In December of 2016, Lucasfilm Ltd. released the first of its standalone Star Wars films with Rogue One. The film tells the story of how a team of Rebel spies steals the plans to the Death Star. While the film ends in tragedy for our heroes, the characters and performances have stuck with fans for the last six years. Rogue One had such an impact on the fans that they begged Lucasfilm for more stories of these characters. In December of 2020 during the Disney Investor Day Livestream, Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy announced that the team behind Rogue One would be coming back to tell the story of Cassian Andor and how he joined the Rebellion with Andor.
So what is Andor about? The first season takes place 5 years before the Battle of Yavin or 5 BBY (The Battle of Yavin is considered Year Zero in the Star Wars timeline). In the first three episodes, we see Cassian Andor on the planet of Morlana One where he is searching for his sister: last seen at a shady bar/brothel. However when the lead turns cold, Cassian must fight his way out of the situation. He escapes Morlana One and heads for the planet Ferrix and it’s here where we meet the Andor family droid B2EMO. He tells Andor that there are a few people looking for him, including his mother Maarva, the people he owes money to and one who helps him earn money by selling Imperial items on the Black Market. Meanwhile back on Morlana One, Corporate Security Inspector Syril Karn launches an investigation into the bar fight which leads him directly to Andor. While that is going on, Cassian’s friend Bix sets up a meeting between Andor and a buyer named Luthen Rael. Rael reveals to Andor that he can help him out if Andor agrees to come with him. Thus the road for Cassian Andor to Rogue One begins.
The writing team of Tony Gilroy, Dan Gilroy, Beau Willimon and Stephen Schiff construct a slow, methodical and thought out spy thriller that doesn’t fail to set a dark and gritty tone that will capture the attention of the audience from the very first shot. They tell a story that showcases what everyday life is like under the rule of the Empire, showing how the Empire will use contracted out resources such as corporations to do their dirty work. These corporations also control multiple planetary systems where they have alliances with the Empire. Gilroy and company aren’t afraid to also show how dangerous misinformation can be and how it affects everyday people.
We can’t just praise the writers here, we have to talk about the directing team of Benjamin Caron, Toby Haynes and Susanna White. The three of them deliver a Star Wars story that is grounded and isn’t afraid to push the boundaries of its limits. They also get so many amazing performances out of their actors and that only serves to drive the story further home.
How are the performances in the first three episodes? They are incredible! Diego Luna was born to play Cassian Andor and he hasn’t missed a beat since Rogue One. He brings such a grounded realism to the character and the story that surrounds him. I cannot say enough about how quickly you become reattached to Andor. The inclusion of his mother definitely adds more complexity to his character and adds more stakes to his character arc. Stellan Skarsgard shines as Luthen Rael and delivers a performance that rivals that of Diego Luna. You can tell that Skarsgard has the upmost respect for this story and universe and it shows in every scene he is in. It is because of this, that I am curious to see where his story goes. The other performance I would like to highlight is from Fiona Shaw as Maarva Andor. She brings so much heart to her relationship with Cassian and while it is a rocky relationship, you can tell she really cares for her son and wants nothing but the best for him. Her interactions with not only Cassian but her droid B2EMO are some of the best moments in these first three episodes. The story they begin to tell with her clearly becomes one of Andor’s motivations in the events of Rogue One. These are just a few examples of the amazing performances from this ensemble cast in the first few episodes of the series.
Before I get to the negatives of this premiere, I have to say that this series is incredibly beautiful. It is dark and gritty looking but it also has a lot of color too it. It doesn’t look dark like a Zack Snyder movie. It looks real and feels real. This looks like a world that you can reach out and touch, it looks like a world that you can live in. This is has always been one of the appeals of Star Wars stories set during the Rebellion Era. Everything looks used and looks like it also came from our world just a few hundred years down the line. While we are also talking about the look of the show, I want to talk about the costuming and how each costume is gorgeous and looks like it could exist in our world. The outfits are so practical and utilitarian and it works with the setting of this story. I honestly can’t praise this production team enough for all of their hard work.
If there is one negative thing with the first three episodes of this series, it would be that the viewer has to pay very close attention to everything that is going on. You can miss a few things in the first viewing of these three episodes so it helps to do multiple viewings. Another thing I would say is that this is a slow, dark and gritty story with very mature themes. If you don’t like these themes in your Star Wars stories or you feel that “Politics has no place in Star Wars” then this is definitely not the show for you. This series is going to make a lot of people uncomfortable and could cause them to cancel their subscriptions due to the “wokeness” of the story. I personally love the story and the tone that comes with it but that is just me.
Despite the negatives, I absolutely love the first three episodes of Andor. Like Rogue One that came before it, this is a war story and a spy thriller about the formation of the Rebellion and I am totally here for it. It’s dark, gritty, mature and entertaining. This is a show that people will be talking about for years.
4.5 B2EMO’s Out of 5