‘The Acolyte’ Episode 7 Recap: What Had Happened Was…

Let the record show it was neither my decision nor yours to spend the first six episodes of The Acolyte teasing a mystery to be revealed in the seventh. That’s the kind of decision made by a creative team confident in its choices — in ability to reveal and conceal at will, to generate fresh interest while continuing to string us along, and to deliver when the time finally comes.

Based on this week’s episode, that confidence was misplaced. Not one choice made in “Choice” proves capable of bearing the accumulated weight of the six episodes of “What really happened on Brendok on that fateful night sixteen years ago?” that preceded it. 

THE ACOLYTE Ep7 FIGHT ME

The script stumbles right out the gate by casting this flashback episode as a sort of alternate take on the previous such installment, which showed us the Jedi’s arrival on Brendok and the tragic end of Mae and Osha’s coven from Osha’s perspective. The problem is that nothing whatsoever is gained from shifting the focal point from Osha to Sol, or to his fellow Jedi Indara and Torbin, or to their mothers Aniseya and Koril. They might has well have simply re-aired that earlier episode, just with the cameras placed three feet to the left. That’s the revelatory new viewpoint we’re getting.

You gain no penetrating or surprising insights into the psychology of these other characters: Indara and Sol act basically like Jedi, Aniseya and Koril act basically like Nightsisters, and Torbin is really homesick. Thrilling stuff. Nor are you confronted with any shocking everything-you-thought-you-knew-was-wrong revelations about what really went down. Mae did burn down the compound, only it was through carelessness rather than malice. She didn’t get her coven killed — they managed that on their own by being weird about their powers, turning into weird shadow entities without cluing the Jedi in on what this involves and using mind control to force the Wookiee Jedi Kelnacca to try to kill the rest of the quartet. 

THE ACOLYTE Ep7 LEAPING WOOKIEE

In the end, neither side does anything particularly notable from an ethical perspective, either positive of negative. Koril shouldn’t have unilaterally employed Mae as a catspaw against Osha and Aniseya’s plan to hand Osha over to the Jedi, and she shouldn’t have organized armed resistance when either Indara nor Aniseya had any interest in fighting, but…I don’t blame her, I guess? There’s not a ton of Force witches to go around, it seems, and she loves those kids as her own, and she probably deserves more say in the matter than Aniseya has given her. That’s still a pretty rotten reason to use one daughter against the other in hopes of picking a firefight with Jedi, though!

Similarly, Sol shouldn’t have just assumed he was the galaxy’s most special boy, the only person capable of saving Osha and Mae from a harsh life among dangerous, possibly evil women, but…I don’t blame him, I guess? From what he’s seen, they really are being forced into life in a cult. I mean, from what we’ve seen, they’re being forced into life in a cult. That’s what this is! Maybe the Jedi are just an older, more popular, better financed cult than this gaggle of sisters, but that’s just the story of organized religion, baby. 

My point is this. From House of the Dragon to Halt and Catch Fire, I’ve seen shows where both sides have a point. Those shows tend to be a lot of fun, because they invite you, the adults in the audience, to weigh multiple complicated factors and decide what kind of decision you’d have made under similar circumstances, often knowing there’s no easy answer. 

THE ACOLYTE Ep7 COOL SLO-MO LEAP DUELING

But “both sides have a point” is very, very different from “both sides have a point, I guess?”, which is where this episode lands us. The creative team seems so intent on painting its characters shades of grey that they didn’t realize they’d gone beige. These are some of the dullest moral dilemmas I’ve ever seen depicted.

Which gets us back to that first big structural flaw: We’ve seen so much of this before! Shots, dialogue, some entire scenes are played back virtually note for note, without enough new context provided by the additional material to warrant the repetition. The whole thing is a draggy, wheel-spinning rehash, which with rare exceptions feels like a fair assessment of Disney-era Star Wars as a whole.

Sean T. Collins (@theseantcollins) writes about TV for Rolling StoneVultureThe New York Times, and anyplace that will have him, really. He and his family live on Long Island.

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