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Jedis were once a seasoning, like salt. We liked the salt, and now Disney is serving us big bowls of salt

The Acolyte, Disney’s emotionally and visually flat new Star Wars spin-off, needs to stop with all the confusing lightsabre fights

The Acolyte: there are only so many gravity-defying glow-stick dances a man can take. Photograph: Lucasfilm/Disney+

The first Star Wars film was about a galaxy a long time ago and far, far away in which Jedis (violent space priests) were a scarce resource. Obi-Wan Kenobi was a Jedi, Darth Vader was a kind of Jedi, and then there was Luke, who was barely a Jedi. The working title was Star Wars: Two and a Half Jedis.

In recent years they’ve been going all out on Jedi characters. That’s because once a franchise goes beyond one sequel it becomes a fanchise dominated by the expectations of people who have made Star Wars far too important in their lives. And what those fans want, predictably enough, are lots of Boba Fetts (hence all the Boba Fett-related spin-offs) and lots of Jedis.

The best Star Wars property is Tony Gilroy’s Andor, which is a social-realist take on the Empire that deals with the material reality of autocracy, the banality of evil, the prison industrial complex and postcolonial theory and has no Jedis whatsoever. The second-best Star Wars spin-off is The Mandalorian, a space western dominated by a Boba Fett-looking buckethead man (more Boba Fetts!) and a future Jedi, the best actor of his generation, a charismatic muppet infant called Baby Yoda. He is an earthbound angel, and I will hear nothing bad said about him.

The problem with Star Wars is there’s too much Star WarsOpens in new window ]

By the time they made Ahsoka they’d rustled up another bunch of Jedis, at which point I started to think, You know, there sure are a lot of Jedis in this galaxy. Jedis were once a seasoning, like salt. We liked the salt, and now the Disney corporation is serving us big bowls of salt that we stuff into our dehydrated faces. Yum.


The new show The Acolyte (Disney+) is set in the Star Wars era before the Jedis were purged from the earth by the populist man of the people Emperor “Honest Joe” Palpatine. Consequently, The Acolyte is an everything-must-go Jedi clearance sale that might as well be called Loadsa Jedis. “You want Jedis? We got Jedis! Big Jedis! Small Jedis! Hunky Jedis! Old Jedis! Baby Jedis! Alien Jedis! Levitating Jesus-lookalike Jedis! Hairy Jedis! Jedis who are in the nude!” The hairy Jedi and the nude Jedi are actually the same Jedi, and that Jedi is a Wookiee Jedi. This is definitely somebody’s dream Star Wars character. Now all we need is a Wookiee Jedi who is also a Mandalorian and maybe has R2D2 legs and a periscope.

The Acolyte revolves around two twins who have been separated, much like the two Lindsay Lohans in The Parent Trap, except in this instance one has been raised by cuddly Jedis and the other has been raised by a metallically voiced baddie with a burning sword. It’s alliterative monkey-torturer and behavioural psychologist Harry Harlow’s cloth-mother and wire-mother experiment all over again but in the Star Wars universe.

The story opens with one of the space Lindsay Lohans, Mae (Amandla Stenberg), murdering a Jedi played by Carrie-Anne Moss. Later, elsewhere in the galaxy, Jedi-school dropout Osha (also Amandla Stenberg) is arrested by Hunk Jedi for this crime, until her former mentor Sad Jedi deduces her innocence. (I’m using Smurf naming rules here). Then Sad Jedi, Dropout Jedi, Hunk Jedi and Alien Head Jedi follow Mae’s trail to a planet where Mae is trying to kill Levitating Jesus Jedi in a big building that’s filled to bursting with generic Jedis just Jediing about the place. (According to Smurf grammar rules, I’m also using Jedi as a verb.)

Star Wars largely lets us know the goodies from the baddies, not by their actions or the strength of their character but by the colour of their clothes and the scariness of their voices

I’m increasingly unsure of the Jedis as a concept. They take children from their families to train them to be soldiers. Enough of them “go evil” to necessitate at least some sort of investigative report. On this show they are a religious police who are allowed to enter places without warrants, force people to talk with their coercive mind powers, ignore extradition treaties and imprison people on inhumane transportation barges run by easily damaged robots.

Furthermore, their effortlessly broken-into temples appear to be situated in areas of high poverty, and when they arrest young street urchins they interrogate them and manhandle them without a lawyer or guardian present. For a few glorious moments the show looks to be going in a yes-the-empire-was-arguably-bad-but-the-Jedis-were-weird-self-appointed-zealots-actually direction. And I am, as the kids say, here for that. It was about time someone both-sidesed the Star Wars universe.

But they’re not really going in that direction. Star Wars largely lets us know the goodies from the baddies, not by their actions or the strength of their character but by the colour of their clothes and the scariness of their voices. The Acolyte is no exception. Andor’s strength was that it brought human frailty and physical depth back to the Star Wars universe. I have no idea how Gilroy managed to do that. I’m sure a showrunner as good as Leslye Headland (who is also one of the creators of the excellent Netflix series Russian Doll) probably had something equally subversive in mind at the outset of The Acolyte. But somehow, like other recent instalments in the franchise, The Acolyte ends up feeling emotionally and visually flat and weightless.

And at risk of Jedi-bashing, Jedis create big storytelling problems. They boringly oscillate from good to evil, rarely visiting more relatable emotions, such as tetchy or hangry. And their power isn’t consistent or well defined, so Mae can take out a whole bar of hoodlums with mind powers and knives in one episode and in another be taken off guard by one floppy-haired arms dealer. And please stop with all the confusing lightsabre fights. There are only so many gravity-defying glow-stick dances a man can take. If I wanted to go to Cirque de Soleil, I would go to Cirque de Soleil. Stop making me go to Cirque de Soleil, George Lucas.

Buying London: Lauren, Olivia, Oli, Reme, Daniel Daggers, Rosi, Rasa, Juliana. Photograph: Zoe McConnell

Buying London (Netflix) focuses on the real-estate operation of a man called Danny Daggers. (Harry Habitat would be better nominative determinism – unless he does something unexpected before the series ends.) It’s based in poky London and not expansive Los Angeles or the midlands, where houses are the size of fields. So at the outset Daggers assures viewers that though the luxury homes sold by his phalanx of hunks and glamazons aren’t as big as those on Selling Sunset, they are, nonetheless, massively expensive.

Over in Dublin we can relate. In Buying Dublin I picture Daggers driving some high-net-worth individual to a bedsit in Fairview and saying, “It’s got a great view of the dump, the asbestos has almost killed the mould, and the landlord only watches you sleep when he feels sad. And it’s the most expensive apartment in Europe!”

As with all the other iterations of this franchise, I start out taking notes about where I will situate my dacha after the revolution, but soon I’m rooting for turbocapitalism, singing along to the you-go-girl pop songs and mimicking the hunks when they say things like, “My job is to make properties look as glamorous as I am”. (This is, sadly, also my approach to home decorating.) My favourite bit of every show is when the real-estate hunks say things like, “I’m here to work. I’m not here for drama” (said in this programme by Lauren), for these are the words that open the gateway to hell on this franchise. So before you know it, I am happily watching rich, beautiful people bicker, without a lightsabre in sight.