The Acolyte episode 5 reveals the secret ingredient to great Star Wars lightsaber battles: it's all about personality

the acolyte
(Image credit: Disney+)

Warning - the following features spoilers for episode 5 of The Acolyte...

The Acolyte just aired its most action-heavy episode to date, unveiling Qimir (Manny Jacinto) as Mae's mysterious Dark Side master. Arriving in a Knights of Ren-style helmet at the end of episode 4, he quickly proves his strength against a whole squad of Jedi warriors. From then on, it's a fight to the death in the forests of Khofar. A fight to several deaths, in fact, as Qimir kills off two fan-favorite characters: the lovable padawan Jecki (Dafne Keen) and the uptight Jedi knight Yord (Charlie Barnett).

The show's cast have drawn comparisons between this episode and The Phantom Menace’s Duel of the Fates - a bold claim, since that's one of the most iconic fight scenes in the franchise. But The Acolyte does actually manage to hold its own. Episode 5’s lightsaber fights blend the elegant choreography of the prequels with the brutality and emotion of the sequel trilogy’s Rey/Kylo Ren duels. These sequences also remind us that the best combat scenes are always rooted in characterization.

Before the fighting kicks off, the show establishes a crucial difference in outlook between the Jedi and darksiders like Qimir - a Jedi should never attack an unarmed opponent, while a Sith is happy to grab the upper hand. With these moral stakes in mind, episode 5 makes sure to give each character a distinctive combat style that reflects their personality.

Rules of combat

The Acolyte

(Image credit: Disney/Lucasfilm)

It goes without saying that Qimir is strong, fast, aggressive, and well-trained. He out-fights multiple Jedi, killing three in the episode’s opening scene. You get the impression that these complacent High Republic-era Jedi are unprepared to fight such a skilled enemy - especially one armed with a helmet and gauntlets made from cortosis, a substance that temporarily disrupts their lightsaber blades, leaving them unarmed. 

"He doesn’t follow the rules of combat" Yord tells Osha (Amandla Stenberg), looking unnerved. "There’s no method to his movements, it doesn’t make sense." To a consummate rule-follower like Yord, Qimir’s combat style is confusing and unfamiliar. But it’s not as if Qimir is just waving his blade at random. He’s obviously spent years training for this exact scenario, learning lightsaber forms designed to fight several Jedi at once.

In an era when the Sith lie dormant and the Jedi are a dominant force, he’s expecting to be outnumbered. The official episode guide also highlights a notable detail: Qimir employs an ancient lightsaber technique known as Tràkata, switching his blade on and off mid-fight (plus he has a real sense of showmanship - an important trait for any cinematic villain).

During his first confrontation with Qimir, Master Sol (Lee Jung-jae) fights defensively and tries to extract information from his opponent, a strategy established in earlier episodes. However, he’s clearly not in control of the situation, as Qimir pushes him back to the point of defeat.

Meeting your match

The Acolyte

(Image credit: Disney)

Despite her youth and inexperience - or perhaps because of it - Jecki turns out to be one of the best Jedi fighters. She's tough and resourceful, drawing a second lightsaber when Qimir shorts out her first weapon. She holds her ground by fighting aggressively and jumping to make up for her height - although Qimir does manage to kill her in the end.

Of course, Jecki’s death is the point where Sol really lets loose. Overtaken by grief and rage, the previously cautious Jedi master furiously punches, kicks, and headbutts Qimir - and then almost cuts off his head, in a direct violation of the "no killing unarmed opponents" rule. He only stops because Osha calls him out. 

The episode ends with Mae disguising herself as Osha and leaving the planet with Sol. But before that, Osha does something sneakily important. She defeats Qimir (albeit temporarily) without a weapon, essentially passing a mirror image of the test he set for Mae. After Qimir’s duel with Sol, Osha jumps in and attaches her droid Pip’s light fixture to Qimir’s back, attracting a flock of umbramoths that carry him off into the trees. And so we learn that even without a lightsaber, she may be the one character who can face up to Qimir’s abilities.

The Acolyte airs weekly on Disney Plus worldwide. For more, check out our latest coverage – featuring cast interviews, explainers, and spoiler guides:

Gavia Baker-Whitelaw

Gavia Baker-Whitelaw is a critic and journalist specializing in geek culture, TV, and film. Previously a staff writer at the Daily Dot, she now freelances for a wide variety of outlets including TV Guide, Atlas Obscura, Inverse, Vulture and BBC radio. She also co-hosts the movie review podcast Overinvested.