Star Wars: The Acolyte Trailer Breakdown: Who is the New Sith Villain?

The Acolyte's latest trailer introduces a mysterious new Sith villain to the Star Wars universe and more.

Amandla Stenberg as Mae in Star Wars: The Acolyte
Photo: Lucasfilm

The dark side clouds everything, including the plot details of the newest Star Wars live-action series, The Acolyte. What we know for sure is that the eight-episode series helmed by Russian Doll creator Leslye Headland is billed as a “mystery thriller” and follows a group of Jedi as they investigate a series of murders 100 years before The Phantom Menace. We also know that the central mystery involves a dangerous warrior named Mae, played by Amandla Stenberg (Bodies Bodies Bodies), and the Sith’s plan to eventually eradicate the Jedi during the Prequel Trilogy era.

While The Acolyte‘s latest trailer, which released on Star Wars Day, doesn’t reveal too much more about the show, it does give us a few new hints about the story. Specifically, it reveals a new Sith Lord who took on the Jedi a century before the rise of Palpatine and the Empire! If you haven’t watched it already, give it a look below:

Okay, now let’s talk about a few things in this trailer and what they mean for the show. Spot anything we missed? Let us know in the comments!

A New Sith Lord for a New Point in the Star Wars Timeline

We have to begin with the biggest reveal: there’s a new Sith lord in town. Since this show takes place 100 years before The Phantom Menace, at the end of the High Republic era, we know this isn’t young Palpatine running around with a helmet that looks a lot like something a Knight of Ren would wear. But could this be Darth Plagueis, Palpatine’s master? Maybe. Or perhaps it’s Darth Tenebrous (first introduced in Legends canon before being re-canonized in The Rise of Skywalker), Plagueis’ own master. If you do the math, Tenebrous would seem to fit the timeline of this show.

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But it feels more likely that this is a new character we haven’t actually met yet, a forefather of Palpatine’s plan to destroy the Jedi once and for all. What’s important is that this is the first Sith the Jedi of this era have ever encountered, as evidenced by Master Sol (Lee Jung-jae) asking the red lightsaber-wielding villain, “What are you?”

As we know from the High Republic era books and comics, the Jedi were enjoying a bit of a golden age at this point in the timeline. The Sith were thought to be all but extinct after millennia of conflict, although we know that’s anything but true. The villains just spent centuries in hiding, quietly planning and manipulating events from the shadows, waiting for the right moment to strike against the Jedi and the Republic, which they eventually did in the Prequel Trilogy. Meanwhile, the Jedi Order let their guard down against their greatest enemy, which is why meeting a Sith lord who can single-handedly take on a whole group of Jedi Knights, including a few masters, is a bit of a shock for Sol and company.

There are so many questions to be answered about this Sith lord, but here’s a key one: is this mystery Sith the master or the apprentice? Either way, Sol should be very, very worried.

Master Sol and Mae’s Connection

While there’s been lots of speculation surrounding the show’s central character, a former-Jedi-padawn-turned-rogue-warrior named Mae, it’s still unclear whether she’s the Sith acolyte of the title. Either way, the trailer makes it clear that she no longer has any love for the Jedi, as she tries to kill several with her dagger, including her former master, Sol. In other words, it looks a lot like Mae is behind the crimes Sol and the other Jedi are investigating. Sol even says in the trailer that he should be the one to bring her in as he trained her in the ways of the Force.

What led to Mae turning against the Jedi—and perhaps even joining the Sith (we’re speculating here)—is still not clear, although a shot of what looks like Mae running through burning woods as Stenberg’s voiceover says to a victim that “it’s time to face the past” seems to have something to do with it.

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Does she blame the Jedi for something that happened to her home world or her people? Speaking of her people…

Mae’s Origin, Mother Aniseya, and Force Witches

We learn that Mae was discovered by Sol when she was a young girl, still living with her people, who are actually a coven of Force witches led by Mother Aniseya (Jodie Turner-Smith). When you think Force witches, your mind might immediately go to the Nightsisters of the Clone Wars and Mandoverse eras, but these aren’t the Witches of Dathomir. They’re a different Force-sensitive coven we’ve not met before. All the Star Wars Databank tells us about this seemingly all-female coven is that they “value their independence and the preservation of their beliefs and powers.”

Interestingly enough, there is also another Force cult introduced in The High Republic books and comics called the Path of the Open Hand, who believe no one should use the Force, especially not the Jedi, as they think it will lead to galactic disaster (which of course it eventually does in most of the Star Wars movies lol). The Open Hand’s leader is also called “Mother.” The Acolyte‘s coven doesn’t seem connected to the Open Hand, but it’s interesting that High Republic stuff continues to delve into other sects of Force users who might not be directly bad guys but aren’t Jedi either.

It remains to be seen how Mae’s coven feels about the Jedi, although we do see them put at least one padawan under some sort of spell. That said, the fact that they let Sol take Mae away to become a Jedi may mean they’re not necessarily enemies, but at some point, Mae had a change of heart and started stabbing people.

Jedi Master Vernestra’s Warning

“I sense this is only a small part of a larger plan, some sort of shift to tip the scales,” says Jedi Master Vernestra Rwoh in the trailer. This is a deft bit of foreshadowing that is undoubtedly referring to the Sith machinations that will eventually lead to the fall of the Jedi a century later. It’s also the first time we’ve actually heard Rebecca Henderson (Russian Doll) speak as the Mirialan Jedi who The High Republic book fans first met as a teenage padawan.

Since this show takes place decades after Vernestra’s teen adventures, we meet her in live action as a respected master who the other Jedi look to for wisdom. The extent of her role in the show is still a mystery, but it’s clear she already sees the bigger plot against the Jedi.

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Headland teased to Empire that the Vernestra we meet in The Acolyte has already “been through some shit,” which “has resulted in her going from this fun-seeking adventurer character [in the books], to a little bit closer to the [type of] Jedi that we see in The Phantom Menace.” Her race also has a much longer lifespan than most, which means “she’s known Sol since he was a tiny child” and “has been around for so long, she has basically met everyone that has come through the Temple, and seen them all die their natural deaths if they’re living a natural human life.” That’ll definitely change someone’s outlook.

Vernestra also happens to wield a badass purple lightwhip instead of the standard lightsaber, which we really hope we’ll get to see on the show!

Star Wars: The Acolyte premieres on June 4 on Disney+.