The Acolyte episode 3 review: When dogma and destiny converge

The Thread unspools further in The Acolyte's third episode.
Mother Aniseya (Jodie Turner-Smith) in Lucasfilm's THE ACOLYTE, exclusively on Disney+. ©2024 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.
Mother Aniseya (Jodie Turner-Smith) in Lucasfilm's THE ACOLYTE, exclusively on Disney+. ©2024 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved. /

The third episode of Star Wars: The Acolyte, "Destiny," quickly proves that the two-episode premiere barely scratched the surface of this multilayered story as it delivers the most compelling installment yet.

The ending to the second episode, "Revenge/Justice," seemingly sets up the characters converging on the planet Khofar, where the Wookiee Jedi Kelnacca lives. Instead, "Destiny" is entirely set 16 years in the past on Brendok. The marketing and the premiere's ominous references to what happened on Brendok made it clear that these flashbacks were coming. However, it was a surprise to get an entire flashback episode so soon, particularly since it seemed that one of the primary mysteries was what happened all those years ago.

By grounding the episode through young Osha's perspective from beginning to end, the series provides significant insight into what happened without revealing the entire picture. Osha's choice to run away to the bunta tree and be alone immediately shows her desire to be different from her twin sister, Mae, and the rest of her coven. This makes her reluctance to complete the Ascension and her want to follow her own path and become a Jedi much more believable throughout the episode.

While the tension between Osha and Mae has a sinister edge to it from the beginning and obviously plays a larger role in the series, it was refreshing seeing the sisters arguing and pushing each other while Mother Aniseya teaches them about the power of the Thread, the witches' take on the Force. Despite the deep mysticism of Mother Aniseya's teachings, the dynamic between Osha and Mae made the struggle of teaching children, even one's own children, feel all too real. For all the talk of destiny, Osha and Mae are portrayed as actual children, making the events that follow all the more tragic.

Different cultures and individuals in Star Wars have their own names and interpretations of the Force, such as the Lasat referring to it as the Ashla, a term first used in early drafts of A New Hope, and the Nightsisters seeing it as Magick as shown in The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels, and Ahsoka. The Acolyte introduces its own fascinating interpretation through what Mother Aniseya says about the Thread, along with the visually captivating scene of the coven using their powers during the Ascension ceremony.

(L-R): Mother Aniseya (Jodie Turner-Smith) and Koril (Margarita Levieva) in Lucasfilm's THE ACOLYTE, exclusively on Disney+. ©2024 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved. /

Even though the previous episodes were largely told through a Jedi perspective, the Jedi feel like intruders when they interrupt the Ascension. It feels wrong to have them policing the coven and preventing Osha and Mae from partaking in their cultural ritual. In Phase II of The High Republic books and comics, the Jedi were one of many Force sects represented on Jedha in what was known as the Convocation of the Force. It is sad to see how hundreds of years later, at the end of the High Republic era, the Jedi Order seems to be trying to impose their view of the Force on all others and no longer accept the viewpoints of other sects.

The true victims are children like Osha and Mae. They are caught between the Jedi's dogma and the competing dogma of their coven, all while trying to navigate their own desires, identities, and the growing pains that all children experience. To Mother Aniseya's credit, she empowers Osha to make her own choice, much to the chagrin of Mother Koril, who is intent on both Osha and Mae becoming the witches she believes they are meant to be.

Up to this point, the episode paints a morally murky but relatively clear narrative picture of what happened on Brendok. However, when Mae sets the fire, the picture becomes far less clear, largely because of how quickly everything escalates. Mother Aniseya is essentially giving her blessing to Osha, and what seems like only a minute later, she and the rest of the coven are dead. Sol conveniently arrives to save Osha, who heads back to Coruscant with the Jedi and becomes Sol's Padawan.

Osha's perspective lines up with what she said in the premiere and only shows how she perceived these events. It left the story intentionally unclear as to how everything with the coven and the Jedi truly unfolded. A lot of what's been established doesn't add up with the flashbacks, including the guilt Torbin felt that made him believe he deserved to die for what happened.

Could the Jedi actually be responsible for the deaths of Mother Aniseya and the rest of the coven? Could Mother Aniseya or Mother Koril have manipulated Mae into starting the fire? Osha and the audience are still missing key pieces of information, which will likely be gradually revealed over the course of the coming episodes.

Characters like Qimir, Yord Fandar, and Jecki Lon were missed in this episode (sorry, Yord Horde), but it was worth it to gain a far greater understanding of Osha and Mae and to experience Osha's point of view of what happened on Brendok. While the show should mostly occur in the present from here on out, these probably won't be the last flashbacks shown, as gaps from that night on Brendok need to be filled in.

In addition to all the aforementioned strengths of this episode, it felt like a fitting tribute to The Phantom Menace's 25th anniversary. Sol and Indara test Osha the same way 9-year-old Anakin Skywalker was tested by the Jedi Council. Osha and Mae are revealed to have no father and to have been created by Mother Aniseya and carried by Mother Koril, reminiscent of Qui-Gon Jinn learning that Anakin had no father. The Phantom Menace and The Acolyte both explore children as victims of institutional and individual dogma while fighting to chart their own destinies.

As George Lucas would say: It's like poetry. It rhymes.

Next. Star Wars: The Acolyte episodes 1 & 2 review. Star Wars: The Acolyte episodes 1 & 2 review. dark