Is Disney Forcing It?

'The Acolyte' looks to be in trouble...
One Of The Most Disappointing ‘Star Wars’ Episodes Ever
‘The Acolyte’ Episode 3 Review

Last night I sat down to watch episode three of Disney+'s new Star Wars show, The Acolyte. The first two episodes seemed fine. Not great, but few shows start out great. There was some promise here, despite all the culture war swirl surrounding the show. Then came episode three. I regret to inform you that it is awful.

So bad that it immediately brought to mind the main movie prequels. But actually, far worse than those, as those were at least tangential to beloved characters and had a grandiose scope. This episode of television was so comically dreadful that I was honestly a bit shocked after it was over. I had to Google to ensure I wasn't alone in thinking this. Sure enough, I was not.

The third episode of Disney’s The Acolyte is an embarrassment to the entire franchise, though the same could be said for so much Star Wars these days outside of Andor and the first two seasons of The Mandalorian.

Here’s one exchange between two characters in this latest episode:

Mae: “The Jedi are bad!”

Osha: “The Jedi are good!”

Later, the same two characters—the twin protagonist/antagonists of the story, as children in this flashback episode—say to one another: “What have you done?” “What have you done?” “What have YOU DONE?”

I want to ask Disney the same question: What have you done?

It's easily the worst dialogue since the tin-ear stuff George Lucas forced us to sit through in Episode III (which itself was better than Episodes I and II, but was just his most recent adventure in tone-deaf dialogue.) But again, this was worse because you at least expect that from Lucas. He says it's for kids – while saying other things privately – or whatever. I just don't think this is for anyone.

I had been cautiously optimistic on the show after reading an interview (though the fact that it was clearly a Disney promotional bit of marketing raised some flags in my head) with show creator Leslye Headland. But I noted it could go sideways with relative ease:

First and foremost, it's pretty clear that Headland is a true diehard Star Wars fan. And not just the film trilogies, but the deep stuff. Stuff far deeper than where I venture, for example. That's obviously why she was chosen to do this, but there's always a risk that such a creator is too far in the forest to see the trees of Endor, as it were. Everything she's saying in this interview sounds right, but Star Wars recent history has been that of content that perhaps requires too much work (read: knowing all the backstory by watching hours upon hours of tangential content) to truly and fully enjoy.

Now I worry far less that it's too deep in Star Wars lore and just, frankly, bad. And that's true even compared to other recent Star Wars excursions which have not exactly been great (beyond Andor and Mando):

Andor was very good. But beyond that, Ahsoka was uneven at best. Obi-Wan Kenobi was a mess. The Mandalorian has been great, but The Book of Boba Fett was definitely less so. And then there are the movie sequels, which were a pretty big clusterfuck. And the Solo movie, which was pointless. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Hopefully this episode was an aberration. While the first two episodes were directed (and co-written) by Headland, the third switched up both director and lead writer. Thus far, the IMDb ratings suggest it's an outlier versus the first two (which didn't exactly have stellar ratings – but the third sits at 3.9 stars). The site TVCharts – which is a great way to visualize such ratings across entire seasons and shows – doesn't yet have the third episode rating up. But it's going to be bad. Yes, those reviews can and do get bombed. But come on, we all have eyes.

I think this is a major problem for Disney. While the viewership numbers are fine so far, they're also a lagging indicator here. If the show continues off these rails, this is going to do some real brand damage. Of course, if they pull it, it will only make the situation worse in a Streisand effect kind of way.

So again, let's just hope this episode was some weird outlier. But my god, it's not a good sign that they let this get to air.