Andor: It’s Just Too Soon to Tell if It’s Actually Any Good

Dept. of Waiting and Watching


Here’s the thing. I’m going to need to watch a lot more of Andor before I can come to any sort of opinion as to whether or not it’s any good. We were given four episodes of the series for the purposes of this review and my first instinct is to say that it is a mixed bag. There are some aspects of the series that I absolutely loved and others that gave me pause.

On the one hand, Andor does exactly what I’ve been wanting Star Wars to do for years, by telling a story that has (seemingly) nothing to do with the Skywalkers, or the Jedi, or the Force. It explores other aspects of this sprawling universe and is, in some ways, reminiscent of what Lucas himself tried to do with the prequels. We are immersed inside blue collar, working class worlds. We see elements of the Galactic Empire that have nothing to do with Darth Vader or Stormtroopers, but instead feature the quiet but culpable bureaucrats that bolstered their oppressive reign. It expands the narrative. It’s interesting stuff.

But then there is the actual focus of the series. Now don’t get me wrong, Cassian Andor is fantastic and Diego Luna is absolutely delightful. But watching this, I couldn’t help but wonder if this tendency towards monetizing every aspect of every franchise, to mine it for sequels and spinoffs, has been detrimental to character. The Cassian Andor that we first meet in Rogue One was a ruthless Rebel assassin, seemingly in it for himself, who only discovers the true meaning of Christmas just before his death at the end of the movie. His mystery and myth made him cool. And while there was definitely more to his story, I’m not yet convinced that it needed to be told.

A Rogue’s Tale


If you are unfamiliar with who Cassian Andor is, then there is very little in this series for you. It is, after all, a spinoff of a spinoff. A prequel to a prequel. We’re now neck deep in the swampy marsh that is IP exploitation and maximization. Where the only reason to wade in is if you, like me, have already invested the vast majority of your life to this story.

The series opens with a murder and the first three episodes play out as something of a manhunt. It’s a little bit meandering, cutting back and forth between an anxious Cassian, a Javert-like civil servant who is investigating the crime, and a series of overwrought flashbacks that serve to shoehorn some sort of backstory by way of childhood trauma.

There is a then a sudden tonal shift between episode three and four that opens up the series – and the Star Wars universe as a whole – in exciting new ways, but nevertheless feels incredibly jarring given the first 114 minutes that we had already seen. Episode four sets in motion a new direction for Andor that centers around the mysterious Luthen (the wonderful Stellan Skarsgård), Mon Mothma (the return of Genevieve O’Reilly) planting the seeds of rebellion, as well as a side to the Empire that we’ve never before seen on screen.

There are shades of Solo here. Even The Book of Boba Fett. It’s the problem where over explaining a character’s origins serves to undermine the legend of said character. We know that Han did the impossible by making the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs. We didn’t need to see it. We know that Boba somehow escaped the gaping tentacled maw of the Sarlacc. We didn’t need to see it. We get that the Empire is ruthless. We’ve seen enough of the Star Wars to know that they are vile. Do we really need another set of overwrought flashbacks in order to understand why Andor is what he is?

Rebel With a Cause


And then there is the problem of the first three episodes not being very episodic. They just don’t work as individual installments. They feel like a feature that was arbitrarily cut up to accommodate the strictures of a television series. (Which seems unnecessary given that Disney Plus isn’t really bound by having to tell stories in 22 and 48 minute blocks.) Andor spreads out the three acts of its opening gambit over three episodes. The consequence of which being that each one doesn’t really hold up on its own. It is probably why they decided to drop all three episodes at once instead of making audiences wait for it week on week.

Now this isn’t just an Andor problem. The idea of appropriating television as a medium to make incredibly long movies has afflicted almost every show of the streaming era. Which is a shame. Because it seems like we’ve lost some of that serialized storytelling magic that only television can offer.

Taken as a whole, the first three episodes of Andor make for an intriguing start to the series. There is a real confidence in Tony Gilroy’s approach here. He isn’t concerned with fan service or pandering to the Star Wars status quo. Spectacle is unimportant to him. He wants to tell a story that’s rooted in character and conflict. He’s interested in the kind of human drama that can only arise in times of great oppression and strife. Think of Germany after Versailles. Or Malaysia during the Japanese occupation. Or America in The Man in the High Castle.

Like Rogue One, Andor has the potential to be the freshest and most exciting thing we’ve seen from the Star Wars universe in a long time. But it’s just too soon to tell.

The first three episodes of Andor drop on Disney Plus and Disney Plus Hotstar on Wednesday, September 21.

Uma has been reviewing things for most of his life: movies, television shows, books, video games, his mum's cooking, Bahir's fashion sense. He is a firm believer that the answer to most questions can be found within the cinematic canon. In fact, most of what he knows about life he learned from Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. He still hasn't forgiven Christopher Nolan for the travesties that are Interstellar and The Dark Knight Rises.

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