Tony Gilroy’s “Andor,” starring Diego Luna as his enigmatic “Rogue One” character, delivers a complex, patient tale of how a revolt flares into flame.
By purpose and circumstance, “Andor” stands out from its “Star Wars” television predecessors right away. The largest revelations in “The Mandalorian,” “Boba Fett,” and “Obi-Wan Kenobi” were woven into the wider fabric of the Lucasfilm world; however, “Andor” takes its time to divulge information that would cause fans to scream in recognition. Instead, it achieves something even more unexpected: it tells the tale of individuals whose lives matter despite having nothing to do with Solos, Skywalkers, or Palpatines.
Of course, the fact that haunted hustler Cassian Andor (Diego Luna, who is also an executive producer) isn’t exactly a fresh character is at least part of the reason the show can take its time in this manner. Cassian’s “Star Wars” legacy is already established as the reluctant hero of the 2016 film “Rogue One,” which depicts the rebel pilot mission to steal the Death Star schematics that power “A New Hope.” We already know that the rebel commander Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly, who is returning for more in-depth work in “Andor”) will eventually cross Cassian’s path. His fate is already well and truly decided, tragic, hopeful, and unforgettable in the last minutes of “Rogue One.”
So, yes, it is taxing to understand that “Andor,” which Tony Gilroy, a co-writer of “Rogue One,” devised, is a prequel to a prequel. But having more leeway to diverge from the one “Star Wars” road that all previous series have been required to at least traverse allows “Andor” to unexpectedly establish its own unique world. This strategy may also be the reason Disney+ decided to make history by releasing not just three episodes at once (on September 21), but also four screeners to the media far in advance of the show’s debut. The kind of fan service that would ordinarily ensure viewers doesn’t seem to be all that intriguing to “Andor,” and how much more engaging is that?
The programme declares itself to be capital “d.” Unlike its first few minutes, in which Cassian searches an alien brothel for his long-lost sister. (Despite the fact that “Slave Leia” has haunted “Star Wars” for decades, this faraway galaxy has far more frequently avoided overt sex references.) Like in “Rogue One,” Luna’s Cassian is a suitably charming and attractive leading “Star Wars” guy, but he rapidly demonstrates that he is far more willing than most to risk everything. His adoptive mother Maarva (the always welcome Fiona Shaw) worries about him because of this particular attribute of his, and uptight Empire police officer Syril Karn (Kyle Soller), who values order above all else, is outraged. And yes, this being “Star Wars,” there is of course a mysterious newcomer (the perpetually mysterious Stellan Skarsgaard) and a cute droid whose loyalty and stammer immediately won me over (especially as voiced by veteran droid voice actor Dave Chapman).
Naturally, there is a good chance that when “Andor” continues its 12-episode run on Disney+, it will start to feel just as much like a part of the “Star Wars” films as its other Disney+ TV counterparts. Its ability to establish perceptions of location, character, and social order unlike few other recent (live action) “Star Wars” versions should still make it stand out even then, in my opinion. The lack of a sense of urgency in the show may turn off viewers with shorter attention spans (the first three episodes really are of a piece). But those who wait will be rewarded for their perseverance. We learn about one of the countless of civilizations of “dark-eyed” people that fighter pilots pass through on their quest to fame through flashbacks to Cassian’s early years on the remote planet of Kenari. Every world Cassian visits feels much more tangible and lived-in than most “Star Wars” sets, which otherwise tend to evoke future Disneyworld rides, thanks to Luke Hull’s intricate production design, Nicholas Britell’s soaring score, Michael Wilkinson’s costume design, and Emma Scott’s hair and makeup.
“Andor” builds the foundation for the impending insurrection in this snapshot of life from before the Rebellion ignited. The show forgoes lore in favour of following ostensibly regular people during their most audacious moments by following characters like Cassian, Bix, Syril, and all the middle management lackeys who keep the Empire functioning and the citizenry brazen enough to stand up to them.
Therefore, if we’re going to witness a tonne of spinoffs, prequels, remakes, and reimaginings, they might as well use the “Andor” paradigm, which may not be as dangerous as it looks.
Why not study them in greater detail than is often possible while playing “Star Wars” bingo in order to discover something new there? This galaxy has captured the hearts of millions of people due to the endless possibilities that it offers.
The first three episodes of “Andor” will air on Disney+ on September 21.