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Star Wars: Andor explained – the series is an ‘uneven’

Although it takes some time to get going, Andor eventually offers a glimpse into the daily reality of Star Wars life – including “political intrigues, spycraft, and daring Rebel missions”. Stephen Kelly writes.

Star Wars: Andor is the prequel series to 2016’s film Rogue One. It opens with a dark and stylish sequence. Cassian Andor, the doomed rebel, has arrived on Morlana One (home to Preox), to search for information about his missing sister. It’s night and it is raining hard. Andor, a shadow, is walking through dark streets, with neon signs burning through the murk. He eventually reaches a place strongly believed to be a brothel. Two men ambush him later, after he has left with little to no answers. Luna is captured by the camera as two men approach him from behind. Rain is pounding on his shoulders. He kills one accidentally, and the other cold-blooded.

This opening reveals Andor as something more gritty, grimmer, and mature than other Star Wars TV shows. Tony Gilroy, creator of the Bourne Trilogy and responsible for overseeing crucial, film-saving changes on Rogue One, has stated that Andor should be about “real people” rather than Skywalker royalty. Variety reported that he said, “There are a billion billion, billion, and billion other beings in this galaxy.” What are their lives like?” They are just as affected by the revolution as anyone else. The Star Wars canon could be used as a platform for dramatic, intense storytelling. Although it’s a fascinating idea, based on the four episodes available to critics, Andor is a strangely uneven work. It is slow and ponderous in its plotting but striking in its production design, on-location shooting and overall, just as disappointing as it is promising.

Andor is set during the Empire’s height, between the events of Revenge of the Sith, and A New Hope. It tells the story of Cassian Andor, the rebellious, cold-hearted figure first introduced in Rogue One. In the first three episodes of the block, he is a lowly salvager with a talent to steal from Empire. He now faces murder charges.

He must leave Ferrix, which mainly consists of a rundown city with large scrapyards and decrepit factories. Andor, unlike other Star Wars Disney+ shows has opted to forgo the Volume – an enormous LED screen used to create photorealistic backgrounds – and instead uses a traditional mix of green screen and real sets/locations. Andor stands out visually, at least compared to its predecessors. Obi-Wan Kenobi’s look was too dull and limited to the film it was telling, but the practical sets of Andor, which was, if reports are correct, essentially a functioning town, ground the story in the grime and dirt of the galaxy, were a welcome change. This is by far the best Star Wars TV show, though it can’t match the extravagant Star Wars movies.

It feels like a long, tedious three-parter.

Ferrix is now outsourced to a nebulous company, rather than being under direct Imperial control. This is a fascinating detail, possibly analogous to the companies that profited from Nazi collaboration in World War Two. It comes amid a torrent of dense, disorienting world-building where characters and concepts are introduced without much explanation. Although it is a creative decision, perhaps an attempt to give the world more depth and lived-in authenticity. However, it often leads to episodes that feel confusing and alienating in its first few episodes. It’s also not helping that, after Andor’s moody and atmospheric opening scene, three episodes (around 45 minutes each), the show builds up to Cassian’s escape form Ferrix. The three-parter feels slow and sluggish, almost like it’s too long.

As Cassian attempts to raise funds to get off-world, he sells a piece Imperial technology. We meet various friends and acquaintances along the way, including Bix (Adria Arjona), his scrap dealer friend, who is trying to negotiate a deal with a buyer. Also, his mentor Maarva, played brilliantly by Fiona Shaw. These scenes are intercut by Syril Karn, a “corpo” zealot (Kyle Soller), who is accompanied on his investigation by Alex Fern (Trevor From Eastenders, for Brits) and a series tedious flashbacks of Cassian’s childhood. He grew up in a tribe of people on a planet destroyed by the Empire.

Start stopped

At least in Episode 3, things begin to happen. This episode is also where Stellan Skarsgard’s Luthen lands on Ferrix in order to recruit Cassian into his Rebellion. “Don’t these bastards make you want to die for real?” In one scene, he grumbles. His voice is full of gravel and glass, his grandeur undeniable and his gravitas unquestionable. Skarsgard’s arrival brings the show some much-needed action. It is in the fourth episode that Andor begins to live up the promise of its marketing and arresting trailers (it is probably why Disney gave the critics four episodes).

Here is where we find the heart of Andor: political intrigues, spycraft, and daring Rebel missions. Scenes are set on Coruscant’s capital planet, where Genevieve O’Reilly’s Mon Mothma is a Senator who was destined to lead Rebel Alliance. She finds every move monitored by the Empire. The story takes us inside the Imperial Security Bureau (ISB) where stiff, English-speaking Imperial officers talk about order and navigate internal power struggles. Cassian is part of a team that must pull off an impossible heist. This episode also features spectacular on-location filming, including shots of TIE Fighters flying above the green landscapes of the Scottish Highlands.

It is slower and more detailed than other Star Wars shows. The show is more interested in space politics than light saber swiping. The show manages to escape the monotony of Ferrix and gives us some insight into the daily reality of the galaxy. It remains to be determined if this means that Andor represents Star Wars for grown-ups. Although there are some signs of maturity in the show’s tone and aesthetic, it is too early to know if the show can explore adult themes in a universe created for children.

It is also difficult to judge a series of 12 episodes like Andor from a collection of inconsistent episodes. It’s a series that begins well but then veers into tedium and ends with an episode that shows great promise. It’s like a young Jedi Padawan with so many glorious possibilities. Their talent is obvious to everyone but their future is clouded in the Force. They will bring hope to Star Wars, or disappoint everyone. At the very minimum, we have faith.



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