‘The Acolyte’ keeps referencing ‘The Last Jedi’ — here’s why

<div>‘The Acolyte’ keeps referencing ‘The Last Jedi’ — here’s why</div>
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The Stranger on the unknown planet.

The finale of the intriguing and controversial Star Wars series The Acolyte is almost upon us. Showrunner Leslye Headland is eager for a second season, but also admits she hasn’t got the green light for one yet. So, what can we expect from the show’s somewhat tied-up ending?

Despite being set in the High Republic era, a century before the Star Wars movies, The Acolyte makes many references to the Skywalker saga those movies cover. For example, the penultimate episode reveals that twin heroines Mae and Osha (Amandla Stenberg) were born (or rather, created) on a planet that constitutes a “vergence” in the Force — a term we last heard in The Phantom Menace, applied to Anakin Skywalker.

But there’s one Star Wars movie that The Acolyte references far more than any other: The Last Jedi. And Headland has dropped enough breadcrumbs about the finale in multiple interviews to suggest the story is heading in a very Last Jedi direction. Or rather, it will take some of the promises inherent in that movie and turn them up to 11.

Let’s break down why, and what exactly that means.

All the Last Jedi references in The Acolyte

The prequel movies showed us how the Jedi were duped and destroyed by Sith Lord Darth Sidious, aka Emperor Palpatine. But The Last Jedi was the first movie in the Star Wars saga to state that this was due to the very nature of the old Jedi Order itself.

“If you strip away their myth and look at their deeds,” Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) explained to Rey (Daisy Ridley), “the legacy of the Jedi is failure, hypocrisy, hubris.”

Those hubristic deeds are on full display in early episodes of The Acolyte. Here, at the height of being the “guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic” (to quote Obi-Wan Kenobi in A New Hope), we see a group of Jedi enter a coven of witches on the planet Brendok.

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Brandishing their limited view of the Force like religious colonizers, the Jedi insist on testing Mae and Osha for entry into the Jedi order, and a horrific tragedy results.

At least, that’s what it looks like from the witches’ point of view. In The Acolyte episode 7, we see a more sympathetic version of the same tragic tale through the eyes of the Jedi. This Rashomon-like shift in perspective was first seen in the Star Wars universe in The Last Jedi. A fateful moment between Luke and Kylo Ren, aka Ben Solo (Adam Driver), is seen from both sides.

No, that’s not the planet Ahch-To.

Osha and The Stranger against the sea and rocky cliffs

Credit: Disney+

The Last Jedi Easter eggs came thick and fast in The Acolyte episode 6. The mysterious Sith-like figure, known as Qimir or more simply The Stranger (Manny Jacinto), took Osha to an “unknown planet” that looked a lot like Ahch-To, an off-the-grid planet where Rey finds Luke. We saw similar cliffs, caves, and even what looked like baby versions of the Last Jedi‘s giant sea cow-like Thala-siren creatures.

However, Headland has confirmed that this isn’t the same place. “Cortosis [the lightsaber-deflecting metal worn by The Stranger] is mined on this planet,” the showrunner told Collider, which isn’t the case on Ahch-To. The creatures are based on mole rats rather than sea cows. And this planet is entirely uncharted, as opposed to Ahch-To, where Luke had retired and simply hidden a chunk of a galactic map from his rebel friends.

However, Headland also confirmed that the visual similarity between the planets was intentional. Same goes for the costumes worn by Osha and The Stranger, both of whom dress like Rey and Kylo Ren. The Stranger strips for a swim, creating tension similar to when Rey saw Kylo Ren topless in a Force vision.

That vision was possible because Rey and Kylo Ren were revealed to be a Force dyad — an unbreakable pairing of two individuals across time and space. The word dyad hasn’t been explicitly used in The Acolyte, but The Stranger did mention “the power of two.”

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Headland has hinted that this doesn’t refer to the Sith concept of master and apprentice so much as a Force dyad between Osha and Mae. Their “power of two” would one day unleash “the power of many,” according to the witches. That sounds more like a dyad than an apprentice always scheming to overthrow their master, as in the case of the Sith.

The girls are “patient zero for this sort of power,” the showrunner told Nerdist. “They must stay together” in order for the power to work, which is why the Jedi splitting them up sowed the seeds of calamity.

Where will The Acolyte go next?

Osha contemplates the Stranger's battered helmet.

Credit: Disney+

The Last Jedi gave us a clear example of what it’s like to be seduced by the Dark Side of the Force — literally seduced, thanks to Rey and Kylo’s mutual attraction. (The other Dark Side seductions seen in the movies, those of Anakin and Luke Skywalker, lacked this sexual element.)

Ultimately, Rey resisted. But what would have happened if she hadn’t? That’s what The Acolyte may be about to show us, foreshadowed by Osha wearing The Stranger’s cortosis helmet at the very end of episode 6. After all, if she resists becoming his acolyte, there wouldn’t be a whole lot for a show with that name to explore in a second season.

As for the question on the mind of every Acolyte-watching Star Wars fan — who is the Sith-like Stranger, anyway? —The Last Jedi may provide clues to the two most likely answers.

It’s unlikely that The Stranger is going to be immediately connected to Darth Plagueis, who was later killed by his apprentice Darth Sidious, although the showrunner wants you to know she knows about your Plagueis theories. “If I continue to tell this story, I know how I would like that [connection to Plagueis] to play out,” Headland told Nerdist. “It’s pretty complicated and messy.”

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As for the equally widespread fan theory that The Stranger is connected to the Knights of Ren, the order that admitted and named Kylo Ren, the one seen all too briefly in Last Jedi? “It’s a really good theory,” Headland said, an unusually reticent answer for her. “What an interesting theory.”

What if The Stranger is nobody special?

Osha and The Stranger both holding a red lightsaber at close quarters.

Credit: Disney+

But there’s one last possibility. In The Last Jedi, Rey was revealed to be the child of junk traders. Many fans warmed to the idea that she was “Rey Nobody,” suggesting that Force powers can arise in anyone, anywhere in the galaxy far, far away. When its sequel, The Rise of Skywalker, changed this by making Rey the granddaughter of Palpatine, those fans were furious.

The idea of a reveal where the mystery character isn’t anyone you’re expecting — isn’t anyone important at all — has only become more resonant in pop culture since then. Doctor Who showrunner Russell T Davies has said that a similar reveal in his season finale “Empire of Death” was inspired by The Last Jedi.

The Stranger turning out to be just plain old Qimir, a wannabe Sith Lord we’ve never heard about — especially if he meets his end in the finale — would certainly explain why the Jedi were so complacent about the return of the Sith in The Phantom Menace. And it would clear the way to explore where Osha goes next with her Dark Side flirtation in a potential season 2.

We’ll find out soon enough. But if Headland’s “complicated and messy” multi-season arc is any guide… Well then, to quote Luke in The Last Jedi, this is not going to go the way you think.

How to watch: The Acolyte is now streaming on Disney+, with the finale episode premiering Tuesday July 16 at 9 p.m. ET.


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