Reviews

Star Wars: Andor — Season 1

STREAMING REVIEW:

Disney+;
Sci-Fi;
Not rated.
Stars Diego Luna, Kyle Soller, Adria Arjona, Fiona Shaw, Stellan Skarsgård, Denise Gough, Genevieve O’Reilly, Faye Marsay, Varada Sethu, Elizabeth Dulau.

George Lucas created “Star Wars” as an epic struggle between good and evil — primal tales that ultimately boiled down to archetypal characters and traditional storytelling re-packaged in an exciting science-fantasy milieu.

The prequels and sequels shifted the settings and expanded the conflicts but basically steered the same formula — there were good guys, there were bad guys, they fought, and the heroes ultimately prevailed. The Disney+ series tended toward more of the same, more often than not doubling down on elements from the franchise that fans were most familiar with and wanted to see more of. “The Mandalorian,” for example, quickly became a Trojan horse for Dave Filoni to tie together several story threads left dangling from his “Clone Wars” animated series (not that anyone should be complaining).

“Andor,” on the other hand, isn’t focused on those flashy aspects the franchise usually presents front and center, but in the margins where the underpinnings of such sagas must invariably begin but typically lack the grandeur to garner much attention. In doing so, “Andor” has become the best of the “Star Wars” TV shows, demonstrating the franchise’s potential for strong dramatic narrative.

The series is short on space battles and isn’t focused on Jedi warriors or eccentric mercenaries. It tells the story of the birth of the Rebel Alliance, and depicts the tyrannies of the Empire so succinctly that it’s clear why the rebellion is both necessary and difficult to achieve.

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The central focus of this story is Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), the character introduced as a ruthless Rebel spy in 2016’s Rogue One. Set five years prior to the events of that movie, the series presents Cassian as a driftless loner who is keen on survival but not on causes. That changes when he’s recruited for a heist by Luthen Rael (Stellan Skarsgård), a hard-nosed revolutionary who is trying to sow discord among the Imperial ranks but isn’t sure how to make it coalesce into the movement it needs to be.

Among Luthen’s allies is Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly), who by Return of the Jedi will become one of the key leaders of the Rebellion, but here is still just an ambitious senator trying to work within the system in a fruitless effort to achieve change.

Their chief enemies within the Empire are the agents of the Imperial Security Bureau, where the primary task of snuffing out the proto-rebellion falls upon Dedra Meero (Denise Gough), who connects Andor to their activities but doesn’t have much luck tracking him down.

Ironically, Cassian ends up in an Imperial prison under an assumed name under trumped up charges simply because the Empire needs cheap sources of labor. This leads to the first season’s best story arc, as Andor and his fellow prisoners must engineer an escape once they learn the Empire has no intent on ever letting them actually leave when their sentences are supposedly up.

“Andor” is the “Better Call Saul” of “Star Wars” — a prequel that delves into the backstories of characters you know in ways that are unexpected, expanding the context of the franchise as a whole while simultaneously casting it in a new light.

One of the biggest complaints about the show so far is that it’s too “slow,” whatever that means. That it spends too much time on details that are extraneous to the larger story arcs. This couldn’t be further from the truth. “Andor” isn’t slow. It’s methodical. It’s tense. It’s “Star Wars” as the allegory it was always intended to be.

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