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Andor Is Star Wars At Its Most Grounded
The Star Wars universe has had a very successful run with TV shows thus far on Disney+ with two seasons of The Mandalorian, a season of The Book Of Boba Fett and Obi-Wan Kenobi respectively, and other content (Star Wars Visions, Star Wars The Bad Batch, etc.). Some of these have been divisive, especially the ones that aren’t The Mandalorian, but Andor might turn out to be the most divisive one yet.
Outside of the main trilogies pre-The Mandalorian, 2016’s Rogue One A Star Wars Saga is arguably the most successful Star Wars spinoff, and for good reason, the movie was great. However, developing and releasing a TV series about one of the characters from that movie, who’s not even the main protagonist or the most memorable, is definitely the riskiest move by Disney+ to date. Compare Cassian Andor to someone like Obi-Wan Kenobi (an iconic fan-favourite), and you’ll understand what I mean.
The biggest question is: does Andor make you care about Cassian Andor if you never cared about him in the first place? Read on to find out!
Come on, no one can say with a straight face that Cassian Andor was their favourite thing about Rogue One. It’s likely either Darth Vader’s iconic and epic hallway scene at the end of the movie, or K-2SO (whose droid model has since been featured in Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order and The Book Of Boba Fett), or something else. So, I ask again; does Andor make you care about Cassian Andor if you never cared about him in the first place? After watching four episodes of Andor, I honestly can’t really say that it does, but it’s not a definite no either.
Andor takes place five years before the events of Rogue One, so we’re meeting a younger and rougher Cassian Andor who’s more of a lawless scoundrel, conman and thief. I think I understand what the showrunners were going for here; to make Andor another Han Solo of sorts. Unfortunately, Diego Luna’s Cassian Andor isn’t as instantly likeable as the legendary Han Solo was when he made his debut in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope all those years ago. Cassian Andor isn’t nearly as charismatic as Han Solo, but I think that’s probably the point of the series; that even the morally grey has what it takes to do what is right, in this case, from being a criminal to a rebel.
The setting and timeline of Andor are interesting though, in that this is before the proper birth of the Rebel Alliance. Corruption is everywhere, even in places where the Empire has yet to fully take control of and that’s what the show is trying to depict. There are elements of espionage and the spy genre in Andor, as the series begins with Cassian Andor committing a crime and that leads to an overly gung-ho inspector from the Corporate Security Forces hot on his heel. He has to find a way to escape their clutches, and all of this will somehow lead to the rise of the Rebel Alliance.
It does feel a bit cheap at first that the main antagonists of Andor aren’t even the Empire. The Corporate Security Forces feel almost exactly like Imperials but they aren’t, sort of like the Empire but with another skin and surprisingly even more incompetent than Empire. Saying more would touch on spoilers, but suffice it to say that seeing these new bad guys really makes me miss the Empire and their stormtroopers, even though we’ve seen them a million times by now.
The supporting characters don’t particularly stand out much either. Adria Arjona plays a character named Bix, who’s a potential love interest but is pretty much just eye candy. The others are typical white dudes, with the exception of the great Stellan Skarsgard, who performs as best as he can with what he’s given. Also, with the debut of a new Star Wars series, there must always be an adorable new droid companion, and Andor is no exception. B2EMO will probably be another fan-favourite, despite having a design that doesn’t really scream iconic or memorable right away. However, it’s hard to think of any of the human characters becoming anyone’s fan favourite as of the four episodes that I’ve watched.
Andor tries to make us care about Cassian Andor by delving into his past, and that means flashbacks. That’s right; Andor’s narrative is structured so that almost every episode is interspersed between what happens in the present and flashbacks to Cassian Andor’s childhood. Obviously, I can’t divulge the details, but it’s not as compelling as it should be. In fact, every time a flashback starts, I just want to get back to the present storyline as soon as possible. There’s nothing immediately engrossing about the flashbacks, and that slots into the biggest issue of Andor.
I know fans have been complaining that six or less than 10 episodes per season are not enough for a Star Wars series. Unfortunately, a 12-episode series doesn’t seem to be any better. Granted, Disney+ only gave us four episodes for the purposes of this review, but that was enough for me to conclude that Andor is much, much slower than any other Star Wars series to date. Compared to The Mandalorian, The Book Of Boba Fett or Obi-Wan Kenobi, it feels like nothing much ever happens in the episodes of Andor. It’s a slow burn.
I’m not kidding about the show’s pacing. There’s hardly any action in the first two episodes, with the first major action scene only happening at the beginning of Episode 1 and the next in Episode 3.
To put it simply, I would say the best analogy is that two or three episodes of Andor (each of which are around 35 to 45 minutes long) are the equivalent of watching one episode of The Mandalorian, The Book Of Boba Fett or Obi-Wan Kenobi. To make matters worse, Andor feels standalone in its first four episodes, with hardly anything in the way of major easter eggs that I could find. This self-contained narrative might be more appealing to newcomers and casual Star Wars fans.
It’s not all bad though. The production value in Andor is through the roof, and it’s clear a lot of resources were poured into this series. The scenes tend to be more gritty and grimy, but a lot of money was clearly poured into making Andor look good. Showrunner Tony Gilroy has invested in impressive wide environmental shots and more, which makes Andor look more cinematic than other live-action Star Wars series such as Obi-Wan Kenobi or The Book Of Boba Fett. Also, thank the Force that we’re getting a variety of settings (forests, cities, etc.) this time around, not just more sand and desert (too much Tatooine is not a good thing). I know many fans have been complaining how setting all the previous shows on desert planets has made the Star Wars universe seem smaller than it should be.
Simply put, Andor is unlike any previous Star Wars series. It doesn’t focus on the Force or the Jedi, and there aren’t many aliens or stuff that we normally associate with the Star Wars franchise. Instead, it’s Star Wars at its most grounded and gritty. Still, I think it does have some merits in fleshing out some of the less-explored parts of Star Wars canon, but it’s too early to say for sure with only four episodes.
The problem is that will even the hardcore Star Wars fans stay long enough in Andor’s 12-episode first season to see the full vision of the showrunners, or whatever it turns out to be?
So far, I really don’t see how Andor can justify its own existence, especially with there being so many more potential Star Wars spinoffs more deserving of getting made rather than one that focuses on a character that was introduced and killed in a single movie, and one that some Star Wars fans might not even remember the full name of.
As a Star Wars fan myself, I really hope that it continues to improve and be better in the rest of its first season.
We received early screeners of Andor courtesy of Disney+ Hotstar Malaysia. The first three episodes of Andor are slated to premiere on 21 September 2022 on Disney+ Hotstar Malaysia, with new episodes every subsequent Wednesday.