'Star Wars: The Acolyte' episodes 1 & 2: Who's really behind the Jedi murder mystery?

people in long dull-colored robes swing laser swords of various colors
Mae meets with her dark master. (Image credit: Disney+)

Nearly five years into live-action Star Wars shows for Disney Plus, the batting average isn't bad despite a couple of crushing disappointments. 

Recently, we saw an expansion of the New Republic-era storytelling and the mythology with the first season of "Ahsoka." It's going to be a while before we see "Andor" season 2, but 2024 is bringing us "The Acolyte" and "Skeleton Crew," two very distinct series that aim to shake things up.

The Acolyte's first two episodes have finally arrived after widely positive reviews and shaky reports on its possible cancellation after season 1. Of course, the series' biggest draw is that it takes viewers to the High Republic era of the Star Wars universe, which had only been explored before in comic books, novels and Young Jedi Adventures, a cute little animated show for kids. With the Jedi Order at the peak of its power and the galaxy enjoying a period of relative peace, what were the hidden Sith up to before the events of The Phantom Menace?

In its first two episodes, the Leslye Headland-created series rapidly finds its voice, sets a compelling tone, and introduces several characters that could become fan-favorites in the long run, yet the uneven cinematography, some awkward dialogues, and weirdly cut scenes take the overall result down a notch. As new directors come into the fold and all the pieces are laid on the table, "The Acolyte" could become a far more polished show, so we're holding our breath.

Want more Star Wars fun and knowledge? These ranked lists of the best Star Wars moviesStar Wars TV shows, and Star Wars games will scratch that itch. The next exciting launch for gamers will be Star Wars Outlaws, which will take us deep into the galaxy's criminal underworld with the franchise's first-ever true open-world adventure.

Spoilers ahead for The Acolyte episodes 1 & 2: 'Lost/Found' and 'Revenge/Justice'

Who's the acolyte and her Sith master?

The mysterious Sith villain. (Image credit: Disney+)

"The Acolyte" hits the ground running with a wuxia-inspired action sequence with clean choreography work closer to that of Marvel Studios' "Shang-Chi" than Disney's dreadful Mulan remake. It also uses one of its secret weapons as soon as it can: "The Matrix" star Carrie-Anne Moss. She and Amandla Stenberg (who have their work cut out for them) have a stylish hand-to-hand fight all over a bar located on the planet Ueda. The acolyte is clearly too impetuous, but she's skilled nonetheless, eventually creating a distraction to deal a final blow to Master Indara.

The season premiere already hits fans and casual viewers alike with two big twists: one of the biggest actors in the show won't be around much (we've yet to see Moss in some flashbacks), and Amandla Stenberg actually plays two different characters, twin sisters separated during an incident. The latter has been revealed by the marketing materials as we approached the series' release, yet someone coming in fresh might be shocked. Also, the story doesn't spend much time on the pursuit of Osha (the good sister), as the truth behind the real identity of the killer becomes clear in the final moments of the episode.

Murder mysteries revealing who did the killings aren't an uncommon sight, and in the case of "The Acolyte," the trailers and spots already made it clear that Amandla Stenberg (as Mae, the bad sister) was behind them. However, it was reasonable to expect much of the series to be a pursuit of Osha and her trying to prove her innocence. Thankfully, that question is quickly resolved and a bigger mystery is established: Why does Mae want to take revenge, and who's the dark lord she serves? For now, Stenberg's performance as Mae is far more interesting to watch than her bits as the seemingly innocent Osha.

The Jedi of the High Republic are more proactive, but also as proud as the ones we know

Master Sol and the Jedi younglings. (Image credit: Disney+)

The High Republic books and comics have done a fantastic job of ushering in a brand-new era of the Star Wars galaxy for other forms of media — such as video games, with Star Wars Eclipse leading the charge — to mine and populate with fresh stories, worlds, and characters. In a way, "The Acolyte" actually closer to the events of "The Phantom Menace" (roughly 100 years before those events) than the start of the High Republic novels, at least when it comes to the style of the narration. The Jedi, while still acting as paladins rather than secluded monks, are starting to exhibit negative traits like underestimating any and all threats to their existence, and the roster of Jedi characters excels at painting a colorful picture the Order.

