“The Acolyte” review: Star Wars goes woke | WORLD
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The Acolyte

TELEVISION | Woke new Star Wars show extends Disney’s recent missteps and fails as a mystery-thriller

Christian Black / Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM

<em>The Acolyte</em>
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Rated TV-14 • Disney+

Recent Star Wars shows have garnered mixed reviews from critics and elicited disapproval from many fans. The latest series in the franchise, The Acolyte, doubles down on Disney’s recent missteps, and die-hard fans will absolutely hate it.

The Acolyte is set 100 years before the events of George Lucas’ prequel trilogy in which Anakin Skywalker becomes Darth Vader, making the show chronologically the earliest on-screen depiction of the Star Wars universe. Viewers get their first glimpse of the Republic at its height when the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy.

Besides exploring some uncharted territory on the timeline, The Acolyte attempts to introduce a new genre to the franchise. The Mandalorian brought the feel of a dusty Western to the galaxy far, far away, and Andor featured interstellar espionage. The Acolyte bills itself as a mystery thriller, in which the Jedi act as galactic policemen investigating a string of murders.

The story follows twin Force users Osha and Mae (both played by Amandla Stenberg), who were separated as children. Osha took the path of the light side, hoping to become a Jedi Knight, while Mae followed the dark side, becoming a Force-wielding assassin. After Osha is accused of Mae’s crimes, Osha’s old Jedi master (Lee Jung-jae) investigates the murders to clear his former apprentice’s name.

The production values for The Acolyte are strong. The sets and special effects are top-notch, and the action sequences provide plenty of thrills. The series, which includes Carrie-Anne Moss playing a Jedi version of her Trinity character from The Matrix, turns lightsaber battles into intricately choreographed kung fu. But the new setting and splashy visuals aren’t enough to save this cringe-inducing story.

Disney only gave reviewers access to the first half of the series, which runs through July 16, but from what I’ve seen, I don’t hold out much hope for the second half. Turning Star Wars into a murder mystery in space with Jedi detectives intrigued me, but early in the first episode, I knew the series wouldn’t live up to its promise. There’s no mystery or suspense for the audience, and showrunner Leslye Headland fails to create a successful police procedural.

The investigation makes no sense, and the Jedi detectives are incredibly stupid, asking all the wrong questions and dismissing the most obvious clues. The plot is full of holes, and the characters’ actions aren’t rooted in convincing motivations. Even worse is the terrible dialogue that’s laden with boring exposition and platitudes, which the actors deliver with wooden pretentiousness.

If those deficiencies weren’t enough to condemn The Acolyte in the eyes of the fan base, the show’s wokeness will finish the job. The series engages in some heavy queer baiting—the practice of including apparently gay characters while leaving some ambiguity. We even get a lesbian coven of Force witches who get preachy about the galaxy not welcoming “women like us.”

Should we be surprised? The showrunner is gay and so is much of the cast. Disney checks all its DEI boxes, and in this galaxy that eventually gives rise to the very white, very male Empire, there are surprisingly few white men. The show even includes a scene in which a character awkwardly asks about someone’s pronouns. Maybe the Empire didn’t snuff out the Republic. Maybe it was wokeness.

Collin Garbarino

Collin is WORLD’s arts and culture editor. He is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Louisiana State University and resides with his wife and four children in Sugar Land, Texas.



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