The HoloFiles

REVIEW: Star Wars: The Acolyte – Episode 7

By George & Josh Bate

(L-R): Jedi Master Indara (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Sol (Lee Jung-jae) in Lucasfilm’s THE ACOLYTE, season one, exclusively on Disney+. ©2024 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for The Acolyte – Episode 7

In a recent roundtable interview, The Acolyte creator Leslye Headland discussed the ways in which the Akira Kurosawa classic Rashomon influenced the storytelling in her Star Wars series. An iconic Japanese film considered by many to be among the best movies of all time, Rashomon follows a range of characters as recount their own, subjective views of a rape and murder. The film unfolds as depicting different characters’ perspectives of what happened, with each individual’s subjectivity influencing the version of the story that was told. This plot device has since become known as the Rashomon effect and has featured in an array of films, including Gone Girl, The Usual Suspects, Witness for the Prosecution, Knives Out, The Last Duel, and Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi. Now, Headland is the latest filmmaker to apply the Rashomon effect to a movie, following in the footsteps of Rian Johnson in The Last Jedi to use this plot device again in a galaxy far, far away.

Episode 7, titled “Choice,” tells the story of what happened on Brendok from the perspective of Sol. The Jedi, alongside Indara, Torbin, and Kelnacca, find themselves investigating life on the seemingly lifeless world of Brendok when they uncover Mother Aniseya’s witch coven. What begins as a noble mission to secure the safety of Aniseya’s twin daughters soon evolves into an unimaginable conflict that has dire consequences for all involved.

“Choice” is best described as a mirror image of The Acolyte’s third episode. Whereas that installment explored the Brendok disaster from the perspective of the witches, this episode adopts the perspective of Sol and the Jedi. The entire series, up until this point, has been building up to an episode like this. The actual occurrences on Brendok have been shrouded in such mystery, with twins Mae and Osha holding such discrepant opinions on who was responsible for the destruction of the coven. The plot of The Acolyte has largely revolved around what happened on Brendok as it is these events that instigate Mae’s revenge mission that kick off the whole show. As such, there is quite a bit of narrative importance placed on this seventh episode. Unfortunately, not everything about it works….

The acolyte episode 7 review
(L-R): Jedi Master Indara (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Torbin (Dean-Charles Chapman) in Lucasfilm’s THE ACOLYTE, season one, exclusively on Disney+. ©2024 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

Beginning 16 years prior to the primary events of the series, “Choice” starts by re-introducing the audience to the four Jedi at the heart of Mae’s revenge mission: Sol, Indara, Torbin, and Kelnacca. The four Jedi have spent seven weeks collecting data on possible life on Brendok. Around a campfire, Indara notes that the planet was considered lifeless following “a hyperspace disaster.” This one line is probably our favorite hidden detail / reference in the show to date. The hyperspace disaster that Indara refers to is seemingly the Legacy Run disaster, the instigating incident that sparks the entirety of the stories in the High Republic publishing initiative. The hyperspace disaster is depicted in a range of High Republic stories, most notably the novel Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule (a book we highly recommend if you’re looking to dive into a Star Wars novel or haven’t read anything High Republic yet). The fact that a live-action television series like The Acolyte goes out of its way to not only reference a key event from the Star Wars novels, but actually makes it important to the plot of an episode is so gratifying, especially as longtime fans of Star Wars books and comics. 

Indara continues by explaining that the hyperspace disaster should have rendered Brendok lifeless, but, strangely, the planet is thriving. The disgruntled padawan Torbin has grown tired of the mission and expresses his desire to return to Coruscant. Sol counters Torbin’s point by detailing the purpose of their mission here, an explanation that ties into another deep-cut Star Wars reference. Sol explains that they are “looking for a vergence” on Brendok, which is described by Indara as “a concentration of Force energy centered around a location.” The Jedi go on to explain that “a vergence could create life” like they see on the planet. A vergence was first referenced in The Phantom Menace when Qui-Gon Jinn recognized the life of Anakin Skywalker as such a vergence. The usage of the term ‘vergence’ here is critical in highlighting the similarities between the birth of Anakin and the births of Mae and Osha. All three did not have natural births, but were, rather, seemingly born of the Force, something that makes them of particular interest to the Jedi. Whether this plot point will eventually tie back to Palpatine’s statement about Darth Plagueis’ ability to create life from the Force remains unclear. Although, regardless, it’s neat to see this piece of Star Wars lore expanded and for The Acolyte to tie into The Phantom Menace (a film that released over 25 years ago) so directly.

