'Star Wars: The Acolyte' episode 3: How do the Brendok witches use the Force?

characters in robes look at one another in a dingy cave-like structure
Mother Aniseya and her followers in The Acolyte, a new Star Wars series on Disney Plus. (Image credit: Disney+)

The two-episode premiere of The Acolyte, the latest live-action Star Wars series, was interesting and refreshing, mainly because the idea alone of a thriller set at the tail-end of the High Republic era is something we'd never seen before. However, we weren't too convinced by the bumpy pacing, some bits of awkward dialogue, and the uneven visual presentation.

Episode 3, directed by Kogonada (After Yang) and co-written by Jasmyne Flournoy and Eileen Smith, finds its voice more easily and actually feels like an episode of television instead of a chunk of a very long movie; the latter has been a recurring problem in many of the Disney Plus shows coming from Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm. There's a distinct story arc being told, and scenes have time to breathe and land some powerful hits. The direction also feels more consistent this time around, albeit some moments could have used better-staged shots and lighting.

Regardless of the reservations we might have about how the overall series is flowing or is presented, it's abundantly clear by now that creator Leslye Headland had a story that was worth telling in mind and has managed to bring it to life without making too many concessions. So far, The Acolyte comes across as the kind of Star Wars story fans who actually like the franchise (despite its ups and downs) were clamoring for. It's adding to the mythology at every turn and daring to ask some big questions that traditionally have been limited to Legends stories; as a result, the Star Wars galaxy is feeling, for the first time in a while, larger instead of smaller.

Sol offers Osha an alternative. (Image credit: Disney+)

If you're looking for more Star Wars deep dives, our ranked lists on the best Star Wars moviesStar Wars TV shows, and Star Wars games have the droids (and Jedi) you're looking for. The next exciting entry for gamers will be Star Wars Outlaws, which will take into the galaxy's criminal underworld with the franchise's first-ever open-world adventure.

Spoilers ahead for The Acolyte episode 3: "Destiny"

Who are the witches of Brendok?

Mother Aniseya welcomes the Jedi. (Image credit: Disney+)

Longtime Star Wars fans know the Jedi aren't the only Force-sensitive beings that can tap into the Force and wield it. Over the galaxy’s many centuries of space exploration, more cults and sects popped up, each with its own understanding of the Force and how it connects living beings across space and even time. "Ahsoka" already brought many of those ideas into live-action after numerous on-screen explorations in animation and, of course, countless comic books, novels, and video games over the decades.

The all-female group of witches we meet in "Destiny" doesn't appear to have any sort of connection to the Witches of Dathomir though. The women who seemingly gave birth to (more on that later) and raised Mae and Osha are far more peaceful and welcoming than other cults fans have seen before. They also don't appear to be native to Brendok, as Mother Aniseya (Jodie Turner-Smith) comments on how they're essentially on the run and trying to build a new life for themselves on the now-colonized planet.

These witches talk of a "Thread" that connects everything and everyone together, and which can be manipulated. This belief goes against the Force as understood by the Jedi and those who respect or follow their religion: the Force surrounds everyone and guides us in ways that are hard to predict. While the Jedi trust the Force and let it guide them, these witches appear to be more proactive, tapping into its connections, and protecting that "tapestry" in their own ways. As far as we know, they don't practice the fearsome Dathomirian witches' dark magic, or are looking to use the Force as a strong weapon and source of unnatural power like the Sith.

Mae and Osha's birth might explain Anakin Skywalker's conception

Osha and Mae with Mother Aniseya. (Image credit: Disney+)

One of the biggest unanswered questions of the enduring Star Wars mythos is how the central figure of Anakin Skywalker was conceived. According to his mother, Shmi, in "The Phantom Menace": "There was no father." 

Such a revelation isn't questioned by Qui-Gon Jinn nor the other members of the Jedi Order. Instead, Anakin's uncommon strength in the Force and almost miraculous piloting abilities are taken as signs of him being "the Chosen One" that will bring balance to the Force. The prophecy was likely one of the Jedi Order's many failings, yet Anakin's ultimate sacrifice as Darth Vader helped save his son and the galaxy, which in turn allowed Rey to learn from them and finally destroy Darth Sidious decades later.

