The Acolyte Season 1 Review – How to burn 180 million dollars

Season 1



Episode Guide

Episode 1
Episode 2
Episode 3
Episode 4
Episode 5
Episode 6
Episode 7


The Acolyte isn’t just a bad TV show, it’s a disastrous monstrosity that bungles every single facet of its production and it should really be studied by film enthusiasts across the world in how not to write a story.

The truth is, there are Indie films done on a tight budget that are more engaging and competent than what The Acolyte (which had a budget of 180 million dollars) offers – and with such a huge budget and IP to its name, that’s inexcusable for Star Wars.

When you break it right down to each individual component, The Acolyte has absolutely zero redeeming features. Unless you count a couple of male characters getting their kit off, which perhaps is one very small saving grace. Characters have flip-flopping motivations throughout the 8 episodes, there’s inconsistent writing, embarrassingly bad acting and cheap sets.

And the reason we’re being so harsh on this is simply because it does have 180 million dollars to play with. This is not a cheap production and if you’d like comparisons, Dune 2 cost $190 million, Oppenheimer $100 million and House of the Dragon roughly $20 million an episode.

So what is The Acolyte? Created by Leslye Headland, former PA to Harvey Weinstein, this series explores the origins of good and evil within the Jedi and Sith ranks, along with a deconstruction of exactly what The Force is and whether a secretive group of space witches could be responsible for its inception.

Set at the end of the High Republic era, roughly 100 years before The Phantom Menace, The Acolyte centers on twin sisters, Mae and Osha.

Advertised as a mystery, The Acolyte dispels any notion of that by confirming within 15 minutes that Mae and Osha are twin sisters and have very different motivations. The only mystery here stems from exactly how Amandla Stenberg got the job given she can’t actually emote.

Mae is an “Acolyte” to a shadowy figure called The Stranger. Sporting a xenomorph-esque helmet, The Stranger has tasked Mae with killing four Jedi Masters without a weapon. How she does this, is up to her.

The Jedi, still scrambling for answers off the back of this beginning, arrest Osha, given she matches the description of Mae, and bring her in for questioning on a droid-controlled ship.

Unfortunately, things go awry and what ensues from here is a cat and mouse game as the Jedi try to work out who’s the one really behind all of this, while Mae and Osha go back and forth over what they really want.

In an ordinary TV show, that would be an apt description and leave plenty of room for character growth and interesting dialogue to spill forth. Unfortunately, the writing here is so poor that you’ll find yourself second guessing what’s happening based solely on how bad the writers are and the worst thing they could make the characters do, rather than looking logically at solving a problem thrown at them.

In episode 2, we learn that Jedi Master Sol can mindread his subjects, and he does so for a prisoner to learn some valuable information. Then the show forgets he can do that and Sol never uses that skill again.

Another time, we learn that bugs are attracted to light in the woods. Osha warns her companion to turn off his lightsaber… and then proceeds to run through the forest with her torch on full force, wanting to find the Jedi even though she literally just ran away from that direction. And mentioned it several sentences back!

A few plot contrivances here and there can usually be waved away if the characterisation or the rest of the story is strong enough to hold it up. But it’s not. In fact, the longer you watch The Acolyte, the more errors and issues crop up.

For the budget, The Acolyte looks surprisingly cheap. There’s a fight out in the center of a town square that’s very obviously shot on a volume screen, with characters in the background not even batting an eyelid or reacting to what’s happening.

All the rage though is one episode that features a lot of fighting through darkened woods with Jedi and Sith squaring off. It looks neat when you’re not paying much attention but when you stop and think about what’s happening, the choreography and issues here are hard to overlook.

Sure, there’s some neat moves but the power levels are all over the shop and there are deliberately obsfucated scenes that take place behind trees or out of frame to hide some of the questionable moves. And this, right after showing how deadly lightsabers can be, is followed up by Mae giving herself a haircut by cutting her dreads with a lightsaber blade.

The worldbuilding and inconsistency with characters really takes you out of this world, and you’ll constantly be finding yourself wondering where this one will go next… and not in a good way.

The characters act so irrationally but aside from Qimir and Sol, who do the best with the limited material they’re given, the rest of the cast swing on varying degrees of awfulness.

Amandla Stenberg is easily the weak link here and her acting is nothing short of wooden. In fact, I’m confident in saying that if you took her out of this and replaced her with Plank from Ed, Edd and Eddy, there wouldn’t be much difference. It really is quite impressive to find a young woman that doesn’t even change the expression on her face for an entire series.

The worldbuilding problems are exemplified here with a sheer lack of understanding over how physics work (campfires in space?) while time and distance are a thing of the past. One good example of this comes in episode 6 where two ships show up in the exact same position within seconds…despite being on opposite sides of the galaxy.

Ultimately though, The Acolyte is not just terrible TV, it’s a show that does irreparable damage to the Star Wars brand. It’s an embarrassing example of how to take a huge budget and absolutely squander it into oblivion.

There’s literally nothing redeemable here and while I may eat my words in a few months, there’s more chance of Amandla Stenberg emoting than this garbage heap getting a second season.

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  • Verdict - 1.5/10

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