The acolyte episode 7 review
Sol (Lee Jung-jae) in Lucasfilm’s THE ACOLYTE, season one, exclusively on Disney+. ©2024 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

The next day, the Jedi’s investigation continues with Sol departing on his own and stumbling across a massive, yellow bunta tree in the forest of Brendok. This is the same bunta tree that featured in the first and final scenes of episode 3. A hidden Sol looks upon sisters Mae and Osha converse and argue in front of the bunta tree. In true Rashomon effect fashion, we get to see what this scene looks like from the perspective of a different character now. Sol is bewildered when he sees the twins use the Force, realizing that this vergence has possibly given rise to Force sensitive children. Sol continues to track the twins as they make their way to Aniseya’s witch coven and, again, the episode depicts various interactions within the coven from the perspective of a watchful Sol, rather than Mother Aniseya and company. Although no new information is gleaned from these scenes, it importantly reveals that the twins were being watched by Sol.

When Sol returns to his Jedi colleagues, he reports of a Force cult of witches. Torbin interrupts and asks, “Nightsisters?” This is another cool reference to deeper Star Wars lore – the Nightsisters being the witch group seen in The Clone Wars featured Asajj Ventress and Mother Talzin and, more recently, Morgan Elsbeth and the Great Mothers in Ahsoka.

It is in this conversation between Sol and Indara that the episode begins to lose its way slightly. Sol tells Indara, “I fear for the girls’ safety,” but there was seemingly nothing he viewed of the witches that would indicate the twins were in danger. He reports that the witches are planning a ceremony, something he perceives to be as dangerous for Mae and Osha. This conversation messily begins the Jedi’s concern for the girls and their wariness of the witches. We have grown attached to the warm and kind-hearted Sol throughout this series so far, so to see him jump to such a stark conclusion that the witches are dangerous feels unearned. Now, this could be definitely be interpreted as falling within the series’ theme of highlighting the flaws and hubris of the Jedi. But, nonetheless, it feels like there is something missing here in regards to Sol and the Jedi’s concern for the twins.

(L-R): Torbin (Dean-Charles Chapman), Sol (Lee Jung-jae), Jedi Master Indara (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Kelnacca (Joonas Suotamo) in Lucasfilm’s THE ACOLYTE, season one, exclusively on Disney+. ©2024 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

Sol convinces Indara to not consult with the Jedi Council about this and, instead, journey to the witches’ coven. The foursome of Jedi break in the witches’ base and walk into the Ascension ceremony depicting in episode 3. Rather than depict the exact same interaction from episode 3 though, the creative minds behind The Acolyte decide to show an interesting, alternate perspective here. As the witches and the Jedi discuss matters, the episode shifts focus to the inner psyche of padawan Torbin. Using her witch powers, Mother Aniseya finds a way inside Torbin’s head in an effort to manipulate him. Being the youngest and weakest of the four Jedi, it makes sense why Aniseya targeted Torbin. In getting inside his head, Aniseya plays on Torbin’s desire to leave this planet and return to Coruscant, a motivation that, while understandable, also feels a tad misplaced. Why is Torbin so intent on returning to Coruscant and to “escape this planet?”

The acolyte episode 7 review
(L-R): Mother Aniseya (Jodie Turner-Smith) and Torbin (Dean-Charles Chapman) in Lucasfilm’s THE ACOLYTE, season one, exclusively on Disney+. ©2024 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

In getting inside Torbin’s head, Aniseya is trying to exploit the weakest of the Jedi and, in turn, convince them to leave her base and return to Coruscant. In isolation, it may be easy to perceive Mother Aniseya as the bad guy here, but episode 3 provides us more nuance to this. Mother Aniseya loves her daughters and is threatened by the Jedi’s imposition. Fearing that her girls will be taken away from her, Aniseya is doing everything she can (including witch mind manipulation) to have her daughters remain with her.

