It brings depth to everyday life in “Star Wars”
I’ve been writing weekly episode reviews of “Star Wars: Andor,” and while I was initially skeptical of its slow pace, it has grown on me thanks to its excellent performances and great emotional payoff of its arcs.
Based on the life of Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) five years before the character gives his life in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” (spoilers), “Andor” is a prequel show no one asked for. In fact, I was initially fearful that it would suffer the same fate as “Solo: A Star Wars Story” in the regard of being a decent tale in the franchise that there was simply no audience for. While it is true that the show hasn’t been as popular as other recent “Star Wars” shows, I believe it will find its audience and gain popularity over time, much like the show “Firefly,” which I compared the show to in my review of its first episode. Anecdotally, InReview has seen greater interest in the show as it has progressed, through both our written reviews and TikTok early reactions.
I think this is because “Andor” is focused on telling smaller “Star Wars” stories, specifically how everyday people have their lives upended by the conflict between the Empire and the rebellion, and how they’ve become pawns used by both sides. Rebel leader Luthen Rael (Stellan Skarsgard) for instance wants to outright provoke the Empire into oppressing its subjects to get more people to turn on it, while the Empire wants to clamp down on any dissenters in order to maintain its space fascism and the philosophies of both result in collateral damage to ordinary people.
A few concrete examples of this is how the Empire clamps down on the planet of Ferrix after Cassian and Luthen escape from it, which results in the unnecessary death of Timm Karlo (James McArdle), Cassian’s friend who sells him out; the disbandment of the Preox-Morlana Authority, which saw Syril Karn (Kyle Soller) lose his job for fighting back against corruption in the name of public safety; the deaths of many rebels and Imperials on Aldhani during the rebellion’s attack on the Imperial facility there; the resentencing of prisoners and Cassian’s arrest and imprisonment for essentially doing nothing after the Aldhani mission; and most recently, Luthen’s exploitation of Lonni Jung (Robert Emms), who is an imperial informant that simply wants to leave the Empire-rebellion conflict behind and be a dad.
For people who are deep in the rebellion, we see big sacrifices. Luthen has no way to be happy, have any sort of inner peace or maintain a romantic relationship, knowing that he will die before he sees the fruits of his labor. Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly) risks discovery by the Empire at any moment for funding the rebellion, living a double life as an Imperial senator living in the capital planet of the Empire. Last episode, we also saw both the Empire and rebellion throw peoples’ lives away like pawns, as the Empire casually killed a rebel pilot they captured that confessed in hopes of staging an accident in order to get the jump on his rebel leader, and Luthen is going to let that rebel leader die in order to not alert the Empire that the ISB has been compromised.
Beyond that, the show also focuses on the mundane. We see in some detail what the everyday routines of being a scrapper are, as well as those of a rebel, prisoner and politician. For the rebels on Aldhani, the mission required months of being undercover as locals, learning the culture, living in the woods and hiding from the Empire. We see in excruciating detail everything the prisoners on Narkina 5 do in the show’s most recent arc, from when they wake up to when they retire in their sleeping quarters for the night, which works for a prison break arc as it’s important to know just exactly when and for how long Cassian will have a window to escape and take control of the facility.
We also see a lot of people who are just working jobs at the Empire, whether that be through the Imperial Security Bureau, the Pre-Mor Authority or Narkina 5. We don’t know much about them or even if they agree with what the Empire is doing; many of them are most likely ordinary people trying to make a living who get pulled into the galactic conflict.
“Andor,” ironically one of the more expensive live action shows on Disney Plus, isn’t big or loud; it focuses on smaller stories, which is probably why it didn’t have an initially huge viewership compared to other recent programming in the franchise. But because of that, I think it will be more appreciated than other recent “Star Wars” shows — it’ll just take time for it to find its audience.
Thankfully, Disney has the financial means to take a chance on “Andor,” which it has, as its second and final season has already been greenlit. That’s not something that would happen under the traditional television model — ratings alone would decide if the show was renewed, especially a show with the price tag of “Andor.”
It’ll be unclear for quite some time if that investment is worth it for Disney — their number one priority isn’t necessarily producing hit shows, it’s growing Disney Plus as a platform people will buy into. Hit shows definitely have their place in that mission, but so are shows whose influence grows over time. If “Andor” becomes a cult classic on par with “Firefly,” Disney would get their money’s worth from what they put into this show.
I personally think “Andor” might be a cult hit; it has all the ingredients for one. Its worldbuilding and performances certainly make it worthy of that status.