Mae (Amandla Stenberg) in Lucasfilm's 'The Acolyte', exclusively on Disney+.

Mae (Amandla Stenberg) in Lucasfilm's 'The Acolyte', exclusively on Disney+. ©2024 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

Landing on Disney+ on June 4th with its first two episodes, ‘The Acolyte’ sees ‘Russian Doll’ co-creator and showrunner Leslye Headland given the chance to put her own stamp on that galaxy far, far away. And based on the initial episodes provided to press, has come up with something that hews more towards the nuance of ‘Andor’ than some of the recent bloated mythology powering small-screen ‘Star Wars’.

‘The Acolyte’ boasts some impressive performances from an even more diverse cast that the likes of ‘The Mandalorian’, and –– so far, at least –– is one of the better Disney+ offerings.

Related Article: The Jedi Are Under Threat in the Trailer for ‘Star Wars: The Acolyte’

Does ‘The Acolyte’ offer something new?

Vernestra Rwoh (Rebecca Henderson) and Master Sol (Lee Jung-jae) in Lucasfilm's 'The Acolyte', exclusively on Disney+.

(L to R) Vernestra Rwoh (Rebecca Henderson) and Master Sol (Lee Jung-jae) in Lucasfilm's 'The Acolyte', exclusively on Disney+. ©2024 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

After the galaxy of space fantasy stories originated by George Lucas came soaring back –– this time to small screens –– under guidance of Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni with ‘The Mandalorian’, we’ve mostly been spending time in their shared world of post-‘Return of the Jedi’ adventures featuring the bounty hunter and his merchandise-motherlode companion Grogu (AKA “Baby Yoda”).

There have certainly been detours elsewhere (most notably Tony Gilroy’s darker, deeper ‘Andor’, which followed the title character (played by Diego Luna) in the years before ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’, and now, via Headland, this latest effort. Though it feels a lot like classic ‘Star Wars’ –– there are Jedis, lightsabers and droids everywhere –– the new show also has a grown-up, more nuanced approach to the story, letting you ponder the nature of good, evil and the use of the Force in its moments of stillness broken by impressive fight scenes.

‘The Acolyte’: Script and Direction

Amandla Stenberg , set PA Taylor Young, director Leslye Headland and director of photography Chris Teague on the set of Lucasfilm's The Acolyte', exclusively on Disney+.

(L to R) Amandla Stenberg , set PA Taylor Young, director Leslye Headland and director of photography Chris Teague on the set of Lucasfilm's 'The Acolyte', exclusively on Disney+. ©2024 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

Leslye Headland is certainly not the first person you would expect to be handed (or want to make) a new ‘Star Wars’ series, but that definitely works in its favor. The writer/director best known for Netflix series ‘Russian Doll’ and movies such as ‘Bachelorette’ and ‘Sleeping with Other People.’ But it’s clear from this that she also brings a passion for intense, and interesting ‘Star Wars’ to the new show.

Working alongside a writing team that also includes Jason Micallef, Kor Adana, Charmaine DeGrate, Jasmyne Flournoy, Jocelyn Bioh, Claire Kiechel, Jen Richards, Eileen Shim and Cameron Squires, she has come up with a story that focuses on Amandla Stenberg’s dual role as sister Osha and Mae, one a former Jedi recruit, the other burning with revenge against the order. We won’t go too much further into the plot so as to leave the narrative spoilers intact, but the series in its early going dials down into a very personal story of pain and redemption and tackles the idea of the Jedi in a fresh new way.

Jedi Master Kelnacca (Joonas Suotamo) sitting next to Jedi speeder bike in a scene from Lucasfilm's 'The Acolyte', exclusively on Disney+.

Jedi Master Kelnacca (Joonas Suotamo) sitting next to Jedi speeder bike in a scene from Lucasfilm's 'The Acolyte', exclusively on Disney+. ©2024 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

Setting the story when the order is at its height and peace is seemingly prosperous in the galaxy, allows for exploring the basic concepts of ‘Star Wars’ with appealing thought and emotion. As one character says, “it’s not about good or bad. It’s about power, and who gets to utilize it.” While the idea of people feeling less than thrilled with the Jedi is something that has been touched on before, this is a more complicated story that is still easy to grasp.

Headland also directs a couple of episodes, working here with some regular collaborators including Hanelle M. Culpepper, Alex Garcia Lopez and Kogonada, and the show is a visual treat, eschewing an overuse of volume work for plenty of practical sets and location shooting that, while it doesn’t rival ‘Andor’ for tactility, is still a great watch.