As the Jedi become aware of what Aniseya is doing, Indara says to her, “You cannot deny that Jedi have the right to test potential padawans.” Again, The Acolyte here is following in the footsteps of George Lucas’ prequel trilogy in demonstrating that the Jedi are not this all-good, all-knowing group of individuals. While well-intentioned, the Jedi assume a level of ownership of the Force, implying that their way is the definitive manner in which to live and interact with the Force. The exiled Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi shares similar concerns about the old Jedi Order to Rey, making this conversation in the latest episode of The Acolyte thematically connect to a common narrative thread discussed throughout the Star Wars saga.

The Jedi and Aniseya’s coven then depart from one another after agreeing that Mae and Osha’s Force abilities will be tested. Back at their ship, Indara dismisses the notion of testing the twins given their age, a concern shared by the Jedi Council in The Phantom Menace when discussing the possibility of training a young Anakin Skywalker.

(L-R): Sol (Lee Jung-jae), Torbin (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Jedi Master Indara (Carrie-Anne Moss) in Lucasfilm’s THE ACOLYTE, season one, exclusively on Disney+. ©2024 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

Sol remarks that he feels a connection with Osha and believes that she is meant to be his padawan. This continues the series’ theme of exploring the questionable morals of the Jedi. Although we know Sol is warm and kind-hearted, he has no right to impose upon the people of another culture and assume that he is meant to take one of their young to be his apprentice. Sol tries to rationalize this desire by pointing out that the witches marked Mae, and not Osha, with dark magic symbols and that he fears for Osha’s life. Why this fact troubles Sol so much remains unclear, however. Does he think that the witches are going to sacrifice Osha’s life in the ceremony? If so, he has no evidence whatsoever for jumping to this conclusion. The presence of dark magic symbols, meanwhile, can be a part of different cultures’ ceremonial proceedings, as Indara notes. Regardless, Sol is persistent. He wants to train Osha. But this just doesn’t feel right. It is difficult to empathize with Sol here, despite the attachment we have formed with him over the past few episodes, as his decision-making is perplexing at best and downright unethical at worst.

After this, Mae and Osha are brought to the Jedi’s ship in order to undergo testing of their Force abilities. Torbin takes a blood sample of Mae (just like Qui-Gon does to test Anakin’s midichlorian count in The Phantom Menace) and leads her to Sol and Indara for continued testing. Episode 3 only showed the testing that Osha underwent, but now we get to see what testing Mae experienced. As expected, Mae purposefully fails the Jedi’s test as a means to convince the Jedi to leave her with her people.

While in the presence of the Jedi, Mae details more about the coven’s Ascension ceremony. She implies that Mother Aniseya wants Mae and Osha to takeover and lead the coven and, more concerningly, quotes her mother when she says, “Everyone must be sacrificed to fulfill their destiny.” This line provides a degree of credibility to Sol’s concerns for the girl’s safety as Mae’s point implies that they may be sacrificed by the witches during the ceremony (although, once again, Sol doesn’t really have the solid evidence required to justifiably reach the conclusion that the girls are not safe and should be taken away from their family). Sol’s questionable behavior continues when he speaks with Osha about the other children present in the Jedi Order and urges her to act upon her desire to leave her people.

The acolyte episode 7 review
(L-R): Jedi Master Indara (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Sol (Lee Jung-jae) in Lucasfilm’s THE ACOLYTE, season one, exclusively on Disney+. ©2024 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

As Osha passes the test and confirms the Jedi’s suspicions that the twins are Force sensitive, Indara says that she will defer judgment to the Council, who comes to the conclusion that they should not be brought to the Jedi Temple and that they should remain with their family. Sol and Torbin have diverging opinions though. Sol expresses that something is wrong with this situation, while Torbin states, “There’s something dangerous about those women.” In arguably the episode’s most poignant line, Indara says to Sol, “Do not alter this little girl’s destiny, because you have formed an emotional attachment to her.” Indara, like the Jedi Council, seemingly make the right call in saying that Mae and Osha should remain with their people given the lack of evidence that the girls are in legitimate danger. But, as Sol has been one of the key characters so far, it continues to seem off that his decision-making regarding the twins feels so misplaced.

Torbin then reports to the others that the twins’ “M-Count is very high.” This is a reference to their levels of midichlorians, while the usage of the term ‘M-Count’ ties into how midichlorians were discussed in The Bad Batch. This test also reveals that the twins’ symbionts are identical, indicating that the twins came out as a result of “some kind of manipulation.” Indara hypothesizes that the witches may have tapped into a powerful Force ability to divide a single consciousness into two bodies, which Sol claims is a power only a vergence could create.

