Star Wars: The Acolyte Episode 4 Review: This Sith Mystery Isn’t Really Working

The Acolyte episode 4 brings us just a bit closer to learning the identity of Star Wars' newest Sith Lord. Our recap...

Lee Jung-jae as Master Sol in Star Wars: The Acolyte
Photo: Lucasfilm

This Star Wars: The Acolyte review contains spoilers.

Following a strong third episode revealing the nature of Osha and Mae’s separation, The Acolyte’s fourth episode unfortunately reverts back to the overly familiar mode of Star Wars TV storytelling that continues to bog the series down. The show is perfectly watchable, but is that enough in an age of television that is so rife with phenomenal series that it’s mathematically impossible to watch them all?

The hunt for Mae is on as the crew of Jedi led by Sol track her to Khofar to intercept her before she reaches the next target on her hit list, Wookiee Jedi Kelnacca. An issue from the first episode persists: Mae is tough to buy as a serial killer, to the point where even the material itself seems to get confused. Mae is supposed to be a murderer, but the way Sol and Vernestra talk about her seems to suggest she’s simply a morally misguided youth. Maybe there’s more to the story that will recontextualize what’s happened with Mae to this point, but as far as the Jedi know, she’s a grown woman who stabbed their friend and colleague to death.

Perhaps there’s a tonal or style disconnect getting in the way here. The show was marketed as something of a crime thriller, and in many ways the first two episodes support this. So if the genre is crime, it makes little sense that any investigating party would view Mae as anything but a killer who needs to be put away or stopped permanently.

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On the other hand, in a Star Wars framework, redemption can be on the table for even mass murderers. And in the High Republic era in particular, the Jedi are in a fairly healthy and optimistic position societally and philosophically, which supports Sol’s bullish insistence that Mae can be reformed. Looking at it from this perspective makes the most sense on paper, but it also makes the story far less interesting and very much in line with other redemption arcs we’ve seen from the franchise in the past.

It’s obvious now that The Acolyte isn’t exactly the seedy mystery story we were led to believe it would be from the trailers and marketing. But it’s just as obvious that the show’s cast is its best quality. These actors are working really hard here, even when the script sort of underserves them. Charlie Barnett, for example, is always a welcome presence despite Yord being relatively dimension-less. His facial expressions hint at internal strife and a deep sense of honor—maybe there’s a twist with the character coming down the line that’s informing Barnett’s performance.

Dafne Keen has emerged as a key player as well, maybe just a half step behind Stenberg and Lee Jung-jae. Jecki is such a useful character in that she’s wise and composed beyond her years but still raises the stakes of every scenario she’s involved in because she’s got such a promising future. To jeopardize or lose her would hurt, and that’s what drama is all about.

The Jedi group’s mission to Khofar is typical Star Wars fare, with deadly exotic forest creatures trying to eat our heroes for encroaching on their territory. There’s a callback to Osha’s compassion manifesting in her love for wildlife (the neon butterfly last episode, the tree monster this episode), and the point is conveyed clearly, though the idea of a Force-sensitive hero dedicated to preserving life isn’t exactly novel. She’s diametrically opposed to Mae on the light/dark meter, and hopefully this imbalance ultimately resolves in a compelling way down the line.

Mae and Qimir’s interactions are fun to watch in this episode mostly because the suspense of not knowing who their shadowy master is has been ratcheted up so well to this point. In fact, the mystery reaches a fever pitch when Mae finds Kelnacca already assassinated in his own home, which leads to a showdown in which the mystery villain Force pushes Sol’s entire Jedi unit and seems poised to unveil their true identity. Lots of folks have predicted the mysterious Sith Lord is actually one of the mothers from the previous episode, which would pack an emotional punch but also pose more questions. These brisk plot machinations continue to serve the show well.

Overall, the fourth chapter of The Acolyte feels like a bit of a building-block episode rather than an involved mini-story unto itself like the previous episode. It’s all decently executed, the acting is top-notch, there’s a fun cameo from Jedi Master Ki-Adi-Mundi, and there’s some great tension in the plot, but something about the script just doesn’t resonate. It’s sort of forgettable—a means to an end. Hopefully the end pays off.

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3 out of 5