GameSpot may receive revenue from affiliate and advertising partnerships for sharing this content and from purchases through links.

The Acolyte's Bite-Sized Star Wars Episodes Are Getting Really Annoying

The Acolyte is a good show, but it can't get any rhythm going with these sitcom-length episodes.


I have been cautiously enjoying The Acolyte--through six episodes, I think it's really good, actually. But as a TV viewing experience, The Acolyte has gotten supremely irritating because each episode is so bizarrely short. All of them come in under 40 minutes if you subtract the "previously on" segments and lengthy end credits--and each of the last three came in at or under 30 minutes. This is fast becoming the biggest gripe about this series, because it feels like each episode ends jarringly just when we're getting into it.

This isn't a new problem for Star Wars, since the first season of The Mandalorian had a similar issue. But those were self-contained stories, with Mando and Baby Yoda going on a different adventure each week. As the live-action Star Wars TV universe grew from there, the episodes generally got longer. While there are short episodes of Andor, for instance, that show feels like it constructed its episodes with whatever length made the most sense. That's also generally been the case for Season 3 of The Mandalorian, The Book of Boba Fett, and Ashoka--they had some long ones, and they had some short ones, and episode length stopped being much of a topic for a while.

Warning: There will be various spoilers for The Acolyte, through Episode 6, throughout this article.

The Acolyte is different, though, and so those converstations are now starting up again. Episode 3, the longest episode of this series thus far, ran just 37 minutes minus the credits. Episodes 4 and 5 are tied for the shortest at 27 minutes each, and this week's sixth episode clocked in just under 31 minutes. But as Gandalf once said, it's what you do with the time given to you that matters, rather than the amount of time you have. The issue isn't the length itself, but rather the why of it: is this episode 31 minutes long because the filmmakers and producers decided that that's the right length for it, or is it 31 minutes long as the result of some sort of arbitrary mandate from the corporate overlords?

Obviously, we don't know for sure why these episodes are like this, but I'd guess it's the latter because Episodes 4 and 5 have the vibe of a single episode that was cut exactly in half. Episode 4 saw every main character travel to Khofar looking for Master Kelnacca, and ended when they all finally met--and then Episode 5 was about the fight that ensued. Put those two together, and you get a single, hour-long episode of television that works as a complete chapter in a larger story. Future viewers will be fortunate to be able to watch those episodes that way, but those of us who watch live--aka the people who are going to determine the public consensus on this show--are being forced to deal with these awkward, week-long intermissions right in the middle of the episode's plot.

This latest episode gave us a new instance of this structural weirdness, thanks to Master Sol declaring to Mae that he's finally going to reveal the true story of what happened to her and Osha's witch coven 16 years before. Then the show cuts to Osha, who puts on Qimir's sensory deprivation helmet and seems likely to receive a vision from the Force of the story Sol is about to tell. And then the episode is over. leaving us to wait another week in frustration that this episode concluded right as it was ramping up.

Despite the short length, it's not even as dense as it could be. Every scene involving that little furry guy Bazil, for example, is a completely unnecessary waste of time, and we get a lot of Bazil this week because he's apparently the main character in Sol and Mae's story. Throwing in a cliffhanger, then, by having Sol dramatically announce that he's going to tell the true story of what happened with Mae and Osha's witch coven (but not until next week), is just obnoxious. Even moreso when you remember how intriguing this episode's other plots were. Specifically: Master Vernestra venturing out from the Jedi Temple on Coruscant on a quest to track down Sol, and Osha and Qimir doing a super interesting remix of the Rey/Luke portions of The Last Jedi. But even these plots feel truncated. A half-hour isn't enough time to do much with three parallel storylines.

With each episode lacking in substance somewhat thanks to the short lengths, the annoyance builds--we're constantly being teased, like every episode is just a lead-in to the next thing, but every time we get into a little bit of a groove, we arrive at another tease that points to something else. Even for those of us who like this show, that kind of thing undercuts our ability to have hope that it will continue to not suck.

The saving grace of The Acolyte, as with Andor, has been its characters--they play like real people, rather than cogs in a plot machine the way folks on The Mandalorian and Ahsoka frequently do. The performances have been great--Lee Jung-jae might be delivering the best Star Wars has ever seen--and the Jedi have a pretty different sort of vibe than we saw from them in the movies. The character work and performances have kept this show above water thus far, but The Acolyte is on a tricky path as we near the end of the season.

With only two episodes left in the season, creator Leslye Headland and co. still have to both show us what happened with the coven--this will be next week's episode, presumably--and also bring the present-day story to some sort of conclusion. It doesn't feel like we're anywhere near the end of this, though, particularly if we're spending half of the remaining two episodes on a flashback.

For now, I still think The Acolyte is a good show, and the complaints about episode length will be less of an issue once the full season is out and it becomes a binge show. But with these bite-sized episodes preventing The Acolyte from building any sort of momentum or rhythm, I'm struggling to have any faith that it will stick the landing over the next two weeks. I think Headland could definitely pull it off, and I desperately hope she does--and that the powers-that-be allow her to--because I've watched way more than my fair share of disappointing Star Wars in my life.

Phil Owen on Google+

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email

Join the conversation
There are 74 comments about this story