Out of the many Star Wars streaming shows Disney has put out, I’m not sure any have been as well received as the first season of “Andor”. The amount of love it has gotten from both fans and critics has been surprising and (in some cases) suspicious. While some like pretty much anything Star Wars related, there are those who are put out with the franchise and like “Andor” simply because it bucks traditional Star Wars trends. Cynical nonsense aside, what matters most is “Andor” is good – legitimately good and among the best of the franchise’s streaming series.
Without question, “Andor” was quite the gamble for Kathleen Kennedy and the heads at Disney. The character for which the show is named, Cassian Andor (exceptionally played by Diego Luna), first appeared in the 2016 film “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”. He was hardly a top-tier player in the ‘galaxy far, far away’, so a lot of people were surprised to see him getting his own dedicated streaming series. But like every show thus far, his series doesn’t have a singular focus. It’s not wrapped up in following one character alone. It is just as interested in broadening our understanding of the greater Star Wars universe.
“Andor” certainly gives us a a better picture of Cassian by showing his life leading up to the events of “Rogue One”. But it’s just interested in the tumultuous galaxy around him. Creator and showrunner Tony Gilroy takes us to new places, introduces us to new characters, and offers up new perspectives during the volatile time between “Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” and “Episode IV: A New Hope”. It’s a time when the evil Empire was tightening its grip on planets and peoples. It’s also the time where we see the genesis of a young rebellion. It’s an interesting period made even more compelling thanks to Gilroy’s incredible vision.
“Oppression breeds rebellion.” It’s a line that gets to heart on “Andor”. Gilroy gives us a clear-eyed view of what drives people to rise up and revolt. Poverty, oppression, subjugation – they’re just some of the things we see that plants the first seeds of rebellion. The series also puts a heavy emphasis on the chasm between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’; between those reaping the benefits of the Empire’s aggression and those being crushed by it. There are fascinating dynamics of all kinds scattered throughout its twelve episodes.
“Andor” starts slow and deliberate and the first couple of episodes may try the patience of those looking for a more traditional Star Wars experience. But from the very start, Gilroy is working towards something and he takes his time getting there. He doesn’t gloss over his world. He wants us to feel a part of it. And he doesn’t just introduce characters. He gives them depth which helps us understand their place in his world. Those are signatures of good storytelling, and they prove to be the backbone of the entire series.
Much of the show’s story is a chain reaction of events leading to its many pieces coming together in a combustible season-ending episode. Early on we spend time with Cassian who’s forced to go on the run after killing two antagonizing security guards on the industrial planet of Morlana One. It catches the attention of Syril Karn (Kyle Soller), an overambitious Deputy Inspector for a corporate trade conglomerate called Preox-Morlana. While Cassian heads to his home planet of Ferrix to cook up an alibi, Syril disobeys the direct order of his superior and begins an aggressive investigation into the two deaths.
Elsewhere we’re introduced to the Imperial Security Bureau, the Empire’s secret police and intelligence agency that’s in the same vein as the KGB and Gestapo. It’s headed by Major Partagaz (an outstanding Anton Lesser) who reports directly to Emperor Palpatine. Rising fast within the ISB ranks is a motivated young supervisor Lieutenant Dedra Meero (Denise Gough). Her keen instincts lead her to suspect that recent heists of Imperial weaponry might be a coordinated effort, potentially by a fledgling rebellion. Convincing her superiors won’t be easy.
Another key player is Senator Mon Mothma (wonderfully played by a returning Genevieve O’Reilly). She works on the political frontlines on the capital planet of Coruscant, slowing down the Emperor’s intensifying power grab the best she can without exposing her opposition to the Empire. Behind the scenes she’s secretly funding the growing rebel efforts, a task that is growing more difficult and that’s even harder to hide.
Then you have the mysterious Luthen Rael, played by the beguiling Stellan Skarsgård. Luthen is a fierce underground orchestrator of the new Rebel Alliance who secretly masquerades as an flamboyant dealer of fine antiquities on Coruscant. He takes a special interest in Cassian, yet throughout the series we never quite know what to make of him. He’s a fascinating presence.
