Sunday, July 21, 2024

The Acolyte Unveils Its Villain In a Brutal, Action-Packed Episode

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Like many, I felt cruelly teased by the ending of The Acolyte’s fourth episode. Cutting off right when your villain makes his proper introduction by facing down a squad of Jedi was a major cliffhanger, and one that left me disappointed in the episode. The Acolyte certainly had plenty of time left to turn things around, though, starting with how they picked up from that final shot of the mysterious masked Dark Side master rocking all those Jedi back with the Force.

The fifth episode, named “Night,” followed up on this with what was basically one long-continuous action scene that blew up the status quo of The Acolyte and established exciting possibilities for the rest of the reason.

Sol readies his lightsaber for battle from The Acolyte

Really, this is what we all want at the end of the day, isn’t it? Star Wars fans certainly appreciate character-driven drama, as the success of Andor proved, but in the end we’re all here for the lightsabers. There’s an inherent excitement to a good lightsaber fight in anything Star Wars, something that thrills fans whether we’re watching a classic like The Empire Strikes Back or a largely disliked stinker like Attack of the Clones.

The Acolyte delivers a pretty freaking entertaining one here, and one of the better introductions to the power of a Star Wars villain. Mae’s Master, who turns out to be Qimir, absolutely lays waste to the Jedi sent after Kelnacca, killing everyone except Sol, Mae, and Osha. This is definitely one of the more brutal battles I can recall seeing in Star Wars; not because of gore, but rather the casual, easy, and unique way in which Qimir not just wins, but kills, as he uses a combination of his lightsaber, fists, and feet to beat the hell out of the Jedi before dispatching them, while also using his cortosis armor to literally headbutt lightsabers into malfunctioning.

I’ll admit to slight disappointment to see Qimir revealed as the smiley-masked master Mae followed. Anyone who has read my previous reviews knows that I was on the Koril train, and seeing Qimir beneath the mask lacked the same dramatic gravitas that Osha and Mae’s mother would have.

That being said, my reservations largely vanished as the episode progressed and Qimir tallied up more and more victims. I have to admire The Acolyte here, because I did not think the body count would be this high. When Jecki entered the battle and actually managed to hold her own in a one-on-one fight with Qimir, I groaned a little, thinking it was lessening the deaths of the other Jedi to see this padawan step in and do so much better than all of them combined. It would have been so easy to make up reasons why the named side characters survive, but The Acolyte respected the implications of having two younger, unproven Jedi end up in a situation they should not survive.

This just made the stomach punch hurt more when Qimir killed both her and Yord, leaving Sol as the lone surviving Jedi of the fight. It also led to the incredible hand-to-hand brawl between Sol and Qimir, where Sol nearly lost sight of his Jedi principles.

There have been complaints about a Sith revealing themselves in a time when, according to the prequels, the Jedi were unaware of any Sith in existence. I think this episode fairly well tied up that loose end. I find it hard to believe that Sol will be able to report Qimir’s existence, and even if he does that anyone if importance will find out. Maybe The Acolyte will make me look foolish here.

The choreography and cinematography of all of these continuous fights also helped them stand out as the peak of the season so far. The pop of the lightsabers in the dark, the way the battle moved in and out of the trees, the horror-movie feeling of Qimir stalking his prey all helped establish just how terrifying this villain is for our heroes. The fights themselves also looked fantastic, with Jecki’s dual-saber skill standing out alongside the fistfight as the best action. We get to see how much work these actors put into these fights as the camera lingers long enough to really show off the clashing, whirling impact of every blow.

Jecki’s fight with Mae was also pretty solid, and it speaks volumes about the quality of the Qimir fights that it was “unremarkable” in comparison.

While Qimir’s entrance to end last week’s episode was good, we needed the confrontation with the Jedi to properly establish him, especially with the Darth Bortles prediction coming true. Thankfully, it worked on just about every level, from the fight to the framing to Manny Jacinto himself, who is absolutely excellent in this episode, proving equal parts intimidating and manipulative with the kind of effortless terror you expect from a Sith Lord.

Which, of course, raises the question of whether Qimir is a Sith or not. He says the Jedi may call him that, but is he referring to himself as a Sith, or taking a shot at the Jedi for labeling all non-Jedi Force users as their mortal enemy? We’ll find out soon enough, I suppose. My guess is that he (and any potential higher master of his) will adopt the label of Sith, but it could go either way.

I still think a further reveal about Koril is coming, as Qimir has knowledge and abilities he could only have really received from some connection to Mae and Osha’s childhood Force witch coven, and someone there at the time had to rescue Mae. If not, though, and Qimir is truly the main villain, then The Acolyte did a terrific job introducing him.

At this point, the established conflict between Sol and Qimir is by far the best part of the show and I’m excited to see it play out. It made for my favorite episode of The Acolyte so far, which is appreciated after my disappointment last week.

That’s not to say the episode was without flaws. Many of the issues plaguing the season remain here, even if the cool villain and enthralling battles did a great job making up for them. There remain awkward dialogue and scenes, and weird editing choices, such as shooting two scenes where Osha tries to convince Yord to go back to save the Jedi fighting Qimir. The acting is also hit or miss for anyone besides Sol and Qimir.

This stands out most of all in the long-awaited reunion between Osha and Mae. This should be a pivotal, standout scene, and one the season has built up to for 5 episodes, but it fell disappointingly flat and played out like some of the worst moments of the prequel trilogy, with stilted acting and terrible dialogue, including that awful line about the Jedi brainwashing a loved one ripped straight from Anakin Skywalker in Revenge of the Sith.

While Osha’s arc has largely been uninteresting to me, Mae’s has been a highlight, and I hoped getting the two of them together would make Osha more interesting, but instead it made Mae less so. I’m unfortunately glad to have the two characters separated again, and the potential of Mae escaping with Sol far more interesting than Osha being with Qimir.

Though I also hope that Sol will quickly realize he took Mae, and not Osha, once the shock of his recent losses begin to wear off. I’m also hopeful that Osha will get a boost from being around Qimir (and any other possible villains he’s involved with).

All in all, though? The Acolyte had a good week. It’s hard to imagine a Star Wars fan not having fun with this episode. After all, we’re all suckers for a good fight and the bad guy winning.

Images Courtesy of Disney+

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