Doctor Who Companion Races Against Time in New British Superhero Series

March 20, 2024

The timing is perfect for Michael and Dionne. They’ve got a home, a car, each other and their whole lives ahead of them. Until out of nowhere, Michael develops superpowers and is tasked with an urgent mission to save Dionne’s life. Michael, played by former Doctor Who companion Tosin Cole, isn’t the only Black Londoner […]

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We finally have our first look at The Acolyte, the new Star Wars series set to hit Disney+ this summer. Created by showrunner Leslye Headland (Russian Doll), the show is set before any of the Skywalker Saga movies and is a murder mystery, a first for this franchise. As you’ll see from the trailer and this breakdown, the series is a lot darker than any of the other shows that Disney has produced so far. It makes a bit of sense since this series happens to be all about the Sith…

Before we jump in and dissect The Acolyte‘s first trailer, give the video a watch below if you haven’t already.

Okay, now let’s have a look at what this trailer tells us about the story and its ensemble cast of characters…

The Setting and Time Period: The High Republic Era, 100 Years Before The Phantom Menace

Yes, this is essentially a prequel to the Prequels. The Acolyte marks the farthest back in the Star Wars timeline that we’ve ever been in live-action. It’s set 100 years before The Phantom Menace, at the end of the High Republic era.

You’ve probably seen a bunch of High Republic books and comics on shelves, but this will be the first time this time period is represented on screen. This era that preceded the Skywalker Saga was a golden age for the Republic and the Jedi Order, a time when the Jedi believed the Sith had gone all but extinct. Instead, most of the High Republic stories released so far have the Jedi fighting Space Vikings known as the Nihil and a plant-like hivemind known as the Drengir.

According to official lore, the High Republic era lasted from 500 to 100 BBY (so 500 to 100 years before A New Hope), and The Acolyte takes place in 132 BBY, right at the tail end of the golden age, which is why this story is of a darker tone than you’d expect. This golden age is coming to a close and, as seen in the trailer, the Sith are on the move…

The Story

If you haven’t guessed already from the trailer, The Acolyte is the story of the return of the Sith after centuries of hiding in the shadows. It’s about how the Sith master plan to destroy the Jedi actually goes much further back than Palpatine. Headland has spoken several times about why she wanted to tell a Sith story set before The Phantom Menace, most recently explaining to EW:

“I really wanted to tell a story about the Sith,” Headland said. “That was kind of my dream Star Wars idea. But it felt like the time period to do that in would be something pre-Phantom Menace. That seemed to be the most interesting trajectory for the Sith: How did the Sith go from the Rule of Two and being quote-unquote ‘extinct’ to Palpatine coming into power without the Jedi knowing about it?”

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So, The Acolyte is meant to define a big piece of Star Wars history, but there’s also a more immediate mystery that the show’s Jedi need to solve: a series of Jedi killings.

Here’s the official synopsis for the show:

The Acolyte is a mystery-thriller that will take viewers into a galaxy of shadowy secrets and emerging dark-side powers in the final days of the High Republic era. A former Padawan reunites with her Jedi Master to investigate a series of crimes, but the forces they confront are more sinister than they ever anticipated.

Amandla Stenberg as Mae

The show stars Amandla Stenberg (Bodies Bodies Bodies) as a morally gray character named Mae who “doesn’t fit neatly into the Sith or Jedi boxes,” according to EW. In the trailer, we see that she’s a skilled warrior who isn’t afraid to go up against Jedi, even if armed only with a knife. It’s unclear where her allegiances lie, but it has long been rumored that she’s the “former padawan” of the synopsis, who begrudgingly works with the Jedi to investigate the aforementioned murders.

But the trailer also makes it look at several points like Mae is the Sith assassin killing the Jedi in the first place. Is this meant to be a bit of marketing misdirection or is Mae actually a double agent serving the Sith in secret?

Lee Jung-jae as Jedi Master Sol

Squid Game‘s brilliant Lee Jung-jae plays Jedi Master Sol. At the start of the trailer, we see him at a time of relative peace, teaching a new generation of Jedi younglings about the Force, but of course things will take a turn for the worst once Jedi start dying and he’s tasked with investigating the murders.

We should expect many twists and turns to this mystery, if Sol’s words are anything to go by: “Close your eyes, your eyes can deceive you. We must not trust them,” Master Sol says in the trailer to his students, but it also feels like he’s talking directly to the audience. Not everything we see here is as it seems. Remember that, as we continue speculating our way through this trailer.

Carrie-Anne Moss as Jedi Master Indara

Carrie-Anne Moss, who is action movie royalty to fans of The Matrix, finally gets her Star Wars debut. She plays Jedi Master Indara, who we don’t actually know very much about yet. In the trailer, we see her taking on Mae inside a cantina, but she’s not using a lightsaber. Moss gets to stretch her martial arts muscles for the scene, fighting Stenberg’s character with the Force and her fists. Major Trinity vibes here and we love it.

