Family bonds run tight throughout the Star Wars Universe, beginning with the Skywalkers within the Original Trilogy, later stretching into the prequel trilogy and the Solos and the Palpatines wrapping up the Sequel Trilogy. Those ties continue, possibly even stronger, in The Acolyte, which throws in a dash of the Chinese yin-yang theory for good measure: Opposite-but-interconnected forces are found throughout the universe, combining to become more powerful together than apart, and this is how the new Disney Plus series begins.

Taking place 100 years before The Phantom Menace at the conclusion of the High Republic era, an assassin has begun hunting down Jedi. As details slowly emerge, it seems this villain has been secretly taught the ways of The Force, which only expand upon their skillset. And as Episode 1 opens, for the first time, the audience is shown a Jedi with impressive hand-to-hand combat training as if black belts were a thing back then.

Once a suspect has been identified, Osha’s backstory emerges. Originally a promising Padawan, she abandons the Jedi Order after the death of her family. Emotionally shattered, she blames herself and later picks up illegal jobs as a starship meknek. Is it possible Osha’s gone unconscious and becomes evil? That she’s not an antihero, but a full-blown killer? Nope, she’s got a long-lost twin sister, Mae, who somehow survives the family’s ordeal. Could a mistaken identity bring the sisters together and perhaps restore Osha’s faith in the Jedi?

“You do not want to go down this road. This is a fight that you will not win…”

In the first four episodes (out of eight), it seems Osha has had a complicated past with the Jedi Council (which is another familiar theme for the franchise), as well as her sister. Both characters are played by Amandla Stenberg, who does a good enough job making Osha passive, while Mae is impatiently and violently responsive. While the Evil Twin trope has been around forever, this is the first time that I can remember it’s entered canon.

While much of the first two episodes centers around a murder mystery, I was beginning to think Creator-Showrunner Leslye Headland created a new subgenre: Star Wars: C.S.I. Thankfully, by the third episode, that narrative changes. While Osha remains the main focus, Jedi Master Sol (Lee Jung-jae) carries much of the narrative’s weight, so much so I was beginning to think this series was actually centered around his character, instead.

So, will the Jedi get involved with a former pupil and possibly admit to past misdeeds in order to prevent future deaths? That answer feels pretty obvious.

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

What’s old is new again, as a droid warden transports prisoners to their cells, and Osha’s handheld droid often substitutes for her only friend, as well as the show’s comedy relief. The Neimodians of the Trade Federation return (along with the bad dubbing of their mouths), as well as so many younglings and a return visit to Coruscant… and there’s just something about icy, snow-filled caves for this franchise.

Without spoiling anything, it seems the previously established Sith Law of Two has been tossed out the window. These antagonists have hidden within the shadows of the franchise for a very long time before announcing their arrival, but if Episode 1 won’t be retconned with the alarming arrival of Darth Maul to the Jedi, it feels like this show will need to tiptoe around previously established Big Bads of the era. Just how many Sith are out there, a long time ago… And since our evil apprentice doesn’t even know the name/dual identity of her Master, it will be quite the reveal in future episodes. I just hope this all-new, helmeted, voice-enhanced and caped Big Bad that’s only shown for a few seconds through four episodes isn’t immediately killed off. I’m intrigued to learn more about the goals of this Sith.

For quite a while now, I’ve had a love-hate affair with prequels. Beginning with The Phantom Menace but leading into other franchises, I simply haven’t enjoyed backstories as much as the future adventures of well-established series. That complaint holds true for this show, but it could have been so much worse. After reading the online responses of fans to the Obi-Wan and Ahsoka spinoff series, I was shocked to learn the budget for The Acolyte (at $180 million) was apparently a whole lot more than that of the legacy characters’ shows. I’m not exactly sure what that means in the long run, especially since I haven’t watched either one.

While I’ve voluntarily been sitting out the Star Wars game for a while now, this entry features so many wire-work stunts to go with its martial-arts battles, it also feels like the John Wick-ification of my once-beloved sci-fi franchise is now taking place within a completely different genre (or is it The Matrix, since Carrie-Anne Moss is showcased?).

Final Thoughts: Cries of Disney’s woke storylines will be revived with yet another female lead character in the franchise (make that two). This good-evil pair is a minority (whose characters have two mothers BTW). The main characters must finally face their past, after many years of ignoring it. The authority of power and who gets to use it is brought up, as well as having the courage to think for yourself as a main theme. And Michael Abels does a great job standing in for John Williams providing a terrific orchestral soundtrack, evoking big-time big-screen feelings of films’ past.

While the overall revenge plan is slowly revealing itself, 16 years in the making, we still don’t know the whole story. I’m hoping the details of this all-new Big Bad tie up some of the loose threads of the Season 1 storyline. But I’m afraid this new Dark Side force to be reckoned with won’t get another opportunity to showcase his or her powers outside of this series. Hopefully, there will be more stories involving this still unidentified character.

“We’re not defined by what we lose… we’re defined by what we survive.”