‘Andor’ Season 1 Review: The Shot in The Arm Star Wars Needed

Star Wars returns after a series of back to back dissapointments in The Book of Boba Fett and Obi-Wan Kenobi, with their latest series Andor, a prequel to arguably the best Star Wars film under Disney, Rogue One. With Andor the franchise delivers a Star Wars like never before, one with a grey area, one where the Rebellion isn’t only the light side and the Empire isn’t only the Dark Side. They are both complex real forces with real people involved. The Rebellion is working against an Empire from freedom, so naturally hard decisions and actions are needed to be taken. It’s not as simple as being the good guy, they need people in the morally grey area to succeed, people who are willing to kill. People who are willing to do anything for this rebellion. Andor delivers the first Star Wars project which feels adult, where people make the necessary decisions for success, and at the same time are limited by their beliefs and mental strength.

Andor explores a new perspective from the  Star Wars galaxy, focusing on Cassian Andor’s journey to discover the difference he can make. The series brings forward the tale of the burgeoning rebellion against the Empire and how people and planets became involved. It’s an era filled with danger, deception and intrigue where Cassian will embark on the path that is destined to turn him into a rebel hero.

(L-R): Luthen Rael (Stellan Skarsgard) and Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly) in Lucasfilm’s ANDOR, exclusively on Disney+. ©2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

Prequel?

Yes, you heard that right a PREQUEL. The term “prequel” holds a great place in the heart of every Star Wars fan, a word that inspires years of trauma to even the slightest mention. The Star Wars prequels are. without a doubt the most well known prequels to date. They have been hated by old fans of the franchise for decades, while they are the definition of ‘Star Wars’ to younger fans. Even if you didn’t hate the prequels, you’ve experienced years of hate for them from others, especially if you loved them. I really appreciate the prequels, with Episode 3 “Revenge of the Sith” tied as my favorite Star Wars film with Episode 5 “Empire Strikes Back”. Even with all this hatred and trauma associated with prequels and Star Wars, there was one Star Wars project that was able to bring fans of the prequels and fans of the original trilogy together. This was 2016’s Rogue One, a project where the War of the Empire VS The Rebellion, actually felt like a war. One of the stand out characters from the film was Diego Luna’s Cassian Andor, a skilled spy and assassin, working for The Rebellion. His character is summarized by this quote from Rogue One:

Everything I did, I did for the Rebellion. And every time I walked away from something I wanted to forget, I told myself it was for a cause I believed in. A cause that was worth it. Without that, we’re lost. Everything we’ve done would have been for nothing. I couldn’t face myself if I gave up now.

Andor vows to accompany Jyn Erso to Scarif in Rogue One

Rogue One was the film that first introduced that gray area to Star Wars and was universally loved, due to its great line-up of real complex characters. So to return to that side of Star Wars, always sounded like a treat to me. It always surprised me why people questioned why the Andor series was being made. Every project is made for the same reason, to make money. But what was truly interesting about Andor, was that another season was already green-lit during production for Season 1, and the season has already begun filming. So clearly this was more than just acash grab, especially with Andor not being a mainstrem character. It shows great confidence in a script, in an actor and in a show-runner to have a series for a second/third tier character in a universe of iconic characters to be green-lit for more seasons, even before the first 1 is done being made. Andor magnificently delivers on those expectations and more, the format it presents should be studied by Disney to note for future Marvel and Star Wars series on Disney Plus. The short 6 episode format has damaged each series that used it and has proven that it will not work. To keep fans excited, these big franchises need these shows which focus on characters, without cameos and easter eggs, that don’t rely on VFX, and present a story which is universal, relatable.

(L-R): Kravas (Lee Boardman), Verlo (Stephen Wight), hostess (Margaret Clunie), bartender (Caroline Green) and Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) in a scene from Lucasfilm’s ANDOR, exclusively on Disney+. ©2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

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A new chapter for Star Wars and Disney Plus

Andor delivers a new stepping stone for Star Wars and for the rest of Disney Plus. This is by far the greatest thing to come out of Disney Plus to date. It is a show which isn’t afraid to tread in to darker territories, it is a show which is beautiful to watch, it is a show which makes you feel for every character, where no character is purely evil and neither purely good. Andor is a show with complexity, with drama, where the characters aren’t perfect, where they cause problems for themselves due to their own imperfections. It explores their mentality and deeply explores the lives of refugees and in contrast with big organizations and countries. It almost feels too good to be true for a Disney+ show. A smaller story about a common thief from a misrepresented minority, in the Star Wars universe, who is forced to go on the run, rethink his life and reimagine himself as a force for the Rebels.

(L-R): Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), Maarva (Fiona Shaw) and B2EMO in Lucasfilm’s ANDOR, exclusively on Disney+. ©2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

The Empire vs The Rebel Alliance

You will not only feel for Cassian and The Rebellion, but you’ll also find yourself rooting for The Empire. The show makes Cassian’s motivations feel as valid as the motivations of his counterparts in The Empire, with wonderful characters like Kyle Soller’s Syril Karn. Soller delivers a brilliant perfomance as Syril Karn which makes you both feel for him and agree with him, even though he is going out of his way to take out our hero. So the real villain in the series isn’t really, at least in the first 4 episodes The Empire, but rather Cassian’s own imperfections, it is through his own decisions that he gets himself into the eye of The Empire. The show’s focus isn’t Empire VS Rebellion, it is a comparison of the motivations and decisions made by individuals in both groups and how that defined The Rebellion. It reminds you that these characters are real people in their universe and have their own hopes, dreams and lives.

Another thing that differentiates Andor from anything Star Wras or Disney Plus is its reliance on story and heart to capture its audience rather than to use the aid of easter eggs and cameos, which have only served to ruin previous Star Wars shows on Disney+. The world of Andor seems lived in, every character we meet feels like they have their own interesting life that they live in the universe. It doesn’t make you feel dry and unfulfilled. You can accertain each character’s impact on Cassian’s life and future impact they may have. But it doesn’t only make feel interested in that aspect of those characters, it also makes you feel compelled to learn about their lives and how they handle their problems.

(L-R): Eedy Karn (Kathryn Hunter) and Syril Karn (Kyle Soller) in Lucasfilm’s ANDOR, exclusively on Disney+. ©2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

Just What Star Wars Needed

In a time where Star Wars seems to be directionless, with 2 big failures and no theatrical project in sight, comes Andor. Arguably the best of Star Wars we’ve seen in decades. Andor is the shot in the arm the Star Wars franchise needed. From its first few minutes it just feels like a different kind of show, with a much darker tone, to any other Disney+ series. The struggle and the stakes are a lot more adult and feel a lot more real. It feels more like Blade Runner than Star Wars at times, but still gets back to its roots and delivers magnificent performances and compelling storylines. I have watched the first 4 episodes in and it is already the best of Disney+ for me. The difference in quality is so vivid. The character’s journey and stakes are what keep you interested. No reliance on cameos, fan-service or action. More thrill and stakes are provided just through brilliant writing. Content like Andor is what is going to keep Star Wars alive and Disney Plus alive, things which are different and divert from what we expect to provide character studys in these massive franchises is what can be the trump card to keeping fans interested.

STAR WARS IS BACK!!!

Andor Starts Streaming on Disney+ tomorrow with a 3-episode premiere.