The Acolyte Offers a Certain Point of View in “Choice”


Oh, so no frame device, we’re just jumping right into another flashback episode? Okay.

Recap

Mae and Osha on oppposite side of a broken bridge in The Acolyte, episode 7, "Choice"
Screenshot: Disney+

We’re back on Brendok sixteen years ago to learn what else happened. The Jedi group were dispatched to research a possible vergence in the Force on Brendok; years before the planet had no life at all and now it’s abundant. Torbin hates this mission and wants to go back to Coruscant, though Sol insists that it’s a noble endeavor. On the next day of scouting, Sol comes across Osha and Mae and follows them back to their coven, watching them receive training. He returns to his camp and tells Indara that he’s worried for the girls’ safety, as he heard they’re preparing for their ceremony tonight. Indara agrees to check it out despite reservations, and everyone insists on accompanying her, though she wants to go in alone. Aniseya delves deep into Torbin’s mind when she controls him, learning of his desire to go home and promising that she can give that to him.

Once the encounter has ended, Indara praises Sol for the suggestion of testing the girls, giving her time to ask the Council for guidance on the situation. Sol feels a connection to Osha and believes that she’s meant to be his Padawan, which Indara warns against, as Osha is too old. Sol worries that Mae has been marked with “dark magic” in their ceremony and that Osha doesn’t want the same. The next day, the girls are given their tests. Mae insists that her mark is to allow her and Osha to govern the coven, though Indara doesn’t understand how they could be true for two children. Sol knows Mae was told to fail and asks to try different tactics with Osha, which Indara agrees to. Osha passes, but the Council won’t allow them to take the twins from their people. Sol is very upset with the decision, and insists that he wants to do what’s best for Osha.

The twins’ M-count indicates that they are more than just Force-sensitive twins: They are one being split in two, they are the vergence. Torbin believes getting that proof will allow them to leave Brendok, and hurries back to the coven against orders. Indara tells Sol to follow while she and Kelnacca bring the ship. After Mae and Osha fight, Koril takes Mae aside and tells her that if she doesn’t want Osha to leave, she must stop her. At the same time, Aniseya argues to the coven to allow Osha to make her own choice. They disagree, but Aniseya is determined that Osha should do what is right for her. Sol and Torbin decide to break in to the mining facility where the coven resides and get the girls out. Indara sends Kelnacca from the ship to stop a conflict from escalating.

Sol confronts Aniseya and Koril, asking where the girls came from. Aniseya warns that the Jedi’s noble intentions will one day destroy them. Mae comes out to ask for help after starting the fire; Sol mistake her for Osha. Aniseya uses a Force magic to try and get them both to safety. Sol panics and cuts her down with his lightsaber, killing her as she tells him that she’d planned to let Osha leave with him. Koril tells Mae to run and begins to fight Sol. The fire grows and the witches take the opportunity to enter and control Kelnacca’s mind. Sol and Torbin fight the Wookiee until Indara shows up and breaks the connection in Kelnacca’s mind, causing the coven to collectively pass out. She tells Sol to get the twins. He finds them on opposite sides of the falling bridge, but she can’t save both of them: He chooses Osha as Mae falls.

Back on the ship, Indara tells Sol he made a mistake and the two begin to fight before Torbin breaks in, wanting to know what they’ll tell the Council. Indara insists that they lie, saying that Mae started a fire and destroyed their home. Sol protests, but Indara tells him that if he throws himself at the mercy of the Council, Osha will have no one. As this is the result of choices he made, they all must lie so that Osha has a place. Osha wakes and asks what happened. Sol tells her that Mae started a fire.

Commentary

Sol looking at Aniseya in horror in The Acolyte, episode 7, "Choice"
Screenshot: Disney+

This is… well, it’s a bit silly, isn’t it.

And again, most of it comes down to the fact that we don’t know these characters well and haven’t been given enough information to understand their behavior. For instance—why is it so important to Torbin to get back to Coruscant?

It sounds like a minor thing, but his upset over being asked to stay and monitor this world is so over-the-top that it effectively causes half the problems within the episode. He makes it sound like they’re living in exile or being punished. He’s literally panicked over the thought of having to stay there, which is hard to take seriously because that’s what Jedi do? They go where they’re told, and Padawans in particular are tied to their masters. So why would Torbin have agreed to become the Padawan to Indara, knowing her and the kind of missions she’s normally sent on? If this is a departure from the norm, we need to know that. If Aniseya’s possession is overly effecting him after the fact, we need to know that, too. As is, it just reads like Torbin is having a meltdown over being asked to camp in the woods. (Which I can sympathize with, but I’m not a Jedi.)

