Star Wars: The Acolyte Episode 6 Review: Darth Venamis or Not, The Stranger Falls Flat

The Acolyte episode 6, "Teacher/Corrupt," slows things down to reveal a few more details about the mysterious Sith Lord.

Manny Jacinto as Qimir in Star Wars: The Acolyte
Photo: Lucasfilm

This Star Wars: The Acolyte article contains spoilers.

The Acolyte’s two-pronged sixth episode “Teach/Corrupt” follows Mae and Osha as they get acquainted with each others’ masters—the Sith Lord formerly known as Qimir, and the virtuous but troubled Sol, whose entire squad of Jedi just got merked by the former.

The show’s last episode had major issues across the board, but the intense, elaborate fight scenes were riveting and propped the proceedings up a bit. “Teach/Corrupt,” on the other hand, offers no such respite from the under-cooked plotting and character work that has proven thus far to be a persistent malady for the series.

On the Osha side of things, she awakens on an island on a mysterious planet, after being abducted by the Sith Stranger (whom some theorize is Darth Venamis from Legends continuity, and others theorize is Darth Plagueis the Wise in the flesh). Before we delve into the subsequent, emotionally hollow interactions shared by these two, it’s important to note one extraordinary thing. As flat and forgettable as Osha has been on the show, they’ve somehow managed to knock Qimir/The Stranger down to her level. Manny Jacinto, who has been a major highlight throughout the series thus far, is transformed into a dry, familiar villain by the material, and it does the performance no favors. This guy was 10 times more intriguing and fun to watch when he was faking it as Qimir.

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Now that we’ve established that Osha and the Stranger are equally vapid characterizations, let’s work our way through the inanity that unfolds between them in this episode. The Stranger strips naked and invites Osha to skinny dip with him. The camera awkwardly ogles his muscles as he blathers on in a forced monotone about his anti-Jedi ideology. We see a shot of two wrinkly-skinned alien love birds cuddling, just before he suggests she shouldn’t hold it against him that he murdered her friends because they were jerks to her anyway. Are we meant to believe he’s…seducing her?!

Where the hell did this come from? This has got to be the most bizarre injection of romance into a TV show ever. These two have little to no chemistry. The intimate moments between them near the end of the episode seem to be meant to create sexual tension but instead further confuse the story, if that’s at all possible. Is it really just an Acolyte he’s looking for?

It seems the idea here is that the Stranger represents the temptation of the dark side, or in more biblical terms, the temptation of Satan. Ooh that sexy devil, with his freaky armor that kind of makes him look like an S&M Xenomorph. How could Osha resist? None of this works because the sexual tension feels forced, characters are flat, and the dialogue is even flatter. “If you keep me here, Sol comes to you. He’s found me before. His strength in the Force is very powerful.” Yikes. How is Amandla Stenberg meant to make lines like this sound natural? 

As faulty as the Osha/Stranger stuff in this episode is, there are a couple of highlights worth noting. The island locale looks ravishing and picturesque, and shooting at real locations like this is absolutely refreshing in an era when many outdoor scenes are shot in a soundstage with artificial sunlight and a painted-in environments, or with lots of help from the Volume. It’s long made the Star Wars universe look and feel a lot smaller and less cinematic, so it’s nice to see The Acolyte follow in Andor‘s footsteps, at least for a little while.

A surprisingly effective moment in the episode is the final scene, in which Osha dons the Stranger’s S&M helmet. Seriously, the editing and framing here have real cinematic value, and in just seconds the scene delivers the point of the story more poignantly and evocatively than everything that came before it. The absence of music and the sound of her exhaling just before the credits roll is actually quite chilling.

The Mae half of the episode fares a little better, but not by much. The crux here is that Mae is masquerading as Osha on Sol’s ship, and while the show doesn’t fully capitalize on the suspense built into the scenario, the question of whether or not Sol will see through her scheme does loom and adds a measure of intrigue.

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Lee Jung-jae continues to put in solid work, particularly in a silent, lingering moment in which it dawns on him that his fellow Jedi died on his watch. He’s given some decent lines at the end of the episode too, but in between there’s a whole lot of half-assed slapstick between Mae, Bazil, and Pip. It boggles the mind why they would introduce her as a badass space ninja in the first episode only to now have her get beat up by a mobile device, a fat rat, and a leaky pipe. Again: Where the hell did this come from?!

Before we get to the end of Mae and Sol’s segment of the episode, it’s (barely) worth mentioning that there’s a little C-story going on involving Master Vernestra. Through her we learn that the Senate will be putting the Jedi Order under review, which is maybe a neat acknowledgement of the Jedi’s standing in the galaxy at this point in the timeline but adds little else to the story. Vernestra’s role on this show is reminiscent of Hera Syndulla’s on Ahsoka. So far, she seems to mostly be there as a point of recognition for fans of the High Republic source material, but her involvement in the main story feels oddly detached. Hera’s side story had more emotional heft to it at least—Vernestra’s story is peripheral lore, exposition, and little else. One of the theories making the rounds online is that the scars on Qimir’s back were caused by the lightwhip wielded by Vernestra, suggesting that she was his master long ago, so perhaps this will all connect in time?

Okay, so Sol sussing out Mae’s scheme was pretty cool. It lends him credibility and reminds us that, as formidable as Mae is supposed to be, he’s on another level. There’s been an obvious, monastic vibe to the way Sol’s been presented thus far, so when little signs of aggression seep through, it makes him feel like a more layered character than the rest.

The duality of the episode title is represented in a subversive way. We assume Sol is the “Teacher” and the Stranger is the “Corruptor,”  but ultimately, Osha is allowed to roam free and come to her own conclusions (psychologically manipulated as she may be), while Mae winds up tied to a table with Sol standing over her. Will Sol finally reveal the dark truth behind the Jedi mission to Brendok?

It’ll be interesting to hear what he has to say, but unfortunately, this isn’t enough to keep The Acolyte afloat. This series is all over the freaking place and has no identity. All of the good moments are undermined by twice as many bad ones.

Learn more about Den of Geek’s review process and why you can trust our recommendations here.

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2 out of 5