Over the years, fans have theorized either Darth Plagueis (Sidious' master) or even Sidious himself could've "created" Anakin unbeknownst to Shmi Skywalker, as the prequel trilogy teased that Sheev Palpatine (Sidious' public persona) had access to unnatural abilities thanks to forbidden studies of the Force and its nature. Plagueis managed to create life through the manipulation of the midichlorians, and Sidious promised Anakin the knowledge required to save his wife from the death found in his troubling visions. Decades later, Sidious did indeed cheat death himself through the combined use of dark arts, forbidden knowledge, and twisted science.

In "The Acolyte's" third episode, we learn that Mother Aniseya and her Zabrak partner created and carried the twin sisters (Mae and Osha) respectively. Such a reveal might feel like an unforgivable sin and "betrayal" of the Star Wars lore to many fans, yet the pieces were already there, waiting to be used sooner or later. Headland is tapping into both the pre-existing (but current) Star Wars canon and the Legends stories that diehard fans claim to know and love, and an old coven of witches is kind of the perfect group to see "tinkering" with the Force/Thread in strange ways. In fact, we wouldn’t be surprised if a Sith connection pops up sooner or later, further strengthening the links to the larger mythos. 

The Jedi aren't okay with small cults using the Force

The Jedi come looking for the twins. (Image credit: Disney+)

As teased by the first two episodes, in Episode 3 we learn how Mae killed the sisters' family (the witches) and disappeared, plus why she blames the Jedi for everything bad that happened on Brendok. Long story short: Mae overreacted to Osha's desire to leave the coven and the planet in order to become a Jedi.

Even before the four Jedi (Sol, Indara, Torbin, and Kelnacca) arrived on Brendok, Osha was struggling with the coven's beliefs and her lack of individuality due to her strange (and not just natural) connection to Mae. Aniseya and the other witches don't do much to help her, resorting instead to the empty promise of "things will start making sense as you grow up," but it's abundantly clear from the get-go that Osha's place isn't with the witches of Brendok. Once the Jedi show up, she sees a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to leave the coven behind and see the galaxy as someone else.

The witches' peacefulness, at least under Aniseya's guidance, is on display when nosy Jedi enter their fortress without being invited and essentially claim the right to test and train the twin sisters. After several wars with the Sith and other bad experiences with sects and cults of Force-sensitives, it's half-understandable why they'd want to keep such groups in check, yet they are low-key claiming to be the "right" Force users the galaxy needs. Their religion is the only "good" one. This is yet another worrying sign of the growing issues and pride at the center of the Order that will ultimately doom it.

Torbin as a young Padawan. (Image credit: Disney+)

After being told to lie during the first Jedi test (which is the same seen in The Phantom Menace), Osha tells the Jedi the truth and expresses to the coven her desire to become a Jedi. Aniseya — exquisitely played by Turner-Smith — is sad but soon understands where the girl is coming from, yet Mae, much like a toxic partner, would rather see her sister burn than let her leave the planet.

The destruction of the coven's fortress is perhaps the episode's weakest scene, as it feels rushed and also a bit non-sensical; it's never made clear why and how the witches die so quickly, with the fire causing a number of explosions that don't look especially deadly. At this point, Osha is saved by Sol and leaves with the Jedi to become one of them. As for Mae, they didn’t lie when they said they watched her die. But as we all know, falling into a pit isn't a firm death sentence in the Star Wars universe, and we’re willing to bet a certain (dark) someone took advantage of the situation.

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Fran Ruiz

Fran Ruiz is our resident Star Wars guy. His hunger for movies and TV series is only matched by his love for video games. He got a BA of English Studies, focusing on English Literature, from the University of Malaga, in Spain, as well as a Master's Degree in English Studies, Multilingual and Intercultural Communication. On top of writing features and other longform articles for Space.com since 2021, he is a frequent collaborator of VG247 and other gaming sites. He also serves as associate editor over at Star Wars News Net and its sister site, Movie News Net.