The Star Wars Universe Finds a Radical New Stride With Andor

The Star Wars Universe Finds a Radical New Stride With Andor

With Andor, showrunner Tony Gilroy masterfully sets up a new Star Wars universe that drops us on the ground level pre-Rebellion and explores the lives of the disenfranchised in the shadow of the Empire. No need for space wizardry here: this is a story about people.

The Star Wars Universe Finds a Radical New Stride With Andor

Centering on the origin of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story lead Cassian Andor — with Diego Luna reuniting with Gilroy and reprising his role — the Disney+ series takes us five years before the fateful events that led to Andor and his band of heroes securing the Death Star plans and sacrificing their lives for the Rebellion.

The steady, tension-filled build of Andor’s first three episodes gets right down to a personal story of diaspora. Luna shines as a survivor on the fringes who finds himself instrumental to the start of the rebellion within the show’s first three episodes. We meet him when he’s on Morlana One searching for his sister, where she’s referred to as a Kanari woman (their home planet) in an exclusive brothel that caters to rich and Imperial clients. The guards accost him on the way out pretty much just for the heck of it which leads to Andor to defend himself and not leave any witnesses. Hey, they attacked first and he was really upset to have lost his lead on her, since she’d moved on from that location.

Screenshot: Disney+
Screenshot: Disney+

When he gets back to Farrix, the planet he lives on with his adoptive mother Maarva Andor (Fiona Shaw), we discover that he’s got a bit of a reputation for doing things “the Cassian way.” He’s a skilled black market smuggler of important and stolen things, along with his friend Bix Caleen (Adria Arjona), who owns the business behind the reputable front that she runs with her clueless boyfriend Timm (James McArdle). He’s a very bless-his-heart sort of fellow who doesn’t like Cassian’s closeness to Bix, so he stalks her as they close in on a deal with a buyer seeking an Untraceable NS9 (taken from the Empire to move through their blockades). Big red flag.

Bix is a no-nonsense business woman played by Arjona with calculating presence and savvy about the world she lives in. She manages to pass as a simple seller and doting partner, but you kind of get the sense that even Timm is part of the front to help conceal her true black market professional affairs. She’s got Han Solo meets Leia energy but creates a new heroine of her own to root for. She’s just a badass. Unfortunately for her, Timm gets real nosy out of jealousy, and it causes great harm when Imperial officers led by Syril Karn (Kyle Soller) start poking around. The rank-obsessed Karn is hellbent on making some guard deaths at that sex club back on Morlana One a much bigger deal than his superiors want, and his investigation leads him to Farrix… and Timm’s loose lips.

Andor’s pacing does move slowly in its first three episodes — which Disney+ dropped in a chunk for the series’ premiere — in their focus on Karn cartoonishly chasing Cassian while we get some background about where our future Rebel hero comes from. Through flashbacks, we visit his home planet of Kanari; when we see Andor’s childhood with other children in a tribe, we glimpse a world that feels lived in by a new Star Wars cultures we haven’t seen before. Maarva and her partner, who are keeping tabs on the Empire’s transgressions, find Andor after he’s separated from the other children, including his sister, following a mining disaster. It makes sense that he’d want to join the fight that has stripped them of their families as lost children who don’t understand the enemies who came to exploit their land. It really captures the journey of a child who has to move from their home world to a strange place very relevantly.

Screenshot: Disney+
Screenshot: Disney+

Elsewhere in the story, Stellan Skarsgård plays Luthen Rael, the buyer who turns out to want Andor and not exactly the piece he’s selling. His mysterious character continues to fill out the ensemble as a rich benefactor to a band of spies for the growing rebellion. He’s played deliciously by Skarsgård, especially when it’s revealed he’s living a double life as both socialite and one of Mon Mothma’s associates. Speaking of Mon Mothma, Genevieve O’Reilly returns as the fan-favourite character, and it’s exciting that we get to see more of her origin defecting from the high class roles she’s expected to fulfil on her journey to become the leader we know. It’s unexpected and helps flesh out her character as a person who isn’t perfect or a fully-formed leader yet.

Cassian is thrust into helping Rael when Timm reveals that he’s really from Kanari like the girl he was looking for on Morlana One — something his mother warned would put him in danger if any outsiders realised he was a survivor of the tragedy on his home planet. (Thankfully, Timm gets what he deserved for being a punkass snitch.) Ferrix, however rings their bell for one of their own and it leads to a scrimmage that Karn and his troops are unprepared for and lose. Karn is allowed to leave with his tail between his legs and a lot of unsanctioned abuse of authority that can’t be hidden to answer for. And thankfully Bix, who had been captured, is freed.

Boohoo, Karn! (Screenshot: Disney+)
Boohoo, Karn! (Screenshot: Disney+)

It really takes all three episodes to ramp up the action compared to other shows or movies where we just get right into the Wars part of Star Wars, but I’d describe it as a simmer that builds up to a boil by the time we get to episode four. It’s aided by the Nicholas Britell’s tight score, a perfect soundtrack for burgeoning alliances forming in secret. It’s thrilling and action-packed when the roots of this Star Wars story are laid out. The focus on Cassian’s personal journey really builds up a much needed different perspective of a marginalised, non-Force sensitive person who’s lost his home and his family and would do anything to get them back. Andor starts from a strong and powerful premise of how that becomes a point of radicalisation, as the character is constantly being taken for a fight that may not be his own personal battle but will hopefully lead him to find what he seeks. It’s the story that starts with one man disenfranchised by the Empire, like so many others throughout the galaxy and how that spark will bring them together. We’re all in.

What We Liked

  • We love a new sassy droid. B2EMO is everything.
  • Really loved the sequence where Luthen recruits Andor and asks him how he stole the Untraceable NS9. Love Cassian’s line “they can’t imagine someone like me would sneak into their house and spit on their food.”
  • The children of Kanari: I want to see more of them and hope they intersect again.
  • Maarva telling the Imperial guard the bells of Ferrix is what a reckoning sounds like.
  • Bix is freed and Timm is out of the picture with a bang!
  • Thankfully not a Skywalker in sight.

Andor streams Wednesdays on Disney+.

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