip (Osha’s handheld droid akin to R2-D2 or BB-8). Aniseya is a force-sensitive witch and leader of the coven who raised Mae and Osha. Her Afrocentric look and commanding, regal on-screen presence are captivating. I wouldn’t mind seeing a short spin-off about her origin story.

(L-R): Olega Master (Nick Court), Jedi Padawan Jecki Lon (Dafne Keen), Master Sol (Lee Jung-jae) and Yord Fandar (Charlie Barnett) in Lucasfilm’s THE ACOLYTE, season one, exclusively on Disney+. ©2024 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

The Action

The Acolyte is filled with great action scenes, especially because we see more hand-to-hand combat martial arts combined with creative uses of “The Force”. Mae is particularly impressive, taking on some of the most powerful Jedi at various points. It will be interesting to see the extent of her full power.

The first episode starts off with an action-packed and intense lightsaber battle. After that, the series has moments of slow pacing, which is why I’m happy that Disney is releasing two episodes initially. This gives the audience an opportunity to connect with the series and stay tuned for what I believe is a great cliffhanger in episode two. As I mentioned before, Mae has the most interesting story out of all the characters. I wonder what’s going on in her head, given what’s taken place in her childhood and her desire for destruction.

I’m particularly interested in the backstory of the witches in the Star Wars universe. They seem formidable to the Jedi, especially given that the Jedi are known for their immense power. Despite this, the witches did not fear the Jedi; they only feared the number of Jedi, given their own small, isolated group.

CGI/Environments

There is no waste of money on the CGI in this series. The vast environments are filled with color and are more lively than what audiences might be used to—at least that was the case for me. There are some new locations outside of Coruscant, mainly due to the height of Jedi power in the High Republic before the Sith order began to overtake things.

Shout out to the costume design team for their effort in creating these various characters with diverse skin tones, textures, and anatomical makeup. Nothing in the series made me question the characters’ existence in the scene or the environment.

(L-R): Yord Fandar (Charlie Barnett) and Jedi Padawan Jecki Lon (Dafne Keen) in Lucasfilm’s THE ACOLYTE, season one, exclusively on Disney+. ©2024 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.


Conclusion


The Acolyte has a bunch of interesting characters with intriguing motivations. As a precursor, it sets up a story where we see the Jedi not as the mighty powerful do-gooders we are used to but as intimidating enforcers of peace with questionable methods. After watching the first four episodes, I give it a 7/10. The biggest drawback is the pacing at times, but otherwise, it’s a series I’m invested in completing and discussing with my fellow Star Wars fans. With a cliffhanger at the end of episode four, I am eagerly anticipating what comes next.

Dapper Dr Feel

Felipe Patterson aka Dapper Dr. Feel, #BlackLoveConvo & Entertainment | @fdapperdr Dapper Dr. Feel is a Entertainment journalist and member of the Critics Choice Association and African American Film Association.

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