In another unearned and unjustified decision by a Jedi in this episode, Torbin proceeds to leave the others and make his way back to the witches. He claims that the twins are evidence of a vergence in the Force and that bringing the twins to the Jedi Council is their “ticket home.” Torbin’s intense desire to return to Coruscant still perplexes (why is this such a big deal to him?), although it is possible that Mother Aniseya’s manipulation earlier in the episode had an unintended consequence of intensifying this desire of Torbin’s.

Back at the witches’ base, Mother Aniseya accepts the fact that Osha wishes to join the Jedi. An angry Mae, meanwhile, is manipulated by Mother Koril, who encourages Mae to act upon her anger and stop Osha from leaving. “Good girl. Get mad,” Koril saids. This moment is key as it shows that Mae’s decision to start the fire was driven by Mother Koril’s manipulation. Koril exploited Mae’s strong emotions to get her to act on her anger and stop Osha from leaving, which is critical as this soon contributes to the destruction of their people and shows that Mae was not responsible. The fears of a susceptible young child were exploited by an adult – Mother Koril – with violent intentions.

Mae takes Mother Koril’s advice to heart, locking them inside and starting a fire outside of Osha’s room. We saw this moment before (in episode 3), but now it has additional context. Yes, Mae started the fire, but she was manipulated and driven to do so by Mother Koril.

Meanwhile, Torbin and Sol arrive to get the girls, while Indara and Kelnacca head to the coven to stop their Jedi colleagues from escalating the situation.

Escalation is exactly what’s happening though, as the Jedi breach the base and Mother Koril encourages her fellow witches to arm themselves and fight. Sol and Torbin soon confront Mothers Aniseya and Koril. As Sol asks them how the twins were created, Mother Aniseya delivers an ominous line that foreshadows the eventual downfall of the Jedi. “Someday, those noble intentions you have will destroy every Jedi in the galaxy.”

The acolyte episode 7 review
(L-R): Torbin (Dean-Charles Chapman), Sol (Lee Jung-jae), Mother Aniseya (Jodie Turner-Smith) and Koril (Margarita Levieva) in Lucasfilm’s THE ACOLYTE, season one, exclusively on Disney+. ©2024 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

Just as Torbin and Mother Koril are ready to engage in battle, Mother Aniseya uses her witch magic and begins to disintegrate. The visuals look a bit like when characters in the Harry Potter universe use apparition to teleport to another location. As Aniseya changes form, the episode’s most bewildering moment happens as Sol ignites his lightsaber and stabs Aniseya. With her dying breath, Aniseya says, “I was going to let Osha go.” But why did Sol do this? Consistent with our most significant issues with this episode, Sol continues to act in a strange manner and makes decisions that don’t make sense. Sol’s perception of the witches as dangerous is one thing, but going so far as to kill Mother Aniseya takes things to an entirely different place. The series seemed to be converging on a conclusion that the Jedi were largely unjustified for what they did on Brendok, but that there was some rational reason underlying their actions. Episode 7, however, casts doubt on this entirely. The Jedi were unjustified in what they did on Brendok AND there does not appear to be a rational reason underlying their actions.

Falling to her death, Aniseya is then accompanied by a distraught Mae, begging for her mother to be alive. Powerfully conveying the emotions underlying this moment, Mae looks up to see Sol. The two make eye contact as Mae’s relentless desire for revenge becomes entirely clear.

With Aniseya dead, the conflict turns violent quickly. Mother Koril attacks Sol, while Torbin defends himself from the witches, who are shooting arrows at him. These battles are interrupted when the fire that Mae started causes a massive explosion and causes the base to crumble. As this happens, Koril dissipates like Aniseya did a few moments earlier and leaves the scene after using witch magic to possess Kelnacca the Wookiee Jedi. What ensues is another fantastic action sequence in The Acolyte, one that sees a formidable Wookiee wield a lightsaber and battle with Torbin and Sol. The choreography is simply superb, while director Kogonada shows that he has a firm grasp on directing action (just look at that amazing slow-motion shot of Sol twisting in the air before delivering clashing with Kelnacca’s lightsaber).

