A Wookiee Jedi Master at Last: I Would Die for Kelnacca in ‘The Acolyte’

Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Lucasfilm Ltd
Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Lucasfilm Ltd

The Acolyte, the latest Star Wars series on Disney+, takes us away from the Skywalker saga into the world of the High Republic. But none of that matters—because the most important thing about The Acolyte is Kelnacca (Joonas Suotamo), a new Wookiee character. He’s more than just a Wookiee—though honestly, these epic beasts are more than enough on their own—he’s a freaking Jedi. Not just a Jedi, but a Jedi master. Two episodes into the show, and I’m already prepared to lay myself down on the train tracks for him.

The hype for Kelnacca is real: Marvel Comics is even releasing a comic book in September all about Kelnacca’s origin, which they announced before the series was even released. He’s been a prominent part of the marketing for The Acolyte, but if you’re anything like me and want to go into a series with as little knowledge as possible, the surprising reveal of Kelnacca being a Jedi blew my mind and launched me into Kashyyyk. (For the normies reading, Kashyyyk is the Wookiees’ home planet.)

Though early teasers hinted at Kelnacca’s appearance, The Acolyte waits until the end of the Episode 2 to reveal him, setting it all up as a major cliffhanger before the next installment. Mae (Amandla Stenberg) is on a mission to eliminate four master Jedi, and at the end of the episode, Qimir (Manny Jacinto) informs her that he’s found “where the Wookiee Jedi lives.” “You found Kelnacca?” responds Mae in disbelief.

Jedi Master Kelnacca (Joonas Suotamo).
Lucasfilm Ltd.

We then jump to the planet Khofar, where Kelnacca lives. A couple of scavengers are trawling through the jungle, where they find a crashed ship that’s been made into a cozy-looking home. Then, our mighty Kelnacca appears, approaching them from behind, but letting himself be known with a glorious Wookiee roar. The scavengers prepare their weapons to fire on Kelnacca, but Kelnacca raises his hand and uses the Force to effortlessly snatch the gun from his enemy. He snaps it in half, and with a mighty roar, the scavengers run away.

In the episode’s final moments, Kelnacca walks into his peaceful abode. The entire sequence lasts for only a few minutes, but every second is absolutely riveting: A Wookiee Jedi master walks among us!

In so little time, Kelnacca establishes himself as the most exciting part of The Acolyte. I’ve had it with silly humans and their Jedi mind tricks, and a Wookiee Jedi is exactly the kind of shake-up I need as a Star Wars fan to hook me. And believe me–with the promise of this giant furry legend wielding a lightsaber, I’m standing at attention, ready for more.

After ‘The Acolyte,’ Star Wars Needs to Stop Killing Off Its Coolest Characters

Chewbacca, the most famous Wookiee, was always my favorite Star Wars character. How could you not love a 7.5-foot-tall creature covered in brown fur that carries around a freaking bowcaster—known to mere humans as a fancy crossbow. Despite my fervor for Chewbacca and all of Wookiee-kind, getting a glimpse at them in action has always been rare. The closest we’ve gotten is the utterly ridiculous Star Wars Holiday Special from 1978, which centers on celebrating “Life Day” on planet Kashyyyk. Otherwise, Wookiees have been frustratingly few and far between.

Even more excitingly is that the closest we’ve gotten to a Wookiee Jedi master in the Star Wars universe before is Gungi, a Jedi padawan who appeared in Season 5 of Star Wars: The Clones Wars and an episode of The Bad Batch. But while Gungi was still in training, Kelnacca has mastered the way of the Jedi and is truly one with the Force. And even more exciting is that, while Gungi was only in the animated series, Kelnacca is Star Wars’ very first live-action Wookiee Jedi.

I think we can all agree that the introduction of Kelnacca rules for everyone involved, from die-hard fans to newcomers alike. For those with in-depth Star Wars knowledge, it’s exciting to see a leap forward from the promise of Gungi. Fans with less-than-encyclopedic knowledge are bound to freak out when they see a Wookiee using the force. And even those who’ve never seen anything Star Wars before—like my partner, whose entire knowledge of the franchise spans the first two episodes of The Acolyte—will be excited by a big furry guy throwing people around with his mind, even if they don’t know what a Wookiee is.

Jedi Master Kelnacca (Joonas Suotamo).

Jedi Master Kelnacca (Joonas Suotamo).

Christian Black

Admittedly, accessibility is where a lot of the Disney+ Star Wars series have struggled—some of them feel like labyrinthine tomes that require you to have watched other series, films, comic books and novels just to figure out who the heck everyone is. But The Acolyte already feels like an entirely separate entity, with all new characters and situations. It’s exciting and refreshing, and there’s no better symbol of this bold new direction than Kelnacca, everyone’s favorite Wookiee Jedi master—even if by default. And Disney, if you hurt this legendary yet precious bundle of fur, we’re going to have a problem.

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