After the fall of the Republic and the rise of the Empire, the Star Wars galaxy was plummeted into darkness. The Jedi were slaughtered by the Clones they once fought alongside, and the Empire had full control of the strongest military the galaxy had ever seen. There was no light left from the weapons of the Jedi to bring hope to people who were now under the boot of the Emperor and the people who had his support. But in that darkness, there were pockets of resistance festering. This is the story of the first steps shrouded in darkness towards the light. Rogue One showed us a portrait of Cassian Andor, a man who would do what he must for the rebellion. Andor captures the heavier themes and overall tone that Rogue One struck for the first time in the franchise. Despite knowing how this story ends, the show grips your hand tightly and brings you through the darkness with it.
Andor takes place during the most dangerous era of Star Wars. The Empire is tightening its grip across the galaxy’s throat unlike ever before. Anyone who dares resist must do so through deception, lies, and cunning in order to make any dent in the armor of the Empire. The story follows Cassian Andor’s rise to the person we met in Rogue One. It’s been said the show will follow Cassian to the very moments we first meet him in the movie.
From the first few moments of the show, I was glued into every frame. I was so worried that it was going to stray from the path of Rogue One by falling into a rhythm with shows like The Mandorlorian or The Book of Boba Fett. They’re both wonderful shows in their own rights, but they rely so heavily on nostalgia and fan-service that sometimes they steer off of the path of actual plot in favor of including something they know will get a pop from fans. While Rogue One did have a few moment like that, it was unlike anything that had been done with Star Wars before. It was a war film about the horrors of a tyrannical empire full of people who care for no one except themselves. Andor follows closely in the way that it’s not like anything that has come before it. It’s dark, brooding, and contains the grit that Rogue One finally highlighted for the audience. It explores the idea that no one is absolutely good or evil, but when you fight for a cause, there are sometimes sacrifices that must be made. Even at the cost of one’s own self or moral compass at times. Its very murky water that Cassian Andor must wade through in order to achieve his goals. The show has something to say, which I find missing in so much of the recent Star Wars projects.
Without delving into the story or any spoilers, in the first four episodes there is more of a focus on a company rather than the Empire itself. It’s an interesting aspect of Star Wars that we haven’t gotten to see in other media. What would money hungry companies do if they were unchecked by an unjust government? What extent would they take their powers to on people who wouldn’t have the means to find out? It’s an extremely interesting idea that I hope we explore deeper in the series. While the other installments in the franchise focus on one prime evil, we’re getting to see the offshoots of that and how it can change the world around it.
Diego Luna gives a masterful performance in the first four episodes as a man desperate to find someone he loves at any cost. We see the weight that has on him and the effect his actions have on those around him. Luna is charismatic, almost to a fault, when we see how that smile has worn on the other people around him who he owes so much. Luna’s nuanced performance shows Cassian in a time where he is just doing what he can to find information and make a difference. It’s interesting to see him compared to a more hardened and cold rebel when we find him in Rogue One.
Something that makes this show stand above the rest is the use of physical sets compared to the overuse of The Volume in shows like Obi-Wan. Fully understanding of Covid restrictions and such aside, it feels far more real when so many of the sets are physical places you can see. The places we are shown, such as homes and shops, have things in them with practical use that makes it feel lived in rather than a cold set.
Andor’s directing from Toby Haynes and Benjamin Caron in the four episodes I have seen is up there with any prestige drama show on television. It feels like another level for a Star Wars show with such keen eyes for angling shots. The cinematography from Adriano Goldman brings you in so close to these characters in a way other programs haven’t. There are some tracking shots of actors from behind that capture the mood of everything around and put you into the mind of the character with the brilliant choice.
The score to Andor is done by Nicholas Britell, which elevates scenes to a higher plane of drama. It’s the perfect ambiance and sound for the show, framed more as a spy thriller than just an adventure story. Britell doesn’t lean heavily on the work of Michael Giacchino, who did the score for Rogue One or John Williams, who pretty much perfect what film scores can be. It stands on its own while still fitting into what you want from a Star Wars score.
The Galaxy is enveloped in darkness, and despite the knowledge that the dawn will come, Andor makes you want to follow this journey deeper into the depths of what can be explored in Star Wars. With a stellar cast, use of practical sets, and score, Andor strikes a note that will hopefully be heard by all.
Andor will be available to stream on Disney + on September 21st.