Andor Has Changed The Game For Star Wars Media, And There’s No Going Back
How Tony Gilroy’s Disney+ Series Has Become One Of The Best Pieces Of Star Wars Media, And One Of The Best TV Shows Of 2022
When Andor was first announced in 2017, many Star Wars fans and outside spectators rolled their eyes at yet another prequel endeavor, especially one serving as a prequel for a character from Rogue One who has a definitive ending. Despite Rogue One being lauded as one of the best pieces of the Disney Era of Star Wars, many (myself included) did not feel like this was needed to any degree. Five years later, Andor is reaching the end of its first season and it has become an undeniable fact that the show is one of the best pieces of Star Wars media to ever be released. Delivering something totally new for fans of the franchise, Gilroy’s series is dark, gritty, nail-biting, exciting, and just simply some of the most captivating television released this year. Bolstered by powerhouse performances from Diego Luna, Andy Serkis (not playing Supreme Leader Snoke!), Kyle Soller, Stellan Skarsgård, and Genevieve O’Reilly, Andor needs to be a stepping stone for the future of Star Wars and not just a one-off that fans look back on to say, “we needed more stuff like Andor”.
Set five years before the events of Rogue One, Andor follows Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) during his rise from a smuggler to the morally bleak Rebellion member seen in the 2016 film. The show does not just focus on Cassian, as a younger Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly) and Star Wars newcomer, Luthen Rael (Stellan Skarsgård) take center stage on Coruscant, with Mothma struggling to maintain her anonymity in regard to working with a growing Rebellion and Rael being a shady, questionable head of the Rebel Alliance, portraying an aspect of the “good guys” never really seen before in this universe. On the other side of the spectrum, Syril Karn (Kyle Soller) and Dedra Meero (Denise Gough) represent the Imperial Security Bureau (ISB) as two Imperial stalwarts punching above their weight class in order to appease the Empire and to rise the ranks as best as they can. In short, Andor is much more of an ensemble show than many expected, with it balancing a focus on the evolution of Cassian Andor and the evolution of the Rebel Alliance from the original trilogy.
No matter what you tell me or tell yourself, you’ll ultimately die fighting these bastards. So what I’m asking is this. Wouldn’t you rather give it all at once to something real than carve off useless pieces till there’s nothing left?
Looking back to the arrival of the much-anticipated first outing for Star Wars on Disney+, it felt like a majority of the Star Wars fanbase rallied around the first season of The Mandalorian. Giving fans a show featuring a badass bounty hunter with a heart in the form of Pedro Pascal’s Din Djarin, the first season felt like a breath of fresh air after the polarizing reception to the sequel trilogy. Then came Season Two. Building on what was established in the first season, The Mandalorian made some big swings and offered a lot to love, including the return of Temuera Morrison as Boba Fett. Ultimately, the season would leave Star Wars fans split, with the show devolving from focusing on Din and Grogu to introducing Boba Fett, Ashoka, Bo-Katan, and a de-aged Luke Skywalker into the mix. While some fans were over the moon with these characters appearing in the show, others became disenfranchised with the whole shebang as it felt like once again, Star Wars was falling into the trap of nostalgia and fan-service with no real reason for either.
Following Mando Season Two, Disney+ would announce a spin-off series focusing on Boba Fett, that would release in 2021… to less than stellar reception. For those that skipped out on The Book of Boba Fett, Morrison got the chance to lead a show based on a fan-favorite character, who was originally presented as a ruthless bounty hunter. On paper, it sounded great. In execution, what audiences were treated to was a slog of a show that cleaned up the image of Boba Fett while also somehow finding a way to surpass The Mandalorian’s second season in its attempts at fan-service. Without any rhyme or reason, the middle of the season would change courses completely, featuring an episode focused on Din Djarin completely separated from the Boba Fett storyline. Things would go flying out the window when The Book of Boba Fett would go onto feature Din Djarin visiting Luke Skywalker and Ashoka Tano to check in on Grogu. What any of this had to do with Boba Fett is beyond me.
I like The Mandalorian, and based off the footage shown for Season 3, it seems like a cohesive story has been set up with a war for Mandalore taking place. Here’s hoping the show does not get sidetracked once again by bringing in more de-aged original trilogy characters for no reason and instead focuses on the interesting characters established already…
Alas, following the prior two seasons of live action Star Wars content and the bewildering finale of the Skywalker Saga, saying that Andor was met with groans and shoulder shrugs would be putting it mildly. In the lead-up to the show’s release, it felt as if there was little hype behind it aside from Disney re-releasing Rogue One into IMAX showings across cinemas (something I took advantage of, and man, that movie only gets better on rewatch). If the hype was meandering in the lead-up, several premiere date shifts would only make matters worse, as the show would move from August to September to avoid being over-shadowed by Rings of Power, She-Hulk, and House of The Dragon. Despite all of that, Andor would premiere with 3 episodes dropping on September 21, 2022 to much acclaim from those who watched. With the season crafted into arcs, Episodes 1–3 told the story of Ferrix, with Cassian, Luthen, and the entire city taking on a small group of Imperials. It introduced fans to this new side of the Galaxy, and establishing the tone by having Cassian murder two Imperial workers in its opening minutes.
