The Acolyte proves the Jedi doom themselves by being squares

Trudie Graham
Mae and Osha in The Acolyte poster.

The Acolyte bravely asks, ‘Are the Jedi just a bunch of squares?’ As episodes unfold and The Stranger emotionally manipulates Osha, the answer and consequences are evident.

The original Star Wars trilogy remembers the Jedi Order as an all-knowing, magical source of pure good in the universe; Mythical heroes connected to all living things, protecting the galaxy from the Sith, who ‘do the Force wrong.’

The prequel trilogy, The Last Jedi, and The Acolyte take a different route: the path to hell is paved with good intentions. In Revenge of the Sith, the Jedi’s failure to see the big picture leads to liberty dying to thunderous applause. While in The Last Jedi, Rian Johnson made the bold move of making poster child Luke Skywalker fallible.

This series goes further, portraying The Acolyte Jedi, at their worst, as sanctimonious cultural bulldozers. While the reality of their role in politics, colonization, and Mae’s turn to the dark side is complicated, the series shows why the Sith have little trouble poaching the opposition’s players.

The Jedi create their own monsters

The coven in The Acolyte.

In The Acolyte Episode 3, we flashback to the twins’ childhoods. They lived in a community unlike anything we’ve seen in live-action Star Wars.

It wasn’t a band of Sith, soldiers, or meditating Jedi. Mae and Osha came from a troupe of outliers who expressed their connection to the Force outside of the Order’s understanding.

It’s no mistake Leslye Headland had Jedi steamroll in uninvited to try and impose their way of life (described as morally just and natural) on what is essentially a coven of gay witches — who fans think are linked to the Nightsisters.

While the show carefully avoids villainizing the Jedi by letting Osha choose her fate, she was a child driven by impulse and curiosity. In any other world, this would be outrageous, but because the Order traditionally takes in children and the threat of violence looms in the air, Mother Koril can do little but try and manipulate the odds in their favor.

No faction in The Acolyte is innocent, but Mae would have never walked her bloodthirsty path had the Jedi not stitched the first thread in this tapestry.

Similarly, a teased betrayal in his past motivates Mae’s master: like Kylo Ren, he claims his Jedi Master attacked him.

The Jedi, particularly Master Vernestra, keep The Acolyte’s central mystery hushed. She would rather walk over hot coals than dull the sparkling image of the Jedi Council. Secrets breed secrets, and lies breed lies.

Mae is an extremist reacting to what she believes was real oppression. And the Jedi’s unwavering faith creates just as many villains as it strikes down.

Make the Jedi cool again

Master Vernestra in The Acolyte.Why You Always Lying?

The Jedi have a branding issue. From the High Republic era to Palpatine’s rise to power in Revenge of the Sith, detractors often brand them as bureaucrats out of touch with everyday galactic citizens.

Most Jedi do their best to protect worlds and the lives on them, but they look like a secretive band of self-involved superheroes embedded in power structures.

Worse, a trail of mothers, siblings, friends, and lovers are forced into a no-contact relationship with people who have joined the Jedi – if your hiring process resembles Scientology, it’s bad optics.

The dark side has always been cooler at the surface level because there’s more room for a wide gamut of emotions, connections, and viewpoints. It’s hard for Jedi to compete with Star Wars characters driven purely by emotion because viewers are primed to relate to ones motivated by them.

If you’re someone like Mae, running into the arms of the dark side has more appeal than the stringency of the Order. The dark side embraces human faults, while the Jedi iron them out of younglings.

The Sith’s philosophy is alluring in The Acolyte

The Stranger in The Acolyte.

While The Stranger perhaps isn’t technically a Sith (like Ahsoka Tano, he seems to be a lone wolf), his ideology is more aligned with Sith than Jedi.

The lack of commitment to a cause only makes his arguments more convincing, even to a character like Osha, who until Episode 6 has been absolute in her villainization of Jedi opposition.

We’ve watched her try to sand her edges down around Sol and his squadron, reckon with a lack of purpose after leaving the Order, and steadfastly help hunt Mae. But curiosity gets the better of her when she has the chance to strike The Stranger in Episode 6.

The Stranger doesn’t force-feed ideology, keep her captive, or harm her. He lightly traces over Osha’s emotional scars, points out the Order’s failures, and casually walks around the ‘Unknown Planet’ with an air of complete freedom – from rules and the feeling of failure Osha carries.

In a tense moment after pushing her buttons, Osha snaps and holds his lightsaber to his throat, but fails to deal a decisive blow when The Stranger taps into her fears and shame about leaving the order.

The Jedi’s stringent focus on rules and red tape was their downfall in Revenge of the Sith

Anakin Skywalker in Revenge of the Sith.

We’ve seen it all before. In Revenge of the Sith, Anakin’s secrecy over his relationship and unborn child torment him. He knows the Order doesn’t accept marriage or procreation for active Jedi, so he turns to the only ear that will listen.

That ear belonged to a gaslighting, no-good creep who wanted to overthrow democracy. We know how that ended.

The Order found its prophesized all-powerful Jedi to end the Sith, but their narrow field of view and stuffy way of life led Anakin to find solace elsewhere.

They fail to see the big picture until it’s too late. Even Obi-Wan, aware of Anakin’s relationship and a brotherly mentor, couldn’t prevent Anakin from falling through the cracks.

Suppressing freedom of expression results in bottled-up emotions. Fear and hate lead to the dark side, but they’re also unavoidable feelings. You can’t work through problems you have to hide.

You did actually underestimate his power

Anakin and his mother in The Phantom Menace.

Anakin’s transformation into Darth Vader wasn’t him deciding to be evil; it was a desperate choice when he had lost all trust in a Council that wanted to mold him into a perfect soldier.

Palpatine’s chess match in the prequel trilogy was a calculated long game, but it would not have succeeded had the Jedi not left themselves vulnerable. As usual, they focused too much on the big picture to react to the human problems under their noses.

We see their outdated philosophy bubble up again in The Empire Strikes Back, when Yoda and Obi-Wan try to convince Luke not to save Han and Leia because he’d be walking into a trap. They were right. But Luke’s desire to be a hero to his friends, not the galaxy, motivated him.

Luke would not have been Luke if he hadn’t gone after them. So, a new generation of Jedi, with less structure, was born when he carried the torch.

The story is better this way

Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi.

While nuanced depictions of the Order are incendiary (are we still arguing over The Last Jedi?), the franchise is more promising with their inclusion.

We’ve had golden-boy kinds of heroism in the franchise, and there’s plenty of space to explore the gray areas.

Star Wars has been running for so long that self-interrogation is natural. And it’s not as if Leslye Headland is framing the Jedi as evil. On the contrary, Sol’s haunted face makes him human, and Mae and The Stranger exhibit hypocritical flaws.

Evil is still evil, and good is still good, but stories like The Acolye add tension to the narrative by rejigging long-standing Star Wars traditions.

If the Jedi hadn’t been slightly ignorant in Revenge of the Sith, Anakin might have never turned. If they had politely left when Mae and Osha’s mothers asked them to, we wouldn’t be nearing the end of a solid new TV show on Disney+.

The Jedi buckle under the weight of their self-imposed restrictions, but storytelling should be free to point fingers, create a mess, and ask uncomfortable questions. For example: are the heroes who we think they are, and does The Stranger have a point?

For more Star Wars, check out The Acolyte filming locations and our Unknown Planet theories. We’ve also got plenty to look forward to, including the Andor Season 2 release date and Tales of the Jedi Season 2.