Star Wars: The Acolyte Episode 3 Review

The Acolyte delivers a heartbreaking third episode that is easily the show's best thus far. Our recap...

Jodie Turner-Smith as Mother Aniseya in Star Wars: The Acolyte
Photo: Lucasfilm

This Star Wars: The Acolyte review contains spoilers.

You know what’s awesome about the third episode of The Acolyte? It’s got weight to it. There are powerful, sophisticated ideas woven beautifully throughout the story, and while there aren’t any earth-shattering revelations to speak of, seeing with our own eyes the series of catastrophic events that caused the parade of forlorn, ruminative faces in the first two episodes offers considerable emotional context that fleshes out all characters involved.

The episode is an origin story of sorts, following Mae and Osha’s (Amandla Stenberg) upbringing among their coven on Brendok 16 years prior to the events of the main storyline. A lot of rich subject matter arises as we delve into the twins’ past—familial asymmetry, sibling abandonment, dogmatic defection. The Star Wars show seems to be coming into its own here with some genuine substance and heavy tension between the characters.

As in the first two episodes, the writers do a fantastic job of answering just enough questions to satisfy our curiosity while deepening other mysteries and presenting new ones to chew on. The beauty of serialized storytelling is that it gives stories an inherent form with peaks and valleys, pushes and pulls, suspense and release. So far The Acolyte has done a wonderful job of making the episodic format work in its favor, a particularly difficult thing to do for a mystery show on a streaming service.

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The opening moment between Osha, Mae, and the sci-fi butterfly isn’t exactly the most elegant scene ever—the dialogue is stilted, making the young actors’ performances stilted as a result. The scene does however do the job of establishing that Osha is compassionate and Mae is toxic as hell, and it sets up the core conflict nicely. The twins are almost entirely enmeshed by design, but Osha doesn’t fit as snugly into the coven and its plans as Mae does.

There’s tension between Mother Koril (Margarita Levieva) and Mother Aniseya (Jodie Turner-Smith) that feels believable mostly because it’s clear that while they disagree on how to raise the children in certain respects, they still love each other deeply. They both love the kids, too—even when Koril is being hard on them, you can tell it’s because she wouldn’t know what to do with herself if anything happened to them. In not much time at all, the family dynamic is vividly portrayed, warts and all. As a result, the rest of the plot movements are supercharged with drama because we’re keenly aware of what’s on the line here—this family is on the brink of being ripped apart.

Threatening to do said ripping, at least in the eyes of everyone in the coven except Osha, are the four Jedi we know wind up on Mae’s kill list: Sol, Indara, Kelnacca, and Torbin. It’s fascinating to see the Jedi through the coven’s eyes because we’re so conditioned to view them as peaceful protectors and spiritual gurus. But invaders wresting youngsters away from their families forever? That’s an interesting point of view. It’s also really neat to see the Force at the center of an entirely different culture and community than the Jedi and discover how the coven interprets and wields the Force differently.

The standoff between the Jedi and the coven is full of…all together now…tension. It’s a dialogue-driven scene, but it’s intense because you get the feeling that at any moment a bloodbath of a fight could erupt. There’s a fundamental moral and philosophical disconnect between the two parties, and Osha wants to cross the line because she sees in the Jedi a future where she can be her true self.

Naturally, this upsets everyone in the coven, but Mother Aniseya ultimately enacts a tearful act of love by telling Osha to follow her heart even if it means saying goodbye forever. There’s a lot of depth to the storytelling in this episode, particularly in the intimate, pivotal conversations shared by the family members. And unlike the first two episodes, which occasionally got derailed by unwelcome moments of slapstick humor, this chapter feels distinctly somber and serious throughout, which in this case is a big plus. This is the gravity and grit the show’s marketing promised but has been missing up to this point.

That being said, the episode does go over the edge a little bit when Mae threatens to murder Osha for choosing to leave with Sol and join the Jedi Order. Really? I know they haven’t exactly gotten along well throughout the episode, but none of their bickering and tussling seemed out of the ordinary for siblings, let alone twins. It’s obvious they love each other…but now Mae wants to burn her alive?! Tough sell.

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The ensuing fiery climax is worth suspending your disbelief for, though. Watching Sol and Osha bond through trauma gives the characters’ interactions in the first two episodes weight and credibility, and the way he looks at her with such pity and compassion is heart-melting. Lee Jung-jae continues to kill it.

The Acolyte’s third episode is its best so far, and it’s actually so good it makes the previous two worth watching again with the added context. Aside from the issue of the scenes between the twins coming off a little forced and inconsistent, the show seems to be locking in in a big way now.

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5 out of 5