Thursday, June 13, 2024

Recap: The Acolyte Episode 3 — Destiny

In this episode, we get the tragic backstory of Osha and Mae, as well as a look at brand-new Force witches and the complicated nature of Jedi youngling recruiting.

After two episodes of characters reckoning with the past, we finally get a chance to view the origin story of all the trauma. Osha and Mae are playing outside the bounds of their settlement on Brendok, and casually using the Force — which we learn they call "the Thread" — to play. 

Shortly a stern Zabrak woman named Mother Koril comes to claim them home. A quick aside about Zabraks: Darth Maul is perhaps the most famous one, and the species is known for their intense face markings and head horns. 

And look, I know this woman obviously cares for these kids, but she is just SO damn scary looking from a physical perspective. Zabraks unfortunately look caricatured devils in our culture. It's wild to think that a child would run up to one for comfort after skinning their knee or falling off their bike. OK, rant over.

Behind a tree, like the classic meme of Anthony Adams rubbing his hands together, is a young Master Sol watching the girls. So, the Jedi are on this planet scoping out...something.  

Intro the Coven

Back at the settlement, we get introduced to an isolated society of all women, sort of a Star Wars Themiskyra, it seems, with members performing tasks and chores in a bustling environment. 

Then, we get to meet one of my favorite new Star Wars characters to come along in a long time — Mother Aniseya. Jodie-Turner Smith really knocks it out of the park with her performance, showcasing strength, intelligence, and incredible allure as the leader of this secret coven of witches. 

Star Wars, of course, is no stranger to powerful and isolated force witches (Mother Talzin and her Dathomiri Nightsisters), but it's fun to get a different version that may or may not be connected.

Back safely inside the fortress, Koril explains to Aniseya that Osha ventured outside again, and that there were no signs of the visiting Jedi (wrong). There's a brief moment of intimacy here between the two women — are they lovers? It's unclear.  Aniseya tries to assuage Koril's fear of discovery, but Koril restates an important fact: the twins aren't normal children. It appears that there's something special about them beyond just being witches. 

Special children — this is a theme that goes back to The Phantom Menace, and it's not the only tieback we'll see in this episode.

A Force by Any Other Name

"All living things are connected by the same thread," Mother Aniseya promulgates in the next scene. "A thread woven through all of existence." She states that some call this energy, the Force, but for her coven, it's not a power to be wielded as a weapon. For them, it's more about connection with other living things. 

This is lovely, and honestly it's not far from the more mystical aspects of the Force that we learned from Yoda. "Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter."

Sure, the Jedi try not to use the Force for attacking, but they're still warriors who often must kill enemies using it. They're space cops, after all. 

The twins this evening will be attending an event called the Ascension, which appears to be a sort of initiation ceremony for their powers. Osha in particular is apprehensive about the event, as she's not sure that she actually wants to become a witch. Mae, on the other hand, wants nothing more, and consistently pressures her sister to aspire to the same fate.

"The galaxy is not a place that welcomes women like us. Witches who have the abilities we do," Mother Aniseya tells them. Of all the ways that the Star Wars Universe is different from ours, it appears that this fear of powerful women still holds true. This adds an absolutely fascinating element to the world-building that I really really liked.  

We learn that the coven was exiled and on the brink of extinction — but that they were blessed with the gift of life (in the form of the twins). This explains why there are only two children in the camp of adult women, and why they're so lovingly cared for by the community. 

Mandatory Jedi Conscription

At the Ascension ceremony for the girls, four Jedi barge and interrupt, claiming that only their order are allowed to train children who are Force-sensitive. We've known about younglings since the prequel films, but I've never really stopped to think about how these kids are identified and obtained. 

I think I always presumed that parents willingly and lovingly volunteered their kids for this training (kind of like how talented soccer kids in Europe get identified early and put on specific paths). Never in my wildest dreams did I think that the Jedi had the power to prevent others from training Force-sensitive youth.

Adding this to the canon adds another layer of complexity to the lore of the Jedi that also began with the prequels. In the O.T., the Jedi, all but extinct, are almost deified as the perfect warrior saints of a bygone era. 

In the prequels, we learn that they were in fact not perfect, and that they were headstrong, willfully ignorant at times, and occasionally problematic. 

A Power Some Consider to Be Unnatural

When the Jedi demand to know where the twins came from, Mother Aniseya states that "they have no father." Flashback to Shmi saying the same thing to Qui-Gon Jinn when he inquired about Anakin's lineage. 

This simple statement presents a whole host of new questions for the episode and Star Wars at large. Here's just a few I have:
  • Are the twins some sort of Chosen Ones?
  • Will Darth Plagueis eventually learn this power from them?
  • Does this kind of thing (immaculate conception) happen a lot in the Star Wars universe?
  • Is this implication that the twins are chosen obviate Anakin's chosen-ness?
We learn that Mother Koril carried the twins, but Aniseya admits to "creating them." Curious, indeed.

An Unexpected Tragedy

Mother Aniseya agrees to send her down for testing the next, ostensibly as a ruse as they plan to attack them. But we learn that Osha desperately wants to become a Jedi — before they even arrive, she's been sketching the Jedi insignia in her notebook, perhaps a nod to her incipient prophetic Force abilities.

With the Jedi, she gets a blood test (man, it's been a long time since anyone's talked about midichlorians, but I kinda dig it. It's like physical proof someone has Jedi powers). She attempts to purposefully fail the guessing test, but they see right through the ruse. It's clear she's drawn to another destiny than that of her sister, much to Mae's anger. 

When Osha returns home, Mae is distraught and locks her in her room so she can't leave with the Jedi. She starts a fire carelessly, and it eventually consumes the fortress. 

She is rescued by Master Sol, and though the exact details aren't shown, all of the witches are dead as they escape through the flames. Did the witches attack the Jedi or vice versa? Signs seem to point to the former, considering the guilt that Torbin felt when he chose to die by suicide.

Osha witnesses Mae seemingly die as she falls into the fire during the evacuation, a tragedy that will split the twins apart for the next 16 years. As we learned in the first two episodes, she doesn't. I imagine in the next few episodes we'll learn Mae's fate, as well as that of the mysterious dark figure who trained her. 


The Math

Baseline score: 8

Bonuses: Jodie Turner-Smith as Mother Aniseya, the leader of a coven of powerful Force witches, absolutely knocks it out of the park; connecting this coven to Darth Plagueis the Wise is mind-blowing

Proto Gonk droid count: None sadly 

POSTED BY: Haley Zapal, new NoaF contributor and lawyer-turned-copywriter living in Atlanta, Georgia. A co-host of Hugo Award-winning podcast Hugo, Girl!, she posts on Instagram as @cestlahaley. She loves nautical fiction, Vidalia onions, and growing corn and giving them pun names like Anacorn Skywalker.