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.

‘Andor’ Reaches No. 2 on Parrot’s Digital Originals Chart, Behind ‘Stranger Things’

Netflix’s supernatural thriller “Stranger Things” remained No. 1 on Parrot Analytics’ digital originals U.S. rankings the week ended Nov. 25. The series had a 0.6% drop in demand expressions, the proprietary metric Parrot uses to gauge a show’s popularity, giving it 67.9 times the demand of an average series. “Stranger Things” was No. 4 on Parrot’s list of overall TV shows.

The Disney+ “Star Wars” spinoff “Andor” rose to No. 2 for the week, the Nov. 23 finale of its first season giving it a 4.3% spike in demand expressions, pushing it to 39.3 times average demand.

HBO Max’s superhero series “Titans” slid a spot to No. 3 with a 0.15% dip in demand expressions, giving it 38.2 times average demand. The show is in the midst of its fourth season, with episodes bowing weekly.

No. 4 was another Disney+ “Star Wars” series, “The Mandalorian,” which had a 1.8% rise in demand expressions to move it two spots up the rankings with 36.2 times average demand.

The latest foreign-language series from Netflix, “1899,” bowed Nov. 17 and in its first full week of availability had a 320.2% jump in demand expressions to bring it to No. 5 on the digital originals chart with 35.1 times average demand. The German series, which was No. 145 the week before, follows a group of European migrants traveling on a steamship to start new lives in New York City.

The other big leap into the top 10 for the week was, at No. 10, Netflix’s “Wednesday,” a creepy comedy about the daughter from the “Addams Family” franchise as she attends a boarding school. Its Nov. 23 aided a 74.8% rise in demand expressions for the week, giving it 28.6 times average demand.

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A “digital original” is Parrot’s term for a multi-episode series in which the most recent season was first made available on a streaming platform such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu or Disney+.

The No. 1 overall TV series in terms of online demand was “The Walking Dead” with 77.3 times average demand.

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Media Play News has teamed with Parrot Analytics to provide readers with a weekly top 10 of the most popular digital original TV series in the United States, based on the firm’s proprietary metric called Demand Expressions, which measures demand for TV content in a given market through a wide variety of data sources, including video streaming, social media activity, photo sharing, blogging, commenting on fan and critic rating platforms, and downloading and streaming via peer-to-peer protocols and file sharing sites. Results are expressed as a comparison with the average demand for a TV show of any kind in the market.