An immediate standout is Lee Jung-jae's Sol, a calm yet flexible Jedi Master who'd be good friends with Qui-Gon Jinn if they lived during the same period. Attachment is one of the biggest 'no's' for the Jedi, and Sol doesn't let himself get too emotional when news about Osha and Mae are revealed to him. Still, it's abundantly clear he deeply cares about his former Padawan (Osha), who dropped her Jedi training and went off to work as an out-of-ship techie — with the pocket-sized droid Pip — for the Trade Federation (yes, Neimoidians are back and look fantastic). Lee Jung-jae's performance (his first English-language role) works so far and feels profoundly human, something that carries him through the choppy bits of dialogue (in full George Lucas fashion) that crop up from time to time.

Yord readies for combat. (Image credit: Disney+)

Headland smartly dropped the opposite type of Jedi right beside him as a foil: Yord Fandar, a by-the-book Knight who still has much to learn about the reality of hunting down odd criminals and the interior diplomacy of the Jedi. Charlie Barnett's character is becoming a fan-favorite for sure, as there's a comedic factor (at his expense) to his stoicism and how Sol and his new Padawan, Jecki Lon (Dafne Keen), start 'running circles' around him. Still, you just know he's the kind of Jedi you want to be friends with.

Last but not least, Keen's Jecki Lon was clearly affected by Sol's humanity at a young age and appears to be a problem-solver that enjoys thinking outside the box. It explains why she immediately connects with Osha and her version of the murderous events that happen early on, and the relationship between the two could be a surprising one.

Many fans are surely eager to see more of Vernestra Rwoh (Rebecca Henderson) once she steps out of the Jedi Temple on Coruscant and starts using her lightsaber-whip, but for now, she's got a small supporting role and that's it. Likewise, our veteran Wookiee actor Joonas Suotamo as Kelnacca is only teased during the final scene of the second episode.

What really happened between Osha, Mae, and the Jedi?

Osha relives the past. (Image credit: Disney+)

The trip to the planet Olega in the second episode raises further questions as Mae takes on Master Torbin (Dean-Charles Chapman) and fails to break through his deep Force-powered meditation and the resulting protective 'bubble' of sorts. A second try with an unhealthy dose of poison does the trick, yet it's Torbin himself who decides to talk and drink the poison to atone for something he and the other three Jedi that are targeted did.

We know that Mae and Osha lived on Brendok, and a fire resulted in the death of their family and Mae's disappearance (she was long-believed to be dead as well). Osha was then recruited by the Jedi, but what else is there in this story? The previews have shown us flashbacks of Sol first meeting Osha, who appeared to be living with a coven of witches led by Mother Aniseya (Jodie Turner-Smith). Did the Jedi come into conflict with them and cause their destruction, or did they become part of the twins' story after the fire? It feels like we're getting extensive flashbacks in later episodes to answer those questions and then some. Whatever happened back then, it led to Torbin taking a vow of silence and meditation and Kelnacca secluding himself on a forest planet, so it must've been ugly.

The final question mark circles back to the mysterious red lightsaber-wielding, masked villain and the control they have over Mae, who's both taking revenge on the Jedi and trying to prove herself, and even the smuggler Qimir (Manny Jacinto), who appears to be more than a simple collaborator. At this point, we wouldn't be surprised if the big bad, at least in this season, isn't a Sith after all, but another sort of follower of the dark side of the Force.

As it stands, "Star Wars: The Acolyte" is off to an intriguing but kind of sluggish start due to truncated scenes that need more time to breathe, some writing a bit too reminiscent of the prequel trilogy's worst bits, and the fact that Headland maybe didn't make the most out of the above-average sets and overall production design. We're dying to watch more of this though.

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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.