The Acolyte Episode 5 Review: Stunning Battles, Shallow Characters

Photo: Lucasfilm
Photo: Lucasfilm

After a slow episode 4, The Acolyte turns the volume all the way up on lightsaber battles with an episode that is worth every minute of screen time and then some. Featuring perhaps the best lightsaber choreography in Star Wars history, here the action takes priority over plot and character development.

Episode 5 (“Night”) picks up right where we left off, seconds before a battle between the Jedi Knights and the acolyte’s mysterious Master, clad in dark armor that’s a mix between that of Darth Vader and Kylo Ren. The battle begins with the Master tearing through several seemingly faceless Jedi, each of whom I’m sure each have their own dense backstories. Even amidst the spectacular all-versus-one action, the lack of intimacy we feel with these unknown Jedi left me feeling like an opportunity had been missed for us to feel more. As each Jedi fell, I would have loved for for their deaths to feel more impactful. All it would’ve taken was a simple meal scene like the goop dinner in the first Matrix movie in which Neo meets the crew of the ship that saved him.

Sprinkled between lightsaber martial arts combos, we have actual story progression. We’re in this fight to see Osha reunite with/arrest her twin sister Mae, both played by Amandla Stenberg. Amidst the battle, the Jedi tell Osha to get to safety, escorted by injured Jedi Knight Yord. Meanwhile, acolyte Mae attempts to evade her former dark Master unsuccessfully, and she sends a psychic distress signal to Osha. Osha tells Yord they have to go back or everyone will die. Osha gets the bright idea to use her pocket-droid’s flashlight to attract a swarm of umbramoths (giant, lethal moths) that surround them in the trees to use against the dark Master, and she and Yord run back to battle.

Yord lunges at the dark Master and hits his mask, but that doesn’t stop his adversary from slaying the best Jedi fighter, Padawan Jecki Lon (Dafne María Keen Fernández). Finally, we see the face of the Master. No doubt like many fans, up to this point I’d been wondering who the master is. Is it one of Osha and Mae’s mothers? Is it a former Jedi, perhaps the teacher of Master Sol (Lee Jung-jae)? Nope. It’s Qimir (Manny Jacinto). And now the volume on the episode turns down.

Manny is a great actor who’s performed well in previous episodes, but he feels miscast in this moment. His reveal underwhelms, and the strength and mystery of the character is now gone. We learn of Qimir’s motivation—to be free—and the authenticity of a villain feels lost. This is not Vader. This is just a bad guy.

Photo: Lucasfilm
Photo: Lucasfilm

Again, we feel the missed opportunities for character development, with the lack of time we’ve had to get to know Qimir up to this point sapping this development of its power. Yes, there are fan theories suggesting that morerevelations await, but the narrative we’ve been fed up to this point isn’t potent enough to support this reveal in the here and now. But back to the episode’s highlight: Qimir kills Yord, cementing this scene as having some of the best deaths in any Star Wars battle.

As last Jedi standing Sol fights Qimir, Osha and Mae have gone through their back-and-forth of stun gunning (Osha shot Mae, but she woke up), and Osha sacrifices her droid (that we should care more about, but don’t) by sticking it on Qimir’s back. He’s attacked by the umbramoths and flown into the trees above. Mae awakens to stun-gun Sol, and she has a moment alone with Osha. Mae gives Osha a speech about how the Jedi brainwashed her and how they both need to believe in their sisterly bond. Mae hugs Osha, but Osha puts Mae in an arm lock. Then she delivers some dialogue about doing what she came to do: arrest her sister for murdering Jedi and burning their homeland.

One of my pet peeves is arm locking and dialogue, followed by reversing an arm lock and delivering more dialogue, which happens in this scene. Another example of the series being riddled with unnecessary tropes that take away from its built-in uniqueness. Mae ends up knocking Osha out cold, then lightsabers her hair and swaps clothing to impersonate her sister. This leads to Mae leaving the planet with the awakened Sol, and Osha being discovered by Qimir, who has defeated the swarm of umbramoths. Hopefully this leads to the truth being revealed behind what the Jedi did to destroy Mae and Osha’s home.

The Acolyte’s fifth episode is the most exciting yet in terms of pacing and action. However, it also highlights how more focus on character development would allow us to understand how these individuals interact with the world and would convey emotional weight when characters die or return, or droid friends are lost. We don’t get enough intimate time with these characters for them to feel real, and I hope this changes with future episodes.

For the latest news, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.