Andor is an ensemble show, as mentioned before, but at the heart lies an incredible performane from Diego Luna, an extremely charismatic and believable performer who has impressed over the past decade or so. Getting another chance to play Cassian again has only added more to the character that fans grew attached to in Rogue One, but in more meaningful ways than just seeing him go on fun adventures. Instead, the show offers a complex look at how Cassian went from fending for himself and disregarding the Empire, to becoming a sometimes cruel, cold spy and member of the Rebel Alliance. Without Luna at the center of it all, the show simply would not work.
While The Book of Boba Fett inexplicably aimed to clean the slate of a ruthless bounty hunter, Andor immediately showed that its titular character, a future hero of the Rebel Alliance has killed in cold blood. This was not a one-off either, as fans of Rogue One can look back and see Cassian gun down a fellow Rebellion member to avoid being captured. In the closing moments of the second arc of the show, the heist on Aldhani, Cassian once again commits murder, shooting one of his unarmed fellow heist members during a cold, bitter conversation about keeping the funds they stole for the Rebels in order to have rich, safe lives for themselves. The show does not beat around the bushes when it comes to its presentation of good vs evil, as it treats fans to a very, very grey portrayal of the early stages of the Rebel Alliance. A career performance from Stellan Skarsgård is at the heart of this, with Luthen Rael being one of the most interesting characters to ever appear in a mainstream, filmed Star Wars project. Openly stating that the galaxy needs to suffer in order to be reminded that The Empire are evil, willingly letting those less fortunate suffer and die, is such an eye-opening choice for one of the puppet-masters of the entire Rebellion. It only complicates things further by having him so tied to Mon Mothma, someone who appears to be more morally dignified across her appearances in Star Wars over the years. Andor presents things in a bleak light, not holding the collective hand of the audience by saying that all rebellion members are “good” and all Imperials are “bad”. For further proof, look to the final episode on Aldhani in which the “good guys” take an unarmed woman and child hostage during a heist, with no clear answer being given on whether they are put to death for seeing too much in the end. It is brutal. It is bleak. It has changed the game for new Star Wars media moving forward.
If a gripping, nail-biting prestige-level television drama is what you are looking for, look no further than Andor. Both the arcs on Aldhani, featuring some of the most beautiful visuals in Star Wars during Episode 6, “The Eye”, and the entirety of the Narkina 5, prison planet arc, not only offer some of the best episodes of television in 2022, but some of the best Star Wars content in years. Looking specifically to the latest arc, Andy Serkis returns to Star Wars, this time in a face role (not motion capture) as Kino Loy, the day shift manager for his floor in an Imperial working prison. The entire section of the show offers some of the most gripping drama of the year, with Cassian, Kino, and the rest of the prisoners suffering while being lied to about their sentences. In the latest episode, “One Way Out”, things come to a head in one of the best TV episodes ever, as Narkina 5 revolts. Andy Serkis’ performance as Kino during this episode makes up for what he was given as Snoke in the sequel trilogy, as his speech to his fellow 5,000+ prisoners is the stuff of legend. Luthen Rael’s big scene in the episode is also something special, both in the way it was shot (another great aspect of the show is its cinematography and the fact that so much was shot either on location or on real sets) and the content of the scene, though in order to save from total spoilers, I will remain hush in case new watchers are reading. Seriously though, it is not okay that this show is as phenomenal as it is without getting the publicity it deserves. If you are reading this and you have still not watched Andor, watch it now and get caught up before the final two episodes of Season One air.
Featuring impeccable direction, writing, and cinematography, Nicholas Britell provides an iconic score for the show, with the bigger moments being highlighted by some beautifully composed music. Oh, and the Niamos music? One of the best songs in Star Wars.
For those still on the fence, I highly implore you to take the leap and dive in head first with Andor. If the first episode does not fully hook you, try your best to watch episodes two and three, as they are a full narrative arc. As Tony Gilroy himself stated that Episodes 1–3 are one story, Episodes 4–6 are their own, Episode 7 is a standalone, Episodes 8–10 are once again their own arc, and Episodes 11 and 12 are tied together. Should Andor get its hooks into you, the Aldhani Heist and Narkina 5 arcs will fully convert you into a believer that this is the best piece of Star Wars media in forever, and for some, it may even be the best of all time. With Gilroy stating that the show was always mapped out to be 24 episodes over two seasons, fans already know that following this first outing, there are only 12 more episodes with Cassian Andor, as the show leads directly into Rogue One where he meets his end. For once, it is nice to have a sense of finality with a Star Wars project again, as this will not be dragged on and on or injected with fan service and cameos to get people talking.
Moving forward, two new big Star Wars live action shows are in the works with Disney+; The Acolyte and The Skeleton Crew. While The Mandalorian remains the giant, fan-favorite series for Star Wars at the moment, following the split of its audience and the polarizing reception to The Book of Boba Fett, one can only hope that these new endeavors end up more along the lines of what Tony Gilroy and the incredible cast and crew behind Andor have been able to create.
Andor — Season One, is now streaming on Disney+.
Thanks for reading! I’ve wanted to talk more about Andor with each passing week, and so finally, following the ending of the Narkina 5 arc, I decided to write this. If you enjoyed, please consider subscribing to/following me on Medium as I am striving to hit the 100 follower mark. Every little bit helps, so if you are interested in helping out, it would mean a lot! If not, thanks for at least making it to the end of this piece. I hope I convinced you to watch Andor, or that you’re already enjoying the show.
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