The first scene of Andor presents something of a mission statement: Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), the titular soon-to-be freedom fighter, enters a brothel on Morlana One, a rainy planet overseen by a corporate security force, and is immediately harassed by Cockney-speaking cops. Sex work? Regional accents? It would very much like you to believe This isn’t your daddy’s Star Wars story. And for all its significant, predictable flaws, there’s still plenty of time for it to stamp its mark on the franchise.
A huge thing Andor has going for it is neither it, nor Cassian himself, are long for this world. We know this is a two-season show, and we know (Rogue One spoilers ahead!) its protagonist is only five years away from dying on Scarif after delivering the schematics of a brand-new weapon called a “Death Star” into the hands of Leia Organa, setting off the entire chain of events of the latter two film trilogies.
Despite the ticking clock hanging over proceedings, Andor doesn’t hurry. We begin on Ferrix, a charmingly earthy planet with the requisite scrap metal bartering trade that’s apparently all the rage in the Star Wars galaxy. Andor lives a modest life with a cute droid—another requisite—B2EMO (“Bee”), who resembles something like Wall•E crossed with a Japanese Pagoda. Bee has seen better days, constantly needing to recharge and occasionally repeating words like a skipping record.
For all the familiar Star Wars touches, there are some neat choices that make Andor a promising watch. The opening brothel sequence (in which Cassian, ever the gentleman, is just there looking for his long-lost sister) leads to him being held up by the guys who’d clocked him in the bar earlier. He headbutts one and gets the drop on the other, before realizing that single blow in self-defense was accidentally fatal. Knowing his only option is to run, he shoots the other cop with his own blaster and takes off. Mark the day, people: We got a cold-blooded murder in Star Wars and, far more astoundingly, a single shot from a blaster that hit its target.
Disney+ was wise to release the first three instalments of Andor all together, because it takes its time to introduce and complete a couple of mini-arcs that make, eventually, for a very good cliffhanger—but also quite the slog getting there. First is the corporate security’s pursuit of Cassian, led by Bad Cop Syril Karn (Kyle Soller), who peppers in enough camp and silliness amidst his malice to make for a great mid-tier villain. He even tries to start an inspirational speech to his team with “there comes a time when...”! This guy fancies himself an action hero, and I can’t wait to watch him get foiled at every turn like a well-groomed Wile-E-Coyote.
Soller is the highlight of the show so far, but other major players are Bix (Adria Arjona), who very obviously flirts with Cassian despite being involved with her work “friend” Timm (James McArdle, another Scot!). Then again, is it possible not to fall into the trap of flirting with Diego Luna, those big sad eyes and all? Even Stellan Skarsgård’s terse swashbuckler Luthen doesn’t seem immune to his charms. Luna is indispensable as the lead, but the character so far still remains undefined and not in a “rough around the edges” kind of way. A lot of the first two episodes is Cassian going from person to person and having his character traits explained to him (and us) without ever really giving us a taste of the roguish mischief beneath his quiet stoicism. It doesn’t help that Soller’s Karn is having the time of his life chewing up the scenery as Cassian’s opposite half. We already have too many strong, silent types leading Star Wars properties. I’m praying Andor can lean into the freedom this format allows to take a few risks here and there. Something I deeply admire (and miss) about George Lucas’ divisive prequel trilogy was how it leaned into the endless possibilities of the Star Wars universe and was unafraid to get truly weird. I know Ferrix is meant to be a humble place, but let’s get a couple of odd little guys in there somewhere, please?
There’s plenty of time for Andor to stretch its legs and, as every character study dictates, we simply must have a tragic origin for our hero, too. Interspersed with the adventures of Grownup Cassian, we also get some brief flashbacks to his early childhood on Kaneri. (The fact he is from this previously-unmentioned planet seems to be a big secret for some reason.) He’s part of what appears to be a young, Lost Boys-esque clan dressed in discarded rebel and Empire garb, who one day spot a ship crashing on the horizon. Leaving his sister behind, Cassian heads out with the older kids to find the wreckage. Curiously, all the crew members are dead or nearly dead, their skin throwing off a sickly Simpsons-yellow hue. I imagine this isn’t the last we’ll see of this type of poison. But where it came from remains a mystery for now.
While looking through the rubble, Young Cassian comes across scavengers led by a pristine B2EMO and Maarva Andor (Fiona Shaw!), who, mindful of an Empire ship closing in, tranquilize and “rescue” Cassian, taking him from his homeworld and giving him his (and the show’s) name in the process. There’s definitely tension between Cassian and his adoptive mother in the present timeline, but, sister search aside, Cassian doesn’t wield his wound from being taken from Kenari at Maarva, who knows she failed that little boy all those years ago, no matter how unintentional.
Episode three ends with both versions of Cassian leaving home. Young Cassian is now about to begin his life as an Andor, and Cassian Prime™ is on the run from Ferrix with Luthen. It’s an earned emotional checkpoint that I expect the series to really build on. We know where this story ends for Cassian, but three episodes in, Andor makes an acceptable case that this story deserves to be told.
- It’s fun with shows like this to play “who’s taking this seriously and who’s cashing in that fat Disney paycheck?” Stellan Skarsgård is fine, but Fiona Shaw acts circles around everyone in her brief scenes. There’s a steeliness to Maarva. I’m sure we’ll get to explore that more.
- RIP Timm. I liked you, but you died as you lived: being a meddling idiot.
- I absolutely love the dude in the bell tower hammering away at that sonorous anvil-thingie. I want that guy’s job.
- I’ll be honest, I’m so burnt out by recent pandering in The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett that I half expected Bix’s mysterious “buyer” for Cassian’s MacGuffin to be an uncannily de-aged Harrison Ford or whatever. What I’m saying is, I breathed a sigh of relief at the sight of Stellan.
- Another character I had in the running for the buyer was Jabba the Hutt. Diego Luna has been repeatedly, passionately on the record about wanting an Andor-Hutt standoff, and the slimy crime lord should be just about around the height of his influence right now, right? Please, Disney, let Diego finally touch him.
- Andor was developed for TV by Tony Gilroy, who writes the first three episodes. He was also the director of Rogue One’s extensive reshoots, taking over for Gareth Edwards (Monsters, Godzilla). I’m a huge fan of the deliberate pacing and sense of scale Edwards brought to both the modern monster movie and Rogue One, and Gilroy was clearly no hired hand hacking and slashing at Edwards’ work. This world is tactile and street-level, making the (brief) excursions outside planetary atmospheres feel all the more spectacular.
- I can’t express how much I love seeing Star Wars expanding its acceptable dialects and accents. We’re definitely in a Scottish quadrant of the galaxy, here, with Karn’s second-in-command and Timm, that dumbass, both sporting Celtic brogues. Please, Tony Gilroy, deliver unto me a Scottish droid and I’ll give this thing As every week sight unseen!
- The scenes on Kenari, while brief, contain dialogue that was simply presented as “(Speaks in Kenari)“ on my screeners. I’ll be curious to see if they fill that in and if there was anything big I missed once the episodes officially drop.
- To that end, I have a favor to ask: I’m a big ol’ Star Wars fan but this universe is vast with a lot of weird names and a lot of planets which were mentioned once and have, like, 7,000 word Wookiepedia pages devoted to them. I will inevitably get something wrong. Please be nice to me.