Tuesday, June 11, 2024

The Acolyte episode 2: Revenge/Justice

Assasin Mae, The Acolyte episode 2
The Acolyte is a new series streaming on Disney+. It is set in the Star Wars universe and occurs 100 years before the fall of the Jedi and subsequent rise of the Empire.

What happened: Assasin Mae shows up on the planet Olega to kill another Jedi, Master Torbin. Mae infiltrates the local Jedi temple and avoids contact with several run-of-the-mill knights, which hints that her vendetta is personal and limited in scope. She discovers Torbin deep in a Force-induced trance called the Barash Vow, having not spoken to anyone for a decade. Mae's attempted assassination on him does not go well, his passive Force defense blocking her every attack. Frustrated, Mae flees as the temple goes on alert. She rendezvous at a local apothecary shop that Qimir, her... suppoort staff? accomplice? lover? ...has taken over, presumably by killing the owner. Mae is intent on killing Torbin without a weapon in order to gain favor with her Sith(?) master, but asks Qimir to mix up an exotic poison for her. Sol, Osha, Yord and Jecki arrive hunting for Mae after learning of the failed attack on Torbin. Mae returns to the temple just ahead of them, and confronts Torbin. She offers him the poison, saying his choice is to either take it and earn her forgiveness or confess his crimes at the Jedi temple on Coruscant. Torbin breaks his trance, asks for forgiveness before taking the poison and insists, "We thought we were doing the right thing." At that moment, Osha sees a Force vision of Mae as a child and breaks away from the group to follow. The vision leads her to Torbin, now quite dead. As Osha is examining the body she is discovered by temple Jedi along with Sol and Jecki. The local Jedi understandably freak out, accusing her of murder, and it looks for all the world like we're in for another "wrong place, wrong time" misunderstanding that will end up with her entire party on the run as fugitives. But no, Yord steps out of the shadows and says he was following her the entire time (because he absolutely doesn't trust her) and that Osha absolutely did not kill Torbin. Osha recognizes the poison as being unique to her homeworld, so they stake out the local apothecary, determine that Qimir is not the normal proprietor, and send Osha in disguised as Mae to pump him for information. Osha, despite being quick-witted and self-assured up to this point, fumbles and stammers her way through the deception, barely making it a full minute before Qimir figures she's not Mae. Then the real Mae shows up, discovers Osha isn't deal like she thought, gets cornered by Yord and Sol before kicking up a Force-powered sandstorm to escape. But not before Osha intentionally misses hitting her with a few blaster shots. The Jedi Council orders Sol & co. to return to Coruscant as viewers learn that Mae is now going after Kelnacca, a Wookiee Jedi living on the Planet Khofar.

Disturbances in the Force: The weird pacing issues continue, as does the weird red herrings. The most obvious of these is setting up Osha to be falsely accused of killing Torbin, but literally moments after that is put on the table Yord completely deflates it. I like the idea of the Jedi who trusts Osha least of all being put in the position of grudgingly vouching for her, but the entire exchange went by so fast that it barely registered. I'm honestly not sure what that accomplished, because in dramatic terms the blink-and-you-miss-it reversal carried no narrative weight. The only thing it did for me was give me a twinge that they may be setting up Yord as a love interest for Osha, which, if so, is almost certain to be handled abruptly with fists of ham.

In hindsight, one thing I now realize I forgot to mention last episode is that when Indara fights Mae and believes she recognizes her, Indara actually believes she is facing Osha, as at this point everyone believes Mae died more than a decade before. We also learn that Mae is absolutely honest when saying she has unfinished business with the Jedi--her vendetta is limited two four from that long-ago incident: Indara and Torbin, both now dead, Sol and Kelnacca (who will presumably be dead by the end of episode 3). The narrative is less info-dumpy this time around and more linear, with less confusion imposed upon the viewer. I like it that Mae is showing self-doubt and vulnerability in addition to determination. I like that she has defeated two Jedi now who were both far more powerful and accomplished than she by outthinking them. It's also interesting that Mae is completely surprised to learn that Osha is alive. There's some harping on the mantra that Mae and Osha are two parts of one whole, and I'm wondering how that will (literally) manifest itself. Osha has almost no conscious control of the Force but is regularly experiencing passive visions that lead her to the right place at the right time. Mae, on the other hand, had pretty impressive physical control over the Force, using it skillfully in combat despite never having undergone Jedi training (Sith training remains an open question). Yet Mae seems completely disconnected from the "knowledge and defense" aspect of the Force. Yet she continues to outthink her more skilled opponents to escape time and again. There was a moment during the sandstorm that I expected Mae to turn up in the ship overing above to take Jecki hostage or something similar to effect her escape. That didn't happen, so either that's yet another red herring whizzing past or I've gotten to the point of reading too much into this show. I still haven't quite figured out Jecki's purpose in this narrative.

All in all, I found episode 2 a definite improvement over episode 1 (which wasn't great, but wasn't bad, either). I've learned there are dudebros pissing and moaning and review bombing this series all over the interwebz, to which I roll my eyes. We're getting a freaking Wookie Jedi in episode 3, folks! Had I gotten to see The Acolyte 30 years ago I'd have lost my damn mind. It's not as good as Andor or even Mandalorian, but I'm enjoying it more than Fett and Ahsoka, and enjoying the new things they're doing without tying everything back to the Skywalker family. So it's got that going for it.

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