Rebecca Henderson as Vernestra Rwoh

Fans of the High Republic books and comics will be excited to learn that the TV series brings back Vernestra Rwoh (Rebecca Henderson), now as a Jedi master working alongside Master Sol. While on the page, we’re following her as a teenager, The Acolyte reveals who Vern grows up to be decades later. If you want to catch up on her story before the show, check out the middle-grade and young-adult High Republic books A Test of Courage, Race to Crashpoint Tower, Out of the Shadows, Mission to Disaster, Defy the Storm, and the upcoming adult novel Temptation of the Force. She also shows up in a few issues of Marvel’s High Republic comics!

Headland explained to Collider why she specifically chose to have Vern jump out of the page for the show: “Vern was a character that really jumped out at me immediately as someone that I wanted to see as an arc for where we were with the Jedi when we come into this story. A character that started out as a prodigy, someone powerfully connected to the Force, almost in love with the Force, but also sassy enough to make her lightsaber into a whip. Someone [with] that experimentation, that energy, and then to see who she is in our show, and see what happens over the course of becoming a more and more powerful Jedi, and going from mission after mission, to council meetings, and protocol, and ‘how do we keep this institution going, how do we check it, how do we negotiate the level of power that we have.’ She’s massively respected, and considered to be one of the most powerful Jedi at this particular time period.”

Headland also confirmed to Collider that Vern will be the only character from the books appearing in season one of the TV series, while teasing that she’s saving others for a potential season two…

Jodie Turner-Smith as Mother Aniseya

Star Wars is really into witches these days. We have the Nightsisters of Dathomir in Ahsoka and now we have Mother Aniseya, played by Jodie Turner-Smith (Sex Education). The official Star Wars databank describes Aniseya as “the leader of a coven of Witches who value their independence and the preservation of their beliefs and powers.” We only see Aniseya briefly in the trailer, surrounded by her robed sisters. We’ll have to wait and see what connection they have to the Jedi…or the Sith.

Joonas Suotamo as Kelnacca, a Wookiee Jedi Master

Yes, that’s a Wookiee Jedi! A Jedi Master, to be exact. We’ve never actually seen a Wookiee Jedi in live-action before, but there have been quite a few in the animated series, books, comics, and video games, including the High Republic‘s own Burryaga Agaburry and Gungi in The Clone Wars. In the old Legends timeline, Chewbacca’s nephew, Lowbacca, also became a Jedi Knight in the decades following the events of the Original Trilogy.

Kelnacca, meanwhile, is a new character played by Joonas Suotamo, who previously played Chewbacca in the Sequel Trilogy and Solo: A Star Wars Story.

Charlie Barnett (Yord), Dafne Keen (Jecki), and Manny Jacinto (Qimir)

Charlie Barnett (Russian Doll) and Dafne Keen (His Dark Materials) play Jedi characters called Yord Fandar and Jecki Lon, respectively. Keen’s character is half-human and half-Theelin, an alien race first introduced in Return of the Jedi. Meanwhile, Manny Jacinto (Top Gun: Maverick) plays a former smuggler named Qimir.

A Mystery Boy and Ahch-To?

Okay, we’re in heavy speculation territory now. Toward the end of the trailer, we see Mae approaching a little boy standing on an island. It sort of looks like it’s meant to mirror Rey approaching Luke on Ahch-To at the end of The Force Awakens, doesn’t it?

So, we have to ask: is this meant to be little Sheev Palpatine? There have long been rumors that The Acolyte will tell the origin story of the boy who would become Darth Sidious. Exploring who Palps was before his ascendance would make a bit of sense if this is indeed meant to be the story that bridges the gap to the events of the Prequel Trilogy. How did Palp become a Sith in the first place? Was it the titular Acolyte who discovered him?

No, the timeline obviously doesn’t add up and Palpatine doesn’t look like he’s over 100 years old in The Phantom Menace. Of course, there is the possibility that he used his dark side powers to somehow prolong his own life and age more slowly. We know the guy is all about manipulating Midi-chlorians and figuring out how to live forever, so perhaps he found a way to live for hundreds of years?

Back to The Acolyte: is this scene literally meant to take place on Ahch-To? The way the green islands are spread out is certainly reminiscent of those Last Jedi scenes on the ancient Jedi planet. But seeing as that planet is meant to be extremely hidden, it doesn’t seem likely that Palps and Mae would just be able to waltz there for a chat, right?

Return of the Sith

The Acolyte is the story of the return of the Sith so it only makes sense that we’d see an actual Sith in the flesh. Who is holding that red lightsaber at the end of the trailer? We don’t know, but they’re clearly very powerful. With a single Force push, this mystery Sith knocks a group of Jedi on their butts, including Master Sol, who we assume is an absolute badass. Is this the Sith Lord pulling the strings in the first season of the show? We can’t wait to find out!

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

The post Star Wars: The Acolyte Trailer Breakdown: Return of the Sith appeared first on Den of Geek.

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