The same confusion presents itself for Indara’s change of heart at the end of the episode. She’s the one quoting the rulebook at people and trying to stay in touch with the Jedi throughout. She’s the one who is warning Sol against the mistakes that he’s making. Yet her choice by the end of the episode is to lie to the Jedi Council and force an issue she was against from the start—making Osha Sol’s Padawan after being denied by their superiors because she’s too old to be trained. And she claims the reason is because this is too traumatizing for Osha, given everything that’s happened. I appreciate that someone finally stepped up and considered the kid’s welfare above everything else, but where is this coming from and why did it have to involve lying to her?

It reeks of bad plot mechanics: Sol can’t be the person to make this decision because his guilt is part of the problem throughout the show, obviously Torbin doesn’t have any power here, and Kelnacca is a Wookiee, therefore unable to be understood without translation. (This bothers me frequently in Star Wars because it renders any sufficiently alien entity as a non-character—Kelnacca is effectively set dressing here.) Indara is the most in charge here, so it has to be her. So it is, even though it doesn’t jive remotely with what we’ve been shown of the character thus far.

A good portion of this could have been solved by seeding more flashbacks throughout the plot and spending some extra time with these characters. It’s frustrating because we’ve been waiting for this reveal for weeks, and some of the what we’re shown does the work here—Sol choosing to save Osha over Mae when they’re both on that bridge is devastating—but so much of it is providing context with no weight attached to anchor it.

I can appreciate that we see Koril directing Mae to keep her sister with them in terms of lifting a lot of the blame from Mae, who is a child throughout all of this and shouldn’t be blamed for what happened, but that’s also a gaping hole in the story that needs addressing; the differences between how Koril and Aniseya are choosing to parent deserves far more screentime. And then there’s Sol’s fear over how the girls are being treated, which is important parallel to real-world difficulties in childcare that gets no time to marinate at all. This is thorny stuff, so close to the issues we have in our own foster systems and Child Protective Services that it shouldn’t simply be thrown into the story without attention. Sol’s inability to understand the culture on Brendok causes this entire problem, as does his desire to have a pupil. That’s not a small difference of perspective—it’s a major distortion that destroys Mae and Osha’s lives.

We get a few glimmers of thoughtfulness here and there: It seems as though Indara has more working knowledge than any of her compatriots, which is why she’s the one who seems to have some background on the Nightsisters. That lack of experience and knowledge would seem to be a key here; Sol attacks Aniseya for using a power that is known among the Nightsisters, something that seems strange for a Jedi to panic over. But again, without telling us anything, we can’t really get the full breadth of the tragedy here.

Also, isn’t the rest of the coven… alive? They just went unconscious, it looks like? Why did they leave them there and make it sound like they’re all dead? (Did they leave them there to perish in the fire, because that’s uhhh… a really big deal.) Did Indara not know they were mostly alive and that’s why she insists on taking Osha with them and lying to everyone? Also, wouldn’t Osha have sensed that they were largely alive, being an entire coven connected through the Force? And if they’re all still alive, wouldn’t Mae know that? If having their connection severed to Kelnacca suddenly killed the whole group, that’s a thing that needs addressing stat.

It’s especially frustrating to realize that most of these issues are instantly ameliorated with time. If the story had planted constant flashback throughout, it could have been suggested that Osha was sneaking away from her family to visit Sol, learning about the Jedi, and forming this deep bond he insists he has with her. It would have made more sense of the coven’s protectiveness, Torbin’s disillusion, Mae’s anger, and the fallout that ensues. What’s more, the story is set up to allow for that passage of time: The Council denies their petition to train Osha and asks them to continue their work on Brendok. They could have just hung around and allowed this to grow in a way that feels organic with the tiniest of tweaks.

Spanners and Sabers

Indara clasping Sol on the shoulder in The Acolyte, episode 7, "Choice"
Screenshot: Disney+
  • So that little fire really did destroy the entire facility? I guess we’re supposed to believe that the site’s age contributed to it, but so much of the place is stone that even with a substantial electrical fire, it still seems ridiculous.
  • I’m really upset that we don’t get more of Sol and Indara’s relationship, because what we seem to have here is a dynamic in which the Obi-Wan-esque character has more seniority and than the Qui-Gon-esque one. And that’s so good and deserves far more attention than it’s been paid here.
  • Yes, a vergence in the Force is the same thing that created Anakin Skywalker (with a little nudging from Palpatine). Basically, if you can find a spot where the Force is that strong, it’s possible to manipulate that power to do wild things—up to and including creating life. Interestingly, we’ve only ever heard of Sith and non-associated Force-users creating anything with these nexus areas of power… which makes one wonder why the Jedi sent a group to research it in the first place.
  • Looking forward to the number of conventions that will now feature Jedi cosplayers hanging around with metal-detectors, looking for “Force vergences.” They didn’t even bother to trick them out—they’re just metal-detectors you’d use to scout a beach. Thank you for that.

Next week, we finish the season. See you there. icon-paragraph-end



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