Andor first impressions: Star Wars veers toward the best adult television currently available.
It takes too long for the darkest Star Wars trilogy to get going.
At its worst, Star Wars: Andor is a PG-13 reworking of some of the best television dramas from the previous ten years. In this tale of Star Wars-related filth and villainy, it’s simple to detect echoes of The Wire, Lost, and Breaking Bad. But as you might expect, a brand that frequently includes chirping robots and tie-ins for action figures can only take such nuanced TV inspirations so far.
But when it works, Andor unfolds unlike any other Star Wars movie or television episode to date, which is encouraging for the show’s post-Skywalker future. In order to more closely approximate the grim substance that has made series sidebars like comic books, novels, and video games popular, Andor flexes its adult-ish ambitions. While it takes the series a little while to get going, there is enough quality by the conclusion of the first 100 minutes to recommend it to lovers of fascinating sci-fi television, much alone Star Wars devotees.
An initial release of three episodes on Disney+ says a lot.
The only real way Lucasfilm could “follow” the events of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story in this series is by creating a prequel on its likeable anti-hero Cassian Andor. (Spoiler alert: There would be significantly fewer characters in this series if it had been a direct chronology sequel to that movie.) Andor is the star because his name is in the title, and the action flashes back to both his greatest adult and childhood escapades.
While Andor is the first series to approach a “binge” on opening week, Disney+ normally releases new TV episodes once a week. A few series exceptions have premiered with bonus episodes, most notably Marvel’s WandaVision. Lucasfilm’s three-part premiere on Wednesday feels like a significant admission: “Hey fans, nice please watch all three episodes before rushing to judgement.”
I appreciate that I did. Andor requires this much time to settle in, partly because the first few episodes rush by with a brand-new ensemble of characters surrounding lead actor Diego Luna’s well-known visage. Characters from Star Wars: Rebels, Rogue One, and other films may ultimately appear, according to trailers, but first we have to see Andor accept his fate.
The series so far has at least one episode that has lost its direction.
Andor doesn’t waste any time in revealing its dark core if your favourite Star Wars adventures involve shady dealings in back alleys, dubious-sounding no-questions-asked favours, and cold-blooded killings. While Andor has obviously been searching for information for some time, the opening episode of this TV series shows his search going awry. Within minutes, Andor makes his way back to Ferrix, his true home base where he usually collects and sells scrap to make ends meet. He tells his few allies that it’s time to do one final deal and that they should strengthen their alibis regarding it just in case.
And if it weren’t for a meddling middle management inside an Imperial operations station, he would have succeeded in his scheme as well. The first notable new character in the show is Deputy Inspector Karn (Kyle Soller), who bristles with helpless wrath while attempting to establish himself in an otherwise bureaucratically constrained Empire. As he closes in on Andor’s escape strategy, Karn switches between insufferable smugness and chest-puffing BS as necessary, and the resultant unlikability of his character is compelling to witness. His role in the narrative is probably the closest the Star Wars universe will ever come to replicating the dysfunctional law enforcement ecology of some of the most popular shows on contemporary television.
The early cast members of the rest of the series don’t fair as well, primarily because Andor is too busy populating Ferrix’s residences and industrial scrapyards to give us a chance to get to know them. The show also intends to convey the parallel story of Andor’s youth, when he lived with a group of other kids who were also survivors, wearing flimsy robes and using melee weapons. Regarding the attempt to bind as many characters as possible in a contentious story as well as link a perplexing wilderness and the mystifying discovery within it, both sides of this coin remind me of Lost. However, over the course of the first three episodes, Andor fails to draw connections between these parts.
This third-episode reward gives me more hope for this dual-timeline device because that younger story finally intersects with a significant portion of Andor-specific legend. But before then, the episode drags with little character development or unexpected drama, making me wonder if the length of the entire series up to this point might have been reduced by ten minutes without anyone noticing.
The third episode was wonderful, and not even green screen shortcuts could ruin it.
Andor’s third episode wraps up all that came before it with a balance of action and completed plot beats after the first episode establishes the tone and the second episode deepens the backstory. At this point, the supporting cast that Andor has been battling with arrives for a massive clash, and each character in his immediate vicinity either demonstrates their allegiance or flaws in an intriguing way.
The third episode of Andor also deviates from the show’s green-screen look. The best demonstration of this development is a fight in a visually appealing chamber filled with chains, pulleys, and explosives. Otherwise, it’s obvious when production costs are cut throughout the first several episodes of the series. One distant landscape captures young Andor’s eye—for long enough to disclose that it is a hand-drawn background taped beyond a cliff’s edge—while cramped town corridors reuse market vendor booths and other debris frequently enough to induce déjà vu.
Thankfully, Luna keeps proving himself to be a valuable member of the Star Wars franchise. His silent attempt to convey his character’s edge of vulnerability and dedication is a series high point. In order to convey his character’s nervousness or terror, Andor frequently chooses a staredown—either directly into the eyes of an ally or up into the terrifying vacuum of a rain-filled night—and other characters follow suit. Maarva (Fiona Shaw), who serves as the show’s apparent sage and beating heart, in particular, finally reveals that she is more invested in our hero than she initially indicates. (Incidentally, her significance to the plot doesn’t become clear until episode three.)
Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi is ultimately pointless material, but at least Andor has a fresh and captivating narrative to share. The story so far understands that there is still a lot of Rogue One’s meat on the bones, and the main character is surrounded by characters that hint at his deeper connections to the series’ primary Jedi fight. Even though I am concerned that this initial release suggests that future episodes will be even more boring and lack momentum, for that reason alone, I will keep watching the show.
Star Wars: Andor’s first three episodes are currently streaming on Disney+. Up to the end of the season, new episodes will be released once a week.
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