Leslye Headland’s long-rumored Star Wars series finally has a title. Revealed during Disney’s Investors Day presentation in December, The Acolyte is “a mystery-thriller that will take the audience into a galaxy of shadowy secrets and emerging dark side powers in the final days of the High Republic era.”
That synopsis doesn’t give us much, but does tease a darker show than what we’re used to from Star Wars. It could be one of the most creative, too. Since it probably takes place decades before the start of the film saga, features new characters, and explores the dark side of Force, could this be a Prequel series worthy of The Mandalorian? What might it be about?
The High Republic series, first announced last year as a publishing initiative spanning books, comics, and short stories, focuses on the era almost 300 years before the gilded age of the Republic seen in the Prequel Trilogy. The placement of this show in the High Republic era suggests that it probably leans more toward a Force-heavy story than The Mandalorian. The Jedi are a thriving and varied order. There is no war against the Sith or another galactic power. Instead, they fight against space pirates called the Nihil. It’s an era where the various members of the Republic are united and at relative peace, as the galactic government seeks to expand to uncharted territory in the Outer Rim.
This era is rich for storytelling for a couple of reasons. First, it’s essentially the Prequels with the time crunch removed; the Jedi and the Republic are at the height of their power, so there are plenty of Force users to meet, and Yoda is here and in his prime, so there’s still a chance for cameos. But we know this is the calm before the storm.
Looming out of the darkness like the phantoms first referenced in the Episode I title are the Sith. While the galaxy’s most powerful practitioners of the dark side would be no match for the Jedi in terms of sheer numbers during the High Republic era, the Sith are incredibly cunning and master manipulators. And while they don’t seem to play a part in the first High Republic stories dropping in 2021, we know that the Sith are out there.
Before Palpatine set his plan to take over the galaxy in motion, there was his master, Darth Plagueis, who had aspirations of becoming immortal before his apprentice murdered him. We don’t know exactly when Plagueis was born in the Disney canon, his birthdate in the classic Legends continuity was sometime between 147 and 120 BBY (Before the Battle of Yavin), which would make him at least 20 in “the final days of the High Republic era,” which ended in 100 BBY — if Disney were to give Plagueis a similar backstory.
Could Plagueis play a part in The Acolyte, as he passes on his dark side teachings to a Sith student? If you just panicked at the thought of a Young Palpatine show, take comfort in the fact that the numbers don’t quite add up. The future Dark Lord of the Sith was born in 84 BBY, just missing the end of the High Republic era.
Rumors have abounded about this show. A quote from Headland about a “pocket universe and timeline” was probably a misconstrued reference to the High Republic era. But the other things the rumors have been consistent about have been that the story involves a lot of martial arts action and focuses on female characters.
It’s possible Plagueis had another apprentice before Palpatine, although the term “acolyte” might actually point to a religious follower who worships the Sith and the dark side but isn’t actually a member. There have been several cults dedicated to following the teachings of the Sith throughout Star Wars history, including the Sith Eternal and the Acolytes of the Beyond, two of the groups that worked for Palpatine in The Rise of Skywalker. It’s possible the Acolyte of the new show is a member of one of these religious orders.
“Shadowy secrets” could also imply that there’s something new to be uncovered about the Sith or the dark side of the Force. The mysteries of the main antagonists of the Star Wars galaxy were long a staple of the Legends canon, which stretched all the way back to the founding of the Sith. In stories like Knights of the Old Republic, Sith lore was highly sought after knowledge by those who wished to discover the secrets of the dark side…or communicate with long-dead Dark Lords. A Sith acolyte would undoubtedly be interested in learning as much as she can about the ancient order. It’s possible that the main character could be on a journey to uncover Sith artifacts or holocrons containing dark side wisdom, a mirror to Mando and Grogu’s quest to find the Jedi.
Combining all of this — female lead, dark side powers, martial arts, mystery/thriller, shadowy secrets, and High Republic — also makes me think of Asajj Ventress, a powerful warrior who once sought to become a Sith before making her own path. I don’t mean The Clone Wars villain will literally appear on The Acolyte, but that the character is a good template for a Force user who isn’t beholden to either side of the Force, and who is just as comfortable threatening crime lords as she is in a lightsaber battle, with a deep and unfulfilled need to find a home. That latter part could be the core of the show the same way the bond between Din Djarin and Grogu is at the heart of The Mandalorian.
With the religious tones and pieces from rumors, it does look like this might be a show about a new Force user in the same way The Mandalorian introduced a new person behind the famous T-visors. Whatever ends up happening, we look forward to seeing what Headland brings to the franchise.
The Acolyte will premiere on Disney+. No release date has been set.