Indara (jumping onto the scene with a Trinity-esque jump through the air) arrives just in time to break the trance Kelnacca is under. In doing so, all of the witches engaged in the ritual to possess Kelnacca suddenly fall unconscious. If this is what kills them, then that means Indara used her Force abilities to murder 50 witches. If this just rendered them unconscious, but the Jedi left the unconscious witches at the crumbling base, one could argue that Indara and the Jedi are still responsible for their murders in failing to get them out of there. Again, questionable decision-making from the Jedi characters in this episode.

The acolyte episode 7 review
Kelnacca (Joonas Suotamo) in Lucasfilm’s THE ACOLYTE, season one, exclusively on Disney+. ©2024 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

Sol then follows Indara’s instructions to save the twins, but only manages to save Osha as Mae falls to his death (we know this is not the case, but this is what Sol and the others believe).

Osha is taken onboard the Jedi ship as it journeys back to Coruscant, leaving the dead bodies of an entire coven in its wake. Indara criticizes Sol and Torbin for their actions, the latter of which is now sporting various scars and injuries. This is a perfect time to point out the stellar performance from Dean-Charles Chapman as Torbin here. There are an array of characters in this episode, all actualized by impressive performances, but Chapman stands out above the rest with an excellent turn. Key shots throughout the episode linger on Chapman and subtly convey so much with Chapman’s facial expressions as he takes everything in. The haunted look in his eyes as Indara expresses her disappointment in him captures regret and guilt so intimately and effectively (not to mention Chapman produced some pretty great lightsaber work in this episode).

After clashing with Sol, Indara as the senior Jedi here makes the bold decision to cover up what happened on Brendok. She says that they will explain that Mae burned the witches’ base down and that this action killed the witches. Regardless of whether Indara directly killed the witches with the Force or whether they left the witches to die in the fire, this is a monumental decision for a Jedi like to Indara to make. It is possible that it was simply too late to save the witches as the base crumbled, although then one could argue that the witches would have been able to escape had they not been knocked out by Indara. Either way, Indara insists on twisting the narrative of the events given to Osha and the Jedi Council, which explains why Osha and Mae viewed the situation so differently.

The acolyte episode 7 review
Jedi Master Indara (Carrie-Anne Moss) in Lucasfilm’s THE ACOLYTE, season one, exclusively on Disney+. ©2024 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

On a side note, Kelnacca seems considerably less culpable than the other Jedi for what happened on Brendok. Kelnacca was not complicit with Sol and Torbin’s decision to retrieve the girls from the witches and only fought with them later as a result of witch mind control.

Anyways, the episode then concludes on a jarring and abrupt note. Sol tells Osha that Mae started a fire and then suddenly the screen cuts to black and the credits roll. A few episodes of The Acolyte have had abrupt endings, although none compare to how misguided this episode’s ending is. A cliffhanger like episode 4’s ending can be justified, especially given the brilliance of the subsequent episode. But episode 7’s ending feels unnatural – like someone just hit pause on the story.

VERDICT: 6.5/10

The Acolyte takes a page out of the Akira Kurosawa classic Rashomon in a flashback episode that depicts the events on Brendok from the perspective of the Jedi. While this plot device had the potential to better detail the motivations and actions of the Jedi, episode 7 missteps with a series of perplexing character decisions and motivations. At the heart of this is Sol, a character previously introduced as warm and kind-hearted, but now seen as harboring seemingly irrational concerns about the twins that make his subsequent actions feel completely unwarranted. The entire series so far has been leading to an episode like this in which the true events on Brendok are revealed, which makes episode 7 all the more disappointing for its somewhat unsatisfactory explanation of events. Despite murky plotting and ambiguous character motivations and actions, the episode still manages to entertain and proves to be an extremely well-directed installment of Star Wars television. Dean-Charles Chapman stands out amidst an ensemble cast as he delivers a vulnerable and haunting performance as the padawan Torbin. The Acolyte heads into the final episode of its (hopefully first and not last) season following a misguided, albeit captivating installment. Like Rian Johnson with The Last Jedi, Leslye Headland proves that the Rashomon effect can be applied to a story in a galaxy far, far away. Unfortunately, the execution leaves a bit to be desired.

Check out our breakdown of 25+ Easter Eggs + Hidden Details in The Acolyte episode 7 below….

Easter Eggs & Hidden Details in ‘The Acolyte’ Episode 7

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