By Nathan Hefty
The much anticipated and highly promoted Andor TV series has finally dropped on Disney Plus. The new live action Star Wars series had fans anxiously awaiting its release since it got delayed in August. Now, Andor is making a splash with its three episode premiere and new weekly episodes.
The series follows Cassian Andor, a rising classic character from Rogue One, as he becomes involved in the Rebellion; it primarily deals with the era after Revenge Of The Sith. During this period, the Empire is expanding and solidifying its power.
The extended debut of the show is intriguing, and the following episodes are setting up the scope of the show. It starts en media res, keeping the main plotline at five years before Rogue One but flashing back into a pivotal moment in Cassian’s past. The structure of the show did well to make me want more. Admittedly, the format keeps the audience in the dark on the context of the show, and creates some whiplash during the time jumps. For example, the flashback scenes are set just before the start of the Clone Wars which is never specified on screen. These are the most jarring aspects of the show’s structure which will probably continue until key points in the story converge.
The tone so far is distinct from past Star Wars content. It takes a darker, grittier approach, more similar to an espionage thriller. The whole time I felt surrounded by a depressive, insidious atmosphere as events were brewing. Andor truly does not shy away from the brutal reality of living under the Empire— both the series and the character.
The first few episodes build a basis for Cassian’s reputation as a hardened fighter who isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty to take on less-than-noble missions for the Rebellion. Even early on, the series is setting up Cassian’s view on the Empire and its privateers and vice versa. The show presents him as a survivor who’s bitter with the Empire and has struck out against them for money or out of rage. It is taking Cassian in the direction of fighting for a larger cause rather than for himself. These traits carry into the first half of Rogue One, which is meant to show his change in character to being more committed to justice and helping others.
A few things stand out about the beginning of Andor. The first is seeing Cassian’s backstory on the planet Kenari with his family and the native tribe he belongs to. His Kenari heritage is something he tries to hide, and the first few episodes hint that something terrible happened there under the Republic, and later, the Empire. Based on the scenes we see in the trailer, it is clear this backstory is still ongoing and all the mystery around Kenari will be revealed.
The second is the opportunity to see normal life under the Empire. Generally, the lives of people under the Empire are characterized by total obedience, or complete rebellion. In the opening of Andor, we see individuals living a modest or subsistence lifestyle on Ferrix. Sure, people are not happy with the Empire, but most are keeping their heads down, going to work, milling around town, connecting with friends. Even people who strike out at the Empire, like Cassian, have been doing it more so as criminals or scavengers than as rebels. It almost creates a sense of normalcy, but the shroud of the Empire is felt overshadowing it all which was very unique.
Moreover, Andor digs deeper into preexisting areas of Star Wars. It shows the birth of rebellion in the galaxy with on-the-ground missions and undercover politics. Previous shows have explored this, but the notable difference with Andor is that the Rebellion is scattered and relatively disorganized at this point in the timeline.
Another captivating aspect is seeing the Empire’s usage of privatized security, like Pre-Mor security, and seeing the Imperial Security Bureau at work. We see the inner workings of the Empire and its affiliates. We have villains we can hate, but be interested in. The ISB’s best work was done during this time, at the height of Imperial power, but I suspect we will see them at their best (and most infamous) as well as witnessing the inefficiencies that led to the Empire losing its edge against the Rebellion.
It incorporates itself, with its whole story, planets and characters, into the existing universe seamlessly. The introduction of Mon Mothma is a great example since we know little about her, but she is an iconic, pivotal character. As we see her work for the Rebellion’s senate while she works with a newly introduced character, Luthen Rael, it connects the new and old in a way that moves toward the inevitable events of Rogue One and the original trilogy. That is the strongest aspect of Andor— its versatility. It is set in its own part of the galaxy that has never been explored before from a sparse area in the Star Wars timeline. It has created new characters and factions and revolves around characters and eras that are underexplored. Andor has a unique opportunity to make almost all of its own lore and connect it to the rest of the franchise. This makes it a better experience because there is no prior knowledge needed to understand the show. The story’s world feels fresh and original. It restores the wonder of exploring that galaxy far far away. In short, it is the feeling Star Wars always used to have.