SPOILERS AHEAD FOR SEASON ONE OF ANDOR
Like so many others when it was announced that Disney+ was producing a Cassian Andor spinoff the news did nothing for me. Sure, Rogue One was a solid flick and Diego Luna’s character was surely one of the highlights but if there’s one thing I don’t enjoy about prequels and origin stories is that the stakes rarely feel real as we typically know how things ultimately play out for the main characters. Take Obi-Wan Kenobi for example: we all knew that Obi-Wan, Leia, and Luke would all make it out okay and that Darth Vader would never win so nothing in the show ever really seemed to matter because the only unknowns revolved around supporting characters we weren’t invested in. But Andor pivoted away from what most recent Star Wars projects had grown to rely on.
For starters, Andor is hands down the most grounded piece of Star Wars content we’ve ever gotten. Rather than relying on expanding the galaxy with effects driven stories that tie into Skywalker saga this series dives deeper into the inner-workings of the Empire and the rebels determined to overthrow them. It’s a shockingly human story that is unlike anything we’ve seen from Star Wars. Think of it this way: The early seasons of Game of Thrones relied on politics and human relationships and was praised for presenting a very realistic story in a fantasy setting but by the time the show’s run was ending it was nothing but battles, dragons, and white walkers. Andor takes the opposite approach to what we’ve seen from Star Wars, rather than dazzling you with Jedi, aliens, and incestual ‘will they, won’t theys’ this series takes a serious look at where rebellions come from.
While not as purely entertaining as a show like The Mandalorian this series has no shortage of compelling characters. In addition to diving more into how Cassian Andor became the man we met in Rogue One we are introduced to Luthen Rael (Stellan Skarsgard), Bix Caleen (Adria Arjona), Kino Loy (Andy Serkis), Dedra Meero (Denise Gough), and the return of Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly) and Saw Gerrera (Forrest Whitaker). I don’t think it’s crazy to say that in the new era of Star Wars this is without a doubt the best acting ensemble we’ve seen and realistically I could see Skarsgard, Serkis, and O’Reilly competing for supporting acting Emmys next year. This only scratches the surface of the number of impactful characters there are in the show. That could be one of the series faults in that there are so many people to keep track of but I feel it never detracts from the show as a whole.
What’s also interesting about the series is how the season is almost broke into three separate mini-seasons. The beginning focuses on Andor trying to evade imperial pursuit after her murders a pair of guards which leads to Luthen recruiting him to join the rebellion. After this we spend several episodes with Andor joining a group in a wilderness while planning a heist to steal the Empire’s quarterly payroll. This leads to several episodes (the peak of the season in my opinion) focusing on Andor in sketchy jail while organizing a mass prison break. Following his escape the show wraps up with Andor back at home as his city starts to revolt against the Empire’s control of the city. So much of what makes the show work is that the show takes its time, never rushing a single storyline as opposed to being more episodic like The Mandalorian or The Book of Boba Fett.
There are three episodes to me that really stuck out. The series starts off pretty slow but by the time we get to “The Eye” (episode 6) the series goes into hyper drive. The heist gone wrong not only delivers some of the most exciting action we’ve seen from Star Wars since Disney took over but it is a phenomenally acted episode from all involved. “One Way Out” (episode 10) was probably the height of the first season for me. Andy Serkis is so damn good in this episode that I’ll be rooting for him to pull in a Supporting Actor Emmy as a ‘Hey, sorry for never giving you anything for your work as Smeagol and Caesar but here you go!’ The show perfectly wrapped up its first season with “Rix Road” that not only closed the loop on several key storylines but it also set us up beautifully for season two.
While this show is certainly more original, mature, and less fan-servicey than The Mandalorian I’m not sure if I’m prepared to say it’s better. The peaks for this show are probably higher than those of Mando but the season as a whole gets off to a pretty slow start and it can be a bit challenging to follow at points. But hey, the only hurdle this show needed to pass what being better than Obi-Wan Kenobi and it did that in spades.
Showrunner Tony Gilroy deserves all the credit for what he’s created here, a side of the Star Wars universe that not only feels new and original but never forces characters and settings down our throats. The first season of Andor definitely caught me off guard and I’d love to see where they take the show it season two but its important to keep the story focuses on the human side of things and not try to get all Star Wars-y as the franchises has done in the past.
Now get me to the spring so we can get back to The Mandalorian.
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