Disney’s latest Star Wars release wants you to separate it from its counterparts. It wants you to think that it’s not your regular Star Wars feature. Star Wars is historically about hope. Hope for the future, hope preserving, you get the drift. Andor challenges that old faithful tenant of the series. What happens when you have a Star Wars show that focuses on a protagonist who is not full of hope? Who believes, ironically, in almost nothing. Not the Force, not hope, not anything.
The show opens with its protagonist Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), stepping into a brothel searching for his “sister”. Of course he winds up murdering two men. Cassian has always been a morally gray character, as Rogue One taught us early. This prequel to the film helps us dig deeper into why. Andor give us insight into his previous life as a small time hustler. Before he gets tossed into a world that’s bigger and darker than he would have ever believed possible.
Contrary to other pieces in the big budget phenom that is Star Wars, there aren’t any high powered light-saber duels. There are no intergalactic space battles. Andor is filled with dark, rainy and often grim tones. There is a general focus more on the everyday people who populate the often fantastical world of Star Wars. Andor screams that its science fiction in a way that is different from its counterparts. It’s somber, slow and occasionally a bit scary.
Created by Tony Gilroy of the Bourne movies, Andor feels like a real, slow burn spy drama with believable geopolitical stakes and intrigue. There’s corporate wrongdoing mixed with government shenanigans, regular people struggling in and against the system and of course the higher ups who are more than happy to be cogs in the system that creates and maintains fear, greed and exhaustion. Andor shows us a galaxy that is driven by ambition and incompetence-refreshing in a world where the villains are almost always too savvy for their own good.
We’ve always known that there’s an Evil Empire in the Star Wars universe, its the focus of the films and the existing shows. We’ve seen their expensive battle machinery, pretty uniforms and intimidating weapons for generations now. Andor shows us the smaller people, who support the Empire’s continued existence simply because they want to benefit from it. They hope to obtain the same power that the Empire has developed over its years.
Andor shows us that the infighting that exists between the good guys is just as threatening as the infighting that exists between the villains. It’s very reminiscent of real world rebellions (think the Spanish Civil War for example), where freedom fighters who have different ideas about what is and isn’t important, fight among themselves while uniting against a common enemy. It makes the famed Rebel Alliance seem far more real, relatable and human than it has in previous years. It gives us the reality of how hard it actually is to overthrow a corrupt system that has been in place for years.
I was excited for Andor already as someone who loved Rogue One, but I can understand hesitancy from people who did not enjoy or see the point in Rogue One. It can be understandably hard to care about a prequel of a prequel. It might be hard to immerse yourself in a show when you already know the fate of the titular character. For me, that works in the shows favor. It builds this sense of impending doom, slowly and with care. The inevitability of what they’re fighting against: capitalism and bureaucracy seems to tighten around them the more they fight. We know there’s no other way for this to end for Cassian, for all of them, but badly. So why continue to fight? Why does it matter?
As a reviewer, I can’t answer that question for you yet. We only received the first four episodes of a twelve episode season. Andor is taking a slow, systematic approach to its telling and so we still don’t know much about what will happen in the next 8 episodes. There’s an incredibly talented cast (Stellan Skarsgård, Adria Arjona, Fiona Shaw and more), and their stories haven’t really begun as of the end of episode 4.
I admire Andor’s commitment to really delving into the lives of all of these individual characters, but it does come at a price. That price is patience. There are scenes full of people walking in different areas around planets, flashbacks that could be significantly shortened and lines of dialogue that are a bit too ponderous for the average Star Wars fan. Without continuous action, which lots of people expect from the franchise, this installment might not appeal to everyone.
If you’re a suspense fan though, this might be your favorite show yet. By the end of episode 3, the world-building has created an intensity that leaves you breathless. Andor isn’t a show that needs spaceships or lightsabers to make things matter. It’s a Star Wars show rooted in the things that we’re all struggling against right now. Grounded in all too real human hopes and dreams, Andor might not exist in a galaxy far, far away after all.
Andor premieres on Disney plus September 21st!
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