The Acolyte’s Best Jedi Is a Guy Who Kinda Sucks, and That’s Great

The Acolyte’s premiere this week introduced us a lot of new things—a new Star Wars era as yet unseen in live-action material, new ideas about both the light and dark sides of the Force, new delightfully weird droids and creatures, and of course, a whole new cast of characters. And one of the best of those new characters, Yord Fandar, is quite unlike any kind of Jedi we’ve seen in the Star Wars Disney+ shows so far, in that… well, he kind of sucks.

A promising young Knight of the Order, Yord is perhaps the textbook definition of a Jedi among the show’s cast of Masters and Padawans. He is the Jedi, in so much as if the Order had recruitment posters instead of just going around abducting children, it’d be Yord’s gleaming heroic face that’d be slapped all over them.

This is not to say there are no good Jedi in The Acolyte—for whatever part Sol had to play in the incident on Brendok, it’s clear that he is a caring, understanding figure, haunted by whatever happened to tear Mae and Osha apart, and it’s equally clear that he bristles at the thought of the Jedi playing politics and hush-ups when it gets in the way of doing the right thing. His padawan, Jecki, is a cut from a similar cloth to Yord in some ways, as a child of the Order, but the influence of her master’s attitudes is there in her own approach to things, and even she realizes when Yord’s training saber is stuck a little too far up his own backside. Even Osha, having left the Order, instills some of the traits we want to see out of the Jedi’s best—and when she tells her fellow prisoners in episode one that she has faith in the Jedi, you feel that passion for what they stand for, rather than whatever the Order has become in the process that saw her leave it behind.

Image for article titled The Acolyte's Best Jedi Is a Guy Who Kinda Sucks, and That's Great

Image: Lucasfilm

But there’s a difference between the embodiment of a good Jedi, and the embodiment of the Jedi Order—even at the supposed apex it reaches in the High Republic era—and that differentiation is where Yord, bless him, comes waltzing in. From the minute we meet Yord, strutting into the bridge of the Trade Federation ship where Osha works, his temple robes a little too pristine, a little too crisp, you can tell he’s kind of a prick (actor Charlie Barnett’s own words, not mine). It’s a feeling that’s only intensified by practically everything he does in The Acolyte’s first two episodes from there on—the subtle threat he holds against the Neimoidians that he can get what he wants with a flurry of his hands, the way he sits just so on Osha’s bed waiting to interrogate her for her seeming involvement in Master Indara’s murder. His rigidness is not just in stature but in character, too, unwilling to take on new information or interpretations unless it’s absolutely necessary, because there’s one way a Jedi is supposed to do things and he can’t bear to think about the idea that there are in fact alternatives, and that the Order isn’t always right. When push comes to shove, he’s a little too eager to whip out his lightsaber. If there was a Bumper Book of Jedi Rules, he’s read it from cover to cover countless times, and would love a copy he could keep in his pocket, so he can make it known when he thinks you’re not following those rules to the letter.

All this could make Yord kind of unbearable as a character, but The Acolyte leans into his stickler nature as a source of humor over and over—the fact that he is this stick-in-the-mud dweeb is something his fellow Jedi rib him for; we get to see it when he’s already aboard Sol’s ship literally steaming his robes to look their best for the mission. It’s he who gets the show’s “I have a bad feeling about this” line drop, and it works mostly because that is exactly the sort of thing someone like Yord would say when he thinks they’re doing something that’s not in the spirit of what the Order would want. Yord is kind of an asshole, but not in an antagonistic sense—and even his friends and colleagues understand it. Yord sucks, but only enough for you to notice it. And that’s great.

Image for article titled The Acolyte's Best Jedi Is a Guy Who Kinda Sucks, and That's Great

Image: Lucasfilm

Not only does Yord feel almost immediately enriched as a character for being this kind of “Best Jedi” figure in The Acolyte’s cast—that he gets to be funny, that he gets to be a bit of a nerd, that he gets to brush up against and have friction with the direction of his fellow Jedi and the show’s narrative—he also fills a necessary part of the show’s portrayal of the Jedi Order. The Order exists as an institution to be critiqued, and it’s already clear The Acolyte is ready to critique the hell out of it. But it’s also a body of many beings, beings who are not always going to see eye-to-eye all the time even if they are connected by being Jedi. For every bureaucrat or dogmatic weirdo, there’s people who genuinely want to go out into the galaxy and help, for every kindhearted soul there’s realists who believe there’s a bigger picture to be committed too. There’s good people, there’s bad people, there’s nerds and dweebs, and silly little guys. For every Sol, there’s a Yord.

The Jedi are not a monolith, as much as they can often be portrayed as such—and by making its prototypical “best” Jedi a guy you kind of want to see knocked off his perch a good few times, The Acolyte gives the Jedi a kind of fun, interesting, necessary texture that really intriguing to watch… even if you find yourself rooting against its most stereotypical of heroes a few times.

Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel and Star Wars releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about House of the Dragon and Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.

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