‘The Acolyte’: Performances

Mae (Amandla Stenberg) in Lucasfilm's 'The Acolyte', exclusively on Disney+.

Mae (Amandla Stenberg) in Lucasfilm's 'The Acolyte', exclusively on Disney+. ©2024 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

Amandla Stenberg carries the emotional load of the series, playing twin sisters whose lives diverge in very different ways. They bring real depth to the characters, making for an engaging lead and guide through the story.

Lee Jung-jae as Sol

Master Sol (Lee Jung-jae) in Lucasfilm's 'The Acolyte', exclusively on Disney+.

Master Sol (Lee Jung-jae) in Lucasfilm's 'The Acolyte', exclusively on Disney+. ©2024 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

The ‘Squid Games’ veteran is also given the chance to play a complicated character, as his Sol is a Jedi master burdened with guilt and looking for a chance to vanquish the ghosts of his past. He brings a deep well of feeling to the character and is always watchable.

Dafne Keen as Jecki Lon

Jedi Padawan Jecki Lon (Dafne Keen) and Master Lakshay (Paul Bullion) in Lucasfilm's 'The Acolyte', exclusively on Disney+.

(Center to right) Jedi Padawan Jecki Lon (Dafne Keen) and Master Lakshay (Paul Bullion) in Lucasfilm's 'The Acolyte', exclusively on Disney+. ©2024 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

Keen, seen in ‘Logan’ and HBO’s ‘His Dark Materials’, is a Padawan who serves alongside Sol. Keen brings her to life with charm and bright-eyed energy, and a sprit that makes her more than just a robed warrior.

Other Notable Performances

Jedi Master Indara (Carrie-Anne Moss) in Lucasfilm's 'The Acolyte', exclusively on Disney+.

Jedi Master Indara (Carrie-Anne Moss) in Lucasfilm's 'The Acolyte', exclusively on Disney+. ©2024 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

We’d also give nods to Manny Jacinto as Qimir, a moral-free type who helps Mae on her vengeful quest and has ties to the mysterious master who has helped her hone her Force-wielding skills. 'The Good Place’ star is always entertaining and brings goofiness tinged with darkness to the screen.

And then there is Jodie Turner-Smith, playing a role we won’t discuss at this juncture, but offers her usual presence to the role, stillness balanced with power.

Finally, Carrie-Anne Moss is one of the headliners, but so far in the series hasn’t had too much chance to make an impact beyond an initial cool fight scene.

‘The Acolyte’: Final Thoughts

Yord Fandar (Charlie Barnett), Jedi Padawan Jecki Lon (Dafne Keen) and Master Sol (Lee Jung-jae) in Lucasfilm's 'The Acolyte', exclusively on Disney+.

(L-R, front row) Yord Fandar (Charlie Barnett), Jedi Padawan Jecki Lon (Dafne Keen) and Master Sol (Lee Jung-jae) in Lucasfilm's 'The Acolyte', exclusively on Disney+. ©2024 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

The “anti-woke” brigade and those who whine about any differences ruining their childhood experience of ‘Star Wars’ might not love what they see, but everyone else should find something to enjoy.

‘The Acolyte’ works on different levels, at once channeling old school ‘Star Wars’ while offering new viewpoints on traditional stories. If this and ‘Andor’ are what happens when Lucasfilm ventures outside of the usual channels for their trips to that galaxy, then long may they continue to experiment.

‘The Acolyte’: receives 8.5 out of 10 stars.

The Acolyte

The Acolyte

"In an age of light, a darkness rises."
60
TV-141 SeasonsJune 4th, 2024

What’s the story of ‘The Acolyte’?

In ‘The Acolyte’, An investigation into a shocking crime spree pits a respected Jedi Master (Lee Jung-jae) against a dangerous warrior from his past (Amandla Stenberg). As more clues emerge, they travel down a dark path where sinister forces reveal all is not what it seems…

Who else is in ‘The Acolyte’?

‘The Acolyte’ also features Manny Jacinto, Dafne Keen, Charlie Barnett, Jodie Turner-Smith, Rebecca Henderson, Dean-Charles Chapman, Joonas Suotamo and Carrie-Anne Moss.

(L to R) Mae (Amandla Stenberg) and Jedi Master Indara (Carrie-Anne Moss) in Lucasfilm's 'The Acolyte', exclusively on Disney+.

(L to R) Mae (Amandla Stenberg) and Jedi Master Indara (Carrie-Anne Moss) in Lucasfilm's 'The Acolyte', exclusively on Disney+. ©2024 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

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