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Andor finds new things to see in the Star Wars universe, even while covering familiar ground

We know how Cassian Andor’s Star Wars story ends, but that doesn't mean his beginning isn't worth watching closely

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Andor character posters
Andor character posters (Images: Disney+)
Graphic: The A.V. Club

When Diego Luna’s Cassian Andor first appears in Gareth Edwards’ Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, he’s speaking with an informant who tells him that the Empire is making some kind of weapon that can destroy planets. When the informant’s erratic behavior attracts the attention of Stormtroopers, Cassian shoots them … and then the informant. It’s an explicit “Han shot first”-type moment to quickly let the audience in on what kind of man Cassian Andor is: the kind of who is so ruthlessly devoted to his cause—the nascent Rebel Alliance—that he’ll kill for it. The rest of the movie, thanks to the begrudging optimism of Felicity Jones’ Jyn Erso, is partially about him breaking down his shell and becoming someone who won’t just kill for what he believes in but will die for it as well.

It’s arguably as complete and well-realized an arc as any Star Wars character has ever had, save for Darth Vader, so it seemed a little puzzling when Lucasfilm announced that it was working on a Rogue One prequel for Disney+ that would be all about Cassian and his transformation from “a self-serving nihilist into a selfless martyr.” Diego Luna is great, and Cassian is a cool guy, but that’s literally his storyline in the movie. Would the show just be about Cassian becoming the guy we always knew he was? And wouldn’t that just end up being as much of a waste of time as The Book Of Boba Fett?

Well, credit goes to Lucasfilm and Andor creator (plus Rogue One screenplay writer) Tony Gilroy for outsmarting us: The show may be about Cassian becoming a selfless martyr in the macro sense, but it’s about more than that. Five episodes in, it’s also about Senator Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly) secretly supporting the Rebellion while dealing with her Thrombey-ass husband; it’s about Stellan Skarsgård’s suspiciously well-connected insurgency expert Luthen; and it’s about a supreme Imperial dorkus named Syril Karn (Kyle Soller) who is definitely going to become A Problem sooner or later.


Multiple compelling journeys

Cassian may be the titular character, and he’s an engaging presence, but this journey he’s going on will probably be the least compelling one in Andor. Meanwhile, we’ve seen Imperial stooges in Star Wars before (Ben Mendelsohn’s Director Krennic from Rogue One seems like an obvious inspiration), but nobody who is both completely full of himself and completely a nobody like Syril. And this being a prequel, he likely doesn’t stand a chance of making it out of this series intact.

Andor | Official Trailer | Disney+

Similarly, Luthen is so competent and careful that it seems like he can handle himself, but we know where even the most competent and careful mentor-types in Star Wars tend to end up (with the blade of a red lightsaber somewhere where a lightsaber is not supposed to be). Is there more going on with him than we know about? Given how quickly he can switch between “jovial antique dealer” and “hardline insurgent,” the answer is probably “probably.”

But Andor’s real secret weapon seems to be Mon Mothma and the ragtag Rebels that Cassian is working with. Mothma is the only person in the show so far who is actually in George Lucas’ original trilogy, but to call her a “character” in those movies is overselling it. She’s only slightly more of a character than the wolfman in the Mos Eisley Cantina in those movies, but we know she’s an important figure in the Rebel Alliance who gets a slightly meatier role in Rogue One and survives through to the end of the original trilogy (at least!), which means Andor can actually do or say something with her that it might not necessarily be able to do with even Cassian himself.

These Rebels come with backstories

The other Rebels also present an opportunity to do something interesting. Led by Faye Marsay’s Vel, the team all have their own backstories and personalities, perfect for a complex heist mission and perfect for making you feel bad if/when they all get slaughtered. That would, again, be treading similar ground as Rogue One, but the more low-key nature of Andor’s team versus the more dramatic action-hero status of Rogue One’s doomed Rebels (A cool robot! A guy with a big gun! A blind warrior monk!) feels like an expansion of what the movie was going for rather than simply doing it again. Maybe if Ebon Moss-Bachrach were playing somebody cooler than the sad brother of a dead farmer, but the Rebel Alliance hasn’t made enough of a foothold in the galaxy to attract that kind of toy-worthy Star Wars character type yet.


There’s still time for Andor to lose its way and fall into the trap of repeating the already somewhat-barebones beats of Rogue One, or to have Cassian’s character go through too much growth and undo the arc he goes through in the movie, but—at the very least—the first half of its season hasn’t been as much of a slog or an eventual waste of time as … other Star Wars TV shows featuring characters from the movies. If nothing else, it has already introduced us to a larger variety of Star Wars characters who respond to the rise of Imperial fascism in different ways: Some choose to live in a picturesque valley and plan elaborate heists; others become total losers who suck.