To quote Yoda: “Hard to see, the dark side is.”

Lucasfilm has described Star Wars: The Acolyte as “a mystery-thriller that will take the audience into a galaxy of shadowy secrets and emerging dark side powers in the final days of the High Republic era.” The Disney+ series is set a century before the events of The Phantom Menace, where the Jedi Council balked at Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn’s suggestion that Darth Maul — the black-clad, horn-headed assassin-apprentice of Darth Sidious — was a Sith Lord because the Sith “have been extinct for a millennium.”

So who, then, is that grin-masked murderer (pictured on the right, below) wielding a red-bladed lightsaber on their Jedi killing spree?

Series creator and showrunner Leslye Headland demurred when asked about the phantom menace pulling the strings in The Acolyte, but did offer a cryptic tease at the show’s as-yet-unrevealed villain: “It’s the inner-saboteur,” Headland told ComicBook. “The bad guy inside all of us.”

To paraphrase another Jedi Master, that’s the truth… from a certain point of view. In The Acolyte, one perspective is Mae’s (Amandla Stenberg), a former student of Jedi Master Sol (Lee Jung-jae) turned mysterious masked assassin.

“You will discover it when you’re watching the show. It will be revealed,” Headland previously told The Hollywood Reporter about the identity of the titular acolyte, and whether they’re an apprentice of the Sith or the Jedi. “One thing to know about the show is that we’ve been talking about it as a mystery-thriller. It is a serialized story, so each episode gives you more information about the story.”

“We were obviously influenced by samurai films and wuxia films, but also films like Rashomon, where you see one story and then you see it done a different way,” Headland added. “So, what separates [Star Wars: The Acolyte] from some of the other Star Wars series is that it’s told in that particular way.”

For all the talk of the light side and the dark side, The Acolyte exists in shades of gray.

“People who are good guys can be bad guys, and people who are bad guys can be good guys. There’s a lot of moral ambiguity, which is why Jodie’s [Turner-Smith] line in the trailer is so important: ‘This isn’t about good or bad; this is about power and who is allowed to use it,'” Headland explained. “And I believe, of course, that the Jedi are a benevolent, well-intentioned institution, but they are an institution and they have amassed all the power. So the question becomes when did that happen, and since we know where they’re headed in Phantom Menace, what went wrong? What are the cracks in that? So you definitely get the point of view of the Jedi, especially in terms of Amandla’s character and trying to stop her and hunt her down. But you also get enough of Amandla’s character’s perspective that you can also see how both of them exist simultaneously.”

Star Wars: The Acolyte premieres June 4 on Disney+.


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