As it progresses the show expands even further. We spend more time on Ferrix where those close to Cassian, including his old flame Bix Caleen (Adria Arjona) and adopted mother Maarva (Fiona Shaw), do their best to evade the suspicious Empire. We go on a heist with Cassian and a group of rebels on the planet Aldhani. Lead by Vel Sartha (Faye Marsay), the mission’s target is an Imperial garrison that houses the bankroll for an entire sector. There’s even a prison storyline where we’re introduced to Kino Loy, played by the indomitable Andy Serkis.
There’s just so much to explore, experience, and unpack in the twelve episodes of “Andor”. While it’s visually captivating on many different levels, it’s really the writing that sets the series apart. The team of Tony Gilroy, his brother Dan Gilroy, Stephen Schiff, and Beau Willimon handle the script duties. Admittedly, as a longtime fan I do like a little more action in my Star Wars. That said, the show’s intense focus on character is both exhilarating and rewarding. And while there may be less action, every episode offers lovers of Star Wars mythology and world-building (like me) so much to chew on.
I could write another ten paragraphs on “Andor”. There’s that much to dig into. What was expected to be a revealing series about a main character from “Rogue One” turned out to be so much more. We definitely do get a clearer picture and better understanding of Cassian Andor. He’s our conduit into the story and the connecting tissue that brings all the show’s moving parts together. But we also see the trials, tribulations, and tragedies of a young rebellion. We see how the growing Empire spreads its power and how people are pushed to point of fighting back. We see oppressive strategies, overzealous ambition, and lust for power. But we also see resilience, heroism, self-sacrifice, and a love for freedom. The clashing ideals and the characters behind them are the meat and potatoes of “Andor” Season 1. Now bring on Season 2.
We started watching this in a hotel as we couldn’t find anything else, but never went back to it. I suppose it would help if we’d seen any Start Wars stuff before. 🤣
HaHaHa…Probably helps to have a little context.
This was the closest thing to the greatness of the original trilogy as not only will I wait in great patience for the 2nd season but I am hoping that Andy Serkis returns as I loved his performance in the series.
It’s a show that is a slow burn but I feel like it is worth as it does so much to showcase life during the years of the Empire as well as the events that would create the Rebellion. It is a great show. The Mandalorian I think is a close second with Obi-Wan in third followed by The Book of Boba Fett.
If I were to rank them I think I would still go Mandalorian first, Andor second, Obi-Wan third, and Boba fourth. But I like them all. Andor certainly won me over. By the way, I’ve been told Andy Serkis is indeed slated to return.
Great write up! I loved Andor, especially when Andy Serkis showed up as I wasn’t expecting him at all. Can’t wait for season 2.
Thank you! I’m pumped for Season 2 as well. Sadly, we still have to wait over a year. I bet it’ll be worth the wait.
I’m still so crazy about Andor. Love that Gilroy sees this world from the bottom up through characters who are often background in a saga that focuses on royal lineage and chosen ones. Cassian ducking from TIE fighters and Star Destroyers made Star Wars feel dangerous in a way I hadn’t felt since the first time I saw Vader. This show takes things we see plenty of in the movies and makes them feel radically new again, it’s unreal.
Absolutely. There’s so much in this series that offers unique perspectives that we haven’t seen before in a Star Wars movie or show. That’s a big part of what makes it so special.
As most of the original Star Wars fans are now 50 plus, we were anxiously waiting for something more mature and Andor is exactly that. Sincerely, when I am watching the other SW series, I feel like I am watching Scooby Doo.
I agree with you about Andor. It’s definitely a more mature series in a variety of ways. I certainly welcomed that. But I gotta say, I’ve also enjoyed the other SW streaming shows. They each have their issues, but each also scratches a Star Wars itch. Now we wait for Ahsoka.